Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Long Way From Home

Yesterday I took a drive to Kitchener, Ontario to visit the Woodland Cemetery. Here, in a small plot tucked away in the corner, lies the graves of 187 German prisoners of war who died in Canada in the First and Second World Wars.

Like every military cemetery around the world, each of these graves has a story to tell. While many of these stories have been lost to time, fragments have remained. Of the 148 casualties from the Second World War, sixty percent died of medical causes while twenty percent died of work-related incidents and injuries. The remaining twenty percent include five prisoners hung for murder and four prisoners shot while attempting an escape.

I have already shared the brief histories of two PoWs, Max Neugebauer and Walter Wolf, both of which were working at the camp in Riding Mountain National Park, but two more deserve mention. Richard Becker and Karl Karg were also employed at Riding Mountain. While they were transferred from the camp in June 1944, both men died in drowning accidents, Karg shortly after his arrival in Ontario and Becker in 1945.

In 1970, the graves of German PoWs buried across the country were exhumed and relocated to Kitchener, Ontario. However, not all of these individuals were accounted for. At least three prisoners who died in Canada were not relocated to Kitchener. One prisoner lies unidentified in Saskatchewan, one presumably was not found in Ontario, while the body of a drowning victim was never recovered.

Hopefully with some more research, their stories can all be told.

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