Item:
ONSV6103

Original German WWII U.S. Named POW Stalag XIIA Captured National Flag Banner Signed with Documents

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Item Description

Original Item: One-of-a-kind. Private First Class John A. Pala (ASN 36 695 038) was a "Pioneer". In combat operated as a member of a crew specially trained in constructing and repairing roads and bridges. Worked with demolition-removing and creating man made obstacles to slow the advance of enemy forces or promote the advance of allied troops. Was familiar with all types of hand weapons including automatic weapons and hand grenades. Also laid and cleared mine fields.  

He was captured in December, 1944 at the Battle of the Bulge and taken to Stalag XIIA where he wrote Prisoner of War Postkarte Kriegsgefangenenpost to his mother which is dated 12/13/1944. He spent 6 months as a POW and was liberated by American troops. According to his family from which this banner and documents were acquired, his liberators had taken a NSDAP Banner and signed it. Pfc Pala took this banner with him as a trophy of war and a temperance of his liberation.

Included in the set are the following items:

- Original German WW2 National Banner that measures 45 inches wide by 108 inches long. It is cotton construction double sided with a single cotton white circles with black swastikas on both sides. It is signed by multiple USGIs.

- Original Postkarte Kriegsgefangenenpost dated 12/13/1944 sent by Pala to his mother.

- Original Operation Qualification Record for Private First Class John A. Pala which documents his service and 6 months as a Prisoner of War.

Stalag XIIA; Conditions at Limburg were notoriously bad with next to nothing in the way of facilities. This is partly explained by the fact that Stalag XIIA's primary function was to act as a transit camp which processed newly captured Prisoners of War before distributing them amongst the other, better organized Stalags in Germany. Typically a new prisoner would arrive, be interrogated, documented, and moved on within a few weeks, therefore most men did not have to endure this depressing camp for long. However it was as a consequence of this short stay that the prisoners could not be organized to make the conditions more habitable, nor were new arrivals able to receive in such a short period of time the luxuries of the frequently life-saving Red Cross Parcels. The population of the camp was always extremely high because for many prisoners captured on the Western Front, passing through the gates of Stalag XIIA was their first point of call.

Despite these problems and the unwieldy numbers, little was done by the authorities to raise the camp above the lowest common denominator. For the British and Americans, temporary accommodation came in the form of four very large marquees, not wholly dissimilar to circus tents. There was no furniture of any kind inside these structures, instead the cramped conditions dictated that everyone had to sleep back to back on the floor, which in some instances was cobbled stone, with, if they were extremely lucky, a loose scattering of straw for bedding.

Between meals, which were only a few notches above starvation rations, there was absolutely nothing in the way of entertainment to occupy the minds of the prisoners. There was no lighting in the camp, and so as soon as it got dark men slept until dawn because there was little point to being awake. The threat of disease, especially diarrhoea, was far from being uncommon, and the camp possessed almost nothing in the way of medical facilities. The stone toilets served several thousand men, and as such created a considerable stench.

Despite the transitory nature of the camp, some of those held at Stalag XIIA were more permanent residents and spent several years there. The Russians were, as was the case in all German camps, treated as a sub-species and were effectively left to rot. However there was a sizeable population of Indian soldiers who had been captured during the fighting in North Africa in 1942, and they sat out the remainder of the war at Limburg. As Commonwealth troops they were treated better than most, and like POW's all over Germany who had been imprisoned for a long time, they had learned how to make their lives reasonably comfortable and were able to keep both themselves and their quarters clean.

Upon arrival, men who were newcomers to life as a POW had the basic ground rules of Stalag law spelt out to them, one of which was a warning that they would be shot if they placed as much as a finger upon the tall barbed wire fence that surrounded the camp. For many freshly captured servicemen, Stalag XIIA was their first opportunity to write a postcard home to their family, and although it would take weeks to arrive it was often the case that this would be the first news they would receive that their loved ones, now posted as missing-in-action, were alive. The following image is an example of such a postcard, almost all of which were phrased in an identical or highly similar fashion.
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