Earlier this month, Randy and I participated in the Discover Kansas trip with the Kansas Master Farmer-Homemaker group. One of our stops was at Camp Concordia. Before the tour, I didn't realize that Kansas had a number of POW camps during World War II. One of them was Camp Concordia, located 2 miles north and 1 mile east of the Cloud County town.
From May 1, 1943 through November 8, 1945, more than 4,000 German soldiers were transported to the north central Kansas camp, located on 157.5 acres just outside Concordia. The camp was built at a cost of $1.8 million and consisted of 313 buildings, including a hospital, post, restaurants, fire department, and barracks.
Of course, some 815 of our U.S. military personnel were stationed at Camp Concordia during World War II, guarding the prisoners and interacting with them.
|Photo from the Camp Concordia website. This picture of Camp Concordia was taken from the water tower in the fall of 1945.|
Though some local citizens were against prisoners being awarded freedom beyond the confines of the camp, farmers were thankful to have additional help, especially with so many young locals away in service to their country. With the passage of time, warm bonds formed between farm families and prisoners. The "education" both "sides" forged in the course of these working relationships was perhaps more enduring than any college curriculum could offer.
|This picture is of an army truck with a POW work detail and their guards passing through Concordia. Photo from the Camp Concordia website.|
While most of the old Camp Concordia has been returned back to farmland, a few of the original buildings still remain, including one of the stone guard towers, the water tower base, a Main Gate Guard post and officers club. In July 2015, Camp Concordia's warehouse building - called T-9 - opened as a museum.
POWs were housed, fed, clothed, allowed mail and paid for work. The camp was run by the rules set forth in the Geneva Convention of July 1929, which required the humane treatment of prisoners.
The POWs at Camp Concordia had several bands and orchestras, among them the 47th Grenadier Band. The POW dance band played for USO dances.
|Photo from the Camp Concordia website.|
Camp Concordia is open by appointment only. Contact Cloud County Tourism for guided tours: 785-243-4303.
Camp Concordia was just one stop of several in Cloud County. My favorite was the historic Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. I love stained glass windows and their chapel was full of them.
More later on the Republic County portion of our Discover Kansas tour!