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Prisoner of war camp in Okel

In the village of Okel near Syke, about 20 kilometres south of Bremen, there was a camp for Soviet prisoners of war during the 2nd World War. The camp was a work detachment and was accommodated on the Seevers manor in Schulstraße. 

Between 50 and 53 Soviet prisoners of war coming from the Stalag XC Nienburg were assigned to this work detachment with the number 1014. The number varies because there were some escape attempts or some prisoners of war were transferred to another place or to Okel. 

When the prisoners arrived, these were malnourished people who had to do mainly agricultural work on the farms, but also fire-fighting and clean-up work in the event of a fire that destroyed an entire property. 

Very little is known about the camp. So far, there are indications mainly from the perspective of the local residents. The local newspaper, the "Allgemeine Anzeiger für die Gemeinden des vormaligen Amtes Syke", for example, warned in an article entitled "Entwichene Kriegsgefangene arrest" on  November 6th, 1941 of the danger posed by Soviet prisoners of war.  Nevertheless, some families saw them primarily as helpful labourers and treated them better than the regulations known from information sheets allowed. Other peasants beat the prisoners and starved them. The prisoners had to change farms again and again or were transferred to other work detachments, as they were not allowed to establish a close relationship with the peasant families. 

Looking back, some former residents remembered about the Soviet prisoners of war and emphasized their good relationship. Thus Heinrich Winkelmann reports in the „Syker Zeitfenster 1919-1949 Band 4. April 1945 Kriegsende in Syke – Zeitzeugen berichten“  that he had been able to establish a very good relationship with the prisoner of war Alexander Didenko, who had helped him at the end of the war and could prevent looting and acts of revenge on the farm of the Winkelmann family by other prisoners. 

Around the end of March and beginning of April 1945 British troops approached and marched through the village. Some of them began attacks on Bremen from there and from neighbouring villages. At this time British soldiers, prisoners of war and civilian forced labourers plundered the village. 

According to witnesses there were also acts of revenge against the people of Okel. A farmer had murdered one of the prisoners of war and was killed in front of his family by the other prisoners of war. It is also documented, however, that where farmers had treated the prisoners well, they ensured that the farmers and their families were spared the looting. 

On April 30th 1945, about 50 women from Syke and the surrounding villages were transported to the recently liberated Stalag XB Sandbostel by order of the British military government. Soviet prisoners of war were imprisoned under similar catastrophic conditions in this camp as in the Nienburg camp of Stalag. The women from Syke had to bury the bodies of the deceased and look after the sick. In addition to practical help, this work was also intended to serve as shock therapy. The horrors experienced and seen there were to be spread by the women in their homeland. 
Today, the Seevers manor no longer exists; instead, there are residential houses and small farms as well as the associated agricultural land. 

There is no reference to the former prisoner-of-war camp, nor is there any public memory of it. Meanwhile, there are only a few people left in Okel and Syke who remember the camp. Older people who experienced the war as children are often willing to talk about their memories of the war, including the air raids on Bremen and Syke. The memory of the POW camp, on the other hand, is rather superimposed.  

In the Nostalgie Museum in Okel, where mainly vehicles, but also pictures of Okel's local history are exhibited, you can find pictures of the Seevers manor, but none of the prisoner-of-war camp. More detailed information about the POW camp cannot be found there. The address of the museum is Okeler Straße 10, 28857 Syke. The museum is usually only open on weekends from 14.00. 
 At the moment,  the Schulstraße in Okel is difficult to access due to a longer construction period (status 2019). 
 There are no actors who deal with the prisoner-of-war camp. 

1. Stadt Syke, VHS Landkreis Diepholz (2011): Syker Zeitfenster 1919-1949 Band 4. April 1945 Kriegsende in Syke – Zeitzeugen berichten. Syke: Goihl Druck GmbH 
2. Eintrag zum Arbeitskommando 1014, Okel, Schulstraße (Kreis Grafschaft Hoya) in der Datenbank: Arbeitskommandos mit sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen in Norddeutschland 
Sites of memory