10 January 2018

Why Am I Still Here? The Story of Paul Titz, a German Merchant Seaman and POW in WWII

Why Am I Still Here? is based around the letters of Paul Titz, a young merchant seaman from the town of Düren who, as the captain's steward on the scout ship Gonzenheim, ex Kongsfjord, took part in Operation Rheinübung in 1941. 

After the interception of the Gonzenheim by HMS Neptune, HMS Nelson and Swordfish of 825 Squadron embarked in HMS Victorious, and despite not being armed and never having fired a shot in anger - he became a POW for more than five years, including for seventeen months after VE Day. He moved from the camp at Donaldson's College, Edinburgh, to Knavesmire, York, and from thence to Canada. He was held along with other Enemy Merchant Seamen at Farnham and Sherbrooke in Quebec and at Monteith, Ontario, before returning to the UK only to die in wretched circumstances at No. 23 Camp, Farnham, Derbyshire just before he was likely to have been repatriated.

The author, Jean Hood, has done a thorough job of researching Paul Titz, and German Merchant Seamen held in British captivity during the Second World War. This book provides a fascinating insight into a little known and written about aspect of the experiences of German POWs during, and after the war.

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4 January 2018

Prisoner of the Swiss

During World War II, 1,517 members of US aircrews were forced to seek asylum in Switzerland. Most neutral countries found reason to release US airmen from internment, but Switzerland took its obligations under the Hague Convention more seriously than most. The airmen were often incarcerated in local jails, and later transferred to prison camps. The worst of these camps was Wauwilermoos, where at least 161 U.S. airmen were sent for the honorable offense of escaping. To this hellhole came Dan Culler, the author of this incredible account of suffering and survival. Not only did the prisoners sleep on lice-infested straw, were malnourished and had virtually no hygiene facilities or access to medical care but worse, the commandant of Wauwilermoos was a die-hard Swiss Nazi. He allowed the mainly criminal occupants of the camp to torture and rape Dan Culler with impunity. After many months of such treatment, starving and ravaged by disease, he was finally aided by a British officer.

Betrayal dominated his cruel fate - by the American authorities, by the Swiss, and in a last twist in a second planned escape that turned out to be a trap. But Dan Culler’s courage and determination kept him alive. Finally making it back home, he found he had been abandoned again. Political expediency meant there was no such place as Wauwilermoos. He has never been there, so he has never been a POW and didn't qualify for any POW benefits or medical or mental treatment for his many physical and emotional wounds. His struggle to make his peace with his past forms the final part of the story. Rob Morris’s introduction and notes provide historical background and context, including recent efforts to recognise the suffering of those incarcerated in Switzerland and afford them full POW status.


Read an interview with the author, Rob Morris.

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Casemate