Lawrence Zimmerman
Birthday: November 07, 1916
Birthplace: Rudolph, Wisconsin
Family: William and Katherine Zimmerman
Occupation: Returned to his job at the paper mill
Branch: US Army
Unit: 26th Yankee Division, 101st Regiment
Post: Infantry
Rank: Staff Sergeant

Diary written in P.O.W. Camp

Diary written in P.O.W. Camp

Diary written in P.O.W. Camp

Diary written in P.O.W. Camp

Diary written in P.O.W. Camp

Diary written in P.O.W. Camp

Lawrence Zimmerman

Lawrence Zimmerman fought mainly in the Rhineland Campaign during World War II. The Rhineland was a region along the Rhine River. According to the Versailles Treaty, it was to act as a median between Germany and France. The region was occupied by German forces. Lawrence Zimmerman belonged to the 26th Yankee Division, which consisted of the 101st, 104th, 181st, and 182nd regiments. Lawrence Zimmerman belonged to the 101st regiment. His division entered into combat in October of 1944.

"I fought under General Patton, `Old Blood and Guts' his guts and our blood. Patton valued his tanks more than his men." Lawrence and others in his division were captured in November of 1944. They were sent to a German Prisoner of War camp. They were taken prisoners near Metz in the Moselle region. The Germans treated them fairly. As long as they followed the rules, they were left alone. "It seems strange that I had no hatred toward my jailers. How they could hold so many of us with so few men seems impossible."

"Being in a prison camp was very depressing. Our only hope was that we would win the war. Loneliness was our worst hardship. We knew that we may never see our loved ones again. The idea of dying where no one cared was horrifying."

They slept in barracks, at first on wooden shelf-like structures. They later slept on the floor because they could keep warm from their body heat. "We slept on straw that was infected with lice. We would take off our clothes and pick out the lice. When we slept at night we would loosen our belts. The lice would crawl under our belts."

On December 24th, 1944, we were told by the Germans at about 2 p.m. to get ready to move out. We were given no food that day. We were marched to the railroad yard and were loaded into boxcars. The boxcars would hold either 40 men or 8 horses. It was a little crowded. A small amount of straw was on the floor. We spent the next 4 days locked up. It was 2 days before they opened the doors. There was no food or water. We had to go to the bathroom in our pants in the boxcar. This was very uncomfortable being winter. The second day they opened the doors, but did not let us out. They handed in pails of water. I was very thirsty. I must have drunk a quart. I felt bad we had to leave the camp, but it was a good thing we did. The night of the 24th, the British bombed the rail yard. It was a foggy night. They could not see their target and some of the bombs landed in the POW camp. They killed about 700 prisoners.

We received only a small amount of food. One loaf of bread was shared by 5 men. Some days each person would receive 5 boiled potatoes about the size of hen's eggs, cabbage soup, or pea soup. The worst was boiled dehydrated rutabaga, which tasted like straw. The best was when we received Red Cross parcels, which were divided among 4 men. I exercised, for my foot that was frozen at one time. It was important to be able to get up and walk around or your feet would turn black.

We had many heroes; unfortunately most of them are dead. I had a very close buddy. We always tried to help each other out. He called me `Dutch'. He would say, `don't worry, Dutch. I will bail you out.' One day he tried to rescue me by attracting the enemy. He was killed and I lived. That was a traumatic experience. It made me think, `Why him and not me?'

The eyes tell so much. They say children have laughing eyes. They also show pain. I will never forget the eyes of the Jews. At one time they were in the compound next to ours. All I remember seeing was their eyes filled with despair. None of them said a word. They just stared into space. Also the eyes of the enemies just before we shot them were filled with fright. I am sure some of them would have surrendered, but there was no time for that. The one that got his shot off first lived. We were told to shoot first, and ask questions later. We used the old trick of playing dead.

I don't know how many enemies I killed and I don't care to think about it. I never tried to be a hero. Some of the men died nearby. I will never know how I got through as much as I did, but the time we were captured over half of our company was either killed or wounded. I know I did a lot of praying, but I was always afraid.

I dreaded the thought of coming eye to eye with the enemy. I always hoped he would retreat before we met, but that didn't always happen. I was always full of fear. I was praying most of the time. I am sure it helped bring me through. When German shells exploded nearby, the safest places were foxholes or lying flat on the ground. The shells would pick us up and throw us, putting us in shock unable to think. When I was praying prayers I knew by heart, I would try to think of what I was saying and my mind would start to work. Some of the men would get up and walk around and get killed by the next shell or machine gun. I was surprised to know how hard it was to hit a man that was running. I hated close-in fighting. It was dirty and savage. I saw a lot of sickening things. Rifle bullets usually made just one hole. Shells would leave some gruesome sights: heads missing, one foot pointed one way and one the other, or guts hanging out.

Prayer helped me to get through a lot. I read my bible every day. I also prayed the rosary a lot. One day we were given the opportunity to go to confession by a French priest. One of the young guys went and told the priest every sin he could remember. When he was through, the priest started talking in English and had understood him the whole time. He was glad he went though.

I did not give up praying to God. Toward the end, I did not pray for food or shelter. That would be asking for a miracle. When we were jammed in a small space with no lights, I would try to work my way to a corner, sit down with my head on my knees, and repeat a prayer over and over again. I always prayed, `Thy will be done.'

At the end of the war, our camp was liberated by the Russians. They still would not let us go home. They offered us a way out of the camp, but we never heard from any of the men that went with them again. We think that they were forced into labor for the Russians.

I enjoyed visiting the Russian Command Post. The women were very eager to talk to me. Every time I visited I had to show them my pictures from home. They just loved the nylon hose the women wore, also their hair-dos and pretty clothes. But I never did convince them that I owned the car in the picture.

I often dream when I am tired or hungry. I dream the Germans are coming and if I move to one side or the other, I can miss them. There is no use. They are coming right at me. I shoot at them, but the more I shoot, the more they come at me. Other times I dream I am looking for food. When I find some, it is either dirty or spoiled. It makes me sick when I eat it I often dreamed of vomiting it out. If I sleep with a light on it is better. I can see where I am the first split second when I wake up."