From CCC Camp to German POW Camp
[Hamlin NY – Spring, 1944]
by Ed Evans 02-19-14
The Hamlin CCC camp is very well documented with photographs and living witnesses to elaborate on what the pictures show. The POW camp, however, has been very difficult to even envision. The government did not allow any photos of the camp to be taken and the National Archives do not have any pictures of the camp on file either! None of the former guards are alive today and no one even remembers seeing the buildings going down the road after the camp closed. Those who were youngsters when the POW camp was in operation can’t even describe what a guard tower looked like or how many of them there were around the camp. Family photo albums have been searched to see if a sneaked photo of the camp might still exist but even the offering of a $100 reward has turned up nothing.
It was only after the efforts of a few volunteers began to rescue the site from runaway plant growth and careless dumping practices that information about the POW camp began to appear. The government had purposely removed most of the POW camp that could be seen above the surface but some remains of the POW camp could still be found once the invasive species and rotting trees were removed. As the site began to look more and more like a park the growing interest in project resulted in making contact with two former German prisoners who spent time in the Hamlin POW camp AND REMEMBERED THE EXPERIENCE. Closer to home, the memory of a seven year old boy who lived in the farmhouse next to the camp while it was in operation got better and better every time he visited the camp. He’s in his 70s now. About the same time, barbed wire was found on the site! Two weeks ago, descendants of the family who lived on the farm to the east of the camp during WWII presented us with an aerial photo showing the POW campsite two years after it was razed!
All of the above, coupled with continued research into the entire National POW Camp Program during WWII, has finally made it possible to write the first installment of a history of Hamlin’s POW camp. ( As you read, keep referring to the diagrams on the last page.)