Georgi Nikolov Visokov (1919-2004)
The last commandant of Camp#2
Georgi Visokov in 1943
( Courtesy of Georgi Visokov-son)
The following article was published in the Bulgarian journal " ONE LEGACY", N0.2, 1998, and translated without changes into English by Elder Helps. The translation was provided to Stanimir Stanev by Don R. Mathis (Carmichael, CA ,USA), who was serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bulgaria.
"Memories of the Anglo-American Pilots"
by Georgi Visokov
Sometime during May of 1944 I was called by the Shumen regiment, in which I was mobilized as a reserve officer, and I was ordered to appear at once before the military commander of the city, Lieutenant Colonel Voivodov. He informed me that because I had graduated from the College of World Economics in Vienna and spoke German fluently, he had decided to appoint me to a delicate assignment, which I would learn of from the head of the garrison, General Kovachev, commander of the 4th Preslav Division. From him I found out that a general prisoner of war camp was being created for all the saved Anglo-American pilots, currently scattered in various places throughout the country, that for this a place was set aside on Ilchov Hill by Shumen, where had been the old Turkish ammunition dump, used even now by our military, and that 1 was appointed as the head of this camp. Their housing would be in an existing building from Turkish times. They would bs supplied with hot food from the regimental kitchens, and beds and blankets would be received from the commissariat. For a full time guard we were allotted forty soldiers and a first sergeant, who would live in separate quarters in the camp. The camp would be fenced in with barbed wire. Concerning our relations with the prisoner it was very important to uphold the international statute for treatment of prisoners of war.
When I arrived at the place, set aside for the camp, I fell into despair. The building was in miserable condition, and there didnt exist any kind of conditions for tolerable living. The assignment, however, needed to be filled. Through round the clock labor from my men, the building was repaired, cleaned, and plastered, so that its.two big rooms began to look like barracks. Also put up was the barbed wire, which fenced in quite a spacious yard around the building.
The prisoners of war began to arrive in groups. They were still dressed in their uniforms, but without epaulets (shoulder tags), so that their ranks could be discovered solely from the quality of the fabric from which their clothing had been sewn. The large majority of them were young people under 30. Among them were only one black man and one mulatto. As I later found out, of all the 329 prisoners only 20 to 30 were Americans and even fewer English. The officers numbered 135, of which one was a lieutenant colonel,, two majors, three captains, 50 first lieutenants, and 79 second lieutenants. Most of the prisoners of war represented a conglomerate from the U.S.A., Canada, and all European nations. I had the impression that among the officers were many Serbs.
When everybody had been gathered together, I caused them to form up and after I had welcomed them into their new, temporary home, I explained to them in German the conditions by which they would live, and the rules, which they must keep. From my first words I understood from their indifference toward the feet that I was speaking, that they caught nothing of what was said. Then I asked if there was anyone who could translate from German to English. After a long silence, a young man came forward - a Czech, who subsequently became the official translator of the camp occupants and was a great help to me.
I informed the prisoners that regarding the regulations, complete liberty was given to the prisoners of war and that they themselves should choose leaders to take care of their welfare. As a contact, however, one of these leaders must be pointed out to me immediately. My appeal, which I repeated several times, for a long time remained unanswered Finally stepped forward a stocky, middle-aged man, who turned out to be Walter Smith, a major from the American airfare. His attitude toward me was at first disparaging, but gradually improved and by the end of the sojourn in the cam became even friendly. Major Smith came out as an authoritative figure, and although among the camp occupants there was a higher ranking officer, all obeyed him.
The first evening the camp occupants arranged themselves in the quarters by order of their entering them. On the second day, however, they rearranged themselves, placing only officers in the smaller room. I was impressed that they did not accept among them the black man, who was also an officer and by profession a military doctor.
Everyday life in the camp passed by peacefully. All understood that me war was nearing its end and that they need have but little patience in waiting-for the return to their native homes. Their condition improved greatly when from Switzerland (from the Red Cross) they started to receive entire boxes with food, books, and clothes for them. After that they all but rejected the military soup, which we ourselves ate. During the day they played sports, read books, took walks, or rested. There were no escape attempts.
Gradually my relationship with the prisoners became almost friendly, f became especially close with two Dutch brothers Hubert and Louis van der Mueller, who spoke superb German. They found out from me the developments of the war events on the
fronts, so tflat it was not a big surprise for everyone when the Soviet army rushed into Bulgaria. When, the Russians entered Shumen, however, they did not desire to meet with them.
Several days before the 9th of September, 1944, were received orders for the prisoners io depart through Svilengrad for Tsarigrad. Our farewell was quite heartfelt Many of them had me write as a souvenir on their green dollars. When, however, I proposed to Major Smith to write down a few lines to confirm that during the time of the imprisonment we had treated them well, he declined.
At 1 h 30 min. in the morning, all the prisoners of war were transported with twelve trucks with awnings and one jeep to the Shumen train station, from which a train put together especially for them, made up of first and second class cars, took them up to Svilengrad. The population of Shumen had been informed of the hour of their departure and had flocked to the train station to send them off with flowers.
Immediately after their departure, Russian soldiers came into the camp and took away the cases of provisions from Switzerland, left for us during the farewell of the P.O. W.s.
In the first few days after the 9th September, 1944,1 was summoned to Sofia by Major Smith, where I went with a special airplane. I was officially thanked for the good treatment of the Anglo-American prisoners of war and simultaneously received an offer to leave for the United States. I declined, because my unit was leaving for the front in the still unfinished Second World War.
After my return from the front, still dirty and unshaven, I was invited to Sofia by a group of "my" prisoners of war (already part of the American war mission in Bulgaria) in firewall "Bulgaria," and our reunion went very affectionately.
During March 1992, fully 48 years after the end of the Second World War, I was invited to the American legation in Sofia by the director of its civil department, Mr. Roderick Moor, to recount again the short history of the prisoner of war camp. Thusly do the Americans take care to document the events of their war history.
One of the last pictures of Georgi Visokov
( Courtesy of Georgi Visokov-son)
The last phone conversation between Mr. Visokov ( lived in Sofia) and Prof. Stanev was on 17 of June 2004.