"The INCORPORATION OF FORCE (August 1942): The memory of a drama"
from a work prepared by his grandson
Brigades of woodcutters in the forest of Rada
A hut of the camp 188.
General Petit and General Petrov inspect prisoners a last time before their
Leaving the camp 7 July 1944.
It had been 25 years when he received at his home in Bendorf, a peaceful
village of the Jura Alsatian, the order of mobilization of the Wehrmacht,
the cursed induction order, so feared by the young Alsatians-Lorrains susceptible
to be concerned by the incorporation by force in the army of the Reich (prescription
of 25 August 1942). Arthur Dangel no longer had any idea in his head but to
escape to Switzerland. But having had knowledge of his project, the Gestapo
stopped him 13 February 1943 in Ferrette at the wheel of his bus. As a lot
of youths in his class, he will see his native Alsace only in May 1945. After
the Russian front in the Middle East then passing by the camp of Tambow, Arthur
Dangel will have known tests and tears of Malgre-Nous (in spite of?) taken
in the chain of a war that no one wanted.
In returning to Mulhouse at the wheel of his bus between Winkel-Mulhouse
that Wednesday 13 February 1943, Arthur Dangel, younger son of a family of
4 children and son of the flour dealer of Bendorf, reflected on the manner
that he was going to take to pass clandestinely the Swiss frontier, a distant
of only 3 km of the village. He had his share of projects to finish. His flawless
knowledge of places invited him to appear trustful as for his odds of success.
But he arrived the road station of Ferrette, to the painful surprise to see
climbing in the bus two men of the Gestapo that summoned him to follow them.
A. Dangel had to render to the obviousness; his plan had been leaked.
The Nazi vice shut on the rebellious.
After a strong first muscle interrogation in Ferrette, A. Dangel was sent
to Mulhouse where he passed his first night in prison. The next day, enclosed
in cellular trucks, A. Dangel and his comrades of misfortune were transferred
to the camp of Schirmek. According to an implacable chronology, 7 to 8 weeks
he worked in quarries as well as daily deprivation, sufficed to suffocate
all passing fancy of resistance. The Nazi thought that A. Dangel and his comrades
that had dared to defy the Reich were henceforth okay to integrate the Wehrmacht.
A train took them to Prague where they passed the Council of Revision before
sending them to the Crimea; waiting for them severe discipline of a regiment
of infantry specially conceived for difficult cases. But A. Dangel was not
among those that gave up easily. Resistant to the fascist ideology and to
its propaganda, he had only one desire: to join Russian ranks when the opportunity
And finally the opportunity was presented 10 September 1943, during of an
attack of artillery in the direction of the Russian lines. A. Dangel accompanied
then by 6 other comrades passed to the camp of the liberators. To the humiliation
from the incorporation by force, succeeded the hope to find dignity lost.
But the hope collapsed rapidly. At his arrival in the Russian camp, it was
impossible, despite all the sincerity that he used, to convince the soviet
officer that he was of French nationality. For the Red Army Arthur Dangel
and his comrades were only simple deserters of the German army. Thus began
for him a second calvary that was be marked by a long and difficult confinement
at the sadly famous camp of Tambow, where close to 10,000 Alsatians-Lorrains
The first stop on this path was at Scharkov after more than 10 days of walking.
This camp, conceived for prisoners of war characterized by conditions of extremely
precarious hygiene but equally by its brewing of peoples and ethnic groups
(Italians, Poles, Germans...). Arthur Dangel, exhausted by the daily work
no longer found even the force to feel resentment with regard to Russians,
or even of his homeland, he submitted to his detention and listening to the
And after three weeks of confinement, Russian authorities transferred the
best to them to the camp of Tambow, where no prisoner had at that moment heard
of. After first sorting, all the prisoners they gathered and posted. They
walked through a hostile and monotonous Russia.
After 15 days of walking necessary for the convoy of prisoners to join the
camp of Tambow, situated 450 kilometers from Moscow. At their arrival, the
captive Alsatians were sorted and brought to camp 188.
At first light of the day, Arthur looked to the skylight of the cabin and
discovered the environment of the camp. Composed a hundred of huts connected
by paths of sand, he was surrounded by imposing enclosures equipped with watchtowers.
To the view of these impressive devices, he was constrained to reason: an
escape would have been a suicidal action.
Concerning his hut in the woods, composed of four rows of platforms at two
levels, a table and a stove of brick, he characterized was worn out by discomfort.
They first met with the administration of the camp at place during of the
"proverka", the assembly and the reporting of prisoners. Exposed during several
hours to the biting cold of Russia, Arthur felt his forces leave him. But
he resisted and was astonished at the "Chant of the departure". After the
passage of the commander and the traditional "zdrawstwyi tovaritch kommandant,"
he reentered his hut, paralyzed by the cold and hunger.
The day of his entry to the camp, he learned, "Whoever does not fill the
norm of work in the USSR, does not eat". Arthur discovered at his new job,
consisting of sawing wood in the forest of Rada. Because of swollen
legs, he decided to stop an instant. But the Mongol guard make him understand
by insulting knocks that the work does not wait.
Soon, another injury at the camp provoked the placement of Arthur in quarantine.
Reserves of water were insufficient and the Russian authorities decided to
stock water in a nearby pool. But this bacterium infested water fathered an
epidemic of amoebic dysentery. Arthur was brought to the hospital of the camp
to be nursed there.
He benefited from commodities sent by Americans, he gradually recovered
with the help great spoonfuls of sunflower oil. It was a miracle, and Arthur
was authorized to rejoin his cabin.
In the beginning of the month of May, after nine month of confinement, rumors
begin to circulate as to a possible departure from the camp. To questions
of prisoners at that time the reply without ceasing was "savtra", they were
told tomorrow. But, three later days, Arthur exulted when during a "proverka"
it was announced the official Alsatian departure. It improved the morale of
The whole month of June was devoted to medical visits and to the various
preparations for 1,500 likely Alsatians to be repatriated to Algiers. The
selection was based on precise criteria, that were seniority and their physical
condition, Arthur seemed to meet these different criteria but did not rejoice
On 4 July 1944, Arthur was given a Soviet uniform: the calvary came to an
end! On 5 July General Petit and the Alsatian Captain Neurohr arrived to visit
the camp. At this time, the water had been quickly installed as well as dishes
and a strip of flowers surrounding the huts.
On 8 July, all this masquerade was finished to make the regime look good
was finished. The day of 9 July began early for 1,500 Alsatians, impatient
to leave the cursed place. After hours passed in sorting and an alphabetical
call, the convoy, divided in four sections was put in motion after lying down
in the sun. It was with an emotional thought for prisoners remaining that
Arthur passed the portal of the camp, adorned for the opportunity by a red
Appearing at the station of Rada, the prisoners embark on a train of carriages
For about 22 hours, the convoy shook and went in direction of the
The convoy passed successively by Voronesh-Rostov, the Caucasus and the
Caspian Sea, from Machatschkala to Baku, to reach the Iranian frontier on
14 July 1944.
At Djoulfa, the last stop before leaving Russian territory, the commissioner
Ollari harangued the soldiers a last time to return in Russia only as friends.
The train continued then to Sofian, the terminus of the journey through Russia.
1,500 men were then conducted by Russians in the direction of Teheran, to
an English camp. The change of regime was hard for Arthur, accustomed to rare
and poor food, he regurgitated all that they ate. Consequences were not made
to wait: indigestion and vomiting succeeded. Another contrast: the climate.
Accustomed to the cold climate of Russia, he did badly in the sultry
temperature of Iran. Note that he changed for the third time his uniform
to that of the English army.
But aside from these annoyances, life summarized his rights: the proof was
the recovered liberty of religious worship.
On 27 July, the convoy left at night to avoid the unbearable heat of the
day. After making stops in Takesstan, Kermansha and Bagdad, the breadth of
Mesopotamia and the desert of Syria they reached the port of Haifa in Palestine.
Amazed by the beauty of the city in total harmony with the ocean, Arthur and
his companions were welcomed in the British camp 209, situated 12 km from
Haifa. Seeking protection from the suffocating heat, he found refuge in pyramidal
tents under cedars. But Arthur felt frustrated not to be able to visit the
Holy Land by reason of his shaved cranium, all the more that he got his first
pay of 250 thousands.
On 8 August 1944, a delegation of the association of Free Alsace-Lorraine
visited the camp so as to investigate conditions of their incorporation in
the German army and on circumstances of their confinement in Russia. In view
of their skeletal aspect, they rendered accounts of deprivations endured during
the long months. This very cordial encounter finished by tasting composed
of Alsatian specialties to which 1,485 were honored.
On 17 August, GMC trucks transported Arthur and his companions to the port
of Haifa. They embarked then in a boat, the Ruys, accumulated in overheated
The next day, authorized to climb to the bridge, Arthur observed that the
boat sailed already in high seas in direction south. Sudden, the siren of
the boat resounded in a rescue exercise. The men were then informed of their
destination: they were going to Port-Said where a convoy awaited them for
their destination of Taranto, in Italy.
At the exit of the canal of Suez, the Ruys was joined by a series of escorts,
the sea being infested with German submarines.
On 21 August, the alert was given on board the boat at the locating of a
submarine enemy. It emerged almost simultaneously and two men shook a white
flag. The submarine surrendered in Egypt with the agreement of the allies:
the tension fell on board the ship.
On 23 August, the boat arrived in the port of Taranto. Immediately they
disembarked, men were ordered to a barracks so as to avoid all contact with
the population. Many encounters had already taken place between Italians
and French soldiers.
In evening of 27 August, they embarked on board the ship, City of
Oran, passed the Italian sea coast, then to Maghreb and appeared on 29 August,
at the beginning of the afternoon, in the port of Algiers.
At the beginning, Arthur observed with astonishment that an immense merry
making crowd was massed in the port. It was established that the Committee
of Free France and the Red Cross were behind this welcome. Questioned by the
press on conditions of their detention, the old convicts did not risk to
frustrate the Russians, thinking of their comrades remaining at Tambow. At
what cost their feeding of the Stalinist propaganda.
Conducted to an old barracks in the suburbs of Algiers, they changed into
the French uniform, the fourth since the start of the conflict. Having retained
the hard discipline from the Nazi camps, they do not take long to be accustomed
to the French arms handling and to the long parades.
On 14 September, not seeing real improvements of health, the generals decided
to accelerate the improvement in form. They send men to Ténès,
in buildings adjoining the sea.
In the month of September, representatives of the French army were delegated
to Ténès, so as to incorporate Alsatians according to their
own will. Arthur, after mature consideration, was committed to the 675th heavy
automotive preparation and transportation company.
On 6 October, the Company was driven in trucks to a camp in the suburbs
of Algiers to get American material: all men were then given arms, following
their allocation, and a haversack containing all American equipment.
Day nine of instruction passed until the news of the return to France. To
the morning of the departure for Marseilles, passengers of the Joseph Dickmann
supported badly rolling conditions caused by a sea strong. Arthur was saved
from the pain of sea and observed the escorts tower to tower to appear and
disappear in the waves.
Angered to find the land closed, the men spent the night in a new camp situated
in the heights of Marseilles.
The campaign for Germany began really for Arthur during his arrival at the
base in Dijon. They had fight to insure a connection between Dijon and Treves,
notably to transport there supplies and material for the soldiers.
The campaign for Germany ended on 8 May 1945, the date of the surrender
without condition of Germany. It was for him the end of a long journey that
had led him through all Europe and the Mediterranean.
His arrival in Bendorf provided relief for his parents that clearly meant
that their son could be alive as well as dead...
François and Arthur Dangel
Arthur and Jim Dangel
Here are the different decorations that Arthur has obtained
concerning the drama of the war of 1939-1945:
-Medal of fugitive (1971)
-Medal of the Voluntary Combatant
-Military Medal (1977)
-Cross of War with Palm
-Knight of the Legion of Honor (1984)
James R. Dangel
1504 Sawmill Creek Road
Sitka, Alaska 99835 USA
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