"Film tonight: Too Many Girls. Sounds like a nice ohe?
German prisoner of war Wolfgang Dorschel scribbled ihis
comment in his diary on February
a year and fourmonths after his arrival at the PW camp at Fort Robinson
Hollywood at the Fort ~obinson--Prisoner of War Camp
in northwestern Nebraska.
across America, loved to watch movies, especiallypopular Hollywood films, and he braved the dryNebraska heat and the icy chill of winter to pack in-to the camp movie house with his fellow prisonersand indulge in one of America's favorite pastimes.But there were those who had aims other thansimple entertainment for Hollywood's portrayal ofAmerica, and sought to incorporate film into oneof the best kept secrets of the prisoner of warprogram: the Intellectual Diversion Program, atopsecret endeavor to "de-Nazify" Hitler's soldiersheld in American prison camps.In Nebraska, there were three PW base camps:Camp Atlanta (Phelps County, in south-centralNebraska), Fort Robinson @awes County, in north-western Nebraska), and Camp Scottsbluff (ScottsBluff County, in the west-central Panhandle).Camp Scottsbluff was the oldest of the three,with prisoners arriving as early as June 1943. Inaddition, Italian prisoners were briefly internedat Fort Crook in Sarpy County near Omaha. Withthe exception of those at Fort Robinson, most ofthe prisoners worked as agricultural and contract
German Prisoners, possibly members of the Varistatheater troupe, and American prison camp staff out-side Varista Hall, the prisoner of war camp theater.The name Varista is a contraction of Variete
Sfacheldrahf-Variety (vaudeville) in Barbed Wire.
laborers. Of the three, only the PW camp at FortRobinson was located near a military post.'The War Department decided that most largebase camps could not efficiently distribute theprisoners where they were needed as workers, anda network of branch camps was created to housethe more than one hundred thousand prisoners inthe U.S. who could be working in private industriesincluding logging, meat packing, mining, railroads,foundries, and agriculture. Branch camps werehighly diversified in both capacity and layout,and more than five hundred were built across thecountry. In Nebraska, Camp Atlanta had somefifteen branch camps in the southern half of thestate. Camp Scottsbluff had four branch camps.Fort Robinson was chosen as a PW camp for itsadaptability to the purpose. It was isolated, it hadexcellent railroad connections, and there weremany work projects to keep the prisoners busy.Since it was an army remount depot housing thou-sands of horses and had K-9 dog units as well,there was no shortage of work for prisoners on thefort grounds. All in all, it seemed a perfect placefor German prisoners to wait out the war.3The first German prisoners to arrive at FortRobinson were members of Rommel's TenthPanzer Division from the North Africa campaign.Captured in May 1943, they arrived at FortRobinson on November 19,1943. Although many
Melissa Marsh is
marlteting copywriter atiUniverse Publishing Inc.in Lincoln. She receivedher M.A. in history fromthe University of Nebraska-Lincoln in