Second World War diary reveals what life was like inside POW camps

Ref: 7-A16555,  NZ POWs alongside camp huts, 1944, Sir George Grey Special Collections

Margaret Pollock found the tattered blue diary of her late father Laurence after his death in 1989 in amongst newspaper clippings and prisoner of war artifacts. The diary details Laurence's time in German, Polish and Italian POW camps during the second World War. Laurence  was serving in the 20th Battalion, 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Forces in North Africa when he was captured by German forces. He risked his life to record the horrific and harrowing conditions inside the camps.

Ref: 7-A16552, showing a cast of Anzacs on stage in a POW camp, 1944, Sir George Grey Special Collections

Detailed in the diary is information about the food fed to the prisoners and descriptions of the ablutions. It also includes the torture inflicted on the prisoners, such as being strip searched and made to walk barefoot in snow and ice as well as the punishment for prisoners who deviated from the rules.

Margaret plans to entrust the dairy and artifacts to the Hocken Library in Dunedin, so that they can be preserved and accessed by future generations. She hopes that other people will look in their own attics and that of their relatives and see if they also hold valuable accounts of the war. With the number of returned second World War servicemen greatly reducing each year, it is essential that this information is found and cared for.

Ref: 7-A16548, POW camp, 1940s, Sir George Grey Special Collections

Auckland Libraries holds in its heritage collections a range of New Zealand POW accounts from both the first and second World Wars. Also within the heritage collections are a wealth of photographs from both wars, including the images featured in this post. These images come from an album belonging to Angus MacDonald, a POW during WWII at Stalag VIII B (May 1940-September 1942) and Stalag 383 (September 1942-May 1944).