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This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for East Texas Research Center, Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University. The transcript follows as closely as possible the recorded interview, including usual starts, stops, and other rough spots in typical conversation. The reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written, word. Stylistic matters, such as punctuation and capitalization, follow the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition. The transcript includes bracketed notices at the end of one tape and the beginning of the next so that, if desired, the reader can find a section of tape more easily by using this transcript. Cassandra Bennett transcribed this interview in April 2008. Perky Beisel reviewed the draft of this transcript. Her corrections were incorporated into this final transcript by Cassandra Bennett in May 2008.

Researchers may read, quote from, cite, and photocopy this transcript without permission for purposes of research only. Publication is prohibited, however, without permission from the Director, East Texas Research Center.


ORAL HISTORY #422 and #423 BOBBY JOHNSON: Okay, ahh today is May 2nd 1992 and Im speaking with Mr. Kurt Vordemaier. And let me spell thatV-O-R-D-E-M-A-I-E-Rahh who ahh, is from Paraguay?Paraguay now? KURT VORDEMAIER: JOHNSON: Now.

I see, originally from Germany. And uhhh. This little interview will concern Mr. Vordemaiers memories of his days as a prisoner of war in the camp at Chireno. First, I wish Mr. Vordemaier you would just tell me a little about own your background, about when you were born, where you grew up, and something about your early life.

K. VORDEMAIER: I was born 15th of August 1921 in Germany. In south of Germany and I, ahhh, spent seven years in school and three years in commercial school. JOHNSON: Um hum.

K. VORDEMAIER: And then I had an apprenticeship as a clerk in a church organ factory. JOHNSON: Church organ factory?

K. VORDEMAIER: For three years and then I was called into the JOHNSON: Military?

K. VORDEMAIER: Military. JOHNSON: So when did you enter the military?

K. VORDEMAIER: 1940. Fall of 1940. JOHNSON: And you were about twenty years old? Nineteen?

K. VORDEMAIER: Nineteen. JOHNSON: Well let me ask you about the events in Germany there in the 1930s. What, where you aware of the political things that were happening in Germany and in the world? Were you much aware of that? K. VORDEMAIER: Not too much, I was still very young, but I participated as a must in the Hitler Jugend. And I remember, I personally was never a Hitlerite, because my father was persecuted from the Nazis. JOHNSON: Oh really? Was that because he opposed them?

K. VORDEMAIER: He, he, he was because hes been a social democrat. And so, we had no connection with the regime of that time. JOHNSON: Did you ever see Hitler?

K. VORDEMAIER: Ive seen Hitler on once. In Stuttgart. After the reunification with Austria. There was a greata great campaign. Election campaign. And though Hitler appeared in Stuttgart too, at that time I saw also the very terrible [Heinrich] Himmler and Rudolf Hess. JOHNSON: So you saw all these men?


K. VORDEMAIER: All these men. And quite near. about twenty meters. JOHNSON: Well you ahhh. you say were not too aware of the political things because you were young, but, ah, Ive often wonderedwhy Germany, how did a man like Hitler come to be in control? K. VORDEMAIER: Well I think at that time there was a big depression all the world over and in Germany too, and the people cried for a savior. And he appeared, at the horizon there was, uh, Hitler. The only distinguished man. It was a great mistake, but it is a fact. JOHNSON: Right. Well you uh, were you drafted into the military?

K. VORDEMAIER: I was drafted. JOHNSON: And tell me a little about your military training. What did that consist of?

K. VORDEMAIER: Oh [Laughter] Can you help me? [Laughter]I was 1940 eingetrogenzum Militr. I was draftedin 1940 to the armed forces. Antiaircraft. JOHNSON: Was that part of the army or the Luftwaffe?

K. VORDEMAIER: Es wer Luftwaffe. JOHNSON: I see.

K. VORDEMAIER: The anti aircraft guns. Eight comma eight centimeter. JOHNSON: Eighty-eight.

K. VORDEMAIER: Eighty-eight. JOHNSON: Well how long of a period of training did you have?

K. VORDEMAIER: From September 1940 to. March 1941.


I see. And I suppose your training was much like these American boys were undergoing. Just physical training and, uh, learning military routines. Is that right?

K. VORDEMAIER: Not quite. JOHNSON: Not quite?

K. VORDEMAIER: Not quite. We were how, I dont know how you call it. We werent much drilled. Drilled. MAN [BACKGROUND]: Drilled. [indiscernible].

K. VORDEMAIER: We were not drilled. A great deal drill but no, we had not muchahhh, exercise with the weapons. JOHNSON: I see. I see. Well, where did you learn how to use weapons then?

K. VORDEMAIER: In the battlefront. JOHNSON: I see. [Chuckles]

K. VORDEMAIER: It was a great mistake for Hitler for the, in the regime there. JOHNSON: Well, so you were through with your training in March of 1941, where did you go then? Of course the war had been going on since September of 1939. Where was your first assignment? K. VORDEMAIER: My first, well I was trained in Ludwigsburg and in Mainz near Amsted [unintelligible]. And then we came back to Ludwigsburg and were sent to Munich and theres a small episode in this. When I entered the train, and when we entered the train, when we entered the train to Munich, at the

same time, a gentleman with his daughter was boarding the train. And it was this girl. JOHNSON: I thought so, she was smiling. And was she a young lady then?

K. VORDEMAIER: She was sixteen years old. JOHNSON: Sixteen. I see.

K. VORDEMAIER: And she waited seven years until I popped up again. JOHNSON: I see. Seven years? Well I see. Were you in contact with her during that period? K. VORDEMAIER: By letter. JOHNSON: From Chireno, Texas?

K. VORDEMAIER: Too. Too. JOHNSON: Really? Did you keep those letters?

K. VORDEMAIER: I burnt them a year ago, everything. JOHNSON: I see. Well uhh when did you

K. VORDEMAIER: And then we came from Munich to Italy. First to Rome and then to Sicily, and then back to Naples and were shipped to Tripoli in Africa, in Libya. JOHNSON: Is this 1941?

K. VORDEMAIER: 1941. This is about the beginning of the African War. JOHNSON: Um hum.

K. VORDEMAIER: African Campaign. JOHNSON: Well what is your memory of that campaign?

K. VORDEMAIER: Well, there were certain good memories of this campaign. We had to defend the town of Benghazi. And there had been retreats and advances and we had, at that time we had a very fairopen end, uh [German area]. That was where the English hit army. JOHNSON: Right. Was that Montgomerys forces?

K. VORDEMAIER: Later on. Later on. JOHNSON: Later on.

K. VORDEMAIER: Later on. And the English were very brave soldiers and the Australians and New Zealanders were much more. JOHNSON: Much more? [chuckles] Meaner huh?

K. VORDEMAIER: We were afraid of them. JOHNSON: [chuckles] I see.

K. VORDEMAIER: And there had been Indian forces too. JOHNSON: Yes.

K. VORDEMAIER: And three French. And JOHNSON: Now that that was before the Americans were in the North Africa?

K. VORDEMAIER: I was never in contact with the Americans, always with the English. Never. Not even in Junisa. Always with the English. And mutti, heir tagen [in German] in Africa by kmpfen [in German]. Keine nacht,. UNKNOWN MAN: He said that there wasnt a lot of tanks, tanks and that they disguised the tanks as a, as a camouflaged as, ah, as trucks and so the English Airforce

over flew them and didnt destroy them would fly over them and wouldnt destroy them. K. VORDEMAIER: And the andere seit, after that, when Montgomery came, he camouflaged his tanks as trucks and the German had seen no trucks in the attack and were beaten back severely. JOHNSON: Now this is where toward Egypt, George?

GEORGE COOPER: Benghazi is what, about five-hundred miles to the west from the Nile? K. VORDEMAIER: Benghazi is about WOMAN [IN BACKGROUN]: Hello. Oh, Im sorry.

K. VORDEMAIER: Benghazi is about, back when, its Libya too, its Libya too, now its about six-hundred kilometers from Tripoli. COOPER: No, east of Tripoli.

K. VORDEMAIER: East of Tripoli and west of El Elamein. JOHNSON: So its a good way, near Egypt.

K. VORDEMAIER: Near Egypt. JOHNSON: Okay, near Egypt. Now was your main job shooting at the British planes? You were K. VORDEMAIER: Shooting at the British planes and in the battle on, on, on the earth, we were shooting at the British tanks. JOHNSON: With the same guns?

K. VORDEMAIER: Italy guns. JOHNSON: Well let me ask you, did you see much killing and suffering?


K. VORDEMAIER: More suffering than killing. The English who suffered from lack of water and lack of cares and... [In German] JOHNSON: Did you have shortage of food?

K. VORDEMAIER: No, normally not, no normally not. JOHNSON: Well, ah, how were you captured?

K. VORDEMAIER: [clears throat] I was captured the day after armistice in Tunisia. And I was captured with three other German soldiers by the three French troops. JOHNSON: Oh, three French troops. I see. Well ahh.

K. VORDEMAIER: And the French troops handed us over the English and that meant more to eat and more to drink. [Chuckles] And from the English, we were handed over after a week or so to the Americans. JOHNSON: When was this that you were captured?

K. VORDEMAIER: 9th of May 1943. Aboutforty-nine years ago. JOHNSON: Well, you were part of the Africa Corps, is that right?

K. VORDEMAIER: Incorporated. We were Luftwaffe, Luftwaffe, we was not African Corps. JOHNSON: Oh, I see. Well, ahh, did you ever see Rommel?

K. VORDEMAIER: I see Rommel twice. Once in Benghazi and once in the battlefront near El Alamein. JOHNSON: EhhumWell, did the troops have great respect for him?




Well why do you think the Germans lost there, in that area?

K. VORDEMAIER: How do you mean? JOHNSON: Why did they, why were they defeatedin Africa?

K. VORDEMAIER: Near El Alamein. JOHNSON: Yeah. Why?

K. VORDEMAIER: Lack of, lack of weapons. JOHNSON: Lack of weapons and material.

K. VORDEMAIER: And war material. JOHNSON: Okay. So you were, uh, 1943 and what month was it? May, did you say?

K. VORDEMAIER: May. JOHNSON: May of 43 you were captured and eventually end up in the hands of the Americans? Well, how were you treated by those Americans? At first, there in, ah, ah, Africa? K. VORDEMAIER: Very well. Very good. JOHNSON: No mistreatment?

K. VORDEMAIER: No, no, not even by the Englishmen, not even by the French either. But the French had nothing to eat and so we had nothing to eat too. JOHNSON: I see. How long was it before you were transported to the United States?

K. VORDEMAIER: From Tunisia, we went by train to Casablanca, Morocco. JOHNSON: Uh hum.

K. VORDEMAIER: Escorted by the American guardians and we been in Morocco about two months in a prisoner compound and then we were shipped to Boston.




K. VORDEMAIER: Boston. JOHNSON: COOPER: JOHNSON: Let me stop just a moment. Ah, uh, he was going to Okay, uh, you were going to tell me about an episode there.

K. VORDEMAIER: [Unittelligable] [German] eid genmnen ha ben. When the English, one was English, one was German. [German] Wir haben gefunden eine grobe. Mngle von corn beef. How you call it? COOPER: Corn beef.

K. VORDEMAIER: Fixen. Fixen. A huge, huge table of corn beef and we took em, [German] Wirhaben die strae Panzer [unintelligible] ein kilometer mat cornbeef fixen eine Strae gemacht geFloen. [laughter] Ja. Ja. Thats right. [German] COOPER: Worum?

K. VORDEMAIER: Die fahren Kunder-War sand. WOMEN [IN BACKGROUND]: K. VORDEMAIER: Sand. COOPER: They took corn beef. They found some corn beef. And they laid it out as pavement over the sand and they rode their tanks and their vehicles over it because they would sink in the sand. So they used corn beef hash as a pavement. [chuckles] They had a big, huge pile of it. I guess it was left behind by the English. Sand. They sink.


K. VORDEMAIER: Left behind by the English. [chuckles] JOHNSON: Corn beef. [laughter] Well, eh, I wouldnt have wanted to eat that, would you? K. VORDEMAIER: No. We had enough of them. [laughter] And another episode. A little after.from Morocco, that a little bit anti-American, but I dealt with you. [German] Wir wareb ingroen Camp and as prisioners nichit za Tun. Undben fleign eine kleine ameri kanishe Maschine. So einlajen mit twenty thousand men. Twenty thousand men over there. [German] Emmal flucht dergrunde und anf [ ] ge sturz. Lange full heix gelacht Deutsch. COOPER: [chuckles] He said that at this camp, in the encampment, in Morocco, okay twenty-thousand prisoners were they watched this, we would say hotdog flyer do loops and eights and whatever and he crashed and he said the whole crowd applauded and laughed. [chuckles] JOHNSON: Well, so are the, what, happens in war. [chuckles]

K. VORDEMAIER: [German] ganze leite COOPER: Ahhh

K. VORDEMAIER: Later on. And now JOHNSON: You came to American in Boston, you traveled by American naval vessel? Is this right? K. VORDEMAIER: Yeah, yeah. JOHNSON: Is this about the summer of 1943




July, American naval vessel. How many German prisoners on that ship?

K. VORDEMAIER: Ahh, I dont know JOHNSON: Thousands?

K. VORDEMAIER: I think so. JOHNSON: Have you ever been on the ocean like that before?

K. VORDEMAIER: No, yeah, on the Mediterranean.. JOHNSON: Yeah, but thats a little milder than the ocean. Did you get seasick?

K. VORDEMAIER: Oh no, no, no, but we were hungry. We got very little to eat there in the ship. JOHNSON: Okay, so you got to Boston in summer of 1943.

K. VORDEMAIER: Yeah. We had a big mess hall on the ship JOHNSON: Um hum.

K. VORDEMAIER: And the first thing I noticed was that American G.I. had wrote on the doorpost to the mess hall, What a mess. ALL: JOHNSON: [chuckles] Well

K. VORDEMAIER: It was not a prisoner who done it, an American had done this. JOHNSON: [chuckles] An American had done that.

K. VORDEMAIER: Yes. He had the same experience we had. JOHNSON: [chuckles] No food. Okay, where did you go from Boston?

K. VORDEMAIER: From Boston, we came to [Camp] McAlester [Oklahoma]. JOHNSON: McAlester?


K. VORDEMAIER: McAlester. JOHNSON: By what, by train?

K. VORDEMAIER: By coaches. By train coaches. Not what we mean in Germany coaches. JOHNSON: JOHNSON: Not by coaches, by car. But though coaches. And did they feed you fairly well.

K. VORDEMAIER: Yeah. Yeah. JOHNSON: Was the train strictly for prisoners of war?

K. VORDEMAIER: Strictly for prisoners of war. I met no girls there. [Chuckles] JOHNSON: No girls. And I bet I know right where you Did the train come right up to the camp? K. VORDEMAIER: Yeah, I guess, so JOHNSON: In McAlester?

K. VORDEMAIER: I guess so. I guess so. And the first thing what we had to strip us of our old uniforms and the gear. We have to go to a disinfection room JOHNSON: Hummhum

K. VORDEMAIER: And we get new, new clothes. JOHNSON: Uhhuh. What color were those clothes?

K. VORDEMAIER: Dark blue. JOHNSON: Dark blue, denim I bet. Did it have POW written on it?

K. VORDEMAIER: Yep, yep. We have to write on it. JOHNSON: Oh you had to do it?

K. VORDEMAIER: Which, [indiscernible]



Ah, well uhh.

K. VORDEMAIER: Ah, and another episode there.we were COOPER: Inoculated.

K. VORDEMAIER: How you call it? COOPER: Inoculated.

K. VORDEMAIER: Yes, shoots. By American army JOHNSON: Doctors or nurses?

K. VORDEMAIER: No JOHNSON: Corpsmen? Personnel?

K. VORDEMAIER: No, women. JOHNSON: Oh, nurses.

K. VORDEMAIER: Nurses! Nurses! It was like a wedding for us, for when they touched us in the rear. COOPER: JOHNSON: [Chuckles] Since it had been so longit was like a wedding. [Chuckles] Since they seen a woman. Huh?

K. VORDEMAIER: It was the first women we had touched us after seven years. [Chuckles] JOHNSON: So a while. [Chuckles]. Well, how do you remember that camp? Was it a large camp? K. VORDEMAIER: It was a large camp. Large camp. JOHNSON: How many do you think were there? Thousands?



K. VORDEMAIER: More. More. JOHNSON: Two thousand?

K. VORDEMAIER: Two or three thousand. JOHNSON: Did you, you were there by the well was it, was it the fall or summer that you got there. Still hot weather? K. VORDEMAIER: July I think to November. JOHNSON: Of 1943? Was the camp fairly new?

K. VORDEMAIER: The prison camp was new. JOHNSON: The prison camp was new .

K. VORDEMAIER: About the army camp. I dont know. The army camp. New or not new. JOHNSON: Well, did they have a lot of guards? I remember driving by there once but I do not know. K. VORDEMAIER: They had guard towers. That was normally, not too much guards. JOHNSON: Uh hum.

K. VORDEMAIER: They had barbwire and towers. Normally there were not too much guards. JOHNSON: Not too much?

K. VORDEMAIER: Guards. JOHNSON: My grandfather used to wander down there and speak to the prisoners. Would that have been possible? Could he of gotten very close? K. VORDEMAIER: Might be. He could shout, yeah. JOHNSON: He could get with in twenty, twenty-five yards, maybe? Twenty meters maybe?


K. VORDEMAIER: Yeah. JOHNSON: Yeah, he did. What did, you worked in the laundry there you said. What exactly, did they have a lot of laundry equipment? K. VORDEMAIER: Yes, it was big laundry. Army laundry. I worked with the tumbler. JOHNSON: Tumbler, drier.

K. VORDEMAIER: Drier. JOHNSON: Drier. Well did they feed you well there?

K. VORDEMAIER: Very well. very well. JOHNSON: I know this was a long time ago but could youdid you remember what an average meal might be like there? What did you have? K. VORDEMAIER: Well, we had. JOHNSON: Say dinner, lunch, noontime, you know.

K. VORDEMAIER: I remember better breakfast. JOHNSON: Breakfast.

K. VORDEMAIER: We had pancakes, coffee, eggs, and eggs and bacon[wind interference] sweet, sweet JOHNSON: Jelly, jam?

K. VORDEMAIER: Jelly, jam, honey, milk, and uhhh cornflakes. JOHNSON: Just like the American troops were eating I suspect.

K. VORDEMAIER: Exactly the same thing. We eating at noon. The same lunch as the Americans. The only thing we havent had was alcohol. JOHNSON: Well did anyone


K. VORDEMAIER: But we could buy at canteen a beer. JOHNSON: You could buy beer.

K. VORDEMAIER: Yeah. But we were ready to work for it had had had to work, or we get no, no, no coupons to get beer. JOHNSON: That was weak bear too wasnt it?

K. VORDEMAIER: Well, I dont know. No, no, it was beer. Regular beer. JOHNSON: Regular beer. Up in Oklahoma, then, all they sold was a weak beer. The people could only get a weak beer. K. VORDEMAIER: Sometimes a little bit of wine was allotted to us too. JOHNSON: Did you have to buy that?

K. VORDEMAIER: We had to buy that. JOHNSON: So they had a canteen or a store?

K. VORDEMAIER: We had a canteen to buy cokes, and sweetscigarettes, gum. JOHNSON: Chocolate barsWe couldnt get gum, we couldnt buy chewing gum. It was scarce. And candy was scarce. K. VORDEMAIER: We had everything there, soap, cream. We didnt miss anything. JOHNSON: Well, and you were treated well then too. No, no

K. VORDEMAIER: Very well. Nothing, nothing. JOHNSON: So no physical abuse or anything?

K. VORDEMAIER: Nothing, nothing. JOHNSON: Well, did you become friendly with any Americans?

K. VORDEMAIER: Well, more or less, yes, yes. Yeah, I guess.



You did not speak much English then I guess?

K. VORDEMAIER: But I met in the laundry a civilian who could spoke Spanish. So I learned Spanish at home, and so I could speak Spanish to him. JOHNSON: Oh I see. Well, ah, what was your average day like? You had, did you get up early? K. VORDEMAIER: Pardon? JOHNSON: Your average day?

K. VORDEMAIER: Yeah? JOHNSON: Did you arise early?

K. VORDEMAIER: Oh, I think about 7 oclock JOHNSON: And you

K. VORDEMAIER: And then we had do our washing and we went to the mess hall for breakfast. And then the commanders went out to work at the laundry, or for the American camp doing JOHNSON: Yard work?

K. VORDEMAIER: Yard work. JOHNSON: Did you, you got, did you ever get out of the camp much? In trucks, or what? Did you ever get to get out to the town? K. VORDEMAIER: Oh no, I didnt get out. The only time I didnt get out was when we went to Madill [Oklahoma]. By train. JOHNSON: To do the forest work?

K. VORDEMAIER: Yes, forest work.



So you were there for about three months? McAlester. Three months. July...

K. VORDEMAIER: Till October. JOHNSON: So thats when you saw, you went down to Madill

K. VORDEMAIER: Tishomingo [Oklahoma]. JOHNSON: Tishomingo, yes. And thats where you saw the beautiful trees turning and leaves. K. VORDEMAIER: And we also have seen Indians therewith their costumes. JOHNSON: With their costumes?

K. VORDEMAIER: women. JOHNSON: I believe that would be Choctaw Indians.

K. VORDEMAIER: I dont know. Near Aida. JOHNSON: Yes, near Aida. Well, I dont know whether it was Choctaw or Chickasaw. I forget.Theyre still there. JOHNSON: But theyve grown older

K. VORDEMAIER: Theyve grown older. Old Indians. [Laugh] JOHNSON: What was the next place you came?

K. VORDEMAIER: Tyler. JOHNSON: To Camp Fannin.

K. VORDEMAIER: For about, I dont know, for aboutafter Christmas, we went to Chireno. JOHNSON: All right, so you were in, in Camp Fannin in Tyler [Texas]. Did you it was called Camp Fannin?


K. VORDEMAIER: Yeah, yeah, I did. JOHNSON: And that was named after an early hero of the Texas Revolution who ahhhdid he come through here, COOPER? Did Fannin? Probably came through Nacogdoches. Fannin did, that was back in the 1830s when Texas was becoming a, you know, separated from Mexico, and he was a hero of that. Ah what do you remember of the camp there at Fannin? In Tyler? K. VORDEMAIER: I dont remember very much. JOHNSON: Did you have a job?

K. VORDEMAIER: Just cleaning the camp. JOHNSON: One of the women who worked there, in the commandants office told me about watching the German prisoners marching down the street K. VORDEMAIER: Singing. JOHNSON: Singing and carrying shovels and rakes.

K. VORDEMAIER: Ahh, thats right. The only thing we were brought was the cinema. The army cinema to look at pictures. JOHNSON: Would they sing when they marched?

K. VORDEMAIER: Normally, yes. Normally, yes. JOHNSON: What did you sing?

K. VORDEMAIER: [chuckles] JOHNSON: Do you remember?

K. VORDEMAIER: Wir fahren gegende England. JOHNSON: Whats that?



Wir fahren gegende England. Do you remember how that went? Could you sing a bit of that?

K. VORDEMAIER: No, I dont know the tune. JOHNSON: Your not a singer? I see. Flying over England. Well, ahh, You came to Chireno then you say, in the early the next year in 44. Is that right? K. VORDEMAIER: 1944. I think February 44. JOHNSON: You came because there had been a big ice storm hadnt there, that had knocked down the trees? [End of side one of tape one] JOHNSON: All right this is side two of the interview with Mr. Vordemaier. Concerning his memories of being a prisoner of war here in East Texas. Okay, you were at Chireno then in the little camp there in early 1944. If you would, please describe that camp, as you remember it. K. VORDEMAIER: It was nice, and in a lovely landscape and the American personnel was very kind to us. And ahh, especially I remember the doctor, who came every day, he was a civilian. Typical American land doctor. JOHNSON: Typical American what? Medical.

K. VORDEMAIER: Land doctorcountry doctor. JOHNSON: Do you remember his name? Was it Middlebrook?

K. VORDEMAIER: I dont remember. In the meeting after, I knew his name. JOHNSON: Ill find out.


K. VORDEMAIER: I dont remember. We very often simulated to be ill in order to not have to work. JOHNSON: Played sick.

K. VORDEMAIER: We played sick, thats right. He prescribed us mainly mineral oil. JOHNSON: Mineral oil [chuckles]. A laxative.

K. VORDEMAIER: I remember that very well. And so we worked, we worked, it was a little bit monotonous. We worked in the woods. Two men had to cut cord wood. And each of them had to make a daily quota of six cords. Thats a lot of work for you have to clear the underbrush to get to the trees. JOHNSON: Using hand saws?

K. VORDEMAIER: No motor saws. JOHNSON: Hand saws.

K. VORDEMAIER: Two axes. Thats all. JOHNSON: And that was it.

K. VORDEMAIER: And gloves. JOHNSON: And gloves, hand shoes?

K. VORDEMAIER: Hand shoes. JOHNSON: JOHNSON: Man told me thats what you called them was hand shoes. Well you would go out early in the morning then, is that correct?

K. VORDEMAIER: Early in the morning if, if it wasnt raining. Come back late in the afternoon. JOHNSON: What did you do for lunch?


K. VORDEMAIER: We took lunch with us. JOHNSON: What was it?

K. VORDEMAIER: Sandwiches. We had a barrel of water in the truck. For lunch we went all to the truck and the lunch was given to us. JOHNSON: Well, did you have rest periods?

K. VORDEMAIER: No, well, we had to make our quotas. If we were ready at 1 oclock, it was okay, If we were not ready at four oclock..if it was go home and not done, it was not okay. When we did not make it, we were punished. JOHNSON: How were you punished?

K. VORDEMAIER: We were put in a small house. JOHNSON: You were locked up.

K. VORDEMAIER: Locked up. Much, much, much, very much hot. But that was very seldom. JOHNSON: Did most people try to their quota?

K. VORDEMAIER: Yes, and we made it. JOHNSON: That was cutting pulp wood for the paper mill for Lufkin. I think

K. VORDEMAIER: Yeah, Lufkin. JOHNSON: Did you go out in army trucks or in private vehicles?

K. VORDEMAIER: Private vehicles. JOHNSON: Private vehicles. That was the Southland Paper Company I guess.

K. VORDEMAIER: I guess so.



And you had an American assigned to head the crew? Is that correct? An American, was he a guard or did he work for Southland? Did he work for the paper company? I think they did.

K. VORDEMAIER: Like Mr. Murry, we had foremen. Texans. Besides that, was an army solider guard. JOHNSON: Did he have a gun?

K. VORDEMAIER: I dont think so. JOHNSON: Well!

K. VORDEMAIER: How you call? JOHNSON: Stick?

K. VORDEMAIER: A stick. JOHNSON: The man I talked to told me that the guard laid around and slept all day.

K. VORDEMAIER: That very often occurred. JOHNSON: So you were there in the spring, I guess, of 44 and you stayed there a good while didnt you? K. VORDEMAIER: I think up to after the war, I think up, after the war, to the early days of 46. JOHNSON: To the early days of 46. So you were there at the camp at Chireno from for two years. K. VORDEMAIER: Two years about. JOHNSON: Two years, I see. Well, ahh, did you come to know the Texans around and the people from the community? Did you get to know any of them?


K. VORDEMAIER: They worked there. Yeah, they worked there. I even recognized the other day the negro Elmer. JOHNSON: Is that so?

K. VORDEMAIER: Still alive. Yeah, yeah. He was there JOHNSON: Was he there? I didnt see him. A black man.

K. VORDEMAIER: A black man. JOHNSON: You recognized him?

K. VORDEMAIER: After he told me his name. JOHNSON: What was his name?

K. VORDEMAIER: Elmer. JOHNSON: Well, what did he do?

K. VORDEMAIER: He worked in the woods with the other black men. But nothing to do with us. But he meet us. JOHNSON: Well could you speak with him then?

K. VORDEMAIER: Well more or less. JOHNSON: [Chuckles] More or less. Well, Ill be, did you see any others that you remembered? K. VORDEMAIER: I remembered three men, I remembered them them, but I do know their names. I told you, I remembered Mr. Murry, I remembered a certain Mr. Grimes and Mr. Simons. He was very good. JOHNSON: Mr. Simons. He was very good. They did not treat you as enemies?


K. VORDEMAIER: Oh no. On the contrary. They were very kind to us. All of them. Even Mr. Kurt from Lufkin. JOHNSON: Yes, he talked funny, didnt he, he had a throat problem.

K. VORDEMAIER: I remember him, he was rather... JOHNSON: big.

K. VORDEMAIER: A square man. JOHNSON: Yes, yes he was.

K. VORDEMAIER: I think, he owned the paper mill. If I am not mistaken, it might be that I was mistaken, he told us he was a prisoner of war for Germany in the First World War. JOHNSON: I dont think so, he might have told you that.

K. VORDEMAIER: He likes that the American forest looks like the German forest. He likes the forest clean from undergrowth. JOHNSON: Well his family was German. They had come in there in the late nineteen hundreds, eighteen hundreds. K. VORDEMAIER: Anyway, he had been to Germany. German woods, German forest JOHNSON: Wellwas that a very big camp? How many were there, roughly?

K. VORDEMAIER: Two or three hundred. JOHNSON: And you slept in tents, is that correct?

K. VORDEMAIER: Three men, one tent. JOHNSON: It was not very, not to be a permanent camp.

K. VORDEMAIER: No it was no permanent camp. It was a branch camp from Tyler.



Did anyone ever try to escape?

K. VORDEMAIER: I never heard about that. JOHNSON: Did they just, they didnt talk about that?

K. VORDEMAIER: No. [chuckles] What I know some escaped during the night and came back during the morning. JOHNSON: [chuckles] I see. Were they looking for girls?

K. VORDEMAIER: I guess so, I guess so. I didnt dare do so. JOHNSON: You didnt do that. I see. Well, was the food there okay there?

K. VORDEMAIER: The food was very good there until the end of the war. JOHNSON: And then they cut you back.

K. VORDEMAIER: And then they cut us back very severely. JOHNSON: Yes, I had heard that. Well why was that?

K. VORDEMAIER: Well, I think the American prisoners were set free, and there was no response from the German authorities. There was no German authority any more. But speaking of the little eating we had, I like to refer once again to the little docthe doctor. JOHNSON: The doctor, yes.

K. VORDEMAIER: Christmas 1945 JOHNSON: Yes.

K. VORDEMAIER: All was hungry. We were always hungry. Hungry. JOHNSON: Hungry.

K. VORDEMAIER: Every prisoner received a package of Herseys chocolates




K. VORDEMAIER: about twenty-four. And I think the whole camp had eaten it up all at once. And so, the other day or the other days, the doctor has to give really JOHNSON: Medicine?

K. VORDEMAIER: Mineral oil. JOHNSON: [Laughter] Well ahh, they cut you back on food but they didnt teat you harshly did they? K. VORDEMAIER: No, no no not at all, no, no, no. Oh no. And we often have got peanut butter from the farmers and then JOHNSON: Oh really.

K. VORDEMAIER: Ja, ja. JOHNSON: Oh, peanut butter and what did ya eat that with? Bread?

K. VORDEMAIER: With bread. JOHNSON: Did they make their own bread out there? Did they have a kitchen to make that? Or what? K. VORDEMAIER: No, no. They brought it in. JOHNSON: Well, did they prepare food there, at the camp? Did they cook there?

K. VORDEMAIER: A very good cook, a German cook. JOHNSON: Oh, a German cook? A prisoner?

K. VORDEMAIER: A prisoner. Yeah. JOHNSON: I see.


K. VORDEMAIER: The kitchen staff was about five men. JOHNSON: Well was that true at Camp Fannin? Did you have German cooks there too?

K. VORDEMAIER: I guess so. I dont remember. I guess so. It was a big mess hall. JOHNSON: Uhhuh.

K. VORDEMAIER: But speaking of the little food we got, that is the one thing one remembers, better than the good food. JOHNSON: Yes, that is right.

K. VORDEMAIER: When we were in San Augustine, right here JOHNSON: Right.

K. VORDEMAIER: after Christmas, after the Christmas 45, we, there was a man there, we were all very hungry but this German prisoner was very, very hungry and he, we made a bet, a bet. JOHNSON: A bet?

K. VORDEMAIER: Uh hum, JOHNSON: A wager?

K. VORDEMAIER: [German] Elne wette machen, I dont know the English word. Ich wette das lhnen kommen am morgan nicht, wetten. WOMEN I [IN BACKGROUND]: Good mornin, WOMEN II [IN BACKGROUND]: Is Lee here? WOMEN I [IN BACKGROUND]: Yes. WOMEN II [IN BACKGROUND]: In the back? WOMEN I [IN BACKGROUND]: In the back, yes.


WOMEN II [IN BACKGROUND]: I rang the doorbell back there. JOHNSON: Well, when did you go to San Augustine, and was there a camp there?

K. VORDEMAIER: There was camp there. JOHNSON: I see.

K. VORDEMAIER: There was in 46.About three months. JOHNSON: Did you work there too?

K. VORDEMAIER: We work in the woods too. JOHNSON: I see.

K. VORDEMAIER: The same work as in Chireno. JOHNSON: Well, this is after the wars over, correct?

K. VORDEMAIER: The war was over and we still went hungry. JOHNSON: Well, let me ask you, did you, did you, know what was happening in Europe and in Germany and the homeland while you were a prisoner here in America? Did you hear from home? K. VORDEMAIER: Oh, well weve got a radio. JOHNSON: Radio?

K. VORDEMAIER: We got radios in the camps. JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah.

K. VORDEMAIER: We heard everything, we heard the news and everything. JOHNSON: Did you get

K. VORDEMAIER: American news. JOHNSON: Yes, right. Did you get letters from home?


K. VORDEMAIER: Regularly. JOHNSON: Regularly? From her?

K. VORDEMAIER: From her too. Stuff like that. JOHNSON: I see. Uhh, well, did you know Germany was going to lose the war?

K. VORDEMAIER: Yeah. JOHNSON: When did you know that?

K. VORDEMAIER: I personally I knew it, I personally knew it when I was in Africa that Germany was going to lose the war. But most of the German prisoners were very much Nazi and they hoped for a victory. JOHNSON: I see. So some of them were Nazis you were with?

K. VORDEMAIER: Well, you know, the German soldiers were very young out there and were not formed politically, but they were influenced by the Nazi propaganda. JOHNSON: Um hum.

K. VORDEMAIER: And it was, even in Chireno, it was very dangerous if you showed another opinion other than a Nazi opinion. JOHNSON: Is that right?

K. VORDEMAIER: Thats right. And there have been cases where, the, the, other ones were not Nazis were beaten up at night. JOHNSON: Beaten, non-Nazis?

K. VORDEMAIER: Beaten, non-Nazis. JOHNSON: I see.


K. VORDEMAIER: Yeah, yeah, that was right. Even in Morocco, they were killed in the camp. And thrown in the [undistinguishable]. JOHNSON: In Morocco?

K. VORDEMAIER: In Morocco, in the American camp. JOHNSON: The American camp. They were killed by other Germans, they were?

[Break in conversation, start of a new topic.] K. VORDEMAIER: There was a personal newspaper in German, sponsored by the American authorities JOHNSON: Uhhu.

K. VORDEMAIER: And it was a Hitlerriten newspaper of course and at the first, it was confiscated by the German larger commandant JOHNSON: In the camp?

K. VORDEMAIER: In the camp. Nobody could read it. JOHNSON: They wouldnt let you read it.

K. VORDEMAIER: Nobody could read it. He bought everything and burned it up. Nobody was able to read the newspaper. JOHNSON: Uh hum.

K. VORDEMAIER: For quite a time. I think this was about month or more. JOHNSON: And you even had this feeling at Chireno with some of the Nazis?

K. VORDEMAIER: Definitely. JOHNSON: Huhm.

K. VORDEMAIER: Definitely.



But there were more of you who didnt feel that way, werent there?

K. VORDEMAIER: No, no, no. No. But the Nazis made a list of all the prisoners who were not in the opinion of them. And told them that when we got back to Germany, when we won the war, they would submit the paper to the German Nazi controls. JOHNSON: I guess they were surprised.

K. VORDEMAIER: Intimidating. Yes. JOHNSON: Thats interesting. Well, ahh, you stayed in San Augustine then after the war and uhhh till 46, when did you, how did you finally get home? K. VORDEMAIER: From San Augustine, we came to Lufkin. For a month or so, we were also working in the woods. JOHNSON: Uhmmuhm.

K. VORDEMAIER: But I dont remember very well Lufkin. And it was a big building we were in and from Lufkin, we came to Camp Hope to Listville. For about two weeks and then we were shipped to New York. JOHNSON: And got on a boat and went home.

K. VORDEMAIER: No, no! We didnt go home. JOHNSON: Oh? No?

K. VORDEMAIER: We were brought to France and we were handed over to the French. JOHNSON: Oh, I see.

K. VORDEMAIER: They were not so nice, from the Americans. There was no nice. JOHNSON: The French were not as nice as the Americans?


K. VORDEMAIER: No. JOHNSON: What did you do, you were still a prisoner.

K. VORDEMAIER: I was still a prisoner in France for half a year. JOHNSON: Half a year. What did you do there? Work?

K. VORDEMAIER: I personally worked with the Americans, for I had an inkling of English. JOHNSON: Huhm. What did the others do? Physical work?

K. VORDEMAIER: Physical work and worked in the mine work, in the coal mines with the French. JOHNSON: Oh, I see.

K. VORDEMAIER: For instance, for my brother, it was very hard work to compare with the wood work here. JOHNSON: Where was he captured?

K. VORDEMAIER: He was captured in France. JOHNSON: I, see.

K. VORDEMAIER: But he was in Camp Hope too. JOHNSON: Oh really?

K. VORDEMAIER: But I couldnt get to him. JOHNSON: Did you know he was there?

K. VORDEMAIER: Yeah, yeah, I wrote to him. I knew it. JOHNSON: Were you there at the same time?


K. VORDEMAIER: And I also made a writing to the camp director to get me to Camp Hope but it was.and now the fifth episode, when the whole camp cried. He should translate it. JOHNSON: Alright.

K. VORDEMAIER: [German] groe lage in Frazozen sum House Deutschland. Und ich bab Deusch prisoner. COOPER: He said that as they were coming to France, to Cherbourg that this was a monstrous camp, a large camp of about twenty-thousand prisoners and that some were going be sent to the French, then over to the French, and some were going to be given over to the Americans and approximately twohundred, two-hundred of the Germans said they would rather be killed than be handed over to the French. And uhhh, in response to that, these approximate twenty-thousand prisoners sang [German title] Deutschland Uber Slle,, is that right? K. VORDEMAIER: Yes. COOPER: With tears. And so with tears they did this, so they didnt send the prisoners to the French. The matter was settled and things turned out all right. K. VORDEMAIER: This when I would say in Morocco, the whole camp laughed. In France, the whole camp cried. JOHNSON: Well, thats war, isnt it?

K. VORDEMAIER: Yes, thats war.



I wish youd tell me just a little bit here, weve got a little bit of tape left. How did you, you got back to Germany. Tell me a little bit about your life after that, after the war.

K. VORDEMAIER: Ha. After the war, after the war when I came to Germany, I first came to my parents and I came to her too. And the first thing is to find adequate work. JOHNSON: Uhhum.

K. VORDEMAIER: That was very difficult, but finally, I got a work with the de-Nazification, de-Nazification board. And it suited me very much for I did not like the Nazi at at thats time. And so I worked there for two years and then I married in 48 and then after that, I changed my work. Then I worked with a spinning mill JOHNSON: Uhuhm.

K. VORDEMAIER: Cotton spinning mill up to 52. And in 52 immigrated to Paraguay. JOHNSON: What did you do, what kind of work did you do in Paraguay?

K. VORDEMAIER: In Paraguay, I was a representative of the Bayer, aspirin Bayer. JOHNSON: Aspirin Bayer?

K. VORDEMAIER: Aspirin Bayer. Medicine, medicine. JOHNSON: Well, why Paraguay?

K. VORDEMAIER: Huh? JOHNSON: Why did you go to Paraguay?

K. VORDEMAIER: For I had a friend there.



Oh, I see. Well, ahh, a lot of Germans are in Paraguay.

K. VORDEMAIER: Paraguay? About 35,000 JOHNSON: I see. Ahhand you lived

K. VORDEMAIER: It was a very small country with about three million to about four population. At that time, the Germans were always very welcome there. JOHNSON: You speak Spanish I guess, fluently.

K. VORDEMAIER: Si, hablo Espaol. JOHNSON: And your wife does too.

K. VORDEMAIER: Huhum. Yes. JOHNSON: I see. If you could summarize you experience of coming back here, nearly fifty years. What has been your feeling these last few days? Had you ever been here before, since the war? K. VORDEMAIER: Three times. JOHNSON: Three times, I see. Well, ahh, what have your feelings been

K. VORDEMAIER: 1988, 1990, and now. JOHNSON: I see. Well, what are your feelings as you come back here?

K. VORDEMAIER: I feel at home. JOHNSON: You feel at home.

K. VORDEMAIER: I like it here, I like it here more than in Germany. JOHNSON: I see, interesting. Ahh, you know

K. VORDEMAIER: Its quite another style of life and its.I like it here. Its how to I tell you? I am in love with the Piney Woods.



[Chuckles] I see.

K. VORDEMAIER: And its friendly people. JOHNSON: You think you might move here someday?

K. VORDEMAIER: I told you, she uhh, I want to find a place in the similar area that I worked here. JOHNSON: I see, well very interesting, very interesting. [Chuckles]. Thank you very much. I would like to talk to your wife a little bit if I could. K. VORDEMAIER: You could. JOHNSON: Its been very interesting.



Persons mentioned: Adolf Hitler, Heenrich Himmler,Rudolf Hiss, Rommel, Bernard Montgomery, Mr. Kurt, Mr. Simons, Mr. Grimes, Mr. Murry, Elmer. Places mentioned: Stuttgart, Germany. Chireno, Texas. Ludwigsburg, Germany. Mainz, Germany. Mnchen, Germany. Benghazi, Libya. Austria. Amsted. Rome, Italy. Sicily, Italy. Naples, Italy. Tunsia. The United States. Boston, Massachusetts. Mediterranean. McAlester, Oklahoma. Madill, Oklahoma. Tishomingo, Oklahoma. Camp Fannin in Tyler, Texas. Tripoli, Lebenon. Libya. North Afirca. Egypt. El Alamein. Casablanca, Morocco. Nacogdoches, Texas. Lufkin, Texas. San Augustine, Texas. Europe. Cherbourg, France. England. New York, New York. In Deutsch: 6, 10, 8, 9, 12







This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for East Texas Research Center, Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University. The transcript follows as closely as possible the recorded interview, including usual starts, stops, and other rough spots in typical conversation. The reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written, word. Stylistic matters, such as punctuation and capitalization, follow the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition. The transcript includes bracketed notices at the end of one tape and the beginning of the next so that, if desired, the reader can find a section of tape more easily by using this transcript. Cassandra Bennett transcribed this interview in April 2008. Perky Beisel reviewed the draft of this transcript. Her corrections were incorporated into this final transcript by Cassandra Bennett in May 2008.

Researchers may read, quote from, cite, and photocopy this transcript without permission for purposes of research only. Publication is prohibited, however, without permission from the Director, East Texas Research Center.



ORAL HISTORY #423 JOHNSON: Now speaking with me is Mrs.

GEORGE COOPER: Vordemaier JOHNSON: Vordemaier. And I would like you to tell me a little bit what Germany was like in World War Two, you were a young girl, in your teens? What are your memories of those terrible war years? MRS. VORDEMAIER: COOPER: MRS. VORDEMAIER: COOPER: MRS. VORDEMAIER: COOPER: MRS. VORDEMAIER: COOPER: JOHNSON: [German] Ich war veerzehn Jahre alt wenn den Krieg amfag. She was, she was fifteen? Fourteen. Fourteen. Fourteen when the war began. Eine Schulerin She was a school girl. [German] Der Krieg wei immer noch. She remained a student as the war progressed. What about the bombing? Were you around much of that?



[German] Das ich nicht verstanden. Bomber, fugzug. Ichwarin einin Stuttgart Dreimal minbomber und das mal-das ganze Hais Kaput.


Durning her say, the was interned at a camp in Stuttgart. Three times when, three times, an incendiary bomb was used while she was in Stuttgart and the fourth time, the house collapsed.


Well, were any of your family or friends killed? [German] Nein, nein. Meme familie wohut auf in land.... Her family lived in the country and there, there was not that kind of conflict.


Did you, ahh, did you know what was happening in the war much? Did you have much understanding of what was happening?


[German translation] Ich war so jaing wir loolten nur das des krieg, wir wollen nun sein eine Freund soldat nacht dur krieg immer nach michit gut, immei nich gut. Idimuimmer warten, warten, warten.


She was impatient during the war, simply a young person wanting it to be over with and wanting the young soldier to return home.


And you wrote letters to him, did you receive letters? Briefe? [German] Ja, ja, immer. .



Taglich? Nine, daily? Very often. Often. She wrote letters and received them. And what is your feeling of coming here to Texas now? Heir? [German] Fur nich war das zulange, mein man so lange war, dass hatmich immer Interesse. Ich kan New Yourk and nicht Texas wir gesagen jetzt genen heir.


She had familiarity with New York and Boston, but no understanding or very little understanding of Texas.


Was this at that time? This was at that time, but, and a little bit of anxiety but and as shes gotten to know us, gotten to know Texans and Texas, shes much more comfortable.


Do you find the people friendly? Ja[German] Ich fange wie ich kam gut...I know, thats all. [German] Gross stadt is ber die welt.


Cities are always the same. By bus, Nacogdoches. By bus? By bus. [German] She looked and looked and looked.



[German] Das ist die U.S.A. Ich kan nichit. She was disappointed. Shocked. She was shocked Why? All the buildings[German] Alles des leute, arme. Poor people. The poor blacks, that sort of thing, the poor houses, housing. She was shocked by that sort of thing. All of that. Things were not neat and tidy, they were dirty.


I was shocked! [laughter] Thats East Texas. Des istund Kamen wir Lufkin. Lufkin? Lufkin. What is Lufkin? There was more, that was better nowviel besser, ja. Und dann komt aus Nacogdoches-das ist schw.


As she came to Lufkin and Nacogdoches, the scene began to change, it was nicer and prettier and when she came to Nacogdoches, it was charming.


This is beautiful, isnt it? Yeah. [German] Und dann hier wir gehen viel Spazierhen. They take many walks here.



Walk American, walk! [Laughter] Und dass ist so schn. Everything is pretty. [German] und die schne haser, und dis schone man kan immer geuen unddie squirerels.


The birds and the flowers and the squirrels and the ahhh the trees and the living quarters, the housing areas, and so on. She has really taken with that.


Und die luete heir send so freundlich. The people here are so friendly. Often. Ich glaube mer. People are much more open here than in Boston. [German] Deutsch, und meine mutter komun von Deutschland. She is saying about the her, her German connections here in Nacogdoches.


In Nacogdoches ein local, deutsch gesproken. Young men and ehen aur. No, this uns gesacht. Wennich in Deutschland war so gut dass geueesen und idi wollte innen. END OF INTERVIEW


Places mentioned: Stuttgart, Germany. Boston, Massachusetts. New York, New York. Nacogdoches, Texas. Lufkin, Texas. U.S.A.. Deutschland.