Informer: Readers share memories of German POWs

By By Andrew Perzo / American Press

The Informer last month related stories

that a couple readers shared about their memories of German soldiers

who were kept

in prisoner of war camps set up throughout the state — including

Southwest Louisiana — in the latter years of World War II.

The Informer then solicited and promised to pass along in a future column any stories that other readers wanted to share.

Among those who responded was John F. Marcantel, a social studies teacher at Elizabeth High School in Allen Parish.

Marcantel, who fittingly ended his email with the closing “Sharing History,” said an uncle and a cousin of his were given

German POWs to help harvest their rice fields near Edgerly.

“My uncle, Adolph Marcantel, ‘Uncle Shoot,’ as he was called, told me many of the prisoners were very talented in music, art,

carpentry, mechanics, and quite a few were familiar with farming,” he wrote.

“One day, a prisoner told Uncle Shoot the men could work harder if they had more to eat. From that point on, Aunt Lucy, Uncle

Shoot’s wife, would cook the ‘noon’ meal in the field — end result, the prisoners did indeed work harder!!!!”

Prima donna, doughnuts

Sulphur resident Ramona Landry both called and wrote to The Informer to recommend her father, Rodney Bollich, who she said

has for years regaled others with his memories of the days when POWs worked on his parents’ farm.

Bollich, 80, said he was in the sixth

grade when his father was given Germans to work the family farm near

Fenton in the mid-1940s.

He said the POWs usually came from

Iowa, where they were kept in an old Civilian Conservation Corps camp.

But one time, Bollich

said, that camp didn’t have enough Germans to supply the usual

allotment of a dozen workers, so his father had to visit the

Lake Charles camp, off Sallier Street.

They loaded the Germans on the back of a 2 1/2-ton flatbed truck and set off home, he said, but as they began to make their

way back to Fenton the truck ran over a crosstie or something similarly bumpy, breaking the truck’s U-bolts and launching

the Germans from the bed.

He said no one was hurt and that a passing truck lent them some bailing wire to repair things long enough to make the trip

home.

Bollich said his parents both spoke

German and that his mother also spoke French. He said his mother — whom

Ramona called

a “prima donna” — never drove anywhere except on the farm and

would each day deliver snacks to the Germans, who treated her

with the utmost respect, he said.

“Mama would come during midday. We had

an old ’38 or ’39 black Pontiac four-door, and she would make coffee and

doughnuts,”

he said. “And when that old black car was coming down that road

... they would see her coming and then Daddy would tell them

to go ahead and take a break.”

He said the Germans were led by a

“tall, lanky” man with a handlebar mustache. The man, Bollich said,

would bark a command

when the black car was in sight, and the men would line up and

stand at attention. When the car stopped the man would open

the door for Bollich’s mother, extend his hand to her, exchange

some words in German and help her out. The others would then

unload the coffee and cakes, he said.

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The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email informer@americanpress.com