Afternoon Coffee Break: WWII Prisoner of War Camps in MN by Colleen Gengler
Oct 16, 2019 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
LAKEFIELD-Colleen Gengler, a volunteer with her local Historical Society in Murray County at Slayton, will present what camp life was like in a Minnesota camp including Owatonna, Fairmont and New Ulm. Her interest in the topic comes from her parents using POW labor on their farm south of Owatonna. In presentations of her family’s memoir Under Minnesota Skies, the story of her father’s experience with POWs always generated questions and comments as many people are not familiar with this part of Minnesota history. In 1944 and 1945, the Minnesota camps housed mostly German POWs but also a few Italians. The primary reason for POWs in Minnesota was the labor shortage; POWs worked in canneries, logging and other industries as well as providing much needed labor on farms. Although Jackson County didn’t house a camp, there was still a labor shortage there and throughout Minnesota. Jackson County farmers were able to have POWs from the Fairmont camp to help with harvest. In addition, most southern Minnesota counties had Farm Help Coordinating Committees which helped ease the shortage. Colleen will explain how these committees worked locally.
This project was funded in part or in whole with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008 with dedicated funding to preserve Minnesota’s arts and cultural heritage.