Did you know there was a German POW camp in Greensboro during World War II? Many Greensboro residents at that time were probably unaware of the camp.
The facility, with more than 300 German prisoners of war, was part of the Overseas Replacement Depot (ORD), a military camp located in northeast Greensboro. The Germans’ quarters were near what is now English Street.
The Germans worked on local farms, which worked well for both them and the farmers. Farmers needed extra hands since many local men were away at war and the Germans preferred farming to fighting in Europe. Also, they earned 80 cents a day for their work from the American government. Eventually, the prospect of Germans escaping from the camp seemed unlikely,so guards were no longer needed to watch them while they worked.
Some people thought the prisoners were treated too well. African American historian John Hope Franklin came to Greensboro to attend Bennett College’s commencement ceremony and then returned to Durham by train. He and his friends sat in a “Jim Crow” car placed where soot from the locomotive’s boiler entered their car. They saw German POWs sitting in another coach and realized they were traveling more comfortably, and in greater dignity, than black American citizens.
College professors taught the Germans about democracy. Possibly as a result of this training, some POWs later became leaders in a democratic Germany while others immigrated to America and became citizens here.
The North Carolina Collection’s file under “Military Camps” includes more information on this topic.