History of WWII – POWs in Lanark

We know that Lanark area folks contributed to the World War II effort in many ways. Not only did they send their sons to war, but they raised extra food, purchased war bonds, wrapped bandages, participated in the rationing of food, rubber, iron, farm machinery, and countless other items, mourned with their community when a loved one was killed in service to his country, and even helped with the safety and security of enemy soldiers—German Prisoners of War (POWs). Yes, Lanark was home for several summer months in 1944 and 1945 for up to 375 German POWs.

According to an article in The Lanark Gazette on June 14, 1945, “for the second year in a row German prisoners of war from Camp Grant (Rockford, IL) were called upon to help relieve a critical manpower shortage in the Lanark, Illinois food processing industries.” The article stated also that the 375 POWs would be paid “$0.80 a day in coupons redeemable at the prisoners’ canteen.” Prisoners were supervised by one or more officers and 45 enlisted men. They were housed “in tents in a fenced-in area (barbed wire) which will be lighted at night and constantly manned by trained escort guards.”

This project was “certified by the Farm Bureau, State Department of Agriculture, and the United States Employment Service as essential to the war effort.” Apparently the effort was successful because The Lanark Gazette reported that July 12, 1945 was a “banner day at the Fuhremann Canning Company, when 13,600 cases of peas were turned out.”

Read more about the POWs and memories of those who remember the time in the book “Sesquicentennial Lanark IL 1861-2011