German POWs buried in Fort Meade, Maryland
Did you know that here in Maryland, in Anne Arundel County, thirty three German Prisoner of War soldiers are buried? According to the website for Fort George G. Meade Museum (www.ftmeade.army.mil/Museum/Museum_POW.html during World War II, Fort Meade was home to a number of German prisoners of war. In September 1943, the first shipment of 1632 Italian and 58 German prisoners arrived at Fort Meade. Some of those prisoners, including a highly decorated German submarine commander named Werner Henke, died during their captivity and were buried at Fort Meade. In fact, there are 33 buried there according to Anne Arundel County History Notes in 1995. There is a listing with their names, birth dates and death dates at the site above, however a few discrepancies were found, so a list or transcription is included with this page. Also, most of the stones have been photographed and are on ‘Find a Grave’s’ website. Click here to view the headstones for the German Prisoners of War.
It is true that the most famous of the interred here is Lieutenant Werner Henke. Henke was born on May 13, 1909 in Thorn, Germany and died on June 15, 1944 at Fort Hunt in Virginia, where he climbed the fence on June 15, 1944, the day before the prisoners were to be moved to Canada. He did not heed to the alarm calls and was shot by the guards. Lieutenant Henke served on the U-Boat 515, which was sunk by the US on April 9, 1944. Henke was captured with several members of his crew. He was promoted posthumously to Korvettenkapitän (which is equivalent to our naval lieutenant commander). He was a highly decorated and respected officer of the German navy. His honors included: Iron Cross 2nd Class, Spanish Cross in Bronze without Swords, U-boat War Badge 1939, Iron Cross 1st Class, Knights Cross and the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves. There is a book that has been published, ‘Lone Wolf’, The Life and Death of U-Boat Ace Werner Henke, written by Timothy Mulligan and published in 1993. There are several versions of Henke’s death and theories. The most popular is that he purposely walked to the fence in broad daylight and was shot when he wouldn’t heed warnings…to avoid being sent to Great Britain where he was wanted for war crimes.
Every year in November, for the celebration of Volkstrauertag (German Memorial Day) the German Embassy and other guests lay wreaths and decorate with German colors the graves of those interred there.
German POW’s Interred at Fort George Meade
Meanings of Ranks:
· Soldat: Soldier/Private
· Obersoldat: Private First Class
· Gefreiter: similar to a Lance Corporal: Historically in German armies, a Gefreiter was an experienced soldier who by virtue of seniority was exempted from more menial duties.
· Obergefreiter: OBGEFR: Senior ‘exempt’.
· Uscha- Oberscharführer was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that existed between 1932 and 1945. Translated as “senior squad leader”.