Former Guards, German POWs Reunited
MEXIA, Texas (AP) _ More than 40 years after their release from Texas’ largest World War II prison camp, 23 German officers returned today to talk with their former guards and celebrate the ensuing years of peace.
″Forty-three years ago, we met as adversaries in war,″ said organizer Tom Prentiss in an opening address. ″We welcome you as friends. You are a part of us and we are a part of you.″
At a news conference in the Mexia Civic Center, the former prisoners of war and their families applauded six of their ex-guards. The guards returned the applause as the POWs were made honorary citizens of Mexia.
Dr. Wolfhart Burdenski, a former POW, said he decided to bring his family back to Mexia because for him, the camp had many pleasant memories.
″People were very kind,″ he said. ″Most of the German soldiers were in Russia. Perhaps only 10 percent came back. In Mexia, for us the war was over and we stayed here. We have only some personal difficulties from being so far from home.″
Burdenski, who was at the camp from July 1943 to March 1945, was an officer in the Africa Corps, as were most of the officers imprisoned in Mexia. He said the former POWs meet annually in Germany and a few have visited Mexia individually.
Former guard Jerry Miller said he never considered the prisoners his enemies. Miller, a corporal, was stationed at the camp, now a state school, for the two years it was open.
The reunion was prompted by a Texas Sesquicentennial Commission member’s invitation to some Germans to tour the area, said Bill Parker, president of the Mexia Chamber of Commerce.
When the commission heard about the former prisoners’ visits, it decided to hold an official reunion.