LUFTWAFFE STALAG 13
Location: Seventy-five (120 meters) east of Frankfort in Eastern Bavaria, Hammelburg, Germany is one of the few German towns to survive virtually unscathed from World War Two. Ten miles south of town at a split in Hammelburg Road, the remains of the former Stalag 13 is outlined by the boundaries of Hammelburg and Flenzheim Roads to the east and west and south by the woodland down to the Mainn River.
Description of Place: Now almost entirely reclaimed by forest, Stalag 13 once covered 125,000 square feet of fifty barracks, an armory, motor pool, water tower, recreation hall, watch towers, officer's quarters, the camp commandant's office and quarters and other assorted structures. Today, what was once open land is covered by trees, brush, foliage and hunting trails surrounded by the remains of the downed perimeter fence still in existence but left to the elements. The former military compound is dotted with derelict rusted vehicles, abandoned steel drums and old barracks now being used as hunting cabins.
Ghostly Manifestations: In the United States, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars spawned countless ghost stories ranging from the infamous Gettysburg National Military Park to the obscure sightings of British soldiers at West Point Academy in New York. Not to be outdone, Europe is dotted with ghosts of RAF pilots, shades of German offices and forgotten edifices tainted by the evil of the Third Reich. Among them, near the peaceful and idyllic village of Hammelburg, the German locals don't go deep into the woods at night because they believe the war is still being fought there more than fifty years after it ended. German hunters climbing over fallen fences and spending the night in the drafty forgotten barracks deep in the woods sometimes see shadows moving between the trees, and at night, they hear the sounds of distant gunfire and voices barking orders from a distance, still more than sixty years since the end of the war.
While whispers of the forgotten and ruined camp being haunted have been casually discussed since 1958, the stories didn't gain any sort of true notoriety until 1964 when several local boys looking for forgotten shells and relics on the property had an experience they shared with the local paper. According to the tale, the boys were deep into the woods near the former armory when the found the former motor pool. Now covered over in weeds and blocked by thick foliage holding up the buckling rusted shell of the structure, the former military garage still had a German truck left behind that had never been fully repaired. Its wheels and canvas cover had deteriorated over the years, streaks of rust marred the body, the engine was locked in the position it had been left and where the driver and guard once sat, the seats had rotted away to their metal supports. As the boys cleared around it for curious relics of the past and even half-heartedly tried to get it started, they heard the sound of someone walking through the woods toward them, crunching leaves underfoot as they came closer. One boy found a rusted and forgotten German glock with a bullet wedged in the barrel. When he lifted it up to defend his claim, a loud boisterous German voice ordered them out of the area and not to come back. Seconds later, the boys raced from the area to the nearest road not once looking behind them. What makes this tale so interesting is that no one knew there was anything of interest still left of the camp except the old barracks, so just who would be ordering the boys off the property has never been answered.
Since then, hunters, campers and would-be historians hike the long trip into the woods to see the old camp or just to rile up the ghosts. They see the shades pass behind them and figure them to be illusions. The sounds of voices are blamed on the birds. Two hunters from Dusseldorf using a rickety watchtower to wait for deer soon became aware of someone wandering underneath them, but when they peered through the loose floorboards, no one would be in sight; yet, they would still hear the crunching of leaves as the figure wandered around under them just out of view. Finally, the two men became so unnerved that they hurried down and left the area, not seeing a single person around them.
Other people, however, did see and observe things. In 1973, a rabbit hunter stooping to the ground to reload his rifle described seeing a figure he thought to be his hunting companion near some tree stumps outside the former camp. He started to wave him over, but as he watched, the figure seemed to descend down into the ground. It was as if "there was a hole he was being descended down into at the base of a stump." Figured he had seen someone fall over, he raced over to check it out, but there was no hole in the area nor was there any sign of someone else in the area.
A few months later in 1974, a hunter scrambling through the woods after wild birds took a step too far and fell through an opening in the ground. The hole seems to be a forgotten tunnel used in one of the frequent attempts of the POWs to escape. Now unstable and three feet deep of water, Arthur Burkhalter struggled in what he felt was the old well, but as he looked around, he saw shelves with bottles, the remains of an old radio and floating moldy uniforms. With scant light showing him the way, he lifted himself up on his one good leg, the other broken in the wall, and tried reaching the twelve feet up to pull himself out, but as he looked around and determined his bearings, he became aware of something else, a black man in an American sergeant's uniform. The figure gestured to him and turned into the darkness. Unsure of the figure was real or not, Arthur hobbled after him through intense darkness. The figure appeared at the end of the underground shaft under an old ladder marked by scant rays of light from the surface before melting into the dark. Aching and hurt, Arthur pulled himself up rung by rung over the ladder to under the foundation of one of the collapsed barracks, where he slid out of his way several fallen timbers. Today, he is grateful to the apparition for helping him "escape."
This figure has been seen several times, sometimes accompanied by a few others. In 1979, a group of Dutch girls bicycling to Paris through the area heard the calls of men calling them excitedly from the woods. They didn't see anyone, but a week later, a teenage girl jogging from one farm to another raced past a man in the curve of the Hammelburg road calling to her romantically in French. She shined at his attention, beamed and slowed to say hello, but as she looked back, he was gone. This amorous Frenchman always appears in a corporal's uniform from World War Two France, and has been seen eleven times since 1979, but only by young ladies.
George Schultz is the son of one of the old camp guards, and he knows the area very well after having lived there in the years after the war with his father, but even today, his memories are not what they were. Trees grow over age, and the woodland quickly reclaims structures that collapse. The commandant's quarters rest just a hundred feet from the fork in the road, and are still nearly intact. From the Late Fifties to the Early Sixties, he lived in the old structure during the summers and stayed in it during hunting trips. He describes hearing the sounds of old POWs wandering past the windows, sometimes standing in phantom line-ups and detecting the distant voices of trapped in the echoes of time. One night, George said he woke up in the middle of the night and looked up to see an American colonel sitting in the chair next to him by his bed.
"It was a very quiet night." His account is translated here from a German newspaper. "And I had been resting very peaceably when I was taken awake by something I did not understand. For some reason, I had woke up and had rolled over to my other side when I became aware of another presence. There was a man sitting in the chair before the door watching me sleep. Obvious features, piercing eyes, flier's leather jacket, American colonel's cap tilted back to his head with a waft of dark hair. I looked at him, he looked at me, and I rolled back over asleep. I later described the face to my mother who had saved much of my father's belongings from the war, and there in the trunk at the bottom was a photo of the prisoners my father was in charge of in line-up. At the end of the line of men was the man I had seen standing at attention... the Senior POW himself, a man named Hogan."
History: Stalag 13 was commissioned November 11, 1935 under the command of Colonel Wilhelm Klink, a Luftwaffe officer with very little combat experience but with seeming extraordinary efficiency training. Out of three hundred and sixty-two escapes (not counting two AWOL guards), not a single Allied prisoner ever successfully escaped up to the time the camp was liberated on April 27, 1945 by Allied Forces without a single fatality (not counting a surprised sergeant who shot himself in the foot.) Klink was captured and dispatched to London to be held for his war-crimes, but he ended up exonerated under the protection of Colonel Robert E. Hogan, who had been Senior POW. Feeling unable to return to Germany, Klink stayed in England under military guard for several years until he followed Hogan to the United States. He lived in relative seclusion in a German community near Cleveland until his death in 1967.
Hans Schultz, the owner of Schultz Toys in Heidelberg and Klink's former staff sergeant, acquired legal ownership of the camp in 1950 with the permission of the interim American government, using Klink's old quarters as a hunting lodge. His son, George, lived there intermittently until 1963, but by the 1980s, the land was under direct control of the local Hammelburg constabulary and set aside for development still being planned.
Identity of Ghosts: German parapsychologist Paul Schneider has no explanation for the high rate of appearances for ghostly POWS being seen on the land. Stalag 13 was the only prisoner-of-war camp to show humane treatment to its prisoners despite its rigid security. There are modern legends in Hammelburg concerning that the prisoners there worked extensively with the local German resistance against the Third Reich, but there is nothing to confirm this.
George Schultz adds: "My father did not like army life. His life was more about making toys, playing St. Nicholas and making children happy, but the army seized my father's toy factory to make rifles, and made him a staff sergeant based on his career in the infantry during the First World War. Papa also admired the Americans at the camp; he was not a Nazi, but he was a man earning a living to feed his eight children here in Heidelberg, but there was something special about Stalag 13 that kept him alive otherwise he would have lost his life on the Russian front. He was an American-sympathizer when other men were trying to become officers. Papa never cared for that. He became friends with the prisoners, took care of them and fraternized with them in secret even though he could be court-martialed if caught doing so. The Frenchman cooked for him, and the Englander treated him like a friend, but Colonel Hogan did me, my brothers, sisters and my mama a favor... Some how, some way... he kept my father off the Russian front, and alive, and I never got the chance to thank him for that..."
Source/Comments: Hogan's Heroes (1965-1972), Activity based loosely on the Land Between The Lakes near Murray, Kentucky, Manzanar State Historic Park near Independence, California and the Devil's Backbone near San Marcos, Texas.