York Town Square

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German POWs in York County: ‘They worked cheaper than We did’

POW Johann Schleicher of Austria, shown in this photograph, made this wood carving during his imprisonment at Camp Stewartstown in York County during World War II. It was the discovery of this carving that fueled York County resident Margaret Shaub’s search for the creator, culminating in the invitation to several POWs to return to Stewartstown in 1992.
Wrightsville’s Robert L. Arnold remembers losing a job to the German POWs doing seasonal work in 1944 and 1945 in southern York County.
“I was 11 years old, living in Jacobus, and along with three of My Brothers picked
string beans for the Hungerford Canning Factory,” his note began, in response to a recent York Sunday News column.
A bus traveled along the trail from Violet Hill, south of York, picking up kids in the towns along the way.
The rest, in his words:

“We worked in fields in Southern York County, picking beans for 2 cents a pound. My younger Brother and I were too young to keep up with the rest of the older Kids so We picked in the same row. When We had our burlap sack too full to drag
along, We had the beans weighed.
“We lost our jobs to the German POW’s from Stewartstown because they worked
cheaper then We did. Cheaper outsourcing was a problem even then. When I told My Daughters and Grandkids that We lost our jobs to German POW”s I’m not sure They believed Me.”

His letter shows the ambivalence of many York County residents toward their German visitors. They knew American POWs were detained in Germany, so they could relate to the Germans at Camp Stewartstown. But some, like Robert, believe they took away work.
Here’s the way payment to the POWS worked: The canneries would pay the government the same wages that a civilian would receive.
The deal was that they wouldn’t take work away from York countians. Robert’s note suggested that they, indeed, did so.
Related Yorktownsquare.com posts: York County has done its share of playing host to POWs and German prisoners from two wars came to York County.