The camp was situated on a former army training ground (Übungsplatz), and had been used during World War I as a camp for Russian prisoners. In 1933 it was established as one of the first Nazi concentration camps, to house German communists. In late September 1939 the camp was changed to a prisoner-of-war camp to house Polish soldiers from the September Campaign, particularly those from the Pomorze Army. In December 1940, 1,691 Polish prisoners were recorded as being there. At first they lived in tents, throughout the severe winter of 1939-1940, and construction of all the huts was not completed until 1941. In June 1940 French and Belgian prisoners from the Battle of France began to arrive. To make room for them many of the Poles were forced to give up their status as POWs and become civilian slave labourers.
The construction of the second camp, Lager-Ost ("East Compound") began in June 1941 to accommodate the large numbers of Soviet prisoners taken in Operation Barbarossa. It was located south of the railway tracks. In November 1941 a typhoid fever epidemic broke out in Lager-Ost. It lasted until March 1942 and an estimated 45,000 prisoners died and were buried in mass graves. The camp administration did not start any preventive measures until some German soldiers became infected.
In August 1943 the first American prisoners arrived having been taken prisoner in Tunisia. In April 1945 the camp was liberated by the Soviet Red Army although there were plans (and some movements?) for POWs to be transferred to Stalag II-D Stargard according to SHAEF reports dated 10/2/45.
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