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LOP resident held prisoner in Stalag 17

Dan BurkhartMark Osweiler was shot and captured by the Germans in France.
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When Mark Osweiler moved to Lake of the Pines 20 years ago, there were a lot of World War II prisoners inside the gates to swap old war stories with.

Osweiler can only share his experiences today with the reflection in the silver dog tags given to him by the German army as a prisoner of war.

It’s not often he thinks of Dec. 23, 1944, the day German troops brought him to Krems, Austria, home of the Stalag 17 prison camp, where Osweiler spent five months before liberation brought him home.



For those who remember the sepia-toned 1952 movie that made William Holden a star, Osweiler is a living reminder of the bleakness of the camp, where 29,000 prisoners, including 4,300 Americans, waited until the Germans’ resistance wore down.

Osweiler was captured outside of Nancy, France, after a German soldier shot him in the leg. He emerged from an abandoned home after hiding two days, only to be met by a German soldier who greeted him with a cigarette instead of a bullet.




“I thought I was pretty lucky,” said Osweiler, 87, a native of Lewistown, Mont., who was 28 when the Germans captured him. “I have a pretty high opinion of a guy who could have shot me but didn’t.”

After a stay in a hospital on the Rhine River, Osweiler joined his comrades-in-arms at Stalag 17.

For the next several months, Osweiler basically spent time in his bunk, rising for roll call each day and hoarding his food, often swapping cigarettes for copper wire and crystal sets to keep tabs on the advancing Allies.

“Hitler wasn’t telling the guards what was going on, but they could get first-class information from us,” said Osweiler, whose mates crafted a crude map of the advancing Allied forces by listening to the radio.

“The worst fact of the treatment was, we didn’t eat. We didn’t do a blessed thing most of the time, and they fed us accordingly.”

Near the end of his time in captivity, Osweiler and other prisoners embarked on a 17-day, 190-mile trek to Branau, Hitler’s birthplace.

By May 3, the camp was liberated, and the Americans were shipped to France, where they spent V-E Day.

“We’d gone through so much stress and strain, it was hard to comprehend the shock of being liberated. You know, we all had tears in our eyes,” he said.

Asked if he was angry at his captors, Osweiler said no.

“There’s not too many of them left to get angry at anymore.””I thought I was pretty lucky,” said Osweiler, 87, a native of Lewistown, Mont., who was 28 when the Germans captured him. “I have a pretty high opinion of a guy who could have shot me but didn’t.”

After a stay in a hospital on the Rhine River, Osweiler joined his comrades-in-arms at Stalag 17.

For the next several months, Osweiler basically spent time in his bunk, rising for roll call each day and hoarding his food, often swapping cigarettes for copper wire and crystal sets to keep tabs on the advancing Allies.

“Hitler wasn’t telling the guards what was going on, but they could get first-class information from us,” said Osweiler, whose mates crafted a crude map of the advancing Allied forces by listening to the radio.

“The worst fact of the treatment was, we didn’t eat. We didn’t do a blessed thing most of the time, and they fed us accordingly.”

Near the end of his time in captivity, Osweiler and other prisoners embarked on a 17-day, 190-mile trek to Branau, Hitler’s birthplace.

By May 3, the camp was liberated, and the Americans were shipped to France, where they spent V-E Day.

“We’d gone through so much stress and strain, it was hard to comprehend the shock of being liberated. You know, we all had tears in our eyes,” he said.

Asked if he was angry at his captors, Osweiler said no.

“There’s not too many of them left to get angry at anymore.”


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