The Forgotten German POW Camp of Nyssa, Oregon

Recently, my husband Bob was looking at some amazing photograph collages made by his godmother, the photographer Brigitte Carnochan. On one of photographs called “Three Years, Mostly in the West” he noticed at the very bottom of the photo, one the places Brigitte’s father had lived while a World War II German prisoner of war. The date was April 20, 1946. The place was Nyssa, Oregon, a tiny farming town in Malheur County, my hometown.

Brigitte Carnochan. Her father was a German POW in my home town of Nyssa, Oregon.

Most of the Nyssa locals knew about the Japanese internment camp at a place a few miles outside of Nyssa called “Cow Hollow.” But it wasn’t until I saw Brigitte Carnochan’s amazing work that I learned of the German prisoner-of-war camp in town near the Snake River flowing between Eastern Oregon and Idaho. This POW work camp in Nyssa was a branch camp of “Camp Rupert” located near Paul, Idaho.

Image 1
Three Years, Mostly in the West. Photograph courtesy of Brigitte Carnochan.

Brigitte Carnochan was eighteen months old when her father, a German soldier in Erwin Rommel’s elite Afrika Korps, was captured in North Africa. With the defeat of Rommel’s forces in the deserts of northern Africa, thousands of Germans were shipped to Britain and then sent on to the United States partly to alleviate the POW housing problem in Great Britain. More than 400,000 German prisoners were sent to the U.S. to wait out the war in one of more than 150 German POW camps that were located “in the middle of nowhere,” invisible to most Americans.

Love of his life. Gitta’s parents. Photo courtesy of Brigitte Carnochan.
Born in a Dangerous Time. Photo courtesy of Brigitte Carnochan.
Casualties of War. Gitta and her father. Photograph courtesy of Brigitte Carnochan.

From 1944 to 1946, over 3,500 prisoners of war, mostly Germans, were utilized on Oregon farms. In Malheur County alone, they were largely responsible for the thousands of acres of potatoes, onions, and sugar beets harvested. Gitta’s father and other prisoners of war helped fill the massive labor shortage the United States faced because millions of GIs were overseas. Her father worked in POW camps throughout the west from the years 1943-1946. America followed to the letter the 1929 Geneva Convention governing treatment of prisoners of war. One of the treaty’s articles says POWs must receive the same amount and quality of food as the civilian population of the host country. The War Department supplied food to the camps and the prisoners did their own cooking. They could also buy additional food items and toiletry supplies with the 80 cents in coupons they earned each workday. To ease the transition between the period of civilian labor shortage and the return of U.S. soldiers, several POW camps remained in operation for a year after the war. Eventually, the camps were dismantled around the summer of 1946, and the prisoners were allowed to return to Europe. After repatriation, many former prisoners returned to the United States. During the war, Gitta lost track of her German POW father. Her mother eventually re-married an American soldier and when Gitta was aged 7, she moved to the United States with her mother and American stepfather. Years later in 1976, she was re-acquainted with her biological father, who was living in Connecticut where he had settled in 1952. I’ve become really fascinated by this seldom discussed aspect of this county’s history. Gitta’s beautiful photos touched me in a way I can’t explain. Maybe it’s because I’ve been digging into my own past the last couple of years trying to figure out where my ancestors came from. I’m a mix of Scottish, English, and German but have so many unanswered questions. My Dad was a young boy living on a farm near Nyssa during the war; maybe his family ate food harvested by Gitta’s father or other German prisoners that worked in the fields owned by my Dad’s family or friends. Maybe as I’m getting older,  I’m just getting nostalgic about my small hometown and things of the past. Isn’t it amazing how people’s lives intertwine? Six degrees of separation, or, as they say, it’s a small world! I don’t understand why people in the world can’t get along when we are all connected in some way?

Today, little is left of the Nyssa POW labor camp. Most of the old buildings were torn down years ago to make room for new buildings that house Mexican migrant farm workers. I don’t have any family living in Nyssa anymore but I did make a special trip over to Nyssa last week to visit the camp. In the back corner of the labor camp underneath some tall trees I was happy to see one old buildings still standing. I asked my Dad about it and he said was the old mess hall. It was proof with my own eyes that this part of history, which happened 65 years ago, is now not forgotten. I wonder how long the mess hall will be there…

Nyssa, Oregon former German POW camp.
Nyssa, Oregon former German POW camp.


  1. What an interesting story. My father, Eugene Clark, was the mayor of nearby Vale, Oregon during the war years. After the war, probably 1947 or so, he received some letters from former POWs who had returned to Germany. They were asking for donations – clothing, shoes, food – things were so bad at home and people were desperate. I saw several of these letters myself when I was a teen. I remember asking my dad about them and as I recall, he said that things were tough enough in Oregon, too – and he didn’t take it any further. I just just asked my mom, Vi Clark (who is in excellent health at 99, by the way); she also remembers the letters. She is going to look to see if she still has one. I will let you know if she finds anything.

    1. Would you be Leslie Ann Clark who was one of my classmates in grade school?? If so perhaps we could stay in touch. Thanks, Gary McClellan

  2. Leslie,
    WOW…if those letters still existed what an amazing piece of history! I hope your mother still has one, that would be quite the find to pass onto to the Oregon State archives.
    My research has been very limited but it would be interesting to find out if historians studying this subject know that former POW’s were sending those letters out.
    Your mom is 99 and in excellent health….that great!

  3. Both myself and my wife lived in Nyssa during the time the POW camp was there, My wife lived just across the street from it and remembers when they let the prisoners go home. She say they had trains waiting behind her house and the POW’s came running down the street howling and seemed to be ready to go home. I remember seeing them going the fields to work in trucks with guards riding with them.
    I have been talking to the 4 Rivers Culture Center about this and they had no knowledge of it nor knowledge of the Japanese Camp Southwest of town. My wife and I remember both of them. In May of this year we had our 60th Nyssa High School reunion and I talked to a number of classmates that also remember the POW camp and the Japanese Camp. We when to school with the kids from the camp.

    1. Thank you for the comment! I love getting more oral history to share! It would be great if you could get Four Rivers Cultural Center to do an exhibit on this little known subject. Thank you so much!

  4. I met with the 4 Rivers Culture Center in May 2011, during our Nyssa High School Reunion and the reunion attendees toured the center. I talked with the director and she did not seem very interested in the information about the POW Camp nor the Japanese Internment Camp. I had talked to them a few years earlier and had also talked to some of my class mates about this. I have let them know about your Blog and hope they respond.
    I will also make the 4 Rivers Center aware of your Blog. maybe we can get something going. They do have a nice exhibit of the culture of the area, at the center, have you been there?

    1. I’ve went Four Rivers a few years ago with my Mother. I wanted see the Dorothea Lange exhibit of photographs they were showing recently but didn’t make it over there. Matthew Stringer (also grew up in Nyssa) is their new director, it looks likes he’s done some great things with the place since taking over.

  5. We know Matthew Stringer, in fact he was at our High School Reunion last May. We knew a Mrs. Hazel Lane, her husband was John. She was our 5th grade teacher, any relation?
    I called our niece Patsy Wilson who knows Matthew and she said Matthew just recently took over as director of the 4 Rivers. She also knows a young lady who is one of her best friends who grew up in the Japanese Camp southwest of Nyssa, she is going to talk to her about your BLOG.

    1. It’s great that a small random blog post can get people talking and remembering the past before it’s forgotten for good. (FYI…no relation to Hazel or John.)

    2. Hazel and John Lane were shirttail relatives of mine. Lloyd Lane was married to sister of dad and Karl Lane was married to a sister of mom. Hazel was also my fifth grade teacher.
      I remember German prisoners working in fields near our house when I was a child. I wasn’t sure whether I should be afraid of them.

  6. I have two classmates that have been trying to respond to your blog. They cannot bring up your blog, any suggestions.
    I can give you their e-mails if you could respond to them??

  7. Mel Marcum and I grew up 5 miles from each other, he in Nyssa and I just across the Snake river fromHim. He mentioned the German POW camp in Nyssa. Told him I remember the POW’s comming to work on our farm, about 12-15 men. Because I had 3 uncles over in Germany fighting I wanted to see these Germans, They didn’t look like I had thought and were quite friedly. The gaurd told me most of them did not want to return to Germany.

    1. Ken, It’s so great getting this oral history for all to see! I’m sure that a lot more Nyssa locals are out there that remember bits and pieces from a time so many years ago. Thanks for posting a comment.

  8. I’m much younger but my grandfather and dad spoke of the German POW working on the farms and said that they were great people and actually sometimes had to awaken the guards if they seen someone coming down the road.

  9. To Leslie Clark Lewis. Leslie, I am currently writing a series of articles about the Nyssa POW Camp and perhaps some about the Vale Camp. You mentioned letters from former POWs…do you have access to them?

    Thanks, Tom Cook, Nyssa Chamber of Commerce President

  10. To Marcum. I am doing some research on the Nyssa POW camp. Would write an e-mail back to me? I would like to communicate with you about your and your wife’s memories of the POW camp. I am in the process of researching for future writing:
    I am the current president of the Nyssa Chamber of Commerce.
    Tom Cook

    1. Hi Tom,
      Another thing for your research. My mother used to be a volunteer at the Nyssa Historical Museum (by the train depot). She told me that there is a wooden desk there that was made by the German POW’s. She was told that it was donated to the museum by Nyssa’s long time physician (? Dr. Danford/Kirby). I haven’t been able to check this out for myself since the museum is never open when I’ve been passing thru.

    2. I don’t know how you would access it but the Gate City Journal might have some info. I was a reporter back in the 80s & if I remember correctly, I learned about it from old papers stored in the GCJ morgue. As chamber president, perhaps you know who to contact & can research the papers during that time frame.

    3. Tom & Leslie- I am a retired historian and archaeologist who is currently pulling together information on Oregon’s past military history.I have very little information regarding POW camps in the Nyssa/Vale area and am very interested in anything that either of you may have written about them. I hope to be in the area this fall and would love to be able to visit the sites if they are still accessible.

  11. Leslie, yes, I know about the table and have seen it. It was made by the POWs and donated to the museum by Dr. Kerby. I have seen it…and plan to get a photo of it. I placed a “call for information” in the local paper to have locals to dig around and come up with documents, letters, photos, etc…and are having good results! Several new photos have surfaced and a number of good stories. I will keep you posted.

  12. I seen this article on FB and love the information shared!!! It’s been a few years since anyone posted anything so I am curious to know more!!!! What ever happened with the writings Mr. Cook was working on? Has 4 Rivers followed up with any historical exhibits? Is the chow hall still standing? I live in Payette, Idaho just a 20 min drive to Nyssa. I grew up here and NEVER heard about those before now. Thank you for the fascinating history lesson. Sincerely, Jerry Lopez

    1. Jerry,
      I believe Mr. Cook moved out of the area,I don’t know if he ever gathered more information about the camp to write a book about it.
      I also don’t think 4 Rivers has done any shows on the subject, I guess maybe because there is so little history info available to make a complete show about it? I’m happy that thru this blog I’ve got some comments from people that remember the camp. That is valuable history in itself. My follow-up blog post “Casualties of War” lists those comments.
      Regarding the old mess hall…I do believe it is still standing. My father that has been living in the area since the late 1940s is the one that told me it was the old mess hall from the camp. I’ve never been able to confirm it 100%. Thanks, Leslie

  13. I don’t remember my folks talking about any camps around Nysa. I wish I could ask them and be able to give you whatever info they could have given me to share with you. The blog is great! Good job.

    1. Thank you, Carolyn! Nice to hear from you. The talk in the 1960s that I’d overheard, was only rumor about a German POW camp, I was a child too young to remember if my parents/grandparents did talk about it. It wasn’t until seeing Gitta’s photos that I found out it was a camp for German soldiers. All along I’d thought it was a internment camp for German’s…just like the Japanese internment camps. Interesting part of history that a lot of people wanted to forget. take care, Leslie

  14. Our family, Evans, lived across the river from Nyssa. I remember watching with my siblings the trucks of German prisoners going by on Highway 95. We made a game of hiding behind a berm when we saw one of the trucks go by. Later, one of my teachers talked about her conversation with one of the German prisoneers who was working in her orchard.

    1. My folks had a farm very close to the Evans if not adjacent. Last name Andrews. I had two brothers that went to grade school in Fruitland. Dad sold the farm to the family who still own it today. We moved into Nyssa and dad brought a serve yourself laundry next to the dry cleaners on the street at the west end of the underpass. My brothers who were 10-12 years old told me about the intern camps at Nyssa.

  15. I am so happy I ran across this story on Facebook! My grandfather told me about one of these German POW camps in Nampa ID. His grandfather had them work on his farm. He told me stories of how they were hard workers, and his grandfather felt bad for them. So when the guards weren’t looking, he’d drop pieces of candy into the rows of fields for the workers to eat. My grandfather has driven out and showed me where the camp used to be, but now it’s all farm land. I was beginning to think maybe my grandfather was making this story up! Thanks again for sharing this story!

    1. Jamie,
      It’s touching to hear the stories about how the farmers, like your grandfather were so appreciative of their hard work. They treated these young soldiers with care and respect for a fellow human being during a very difficult time in history. Thanks for sharing.

    2. Hi Jamie. I am a student in Caldwell. I am wanting to do my National History Day project on the German POW camps. Is there a way that I could get the address of this sandstone house and area of the camp? I would love to check it out!

  16. Yes, there was a fairly large German POW camp in South Nampa on Powerline Rd. The Camp Commandant (or whatever title he had) had a nice sandstone house there, which still stands in good condition and is still utilized as a residence. I was fortunate to be able to appraise that property several years ago. The house has some ingenious woodwork handcrafted by the prisoners. A few years ago, there was still a wooden one-man guard tower there, complete with rifle mounts, but it was looking pretty bad at the time. A large barn remains from that era also. Thanks for the blog.

    1. If I could find the place, I’d love to see the inside of that house and guard tower, if it’s still standing. If the current owners don’t know of the history they probably wonder why people occasionally have been or might start driving by, stopping, and taking photographs. Too bad it isn’t on the National Register of Historic Places in Idaho because I think you have to open it to the public once a year. Thanks for sharing.

      1. I located the sandstone house today! Very near where my grandfather told me the camp used to be! If you want to personally email me, I can give you the address, I don’t feel comfortable posting a residents address for the world to see.

  17. all of the buildings have been gone since the 60’s. it’s just a park where I used to play softball as a kid. Cow Hollow isn’t a “town” it’s just an area. there is one little store about a mile from the park but it’s mostly ranches and farms., Nyssa is about 10 miles north east.check out Owyhee dam.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I remember Cow Hollow (site of the former Japanese Internment Camp) as just a park in the late 1960s and early 1970s as well. Growing up we spent lots of time in that park below Owyhee Dam. We would stop at that little store you mentioned on the way to the dam. That part of Eastern Oregon is beautiful.

  18. My Grandfather William DeGrofft farmed at Nyssa. He told us of having the German prisoners on the farm and of trying to communicate with them. I wish he were here to tell his stories, but my Dad did do an interview several years ago and it was placed in the Interpretive Center at Ontario. June Marie Wilson Wyckoff did hers at this time too

  19. I too remember POW’s working the sugar beet fields around Vale Oregon. also what a shame that the Japanese American citizens were forced into interment camps were treated so poorly.

    1. Yes, it was a shame that American citizens of Japanese ancestry were relocated and incarcerated because of race prejudice and war hysteria.
      Regarding POW’s around Vale, I received this comment about three or four years ago from Leslie Clark Lewis. He wrote, “My father, Eugene Clark, was the mayor of nearby Vale, Oregon during the war years. After the war, probably 1947 or so, he received some letters from former POWs who had returned to Germany. They were asking for donations – clothing, shoes, food – things were so bad at home and people were desperate. I saw several of these letters myself when I was a teen. I remember asking my dad about them and as I recall, he said that things were tough enough in Oregon, too – and he didn’t take it any further. I just just asked my mom, Vi Clark (who is in excellent health at 99, by the way); she also remembers the letters.”

      1. Times were tough in the 40’s in eastern Oregon. My dad would park the old Ford at the top of a small hill and when we went into Vale for supplies, we all piled into the car and dad would coast it down the hill hoping it would start.. If the car refused to start, dad would go and get one of the horses and pull the old car to the top of the hill and repeat the process. There was no money to buy a new battery and for that matter, rationing had made it almost impossible to buy things such as tires and batteries.
        BTW As far as I know I’m not related to Eugene Clark.

  20. My Father Fred Schilling had German POW’s hoe Sugar Beets on his farm North of Nyssa. Dad was German and could speak excellent German, which made it easy to communicate. I remember him saying they were friendly and good workers. He gave an extra suit of his to one of the workers to get married in. He received post cards from his for several years.

    1. That’s very touching that your father gave one of the POW’s his extra suit. Strangers in a foreign country, I’m sure they were glad to have someone to communicate with. Thanks for sharing your story.

    2. My name is Esther (Heldt) Johnson, Fred. Was your dad and mom Fred and Vera who went to Pilgrim Lutheran in Ontario? Sister Irene and other sisters too? Just wondering. My neighbor sent this article with blog to me knowing I was from that area. My Dad is James (Jim) Heldt who was raised with his 5 brothers there in Nyssa and this blog speaks of my Uncle Everett and Grandmother – Louise in the blog.

      1. Hi Esther (Heldt) Johnson, Yes Fred and Vera Schilling were my parents, yes Irene is my sister as well as (Shirley and Carolyn both have passed). Your Uncle Everett and Grandmother were good friends of our family, Everett being the secretary of Pilgrim Lutheran for many years. I remember being in your parents new home on occasion, I’m thinking it was one of the first Gold Medallion homes in the area. Lots of fond memories growing up in Nyssa.

  21. thats great info liked the blog and the little know and dying history of the Oregon camps. thanks for keeping it live

  22. I was born in Ontario, Oregon, in 1939, and lived there for several years before we moved tomCentral Oregon. My father graduated from Nyssa High School. I remember my parents talking about the German POW’s and their work in the agriculture. They knew some of them and spoke of them without fear or hatred. I really appreciated this story. Interestingly enough, the local Japanese were not interned. The internees were from the coastal cities.

    1. The local Japanese WERE interned! My parents remember several of their friends being taken away from homes and schools to be interned in the local camps.

      1. Hadn’t found this before but its a very interesting conversation. Regarding the POW camps, my friends who are now deceased, were in the camps…..Patsy Yoneyama Abbe and Thelma Takami (can’t think of her married name) but both had told our class when we were in the 8th grade in Nyssa how terrible it was to live in the camps. They had no heat in the winter, had to sleep on the ground in tents. I believe it was the 6th grade when they came back to school. They had started the 1st grade with our class in 1941 andwent just a few weeks before the police came in class and took them. I remember we all cried when that happened. Then, both graduated with us in 1953. Extremely wonderful gals. We had several guys in our class to that had the same experience.

        I am writing a history book and would like to put some of this in to it, its about Oregon and coming through near Nyssa on the wagon trains across the USA. Thanks. Glenda (Moss) Barnes.

    2. Hello, I recently retired and moved back to area where I was born. I do not know if you will find this or not. With regard to Japanese interment, local Japanese were interred. My maternal grandfather was working on a substantial farm owned by a Japanese family out in the Richland area. My grandfather made a deal for the farm and purchased it for ten dollars. After the war was over, my grandfather sold the farm back to its original owner for ten dollars. When granddad passed away there was concern that no one outside the family would come to his funeral. Some two hundred plus families came to the funeral. After the services several of the families provided me with a “thank you” and stories about my granddad.

  23. There were POW camps near Tulelake, CA, site of a major Japanese American internment camp, and also at Camp Adair OR, which is now the city of Adair Village.
    A couple of notes: POWs from Camp Adair were often allowed out of custody, to attend dances and go roller skating, and worked unguarded…and I’ve heard the same of the Tulelake camp…quite a contrast in the way some who had actually participated in warfare against the USA were treated, and the treatment of American citizens who had done nothing except be born of Japanese ancestry.

  24. Hi My Name is Lucia (Lucy) Peña,

    In 1945 I lived in the Nyssa Labor as a migrant child. The buildings that my family lived in were one room cabins about 150 sq. ft. painted brown. There was a large community shower building, women on one side & men on the other side. The toilets were, if I remember correctly, in the same building as the showers. Mr. Smiley was the camp manager at that time. Most of the migrant families that migrated to the labor camp came from Texas & Mexico. A few migrants were from New Mexico, Montana & a few other States. I learned about the camp holding German war prisoners years ago through research during the Chicano Movement. I also worked in the fields with many Japanese families. Many of the Japanese families stayed living in the Owyhee internment after the war until they were financially able to buy property. I had a friend that worked in the fields with me & she would invite me over to spend the night. I was able to learn about the Japanese culture & had a great time with my friends. The camp cabins were torn down to be replaced with migrant housing built by CASA Of Oregon. I hope you find this comment interesting.

  25. Can any of you give a location of these buildings i would loved to get photos and my father wants to see them ad well

  26. In 1970 I worked the summer for the US Forest Service in Mt. Hebron, California, about 30 miles from Oregon. Our bunkhouse and kitchen had been moved there from a Japanese Internment Camp. Our two buildings were fairly small, apparently a good size to be able to transport.

  27. Awesome story that my dad, Neil Ransom, has told me about. It’s good to see some photographs from that era.

    1. I still remember how puzzled and curiously anxious I was about the German POW’s working in the sugar beet fields. I told my dad that I was afraid that one of them would come to the house and do something bad.
      A German family owned a farm next to ours. They had immigrated to the US before the war. The lady was very upset that her countrymen were being herded around like criminals.
      My mother was a Canadian citizen at the time and one day two US government officials showed up at our place and told her that she had thirty days to apply for US citizenship or be deported. She and dad dropped everything and went to the courthouse in Vale to apply. Prior to the hearing date Mom “crammed” the history books and could recite the constitution by heart. On the hearing date the official who I believe was a circuit court judge, asked her the usual questions and finally through up his hands and said ” I give up, You know more about US history than I do” and administered the oath and signed her citizenship papers.

  28. I was reared on a farm about five miles northwest of Nyssa. I graduated from Nyssa High
    School in 1953. During WWII the labor shortage was almost overwhelming. At age seven my dad taught me how to drive tractor to do the simple tasks like harrowing fields that had been plowed and disced. As I recall it was 1943 or 44 when a Japanese family lived in our basement for a summer to help with the farm work. I remember dad saying they were from California.

    We had the German POW’s for two summers. They were usually transported in an open bed farm truck with two U.S. soldiers as guards. One guard would usually be at one end of the field where the POW’s were serving and the other guard at the other end. Yes, the guards would sometimes doze off. I remember asking dad why the POW’s did not try to escape? His answer was simple, “Where would they go?” The POW’s helped us care for and harvest potatoes and sugar beets.

    The guards asked us not to try and make friends with the POW’s or to feed them. Daily I had to tend the irrigation water. Whenever I was within eyeshot of the POW’s they would wave. If I were within hearing distance they would use their very limited English with me like “Hi” “Good Morning” and I remember one used to say “America is good.”

    After the war ended my dad and mother sponsored a German family to come to America. They helped on the farm for a year. They became U.S. citizens.

    I remember the POW camp area best as the summer migrant farm labor camp…but that’s another story.

    Vibert Kesler

  29. Leslie:
    I passed your blog along to some of my 1953 Nyssa High School classmates so you may get some more input.

    1. Thanks VL…. Yes, I grew up in Nyssa and have lived here most of my life. We came from NE in 1936. We had two prisoner of war camps, one for the Germans East of the railroad tracks in Nyssa and many times I remember my dad might need help at the garage and they would bring a prisoner of war to help him for a few days. When the war was over the camp went to the Mexican population in town. The Japanese war camp was out at Cow Hollow near where Sunset Market is still, just down the road a little ways. When I was in the first grade (Mrs. Benson) the police came in and said they were taking all Japanese out to the camp and they would no longer be with us. One of my best friends was Patsy Yoneyama. Some of us decided she couldn’t go so we backed her into a corner and wouldn’t let anyone touch her :>) until finally Mrs. Benson came back and told us to sit down. She was very sympathetic and loved Patsy too. So, in the 4th grade we were all very happy to see that Patsy showed up at school again and with her was Thelma Takami who had been there too. Several of both families graduated from Nyssa High School. Both wonderful gals and they were two of my best friends through high school. Both are now deceased. Patsy told me that at the POW camp at Cow Hollow there were so many there and ran out of cabins so her family had to sleep outside on blankets, through winter and everything. It was horrible. When we moved out to the farm in 1947 we would see the Japanese out there thinning beets and working so hard. This part of Oregon would never have become the farm country it is without them.

      Interestingly enough, a friend of mine, who came from Germany and whose father was a postmaster, as a child she didn’t even know there was a war and didn’t know a thing
      about it until we lived across the street from them on 6th Street in Nyssa. Margo married Stan Bybee and they have a flying service NE of Nyssa. When I mentioned the war one day she looked so puzzled and said she knew nothing about the war.

      I knew Merle Marcum in school, he is a brother to one of my classmates, Glenn Marcum.

      WWII began just a few months after my class started the 1st grade in Nyssa. I remember to the celebration (Snake Dance) there was downtown when peace was declared. The whole town turned out.

      1. Sleeping on the ground made me remember that my dad & his bothers sleep in a open roofed wheat ben..They would cuddle down into the wheat to be warmer..They would wake up with snow on them , alot. Summer they slept on the lawn.. So not everyone had an
        easy time ..They were poor , too.

  30. My mother had a lot of sympathy for the German prisoners working in the sugar beet fields across the fence from our house. The guard said not to talk to them. She did talk to one of them that was a banker in Germany and said that he did not want to be in the army, but was forced to. Mom would give them loaves of bread to take back to camp. One day the guard told them that they had to load so many truck loads before dark or he would keep them out there until they were loaded. They still had two trucks to fill at dark so he had them load by the headlights of the trucks. A short while latter three trucks of guards came into the field, the Captain was very upset that he had risked security to finish the job. He later came back to work on the farm after the war was over. Everyone came out to celebrate when the war was over. There was a big street dance held on main street and every one was excited. Don Bowers Parma Idaho

    1. Hi Janice and Don…..I just found this site and absolutely love it. I remember when your families did this and it was so wonderful. Take care… Glenda

  31. My father, Bernard Eastman, owned a business on Main Street in Nyssa before WWII and well after that. He was on of the say at home men of the war. He had one of the positions that George Baily of “It’s a Wonderful Life” had, white helmet and all. He told me stories of the POW’s being trucked down Main St in the early morning and back early evening. Many POW’s with very few guards. My dad was an avid photographer and had NO photos of the POW’s or the camp in use. I asked why he did not have any photos of that time other than some very few of non-war related events of the time. His answer was that the military orders were to not take any photos of prisoners or the camp and that exposed film was developed in Boise and the developers had strict orders from the military to report anything that looked suspicious and they did. So, no photos of the camp or it’s occupants.

  32. Hi! I am a high schooler in Idaho! I heard about this camp on a radio show. I have been doing research and am doing my National History Day project on this. Funnily enough, my house in Nyssa from birth to age five was built by Bernard Eastman, the father of the commenter above. Is there anyone who would be willing to show me any documents or photos they have that would be great! I would love to know more and hear your stories. Also, TaisieDesign, I would love to ask you a couple questions aswell.

    1. Hannah, I would recommend you contact Oregon State University. They have a collection on-line of photos from the camp. Here is the link to the photos
      You should read, if you already haven’t all the comments from other people that have commented on my post. Very interesting stuff. Please feel free to email me anytime at
      Leslie McMichael
      Taisie Design

      1. Thanks Leslie. I will make sure to get in contact with OSU. Sounds like a great source. And I have really enjoyed reading these comments on the blog as they each bring great insight and memories to this topic. I am loving seeing all of the connections and knowledge that is shared and communicated by each and every commenter on this blog post. I would love to talk and interview anyone with information on this and if you know of anyone who may be willing, that would be great! Thanks so much for this blog and for your help!

      2. Hannah, The person that might be your best contact for more info was the former Nyssa chamber of commerce president, Tom Cook. After discovering my blog post, he wrote articles about the camp for the Ontario newpaper “The Argus Observer”. He was also trying to gather as much information from the locals and old-timers still around to write a book about the camps in Malheur County. I don’t think he lives in Nyssa anymore and I don’t have contact info for him, Nyssa commerce might be able to help you track him down. Other than that, I haven’t done very much research on the subject other than what’s found on-line. Good luck with your school project. Let me know if you have any other questions. Leslie

    2. Hello Hannah! I am Pat Eastman, son of Bernard Eastman. I am very interested in knowing where the house is that you lived in when you were in Nyssa. The reality is that my father did not build any houses in Nyssa, but did own three that he, my mother, my brother and I lived in. He did start a contracted build of a home on 4th St just North of Park Avenue, but did not finish the project. Cliff Main lived in that house for many years. The first home they owend was on Main Street, 315 Main Street that served as their home and business office. That first little house was physically moved to a location in South Nyssa and it could have been on second or third street just North of King Ave. They moved the house to create room for the duplex office building that sits on that Main Street site currently. The second home was on Park Avenue, 304 Park Avenue where they lived from just after WWII until about 1986 when they moved to the corner of 4th & Emison street until 2003.

      1. Hi Pat. So it turns out my dad was mixed up for a second. We lived across the street from your mother on the opposite of 4th & Emison until 2004. We actually lived in a house that was originally owned by Everett Heldt, and was built by his father. I still remember meeting your mom and spending some time at her house when I was little. I remember when she passed, and we still have a couple furniture pieces she gifted to us, including a picnic table that we enjoy using regularly. I had to laugh at how small of a world it is when I saw your comment here on this blog.

      2. Well then, I remember you, your parents and I think I remember a brother?? Your folks were teachers? And, of course, I remember Everett Heldt quite well. He was the main accountant at the sugar factory and he and his mother lived in that house before you. I spent at least two weekends per month in Nyssa with my mom after my dad passed in 1995. Your folks were very kind to my mother toward the end of her stay at 4th & Emison. As a matter of fact, she wound up in your home at 3am in in the middle of the winter in an episode of delusion which she suffered from at that time. Well, please say hello to your folks for me. They were very kind to me and I even had Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, can’t remember which, in 2004 or so. Thanks again for writing back. Pat Eastman

      3. Pat I am the granddaughter and niece of Louise and Everett Heldt . My Dad, James (Jim) – the youngest and only living of the 6 boys. I was sent this article on Facebook by a very dear neighbor (Eileen Yamada Lamphere) who does a lot of the History of Japanese Interments camps and we have talked quite a bit about the Ontario area and she has relatives in the area still. I’m not very good at blogs, etc, but after reading the article and blogs and especially my uncles name in them the interest is much more now. I have printed out them and the article for my dad and mom. Dad (Jim) was the manager of the Sherwin-Williams Paint store in Ontario for many years until transferring to Walla Walla when I was going into 10th grade. He wanted so badly to attend the NHS reunion a few years back but because of health problems, could not. He is doing better now and folks have moved in to a Sr. Living place here in Kent WA near my family in the area. They are both 85 yrs. I remember Grandma telling me that the house across the street was the Eastman’s, Wasn’t it yellow at one point – maybe not but it has been a few years.

  33. My Dad was Dr. Ken Kerby of Nyssa, Mother, Zellah… they came to Nyssa from Missouri in August of 1937 to join Dr. Sazazin in a medical practice, Dad was in general practice and a surgeon. He was in the ROTC at Missouri University and was a Captain when he came to Nyssa. When Pearl Harbor broke out, he and Mom were on a picnic in Succor Creek with the Norcotts’, they had the car radio on and as soon as it came over the airwaves, all officers had to report immediately to the nearest Fort, which was Fort Lewis, Wa. They drove back home, put some clothes together, tossed the house keys to Bernard Eastman and said for him to take care of it, as they drove out of town. They drove all night and reported the next day. Dad was in the 3rd Division and after some logistics problems they headed to North Africa, to invade at Fedalla, just south of Casablanca. The 3rd Division continued across the north coast of Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, on to Anzio, Sicily, Salerno, and up the boot of Italy. Dad’s job was to go in with the 1st wave of each invasion and start surgery on the sand… he ended up heading up the Naples Hospital where he made friends with the people of Naples. When he came back to Nyssa, he was appointed the “camp Doctor” at the German POW camp, and as such, he would visit the camp often, sometimes every day because of sickness and injuries received by the working men. One day he asked the presiding officer of the camp if he could spare a couple of men to come work in the yard… 3 men came, one older and 2 younger, the youngest being about 17… the first day at noon, Mom called out to the men to come in for lunch, they did so reluctantly, she asked them to sit down at the table where Dad and Mom were seated, they hesitated… finally seated, Mom started passing the food around, roast beef, potatoes, gravy, bread, vegetables, milk… they looked at one another for a few moments, the older man began to sob, Dad told him it was OK, please go ahead and eat, they did. When lunch was finished, Mom brought out the pie… again tears welled up in their eyes, they couldn’t believe it. They came back for a week or so, every day they were fed a similar meal, every day they thanked Mom almost to a breaking point, they were incredibly grateful. On the last day, Mr. Weber, the older of the 3 men, asked Dad if he could take a mirror back to the camp which hung above a bar downstairs, he wanted to paint on it, Dad said yes and sort of forgot about it… about a month went by and Mr. Weber asked if he could come to the house and upon arriving he took a cover off a beautifully painted mirror, a scene of Mallard ducks taking off from water surrounded by cat tails… it was very well done, a true masterpiece. Come to find out, Mr. Weber was a master silversmith from the “Eastern side” before the war, very talented, it’s signed “Weber 1946”. For those people who were in the Kerby basement, they probably remember it well, hanging above the bar. The story doesn’t end there… Mom and Dad kept in touch with the Weber family, in the Eastern Bloc, writing back and forth. One day Mom received a letter from Mrs. Weber, stating that her new son-in-law had come down with Tuberculosis and would die if he didn’t get any life-saving drugs, sulfa I believe… so Dad went around and scrounged up all he could find, packaged them up well and sent them off… not knowing whether or not they would arrive safely because the Russians were stopping anything of value from getting in the Eastern side, they did get through, his life was saved… the family was forever grateful. It goes on at a later date, I’m out of room. S. Kerby 3-6-16

    1. Wow!! Thank you for taking the time to share this detailed and intimate part of your family history. Your father was an amazing man.
      I remember as a kid in the 1960s going to see your father or Dr. Danford at the doctors office downtown for shots, after accidents, etc…I can still picture that cold waiting room. Anyway, thanks again for sharing. Regards, Leslie Lane McMichael

    2. Steve: Always were and still are…The Man! Nice article and I’m sure you have much more to share about your family’s experiences with the “lucky” German soldiers who were happy to be in Nyssa instead of the “Russian Front” or Bastogne, Belgium, or Normandy, France at the time. It is fascinating that stories and experiences didn’t linger in the community regarding a German POW camp in the town even ten years after its closing. Growing up in the Nyssa area, everyone was aware of the Migrant Labor Camp, mainly inhabited by Hispanics, but only an extreme few knew of the former existence of a Prisoner of War Camp housing some of the most formidable, great soldiers in the history of the world. Susan Schenk’s Husband/

      1. Lon, thanks for the note… you are correct in that the German soldiers were among the best to ever go to war… Dad always said the German soldiers were for the most part well spoken, polite, and grateful for the care they received while in U.S. captivity. He should know, he did surgery on, repaired broken bones for, treated burn wounds, and gun shot wounds for literally hundreds, no probably several thousand, POW’s throughout all of North Africa and up through the boot of Italy over a 4 year period. Yes, they were the enemy, the Axis powers like the Italians.. however, they were human beings, they were fellow mankind… He took an oath when he graduated from medical school, that Hippocratic Oath swore him to care for, administer too, and save lives for, human beings whenever possible with whatever means possible… that he did. Remember, the average German soldier was simply following orders, they didn’t necessarily want to be there, especially after the first couple years after the war began. Many Germans spoke good English and Dad had many discussions with them as he treated them, they truly appreciated the care they were given. The Italians were not the soldiers the Germans were… they really didn’t want to fight, they had other things in mind. One day Dad was driving an ambulance truck back from the front and out of a ditch jumps an Italian soldier, at first Dad thought he might have to shoot the guy, but he came with “hands up”… then came another and another, finally there 37 of them and Dad just said, “get in the back of the truck”, which they did and gladly so.. he drove them some 5 miles back into headquarters where they “officially surrendered”. Medical personnel weren’t supposed to carry firearms, but Dad did on a regular basis because he was always near the front lines.

    3. Steve, I remember the mirror and the story. My Dad and Mom were friends of your parents. My Dad ran the Owyhee Dam “Dick” Stockham. I loved hearing your story as I remembered some of it as well as the mirror. But it has been SOOOO very long and getting old. Would love to here more stories.
      Beverly (Stockham) Jamison (Pee Wee) don’t tell anyone that ha, ha, ha LOL

      1. Dear Pee Wee, I remember you well, very well… send me your email so we can chat… my best, Steve

      2. Pee Wee, I forgot to give you my email… Where are you living these days? best, Steve

  34. Steve: It would be so fun to be able to sit with your father and hear of the experiences he had. Did he ever interface with General Patton? I have on fairly reliable source of a young girl in Junior High that spoke with German prisoners and escrowed their clothing as gray shirts and pants. One of them gave her friend a bracelet as they were walking back to camp one day. He had made the bracelet in camp and she describes them as very friendly young men. Thanks Steve for the stories. I would agree, the Italian soldiers were not the most respected by the opposition. In fact our Navy men referred to their naval men as “Chicken Of The Sea”. I wonder if that brand was even around back in the forties.

    1. Lon, Yes, Dad was in the 3rd Division, Pattons’ Division… his only direct contact with Patton was in a hospital in North Africa where Dad was a surgeon… the hospital itself was coming under fire from the Germans and things were chaotic, Dad was on one end of a litter with his head down trying to get a wounded onto a surgery table… as he was moving fast down a corridor, someone was standing in his way and Dad said without looking up, “get the hell out of the way”, and as he passed and looked up a bit, all he could see were 2 pearl handled revolvers… he knew well whose they were, he didn’t look up further and kept on moving, Patton moved aside quickly and never said a word. Dad was in the the hospital where Patton slapped the soldier for being “shell shocked”, however it happened in another wing from where Dad was at the time, Dad was not in attendance when the famous apology was made, but he knew it was going on at the time. Patton could be routinely seen in and around the Division, he kept a fairly high profile.

  35. I lived 2 blocks from the one in town.. I asked my Aunt how come I know what the cabins look like inside? I know about the building where the toleits & showers were. She replied you lived there a short time, till your dad got a house. That was after the war..

    1. JoAnn, Thanks for comments. Do you remember how many cabins or buildings were at the POW camp?
      I haven’t seen any pictures of the camp to know the size of it. What year did you live there? Regards, Leslie

  36. My mother worked at a sugar beet dump during part of the war and made friends with a few German POW’s who were driving beet trucks to and from the beet dump. She said most of them simply wanted Hitler to go away and the war to be over so they could return home.

    1. In the town of Nyssa was a Japanese War Camp on 2nd street down from the Sugar factory.. It was latter used for the farm laborers that came every spring. . I don’t know how many cabins.. In the center was the showers & bathrooms & laundry place. the cabins seemed to not have windows. Just a screen.. You lifted up the board that covered the window.. It seemed to be like 2 living areas. But it was just one big room. I’ve seem some cabins in other towns.. I lived there after the war was over.. I have no idea how long it was.. But not long…

  37. How do I find information about the German POW camp in Nyssa? My dad (US Army, Pvt. 1st class) was stationed there as a guard or corpsman. My mother drove from St. Louis Mo. to be with him, where we stayed in a motel (sort of) designated as married enlisted men quarters. I was there for some period, 1944-45, as a baby. The milk came by horse-drawn wagon; I recall petting the horse and his smooth velvety nose. I also recall VJ Day, in a beer bar with sawdust on the floor, held between my parents while they danced to the Beer Barrel Polka. Are there any other pictures of the town or the camp at that time?
    Thanks for whatever information you may provide.
    Mary A. Roth. (Father Alvin Roth). I am 74 years old.

    1. Mary, I’d contact the Nyssa Chamber of Commerce or the Nyssa History Museum. The City Hall in Nyssa could probably give you phone numbers or contact people. I wrote this blog back in 2011, it stirred up a lot of memories, since then people have been finding out more information about the camps. My personal research ended with the blog post. I found some photos from the camp at the time, click this link., I’m not sure if the link will work if not Google “Oregon State archives Nyssa POW Camp” or “Fighters on the Farm Front”, I found some photos. If you read through all the comments on the blog post you can find out a lot of personal stories. Good luck with your research, thanks for commenting. Regards,Leslie

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