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Released Men, Germany (Return)

Volume 409: debated on Tuesday 10 April 1945

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28.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will assure the House that adequate plans have been made for the return to the United Kingdom, at the earliest possible moment, of British prisoners of war held in Germany and Italy, including those released during the Allied advance on all fronts.

38.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he can give the names or numbers of Oflag and Stalag prisoners-of-war camps which have been overrun by Allied Armies in their advance from the Rhine eastwards; if prisoners in these camps have been liberated; if they are well; what arrangements are being made for their transport to this country, especially long-term prisoners; and when their relatives and friends may expect them to arrive.

39.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can make any statement about -the position generally of British prisoners of war in Germany at present; how many have been released by British and Allied efforts; what action His Majesty's Government intend to take to free prisoners of war in the event of there being no Government in Germany capable or willing to negotiate their release or exchange at an early date; and what arrangements are being made after their return and what Department is now responsible for this work.

The Soviet authorities have notified us that they have recovered 3,312 prisoners from the British Commonwealth, and 2,679 of these have been evacuated from Odessa. It is clear that most of our prisoners who were in Eastern Germany were evacuated by the Germans.before the camps were reached by the Red Army. This is confirmed by information sent to us by the Protecting Power.

The Germans have recently attempted to withdraw our prisoners of war from Western Germany but owing to the speed of our advance 7,000 have so far been recovered, and 2,600 of these have arrived in this country. I am circulating the numbers of the camps affected in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Most of Our prisoners are now concentrated in camps in the centre of Germany. As soon as we receive the names of individuals released their next-of-kin are informed and I can assure the House that every available means will be used to ensure the quick return to this country of our prisoners. Detailed plans for reception in this country are complete, the necessary instructions have been issued and reception camps established. The general responsibility for the co-ordination of these arrangements rests with the War Department but on arrival in this country, recovered prisoners are taken over by their respective authorities, who are of course responsible for their future handling. Arrangements have been made to inform all recovered prisoners at the earliest time after their release of the details of their reception in this country including their leave and future prospects.

Can the Minister say whether Transport Command of the R.A.F. are co-operating in order to fly back as many of these men as possible?

I think the hon. Member had better address that question to the Secretary of State for Air.

Could my right hon. Friend say whether there is any organisation in Western Germany, either military or civilian, which has been specifically told off to deal with our escaped prisoners of war?

I cannot say whether any organisation has been specifically told off to do this, but there are military organisations at S.H.A.E.F. and in our Armies in Western Germany which are equipped to cope with this matter.

Has the Minister any information about Oflag 9A, from which British prisoners of war have been marched with nothing but a coat, blanket and some food? Has he any information as to their being followed up by the Americans?

The only information I have is that some prisoners of war from Oflag IX AH and Oflag IX AZ have succeeded in reaching our lines, but if my hon. Friend wants any more information perhaps he will put the question down.

Has my right hon. Friend any information with regard to the statement that the Germans are shepherding our prisoners of war to their last bastion of defence, in Bavaria?

I have no specific information, and could not say without notice; if my hon. Friend cares to put down a Question I will give him all the information I have.

Following are the numbers of the camps affected:

Most of the prisoners released by the British and American Armies are from Oflag XII B, Stalags IX C, XII A and Dulag Wetzler but some prisoners from Oflags IX A/H, IX A/Z, Stalags IX A, IX B, XII D, XII F, XIII C and Dulag Hadamer have also succeeded in reaching our lines