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Liberation Gudow

My father, George Edwin Farrar, was a POW in Germany’s Stalag Luft IV in WWII. On February 6, 1945, all of the prisoners of Stalag Luft IV were marched from the prison camp and continued to march out of Poland and through Germany until their liberation.

The prisoners were marched in separate groups, or columns, and didn’t all follow exactly the same route. All were not liberated at the same time or place.

From a letter to his mother, I know my father was liberated on May 2, 1945, after a march of eighty-six days, and was in one of the last columns to be liberated. He did not mention where he was liberated, but at the time he may not have known exactly where in Germany he was.  He said,

I guess you have heard through the government that I was liberated. I was liberated by the English May 2nd and have been treated very nice since. I should be home soon, and having some of the nice meals you fix. That I have dreamed of for all-most a year. Life was a bit hard here, but it is all over now. I have been on the road marching since Feb. 6th with very little food, but am not in bad condition.

In his book, The Shoe Leather Express, The Evacuation of Kriegsgefangenen Lager Stalag Luft IV Deutschland Germany, POW Joseph P. O’Donnell wrote that on April 30, 1945, the column of prisoners arrived at Zarrentin and spent the night sleeping in the barn of a farm.

The next morning, Day 85 of the march, the farmer slaughtered one of his cows to feed the group, but before the meal could be prepared, the prisoners were ordered to move out.

Late in the morning of May 1, 1945, the column left Zarrentin and arrived at a farm at the outskirts of Gudow late in the afternoon, a walk O’Donnell estimated to be eight kilometers, or about five miles. There, not knowing that liberation would come the next day, the prisoners spent their last night in the farmer’s barn.

On the morning of May 2, 1945, Day 86, the prisoners’ morning started as usual, awakening early, with some prisoners searching the farm for food, eggs that could be eaten raw, or potatoes that could be carried to the next stop. On this day, the Germans distributed canned sardines and commanded the prisoners to pack up and walk to the end of the farm lane to the main road where they would be liberated by the British 8th Army, the Royal Dragoons.

Joe O’Donnell reported that the column was liberated at approximately 11:50 am on May 2, 1945.

The Austrailian War Memorial website contains two photos from the liberation,

GUDOW, GERMANY. 1945-05. POW AMERICAN AIRMEN SHOWING THEIR EXCITEMENT AT BEING LIBERATED BY MEN OF THE REGIMENT OF ROYAL DRAGOONS. (BRITISH OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH, BU5038).
Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.

and

GUDOW, GERMANY. 1945-05-02. AMERICAN PRISONERS FLOCK BACK ALONG THE ROAD TO FREEDOM AFTER BEING LIBERATED BY TROOPS OF THE BRITISH FIFTH DIVISION. (BRITISH OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH, BU5046).
Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.

From the time my father was born until the day he died, I imagine his walk down a farm lane on the outskirts of Gudow on May 2, 1945 became the sweetest steps of his life, his final walk to liberation and freedom.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019


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