“WWII Prisoner of War Camps in Minnesota” is the topic for the October 30 Fillmore County Historical Society Annual Meeting. Minnesota had 19 branch camps overseen by the base camp at Algona, Iowa. In 1944 and 1945, the Minnesota camps housed mostly German POWs but also a few Italians. The primary reason for POWs in Minnesota was the labor shortage; POWs worked in canneries, logging and other industries as well as providing much needed labor on farms.
Colleen Gengler, a volunteer with her local Historical Society in Murray County at Slayton, will present what camp life was like in Minnesota camps including Owatonna, Whitewater State Park and Hollandale. Her interest in the topic comes from her parents’ use of POW labor on their farm south of Owatonna. In presentations of her family’s memoir Under Minnesota Skies, the story of her father’s experience with POWs always generated questions and comments as many people are not familiar with this part of Minnesota history. She will also share stories from a few other camps and give background on WWII POWs nationally.
Although Fillmore County didn’t house a camp, there was still a labor shortage there and throughout Minnesota. Local Farm Help Coordinating Committees helped ease the shortage. Colleen will explain how these worked.
Colleen had a 38-year career with University of Minnesota Extension working in several counties in southwest Minnesota as well as regionally and statewide. She now enjoys delving into her family’s history. She and her husband Don live on a farm near Iona, Minn.
The program is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Fillmore County History Center in Fountain. It is open to the public and free of charge, however freewill donations are welcome.