"Yeah, that was a big deal. That was a big deal in Bertrand. They had the base camp, or the main camp at Atlanta, [Nebraska] which was probably 30 minutes away. And then, the farmers needed help because all the able-bodied young men were in the war effort. So, they wanted – The way I heard it, anyhow, they wanted to bring in some prisoners. So they established a base camp in this little town of Bertrand, right on Main Street. There was a big two-story building where a grocery store had been. As a young boy, I thought it was a huge building. I look at it now, it's not nearly as big. But, I thought it was a huge building. And they put a barbed wire fence around on the sidewalk on two sides. It sat on the corner. And they had a guardhouse in the front and in the back, and it was full of these prisoners. So after they moved into town, on Saturday night, you know, we were all pretty big-eyed. And we'd sit on the corner and watch the prisoners as they would walk around. I was fortunate enough that a cousin of mine was married to a soldier who had been wounded, and he come back to be a guard. He was from Minnesota, but he happened to be a guard right there. So, we had kind of – I thought I had an inside track because I could talk to the guard because I knew him, and all that. And that was a big deal in the little town of Bertrand. And then these prisoners went out and worked for the farmers...
   "We couldn't communicate with them. But, it just brought the war closer to us, and it was just – having that right here in our little town. It was, I don't know why, but it was just a big thing...
   "As I recall, my dad never actually used them, but our neighbor across the road had alfalfa and sugar beets. So, he used them a lot. And we'd go over there. My dad thought he could understand German. He was of German decent. He wasn't very good. He didn't communicate very well...
   "My dad would be talking to them and they'd ask how old I was. And my dad would tell them. Well, they had a boy at home a lot bigger than I was. I was little compared to the way they remembered their son, you know...
   "And they were pretty much there on their own. There might be a half-dozen working in a field, and I'm not sure there was even a guard anywhere around. I think they just brought them – The farmer would go into town, pick them up in the morning, get them going on what they were supposed to do and take them into town at night. At least my memory tells me that there was never a guard out there on those farms...
   "Several of them [the POWs] have come back and that even some of them had come back to live in that area. And I'm not personally acquainted with them. Also, quite a few of the guards ended up staying in that area because they liked it there and it fit. But, again, as an 11, 12, 13 year old boy, I got the feeling they thought they were a lot better off being at the Atlanta Prison of War camp, or Bertrand, than they would have been if they'd still been in the service. They didn't want to go anyplace."

Kelly Holthus on POWs


Other Excerpts from Kelly Holthus' Interview:

Pearl Harbor
Effect of the War
War to a 10-year-old
Bomber Crash
School Consolidation
Wartime Labor Shortage
Postwar Boom
Banking in the 40s
Cash Flow Lending Now
Importance of Irrigation
Water Contamination
Split Brakes
Victory Gardens