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Adams County Pa. Related Historical Articles

Gettysburg's WWII Prisoner of War Camp

Sara Fuss

Residents who have moved to the county in the past 50 years are sometimes unaware that a German prisoner-of-war camp was located on Gettysburg battlefield land during 1944 and 1945. The first camp, located along the west side of the Emmitsburg Rood just south of Long Lane and the Home Sweet Home Motel, was built by 50 German prisoners from Camp George G. Meade, Maryland, in June of 1944. They were housed in the National Guard Armory until the work was finished. This camp was to be a temporary camp, so the prisoners were housed in tents. Nearly 500 POWs and 90 guards occupied the camp.

The prisoners were brought to Adams County to work in the fields, orchards, and canning factories to replace that part of the local labor force that was serving in the armed services. They picked peas, beans, cherries, tomatoes, and apples. They not only worked in Adams County but also in York and Franklin counties and Frederick County, Maryland.

The employers paid the prisoners hourly wages, a large portion of which was taken by the U. S. Government. Ten cents were credited to the prisoners' accounts. They were given coupons, instead of cash, which they could spend on cigarettes, soap, milk, and other items at the post exchange.

Following the harvest of apples in the fall of 1944, some prisoners were moved to other camps, leaving only 200 men. The approach of cold weather necessitated the movement of prisoners to warmer quarters. These men were removed to Camp Sharpe, which was located in the area of Pitzer's Woods along the west side of West Confederate Avenue. The camp's barracks had housed workers belonging to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the 1930s. During the winter months, the prisoners cut pulpwood in Adams and Franklin counties.

The next spring, additional prisoners were moved into camp. A headline in the Gettysburg Compiler dated July 28, 1945 stated "350 Prisoners Arrive Today." They had traveled to Gettysburg in coaches attached to a regular passenger train out of Harrisburg and by train from Baltimore. They would work in the canning factories and cut pulpwood.

After the war ended, all German POWs were shipped back to Germany.

Some of the former prisoners at Gettysburg have returned to visit the area in recent years. Carl Brantz visited Gettysburg in July 2001. He was a member of the German army, serving under Field Marshall Rommel in North Africa. He was captured during the Battle of Tunisia. He knew the English language and was used as an interpreter in the camp. He was quoted in the July 16, 2001 Gettysburg Times; "I had and experience and what I learned in life was [during] this time. I would not give back not one little thing." He said, "I learned a lot."

If anyone has memories of the POWs in Adams County, the historical society encourages you to write them down and give them to the society for our files.

If you have any memories of the WWII Prisoner of war camp,
please send it to us at
: History@myGettysburg.net