Letters from Home: POW Mail at Fort Robinson

PW envelope

NSHS 11055-2710

Thousands of miles from home in an enemy country, German soldiers sent and received mail while prisoners of war at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. But how did mail get from one country to the other, considering that the two sides were shooting at each other?

The envelope shown above (click for larger view) had a long journey from Neudorf, Germany, to Fort Robinson, Nebraska, in 1943-44. With stops along the way in Switzerland, North Africa, and New York City, the letter took six months to catch up with Corporal Hans Klaus, who surrendered with Gen. Erwin Rommel’s famed Afrika Korps three months before the letter was sent. Among other markings, you can see where the envelope was slit open and re-sealed by both German and American censors.

Tom Buecker, curator of the NSHS’s Fort Robinson Museum, tells the story in “Letters from Home: Prisoner of War Mail at the Fort Robinson Camp during World War II” in the Summer 2010 issue of Nebraska History.

Stille Nacht card

Another example of prisoner of war mail from Buecker’s article. This is a seasonal postcard (“Silent Night, Holy Night”) sent home by Fritz Esenwein on November 29, 1944. Esenwein made a return visit to Fort Robinson in 1993. NSHS 11467-16

RG1882-1 Esenwein

Friedrich “Fritz” Esenwein at Fort Robinson. A communications specialist with the Tenth Panzer Division, Esenwein regularly wrote to his parents and a girlfriend in Württemberg. NSHS RG1882-1

—David Bristow, Associate Director for Research & Publications

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