Roadside History: Camp Stark, NH's WWII German POW camp, housed about 250 soldiers

Where it is: The marker is located on the south side of Route 110, about 1.6 miles east of the Stark Covered Bridge in Stark.

When it was erected: Marker Number 150 was placed in 1985.

What the sign says: In the spring of 1944 a high fence and four guard towers transformed a former Civilian Conservation Corps Camp on this site into New Hampshire's sole World War II prisoner-of-war camp. About 250 German and Austrian soldiers, most of whom were captured in North Africa, lived in Camp Stark while working in the surrounding forest where they cut pulpwood vital to wartime industry. The camp closed in the spring of 1946 when the prisoners of war were returned to their homeland. Several maintained the new friendships they had formed with local New Hampshire residents.

The back story: Sherman Adams - a timberland manager in the North Country who was about to become a member of Congress and, later, governor and then aide to President Dwight D. Eisenhower - and U.S. Sen. Styles Bridges used their influence to get a POW camp in New Hampshire to provide labor for Brown Paper Co.

The abandoned CCC camp on the south side of Route 110 about 30 miles from the Canadian border became the camp. The 50 American guards lived in similar quarters on the north side of the road.

Five of the POWs later became American or Canadian citizens.

Except for a couple of chimney bases and guard-tower foundations, the camp now is but a clearing in the woods, with only the roadside sign marking the site.

What made the camp unusual was that its inmates were mostly members of the 999th Division, an assembly of dissidents, communists, socialists and perceived misfits who had once been imprisoned by the Nazis.

The 999th was created by Adolf Hitler to give members a chance to redeem themselves for Germany.

Generally, they were older and better educated than regular German troops, wiser to the ways of the world and more cosmopolitan.

Some spoke not only German but also French, English, Dutch, Italian and Norwegian.

Sources: State of New Hampshire, Los Angeles Times