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Niederzwehren POW Camp

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Niederzwehren - Does anyone know anything about this POW camp?

I've had a quick look on Google and come up with very little data. The cemetery was apparently started in 1915 for POWs who had died at the camp, and during the war almost 3000 Allied soldiers & civilians were buried there. These included French,Russian & Commonwealth POWs.

In 1922/23, when it was decided that the burials of Commonwealth servicemen all over Germany should be concentrated into four permanent cemeteries, Niederzwehren was one of those chosen. In the four years, more than 1,500 graves were brought into the cemetery from 190 burial grounds in Baden, Bavaria, Hanover,Hesse & Saxony.

There are now 1,795 First World War servicemen buried or commemorated in the Commonwealth plot at Niederzwehren. This total includes special memorials to 13 casualties buried in other cemeteries in Germany whose graves could not be found.

The following cemeteries are among those from which graves were brought to Niederzwehren:

BAYREUTH TOWN CEMETERY, Bavaria, 24 burials of 1918.

DARMSTADT FOREST CEMETERY, Hesse. In use from 1915. 102 burials.

DIETKIRCHEN POW CEMETERY, Hesse-Nassau. 45 burials (28 of Irish Regiments) of 1914-18.


GERMERSHEIM CEMETERY,Palatinate. 26 burials of 1915-18.

GIESSEN MILITARY CEMETERY, Hesse. 99 burials of 1914-19.

GOTTINGEN MILITARY CEMETERY, Hanover. 88 burials of 1914-1919.

HAMELN POW CEMETERY, Hanover, 70 burials of 1915-18.

INGOLSTADT CEMETERY, Bavaria. 23 burials of 1917-18.

LANGENSALZA POW CEMETERIES Nos. 1 & 2. Prussian Saxony. 225 burials of 1915-18.

MAINZ MILITARY CEMETERY, Rhein-Hessen. 23 burials 1915-19.

MANNHEIM MAIN CEMETERY, Baden. 21 burials of 1916-18.

MESCHEDE POW CEMETERY, Westphalia. 49 burials of 1917-18.

OHRDRUF POW CEMETERY, Thuringia. 107 burials of 1915-18.

PADERBORN CEMETERY, Westphalia. 29 soldiers burials of 1914-18.

QUEDLINBURG CENTRAL CEMETERY, Prussian Saxony. 102 burials of 1914-18.

SENNELAGER POW Cemetery, Westphalia. 32 burials of 1914-18.

I have heard that many deaths at Niederzwehren POW Camp were caused by maltreatment at the hands of a nasty commandat, possibly Major Seebom or Seebohm. Does anyone know of him?

I also believe that tales of maltreatment in German POW camps were common, but others tell me that all belligerent states made prisoners work and that conditions, hours, etc. in factories and mines, etc would have been akin to what working men of that era would have known at home. The tales of hunger can apparently be explained by the effectiveness of the Allied blockade, poor harvests in Germany, etc, and the level of hunger in camps was probably no more that found among German civilians at the time. Is any of this true?

I'd appreciate your views.



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Niederzwehren is listed under the name "Cassel" in Mrs Pope-Hennessey's book

This is what is listed under Cassel:

This town (population 153,000) is the headquarters of the 11th Army Corps. The camp is placed on a hill overlooking the Fulda Valley, one mile from Niederzwehen, a suburb of Cassel. Barracks of wood accommodating some 20,000. Prisoners employed in factories and workshops. American prisoners here.


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Thanks for the information , Robbie.

My interest in the camp arises because the attendant cemetery is so large. That is in part explained by the concentration of burials from all over Germany, but I don't think it the sole explanation.

There were, though my source isn't reliable, supposedly two very bad outbreaks of typhus at the camp as early as 1915. Surely that can't have been normal? Had the prisoners access to basic facilities for washing, etc? Were they packed like sardines?

I love to know the answers.



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J - the POW treatment issue was very well covered in a documentary made a few years ago. Lack of nutrition and workload of prisoners were highlighted. I think it was stated that Red Cross Parcels saved countless lives?

Anyone remember name of doc? And surely we'll see it on history channel?

Personal account: Granda George Thompson (RIR) and his brother Adam (also RIR) in same camp post March 1918 offensive.

My mum tells me that there were Russian prisoners on a work party near them. Someone tried to slip some bread to Russians. German guard loses the head and starts whacking people with rifle butt.

There is a scuffle and Adam is involved. Family legend goes that Adam was a good drawer (I hesitate to use the word 'artist') who was well known for doing little sketches of his mates etc.

Whether it is true or not, I don't know, but my mum says that he had his fingers deliberately smashed and then George gets into the action and he ends up getting a slap too.

From the memory of 'Granny B' ... but it does not sound too far fetched?

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Guest 2contemptable


According to the correspondence of Rev. 'Willy' Scanlen, Chaplain of the R.F.A. 16th Irish Division who was captured during the German Offensive on 21 March 1918, POW's were indeed ill treated. He was imprisoned at Mainz.

In a letter to Capt. Scanlen's sister in Ireland, a Capt. Powys who had been captured with Scanlen and subsequently repatriated, wrote that Scanlen was 'Doing good work in stopping German callousness in the treatment of our Tommies who were employed in factories about the place'.

Immediately after the Armistice, Scanlen noticed that German soldiers were strolling into the hospital wards where officers were being treated, according to Scanlen they were attempting to steal food parcels. Many men were suffering from flu and Scanlen noticed that the Germans had left men to sleep on the floor in the November frost. Enraged at this ill-treatment, Scanlen armed himself with a revolver and issued a 'fiat' that no German soldier was to enter the ward without permission and that he would shoot them if they tried any tricks...'I am no longer a Padre but a soldier'.

Hope that this helps in some way


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J T Gray

"Prisoners of the Kaiser" - also a book of the docu by Richard Van Emden.


(having heard one or two tales about my grandfather, and knowing that he had been a POW himself, I often wonder how he fwelt to the German POWs he apparently guarded after the armistice)

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eileen emily

My Grandfather was captured by the Germans at Ypres on 26th October 1914 he was a soldier in the Scots Guards. He was taken in the first instance to Gottingen Hanover and then to Niederzwehren Ber Cassel after this things are a little hazy. From Granpa's War record Camp 9 Gefanfenenlargen Hamburg Baden is detailed I am unsure if this is the same or another camp as Grandpa told the story he had been made to work on a farm escaped and was taken to work in the Salt Mines. I have to say Grandpa was a great story teller so fact and fiction I am not quite sure of except I am sure of his injuries which left him with a limp and a finger that had been broken and never set properly. I would like to know more about the camp I think it is important that we know what these men suffered to serve as a lesson for future generations to understand that it is right to fight for freedom and just causes but War should be avoided and Mans inhumanity to Man abhorred.

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