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The Liberation of Stalag IX-B POW Camp

On February 9, 1945, the State Department sent an urgent telegram to the Secretary of State. The message informed him that thousands of American soldiers, captured during the Battle of the Bulge, were being held at a notorious German POW camp. It stated that Stalag IX-B was “previously not (repeat not) known to be a large American camp.” The POW camp, also known as Bad Orb-Wegscheide, was located near Bad Orb in Hesse, Germany. After receiving reports of the horrific conditions in the camp, plans immediately got underway to liberate the prisoners. On April 2, 1945, an American task force broke through the German line and drove 37 miles through enemy-held territory to rescue the prisoners of Stalag IX-B.

Telegram informs military officials that Americans are held at Stalag IX-B

Stalag IX-B was a German Army training camp during WWI, but in 1939, the Wehrmacht seized it and converted it into a POW camp. The camp housed prisoners from at least eight countries, including Americans, which began arriving in December 1944.

During the Battle of the Bulge, some Americans were captured and sent to Stalag IX-B. The first group, numbering nearly one thousand, was taken prisoner on December 17, 1944. They were forced to march for four days, only receiving food and water once. Then they were packed into boxcars for the five-day trip to Stalag IX-B, again only receiving food and water once. Those that were wounded were denied medical attention and suffered tremendously. The prisoners finally arrived at Stalag IX-B nine days later, but camp officials were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of POWs. They lacked beds, food, and supplies. The appalling conditions of the camp were indescribable.

Report on Stalag IX-B

In January 1945, the International Red Cross visited Stalag IX-B and reported on conditions. They described 1,300 men sleeping on the floor and others sleeping on vermin-infested straw or mattresses. Many of the barracks had broken windows, and the POWs lacked blankets or coats. There were no washing facilities and insufficient toilets. They gathered a list of soldiers imprisoned there, noting some had already passed away. At another visit in March, a report noted conditions had gotten even worse, with prisoners suffering considerable weight loss, disease, non-existent hygiene, and small portions of food.

Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds

Included among the Americans held at Stalag IX-B were Jewish-American troops. During one daily line-up, the camp commandant ordered all Jewish prisoners to step forward. Roddie Edmonds quickly spread orders that his men should stand firm. He then responded with, “We are all Jews here.” For this act of bravery, he was awarded Righteous Among the Nations, the first American soldier to be so honored.

On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, a reconnaissance task force comprised of members of the 2nd Battalion, 114th Regiment, US 44th Infantry Division, the 106th Cavalry Group, and the 776th Tank Destroyer Battalion broke through German lines and went ahead of the main body of American forces. They arrived at a hill overlooking the town of Bad Orb. When a German garrison opened fire on the American position, they answered with machinegun fire and artillery shells throughout the night. Finally, Germany withdrew its troops. The following morning Stalag IX-B was turned over to the Americans, many of whom wept when they saw the condition of the emaciated prisoners.

If you would like to learn more about Stalag IX-B or other WWII POW camps, see our collection of WWII records and search Fold3® today!

116 Comments

  1. Mona Gainey Lanier says:

    My father Chester D Gainey was captured by the Germans at Manhay Germany on Jan 2,1945 and held at Stalag 4B. This is a recording I did in 1993 and then later in 2001, with his friend Merle who survived with him. Forgive my poor interviewing.
    https://youtu.be/7irJyhBUdD0

  2. Ellen Cooper says:

    My father in law Arthur E Cooper Jr says film reel 3167 and source box 0445. Is he in a video we can look up and watch?

  3. Michael D. Garcia says:

    To all POW’s from Allied forcesThank You for your service and loyalty to your fellow prisoners and your Nations under the harsh, deplorable and inhuman treatment you were forced to endure for the freedom of so many! My family lost 2 brothers in World War2 one in the European Theatre and one in the Pacific. One believed to have perished as a POW after the Anzio Beachhead assault the other positively died in a Japanese camp. My Great Uncle Jose I. Griego was a Bataan/Corregidor defender and survivor of the Bataan Death March. He was shipped to Nagoya, Japan aboard the Noto Maru Hell Ship and was held prisoner the entire war until he was beaten to death 1 month before the war ended after being caught with a rotten potato! His brother we’ve never been able to locate as were unsure as to the exact name he enlisted under. May GOD ALMIGHTY grant all of you peace, mercy, grace, love and rest for all eternity for your sacrifices…amen

  4. Richard M Jones says:

    There is a great book about Roddie Edmonds and Stalag IXB written by his son. “No Surrender”. Roddie stood, with a German officer holding the business end of a luger against his forehead, and made his statement “We are all Jews here”. The officer backed down and hundreds of lives were saved.

    • Richard Rosenzweig says:

      Richard
      You answered a question that has plagued me since I first heard the story of Roddie: was Stalag IX located in BARGA,Germany? That ties the information I heard at the State Department during Holocaust Memorial in Washington,D.C.

  5. Roger L Fleegle says:

    Awesome rescue. I had a relative rescued from a Japanese concentration camp in the Philippines, and lost a first cousin in a North Korean camp (remains will probably never be found).

    • Richard Schwartz says:

      My wife’s grandfather was stomped to death by a mob in China. He had been a Japanese collaborator and possibly had a second wife in Japan.

  6. Sandra Sager says:

    This is very interesting. A cousin of mine was captured by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge and liberated from a German POW camp in the spring of 1945. I don’t know what camp he was in, and he passed away a few years ago. Is there any way to find out which POW camp he was in?

  7. Jeanene Toombs Robb says:

    My father, Jessie Toombs, served in the Army under Gen Patton in WWII in the Battle of the Bulge and it was the 2nd Armor Division, not the 4th. I have one of his jackets with all of the insignia on it which I repaired and gave it to my son Jesse, named after him.

  8. Mary Black says:

    You are going to make us pay to see these records that my Father, Uncles fought for and you received from our own Gov’t records? What is wrong with this picture? These types of records were included with Ancestry.

    I never received notice that it was going to change. I have had Ancestry for years. One day records were there one day I had to subscribe to something else to gain access. I cannot pay for anything more!. I need these for my Family Tree Records. No fair!

    • Chris Bennett says:

      Even worse if you primary interest is not the US. Same fees, very small proportion of records are not US.

    • Joanne says:

      Mary,
      I have never found anything on Fold 3 that wasn’t on Ancestry. That being said, Fold3 will probably offer free access on Veterans Day. Also, check with your library as many offer free access. I know mine does.

  9. Diane Todd says:

    I agree with Mary! The fees are astronomical now, and if I cancel, all my records are lost!
    This should be looked at by the Feds, as illegal.

  10. Lena Taylor says:

    My stepfather, Lovett Piland, & was as much of a father to me as as my birth Dad. A Texas Army foot soldier who served with Patton. I would like to know the unit he was in. He had to have been with Patton in the North Africa Campaign, since he was “somewhere in Italy” when wounded. I’ve been trying to document his unit. He told me his squad was taking a rest in front of a Red Cross rest area, along comes a motorcycle courier that left the bike unattended upon entering. Along comes Patton. Upon seeing the cycle unattended, had his drive come to a screeching halt & jumps out of the back. Together he & his driver loaded it in the back. As they drove off Lovett heard Patton say “Let him explain THAT to his commanding officer!” I have no written or recorded proof, only Lovett’s oral accounting. Would that count as proof? But I’m assuming this happened in Sicily since there were trees & when I asked him if he ever parachuted, he said he wasn’t that BRAVE! History tells of friendly fire downing many of our planes so he may have witnessed it! He did not care for Eisenhower, “a political animal”!

  11. Richard Schwartz says:

    I had a cousin, Norman Morein, who was in the battle of the bulge. At one point he crawled across an open area to rescue a wounded comrade. In the process, he took a round in the leg. Result: a purple heart and bronze star. Later in life he was a prison psychologist, one of his “clients” was a member of the Manson family. Also a brilliant pianist.

    I was talking about this with another friend. I asked if his grandfather was in that battle. “No, my grandfather was fighting the Russians on the eastern front.”