A group of POWs at Stalag IA
With thanks to The Wartime Memories Project
Stalag IA was a German prisoner-of-war camp located near the village of Stablack, about 8.5 km (5.3 mi) north-west of Preußisch Eylau, East Prussia (now Bagrationovsk in Russian Kaliningrad Oblast).
The camp was built in late 1939 by Polish prisoners of war. In 1940 the Poles were joined by Belgian and French prisoners, and by Russians in 1941. Some British and Italian prisoners were also there. On 25 January 1945, as Russian troops approached, the camp was abandoned and all prisoners were evacuated to the west.
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Many thanks to Christopher Nappi who contributed the photos of Stalag IA below.
Stephen's grandfather Colonel von Pirch was Camp Commander for 2 or 3 years during WW2.
Grateful thanks to GPS Practice and Fun for this information:
In 1934 the Germans arranged a big military exercise area in the Stablack region west of Preussisch Eylau (Bagrationovsk) and south of the (new) railway Preussisch Eylau - Stablack - Zinten(Kornevo) - Heligenbeil(Mamonovo). In 1935 they started building the garrison city of Gartenstadt Stablack(Dolgurokovo) about 1 km north of the railway. In 1939 Gartenstadt Stablack had a population of 2.730, principally military personnel.
In the mean time they also started building the barracks for a garrison just south of the railway, north of the line Klaussen(Dubrovka) - Jerlaucken(Petrovskoe).
From September 1939 on, Polish prisoners of war were transported to the garrison where they were housed in tents. They were the ones who erected the 40 barracks for POWs plus several auxiliary barracks for Stalag 1A on a 30 ha piece of land north of the railway, opposite to Klaussen(Dubrovka) and east from Stablack railway-station.
At the end of 1939 some 47.000 Polish POWs were registered at Stalag 1A. Most of them have left the camp in 1940 and 1941. End May 1940 the first Belgian POWs arrived, soon followed by French prisoners. In 1940 some 23.000 Belgian and some 35.000 French prisoners were registered in the camp. In 1941 arrived another 2.500 French and about 1.000 Russian prisoners. Most prisoners would stay till the end of WW II.
The prisoners were not locked up in their barracks. Most of the time they did not even stay in Stalag 1A, but worked in the fields or some even in factories, spread over the whole North Ostpreussen territory. In order to organize things, Stalag 1A had 23 command posts over North Ostpreussen. Prisoners were lodged there for more or less longer periods of time and worked during the day.
Already in October 1944 the Red Army stood at the borders of Ostpreussen, but could be stopped. The Russians used the last two months of 1944 to reorganize and to supply their troops. As the German leadership in Berlin kept saying that foreign troops would not be able to penetrate the German territory, Christmas 1944 in Ostpreussen was calm and peaceful, like the years before.
But in January 1945 all hell broke loose. From the North, the East and the South Russian troops stormed into Ostpreussen. In the first contacts with the German civilian population they acted barbarian, as a revenge for the brutal way that SS-troops had operated in Russia before. They raped, mutilated and killed every woman from 8 to 68. As soon as this news spread over Ostpreussen everyone wanted to leave the country at once. Endless tracks gathered on the roads, which were congested in no time. Many were rolled over by Russian tanks. In the heart of the winter at minus 25°C many died on the roads.
Many of the POWs who worked for command posts in the eastern part of Ostpreussen suddenly found themselves behind the front lines. They were sent to Russia and only came home 6 months later after a very long trip through Europe. On January 25, 1945 Stalag 1A got the order to evacuate all prisoners, except the wounded, who would have to wait to be freed by the Russian army. Thousands of POWs, together with hundreds of thousands of civilians were directed to the West.
In the meantime the Russian army had reached Elbing from the south. The whole western part of Ostpreussen was now encircled. The only way out was over sea or over the narrow landstrip, the Friesche Nehrung, by crossing the frozen Frisches Haff. Endless columns of civilians with tracks and horses have taken this way, despite heavy bombardments by Russian aircraft, who tried to crack the ice with their bombs. Over 200.000 finally crossed the Frisches Haff.
In these last weeks of the battle of Ostpreussen the remaining German soldiers withstood heroically an overwhelming Russian army, only to give hundreds of thousands of civilians the chance to escape from the Russian barbarity. And equally brave were the crews of hundreds of marine and merchant vessels who evacuated 1.5 million civilians and more than 700.000 soldiers to the homeland. Several ships were sunk by Russian submarines. Several tens of thousands of children, women and wounded had not a single chance to survive in the cold Baltic Sea.
The account of a Polish POW at Stalag IA.
The Wartime Memories Project
Photos of Stalag IA
The Pegasus Archive
Photos of Stalag IA