Experiencing Camp Atlanta

During a visit to Holdrege, you'll discover how German prisoners came to a POW Camp in Nebraska during World War II.

We recently visited the Nebraska Prairie Museum, where you'll find an extensive exhibit about Camp Atlanta. Sandra Slater said originally, an "objectors" camp was requested, but what the area got was a German POW Camp. "Camp Atlanta held 3,000 prisoners," Slater said. "On November of 1943, the prisoners came by train, and walked across the road, and into the camp. Side camps were also started in other towns. The prisoners helped farmers in the area, to make up for a labor shortage, as many Americans were serving in the war."

Slater says that the German prisoners of war were treated well. "I think most of them felt like they were out of the war, they weren't being shot at, and the food was better than in their own armies," Slater said. "They had all kinds of activities, they made things out of wood, they even had an orchestra."

Many of the POW's wanted to stay in the United States, but they had to go back when the war was over. But, some applied for citizenship back to the U.S. There are a few remnants left of Camp Atlanta. "There is a water tower and a chimney," Slater said. "Some of the foundations are still there. Fortunately, it's all by the highway, so when you look over to the right you can see the chimney and the water tower." There is also a Nebraska history marker where people can pull off the highway to learn more.

The Nebraska Prairie Museum features an exhibit on the camp, and in particular, it features paintings done by the some of the POW's themselves. "All of those things you see in the exhibit, the prisoners had made," Slater said. "I hope that people will come to see this, as this is very unique, and people will learn a lot."