The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 80, July 1976 - April, 1977 Page: 282
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
turned into farmland or real estate developments, and are all but forgot-
ten. Only the persistently curious chronicler or the accidentally lucky tour-
ist may stumble across an old camp site, or happen to chat with a local
resident who might dimly recall the appearance of the prisoners of war in
his community. In the main, however, those days have slipped by, un-
recorded, except as they added a few more varicolored threads to the
rich tapestry of Texas history.
If the local communities have forgotten about those days, the prisoners
have not. Because the Germans saw their incarceration as an extension
of their wartime military service, former prisoners meet for periodic re-
unions both in Germany and in Texas. More than three hundred former
prisoners from the Mexia camp, for example, gathered for a reunion at
Heidelberg in June, 1973, and crammed their signatures on several 6"
x 8" photo postcards, which they mailed to favorite guards and special
friends like Val Horne and J. Fort Smith. A few former prisoners, now
affluent German and Austrian citizens, return to their old camp sites
periodically to stroll through the "old neighborhood," noting changes and
reminiscing. Some communities like Kaufman have taken a personal in-
terest in the career of a former POW-in this case a now prosperous
German banker, Heinz Koppius-and close correspondence is maintain-
ed by a number of townspeople. In what must be one of the more ironic
epilogues of the POW experience in Texas, three former prisoners, Werner
Richter, Walter Littman, and Karl Janisch, were honored by Mexia Mayor
Billy Pollard, during one of their periodic pilgrimages in October, 1971,
with certificates of honorary citizenship of Mexia and the Keys to the
City !63 Similar reunions have taken place at nearly every Texas commun-
ity which hosted a camp during the war.
It was during one of these reunions, this one at Hearne with a former
POW named Wilhelm Sauerbrei, that the best summary of the prisoner
of war experience in Texas was made. While driving up from Houston
in a car full of community dignitaries and reporters, the former Afrika
Korps corporal regaled the occupants with stories and recollections about
his days in Texas.
"You must have had it pretty easy," the Houston reporter commented.
"I'll tell you, pal," Sauerbrei said confidentially, "if there is ever another
war, get on the side that America isn't, then get captured by the Amerians,
-you'll have it made!"64
63Mexia Daily News, October 5, 1971.
64McCarver and McCarver, Hearne on the Brazos, 82 (quotation).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 80, July 1976 - April, 1977, periodical, 1976/1977; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101204/m1/326/: accessed September 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.