Maureen Osborne's recollections of Biberach and Wurzach
From WW2 People’s War – An archive of World War Two memories, written by the public, gathered by the BBC
People in story: Maureen Venables (nee Osborne)
Location of story: Jersey, Biberack in Germany, Wurzack
Contributed on: 22 June 2004
Having to leave Jersey for Germany
"I was born in Jersey. At the start of the war, I was a little girl living in Jersey, with my brother. My father was Welsh, my mother was Jersey, and the Germans interned you if there was someone in your family who was British.
"I was about 10 when they interned us. The Germans had occupied Jersey. Something happened, and in retaliation, the Germans decided to intern us. We got orders that you had to be packed and ready and that you could only take so much. You were told, you had your date. We had to be at the harbour, because we were shipped out. The first place was St Malo, and then by train, and the first camp was Biberach in Germany. We stayed there about six months. It was barracks. We were all together, but separate in the camp.
"We were taken from Biberach by train, and then we had a long, long walk to the next camp, Wurzach. We were there two years, nine months. Sons were sent away to another place at 16 above Laufen, but my parents were together, but in separate parts of the camp. And the fathers could visit at certain times.
Life in the camps
"It was my mother, me and my brother, and we were in a very large room containing lots and lots of families, most of whom were from the Channel Islands. Other people, Jewish people, were sent there later on. We were prisoners, but we knew they were far worse off than us, so we took them our soup. They were in such a bad, bad way.
"We knew the guards, who would let us out the fence to pick flowers. And we knew the guards who we wouldn’t ask at all.
"We didn’t have much schooling. We used to be taught in the dungeons, because it was a big mansion. (I gather the murals are absolutely amazing. It’s a hotel now. It’s lovely.) "I eventually got back to Jersey when I was 12 years old.
"We were liberated by the French. (The French came first, and then the Americans.) And they didn’t know we were there; they didn’t know there was a camp there. The people running the camp had prepared the dungeons, but the people in charge went with someone in the village with a white flag to meet the troops. And they had their guns on them, because they didn’t know it was a POW camp.
"It was only when the Germans and the head of the village came with the white flags appeared that they realised. So they came and opened the gates, and we all went out. It was amazing. We just went. I think the camp was empty.
"But it was very dangerous. You just couldn’t go off, because you knew they were hunting people down. So they brought in conditions.
"Our barbed wire: we were one side, and the Hitler youth camp was just over the wire. We knew what they were, but we felt sorry for them. We felt we were better off.
"We had a ballroom, a theatre. And when we were liberated, the authorities would hold dances. But the Americans and the French didn’t get on, so they had to be separate. I remember the Americans coming in for their dancing and having a wonderful time. And also being out with the French soldiers as well: our parents didn’t know, but we used to pinch their hats and get them to chase us.
"After the liberation, we were driven by trucks by the Americans to a big airport until they flew us back to a centre in Paddington. We were one of the last to stay, because we couldn’t get back to Jersey. And we had to find a relative in England. My father being Welsh, we went and stayed with his sister in Wales. I went to school in Wales, so obviously it was some time before we got back to Jersey.