One of the lesser-known events in the history of Timberville was the establishment of a German Prisoner of War Camp just outside of the town.
BRANCH CAMP # 7
GERMAN POW CAMP
(Prisoners of War)
Located about 3 miles west of town
During WW II, with food and supplies limited in war torn Europe, the U. S. Military began shipping German prisoners of war to military camps back in the United States. The POW Camps in Rockingham County were first established in1944 for three months (August – October) and reopened in 1945 (July-November) for the purpose of supplying much needed labor to the area. Branch Camp #7 located in Timberville was one of those camps. With many of the local men called into military service, labor on area farms and in the industries was limited. The camp was located on the Herman Hollar farm west of Timberville in a largely limestone field on a sloping ridge. According to an article in the Shenandoah Valley, (Sept. 27, 1945) the camp was constructed and maintained by prisoners. The German prisoners of war provided labor primarily for local farmers and orchards, the Rockingham Poultry Co., Zigler Cannery, H.E. Mason Sawmill, and Harrisonburg Junk & Hide.
In his book, A SCRAPBOOK OF HAPPENINGS TIMBERVILLE, VA, local historian, William A. Good of Athlone, recalled that while working for Zigler Cannery he drove a truck which delivered prisoners to job sites. Locals were intrigued, curious, and suspicious as they watched truckloads of the young blonde prisoners often singing on the back of trucks on their way to work. Good also recalled helping in the search for one escaped prisoner (maybe the only one who ever escaped). The German was found in the woods near the American Legion in Timberville and returned to the labor camp. Other local residents recalled attending church with a few of the prisoners. Bonnie Showalter, a longtime resident of Timberville recalls that local churches sometimes sponsored socials at Gordon’s Garage on N. Main St. for teens and some of the younger prisoners. In general, the prisoners seemed to have been treated well and were provided with adequate food and other provisions by the community. Several of the prisoners continued to correspond with local residents after returning to Europe at war’s end. Their letters frequently mentioned how much better their food and living conditions were here in the Valley than after their return to their war-torn homelands.
(Based on newspapers accounts and Greg Owen book, WEHRMACHT AUTUMNS.)
Aug.1— Germans arrived to construct the camp
Aug. 9 —First prisoners arrived
Aug. 17–Population of camp increased to 200 prisoners and 50 officers
Sept. 6– Prisoner escapes. Taken back to camp 12 hours later
Oct. 25—Mayland youth killed by a truck going to pick up prisoners for work
Nov. 1— Camp closed. 176 prisoners returned to Camp Pickett in Southern VA.
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1 – 4 pm
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176 N. Main St., Timberville VA 22853