The internment of SSG D'Atri
17 February 1950
War Claims Commission
As an internee of Switzerland, I was in the same category as a Prisoner of War. As an internee, I didn’t enjoy the same rights as my fellow internees. Letters received by me indicated “Prisoner of War” in the upper left hand corner of envelopes and of stationary.
As stated in question No. 10 (c) a full report was given to the Army Intelligence Office in England soon after my repatriation concerning all pertinent data requested. High military personnel indicated at the time no additional information was to be given by me other than to cross reference that report.
The story is a long one, but I will briefly give you some of the details as to my treatment and abuses given me during my 13 months of internment in that country.
To begin with, several attempts to escape after a few weeks in the country were made in order that I might get back to my lines and fight for my country. I was willing to jeopardize my life by crossing enemy lines to get back to my outfit. The several attempts that I tried to escape I was always caught, and I was taken prisoner under guard. I was taken to various civilian prisons, and one concentration camp named Wauwilermoos. Here I had to subject myself to eat and sleep with enemy soldiers. Here I was compelled to sleep on straw which was contaminated with lice and as a result my body was infected with scabies which took me six months to get rid of. Here also I was thrown into solitary confinement for 5 days in a room - total darkness – measuring 2 x 3 feet which was next to a horse stable. The straw I slept on was saturated with horse urine as well as the evacuation of the horse’s bowels, which passed from the next room where the horses slept. The 2 x 3 ft. room had a porthole on the top of the roof where they handed me my food. The food here and in the various civilian prisons wasn’t adequate enough to keep a man going. My weight when I got out was 140 pounds compared to the weight of 195 lbs. when I went into these prison camps.
Not only was I reduced physically, but I was also in a very bad state of mind. My morale was very low. To top this all, the Swiss Government had threatened me repeatedly with an International Court-Martial due to the various attempts to get out of the country, thereby lengthening my stay in these prisons.
General Legge of the Military Attaché in Bern, Switzerland, can very well verify these statements.
Joseph A. D'Atri