Between the high school football stadium and an industrial park rests a stone chimney surrounded by weeds. 59 years ago, during World War II, the chimney belonged to an enlisted men’s club in a camp for German prisoners of war.
At the height of America’s involvement in the war, the camp held more than 6,000 prisoners. It employed more than 1,000 guards and civilians.
The story of the Aliceville Prisoner of War Camp goes back to when Allied forces defeated the German AfricaKorps in 1943. There were too many prisoners to be confined in Great Britain. As a result, German prisoners were shipped to the United States and dispersed to camps. Twenty-five such camps were built in Alabama, with the largest being the one in Aliceville. Civilians, some of which were Aliceville residents worked in the quartermaster’s shop, the camp hospital and the mess halls.
During World War II approximately 425,000 Axis soldiers were interned in 700 POW camps in the U.S. One of the largest camps was at Aliceville with a capacity for 6,000 prisoners. The camp employed more than 1,000 American military and civilian personnel.
On June 2, 1943, the first prisoners arrived by train form North Africa. Many of them were from Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s Africakorp. Later German and Italian POWs from the European theater joined them.
Today, the only evidence of the campsite is a history marker and a large stone chimney (built by POWs) that was part of the Officers’ Club.
In the Museum, visitors from all over the country view lasting artistic expressions made by the Germans. Through their paintings, letters, books, sculptures, wood crafting, pottery, musical instruments and photographs a vivid picture of life at Camp Aliceville is revealed.
In the collection are many items donated to the museum by former POWs, local residents and previous visitors.
A fourteen-minute documentary will enlighten you with interviews from former POWs, military guards and civilian employees. The documentary also contains footage from the North Africa Campaign, photographs of plays, orchestras and the sports activities the POWs loved so much.