Paul's Sentimental Journey


The Crew


Black Thursday

Stalag 17B

The March

Jake Martinez's logbook

World War II Memorial

In Memorial Of






The March 

In the final days of the war the Germans started to dismantle the prison camps. In the beginning of April 1945 the Germans led thousands of POW’s from Stalag 17B on a 300 mile march to a “new” camp in Braunau Austria. Hundreds of men were left behind in hospitals too ill to make the march. Unfortunately for the POW’s on the march there was no new camp their final destination ended up being in the Weilhardt Forest. The move by the Germans was made so that the approaching Russian troops would not liberate the prisoners.   

For almost 3 weeks the POW’s covered approximately 15 miles a day in marching columns of 500 men. They were herded along by the guards and their dogs. Paul and crewmates, Jake, Rube, and Beck managed to stay together. At the beginning of the march the men were given a Red Cross parcel it was suppose to have enough food for seven days, the food quickly ran out. During the days of the march they would occasionally  pass by working slave laborers consisting of Poles, Ukrainians and other Slavic people. It was at these times that Paul would speak in Ukrainian and beg for any food as they passed the workers. Sometimes Paul got lucky and one would throw a potato or other vegetable without the guards noticing.  That little gift of food would be shared between the 4 men.

Through rain and snow the men marched. When someone fell from exhaustion or illness the other POW’s would quickly pick them up and drag them along for as long as they could. If a man could go no further he was left by the side of the road where death would take him on his final journey.

During their march they were coming near the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. A column of people were coming towards the POW’s at a very slow pace. The POW guards pulled the POWs off to the side of the road. The guards instructed the prisoners in no uncertain terms that if they to tried to talk or pass anything to the people that were going to pass by they would be shot! This was not what usually happened Before when they passed a group of people the men would try to talk to them with only a stern warning or a cuff with a rifle butt for their discretion. This time the guards meant business don’t talk or do anything to the people who were going to pass by. As the column slowly approached they got their answer of why they were not to have anything to do with the people. 

First the POW’s saw the   infamous and brutal SS troops followed by the most pitiful sight. They were Jewish prisoners.  You could tell they were Jewish by the big yellow Star of David attached to the rags that they had for clothes. These living skeletons of men were trying to hold each other up as they  plodded along. Many did not have shoes, hats or anything on that would protect them from the harsh cold of winter. The POWs just stood there with their hearts going out to these wretched poor souls as they passed by. It sicken the POWs that they could not do anything to help these ill-fated prisoners. 

As the POWs resumed their march they saw strewn along the side of the road the bodies of the Jews who could not go on. The POWs said a prayer not for the dead along the road (as they had been released from their mortal misery) but for the others who still had to endure the suffering agony of torture from the SS troops. What little the Jewish prisoners had in the way of covering from the elements, they gave up to respect and cover their dead.

To be continued...

The POWs were finally liberated May 3, 1945 by the 13th Armored Division. The men were finally free and going home.