ALICEVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – Aliceville is a town rich in war history. During World War II the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built prisoner of war camps in many towns across the nation. Aliceville was one of them.
In 1943, 6,000 German prisoners of war made their way to Pickens County. It was World War II and allied forces had defeated German armies in North Africa. The soldiers were shipped to New York and sent by train south to Camp Aliceville. Today, the Aliceville Museum takes you back to that time, sharing stories of the P.O.W. camp.
“Thomas Sweet was a sergeant over one of the companies of P.O.W.s at the camp. He was here from December 1942 until the camp closed in September 1945. They tried to separate the anti-Nazis from the Nazis and they opened up a separate company for them. The Nazis would try to intimidate the anti-Nazis and caused a lot of trouble. So for their protection they were separated out,” said John Gillum, Aliceville Museum Executive Director.
Many veterans and family members of camp employees and German P.O.W.s come to the museum to visit. They say Aliceville treated the prisoners well. During free time prisoners could play sports and music, and draw. They provided farm labor for 80 cents a day and ate plenty of peanut butter sandwiches too, which the Germans had never seen before.
“Relatives of the P.O.W.s have all talked about how their fathers or grandfathers had such fond memories of Aliceville and their times as a P.O.W. So that gives you a good idea that we treated them very well if they look back fondly of their time as a prisoner of war,” Gillum said.
During World War II, Camp Aliceville covered hundreds of acres of land. Today all that remains is a chimney.
“There was a salvage sale held in January of 1947 and it was advertised in the Birmingham paper. You could come and buy wood, nails, screen doors or windows from the camp. It was disassembled and sold to try to match the cost of construction,” Gillum said.
The building of the Aliceville Museum used to be a Coca Cola bottling plant. Other exhibits in the museum include the bottling plant history, local history, and also local war veterans. It is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 to 12:00 and 1:00 to 4:00. For more information call 205-373-2363.