Camp R - The Fearful Square Kilometer

 Here goes the history, both light and dark, from the much pondered internment camp, known to many as Camp R...

     Located on Nipigon Bay, in Ontario Canada, the camp originally was owned by 1 Mr. Hurter, manager of the defunct Lake Sulphite Pulp and Paper company located on the Northwest side of the Bay. By 1940, the mill, it's equipment and it's many buildings had gone into bankruptcy...

     On the other side of the pond, a year prior, September 3, 1939, England had entered the war against the Germans. Britain had failed against stopping the attacks, and thereby blamed it's own immigrants for the failure calling them Hitler's Fifth Column. A fanciful name stemming from the Press, made up of immigrants from Germany and Italy. The Press was drilling the "Fifth Column" into the minds and fears of the populace and other countries, that these men and women were fierce supporters of the Third Reich and were readying to deploy into various locations and countries via parachutes to deliver weapons and ordinance to take out their enemies. Pure lies.

     The "Fifth Columnists" were made up of Enemy Merchant Seamen - (Luxury Liner Captains and crew,) Nazi's (Actual POW Captures,) Anti-Nazi's (Those non political who did not support Hitler nor his plan,) Jewish immigrants, German immigrants, Austrian Immigrants and Italian immigrants. Britain's great deception that these were dangerous enemy aliens, and needed to be rid of them for their own safety as they needed to have their soldiers ready for action and not guarding this dangerous element. Multiple contacts to Canada were made, and finally Canada in a situation they did not want to take on, accepted Britain's plea to take them into internment.

     The fact was, the majority was ordinary citizens, (though immigrated.) They were classed by an abrupt Tribunal process and sent off hurriedly to await their fate. Most of which were improperly classed as dangerous cases Class A and B. Class A: High Risk to National Security with doubtful loyalty to Britain - Result: Immediate arrest. Class B: Those with uncertain loyalty but less dangerous and allowed to move within 5 miles of their home and multiple restrictions. Class C: Able to retain their liberty, but must report to the authorities. The Tribunals were quickly done and many Class B were sent off to internment with Class A Dangerous Enemy Aliens. Some were promised that their wives and family will be able to visit them in their incarceration. With the exception of some captive Nazi's, these now Class A POW's were intermixed and sent off to Camp R. Of note is the youngest was age 15 and the oldest was 71.

The Duchess of York
     They next faced the dreaded crossing worrying about U-boats targeting their vessel. They crossed on the Duchess of York and made it safely to Quebec. The other ship loaded with passengers, the Andora Star was attacked and 830 Class A B &C lost their lives on the journey. The Ettick carrying Class B and C made it. Upon the Duchess of York, the Class A's were given a chance to breathe fresh air on Deck, however at one point an order was barked out by a British Officer to get everyone below deck, and during the slow migration ordered a crewman to shoot above their heads to (hurry them up.) No clear reason is given, but somehow the rifle was knocked down as the crewman fired and killed a young civilian merchant seaman Karl Marquart and wounding two others. As a result some of the Nazi's aboard such as Baron Pilar and co, planned a takeover of the ship and take the vessel to Hamburg. This was no doubt going to be a failure and a blood bath on their part, and Captain Scharf rallied them down, as was his nature. A well respected man, Captain of the Europa Luxury Liner and well on in age.

     Upon their arrival at Quebec City, their reputation preceded them, as per the Press' "Fifth Column," they were met with bayonets fixed and men ready to kill on the slightest intonation of attack and herded the mass quickly to the train bound for Red Rock. The Internment Camp, finally paid for, and fixed with 5 watchtowers, 3 meter high barbed wire fences and well maintained Lewis Machine Guns was ready for the mixed lot.

     They arrived in the early morning of July 2 1940 met by the awaiting Fort Gary Horse, fed on the propaganda of the British press' dreaded "Fifth Column" that these men were desperate and would do anything to escape. The armed guard was ready to do what they must should any incident occur along the trek. Upon arrival through the gates they were closed in and immediately given the do's and don'ts of the camp. One of which was to never approach a door or window as the soldiers were to shoot to kill. Moments after getting acquainted with their huts, shots rang out, and a soldier with warned them about the order to shoot to kill. Whoever it was, was lucky this time.

    During their time at Camp R, the mixed group labelled as POW's, (almost all falsely labelled as Dangerous Enemy Aliens,) saw it's share of violence and Anti-Semitic harassment daily. In some cases violent outbursts were unavoidable, even though Captain Scharf had calmed many dangerous situations, as 1,150 boys and old men had to co-exist in just 1 square kilometer. There was absolutely no privacy and no doubt added tension upon tension to the lot. There was always much bickering and arguments going on in the camp which could at any moment lead to a bloody mess. The ratio of Pro-Nazi and Anti-Nazi was 85-15%. Rumors in the Eastern Camps were that Camp R was a "gigantic and fearful camp, totally in the grip of Nazi violence," and was certainly looked upon as the place you do not want to go.

Camp R
     October 1, 1940 - A small group of Nazi's went to the hospital for treatment and beat up two Jewish doctors; Dr Hans Novotny, and Dr Leo Seewald while 2 German orderlies destroyed the medical equipment after an apparent name calling, and giving a threatening attitude by the Doctors. The sentries outside did not hear the screams for whatever reason. November 5, 1940 - Saw violence erupt between Nazi's and Anti-Nazi's, though no record is given of the incident other than the severe injuries sustained. Another fight broke out and Walter Ruckersberger was so badly beaten he required the immediate attention of Dr Klass to save his sight from this considerably "bloody eye injury." The camp's tension was always there and hostility was always a part of life within the square mile. There were card games, sports, arts and crafts, good food, and concerts, as well as mail coming in and going out, but the broken promise of their women and families coming to see them was also a factor in the morale drop. Low morale would eventually lead to blood. Though upon prisoner transfers, many looked back at Camp R and their present situation, wishing to go back to the camp. True it had good things going for it, but there was always the bad.

     One of the sad stories I came across in the book, was a 16 year old boy named Muehlhausen worked as a cabin boy on a luxury liner before being classed. Eventually he was diagnosed with tuberculosis (yes it was in the camp along with other maladies,) and before treatment went insane.

     Their civilian clothing was eventually taken away and replaced with the prisoners uniform, very much despised and said to be a clowns outfit. It was very demeaning to wear as it was a blue denim shirt, blue denim pants with red stripe on the right leg, a blue denim jacket with a large bright red circle on the back. Many mentioned that it made a good target for the guards. In fact it was to make a definite distinction from civilian wear. In speaking of civilians, it was not uncommon for neighborhood children (20 houses at the bottom of Rankin Street,) to be seen playing right there, around in the camp's enclosure. The camp consisted of the compound itself containing the huts, 1 square kilometer surrounded by barbed wire, then the other court which crossed the track all the way down to Trout Creek bridge, which had guardhouses monitoring who comes in and who goes out. The Red Rock Inn's basement eventually served as the office for Lieutenant-Colonel R.B. Berry Camp Commandant.

So what of the escapes we had all heard of? In truth there were some. Between July 1940 - October 1941 there were numerous attempts, but all were eventually recaptured.

July 30, 1940
Heinz Eichler disappeared from a work party at 3:30 PM, and was recaptured at 6:30 PM within the camp location.

August 19, 1940
Manfred Fischer, a German-born Sailer and adventurous charismatic inmate, was noticed missing from roll call at 9:00 PM. Hiding inside of the bathhouse, and then dressed in civilian clothes, he managed to leave the camp undetected. He was gone for months and had crossed into the US, and had requested to join the battle against Fascism, but was arrested while traveling on an American Train. He was given a choice, to return to non-democratic Fascist Spain, or to Nazi Germany, or to Fascist fighting Dominion of Canada. On November 3, 1940 he returned to camp R.

September 1940
Louis Mueller, Heinz Domnick, Josef Gedanitz and Walter Lautenbach were caught as they tunneled out of the enclosure.

One of the Escape Tunnels

September 16, 1940
Frtiz Fuchs wandered away from a work detail and was gone 7 days, and was returned September 23.

September 23, 1940
Herbert Cohn, a Jewish internee, was betrayed while he was trying to tunnel his way to freedom as a Sentry had disappeared from sight in the collapsing tunnel beneath his feet.

November 1940
Ernst Schipper attempted escape and was captured.

January 17, 1941
Erich Weisser and Bruno Schwaiger attempted escape in a - 15 F blizzard. Discovered missing at morning roll call, Schwaiger was recaptured at 10:15 AM in Port Arthur, while Weisser around 3:00 PM  12 miles outside of Port Arthur. They were shipped back to Camp R.

March 1941
Ernst Schipper tried another escape attempt but failed as he did in November 1940.

September 1941
Rudolph Haag attempted to tunnel under the compound, but his 2 meter long tunnel was found.

What of the shooting death(s) we had heard of? The original story relayed to me in 2012 was, the POW's were clearing the forest at the end of Buchanan Road, when one of the guards were startled and a POW was shot. Meanwhile another was also shot in an escape attempt. The bodies were buried by the lakeshore just down from the camp, as the old man who as a youngster use to play in those woods and stumbled across the small headstones with his friends.

     Truth comes to light. This I had been pondering and waiting for for years, and finally with the publishing of the book, the truth has been released. October 4, 1940 - Ernst Mueller and 19 year old Rudolph Rauschenbach made escape while working at the Red Rock Inn. 7 miles away at the Arola Farm (The Masonic Lodge nowadays,) a lone soldier Private J.R. Moar, came upon the 2 during the dark heavily raining night. The time was around 10:00 PM. During their capture, Mueller ended up being shot twice, once in the stomach, and then in the head, while surrendering and shouting, "Don't shoot - I have a family."

The Arola Farm - Located Beyond The Masonic lodge
     It has never been established what actually caused him to shoot, even the inquiry in the end cleared the private of wrongdoing and negligence. This story has now made its way over the years into local folklore, and has seen its version retold in different ways and different places. One of the folklore versions has it that  Colonel Berry Commandant of the camp told the search crews to shoot first and then call "Halt!"

     Lloyd Roy, whom I met a few times in my walks up and down the hiking trail in the early 2000's to his spot called, Lloyd's Lookout, a very picturesque and beautiful place overlooking the Lake and town gave Mr. Moar's story to the writer:

"On 4 October 1940, mid-night raining heavy very dark, soldier alone came upon POWS in steamboat, given away by fire smoke, Rudolph Rauschenbach (16) yrs was pushed out by Ernst Mueller soldier called Mueller to come out hands on head, he did not, Moar looked in shack and saw Ernst halfway out vent told to halt then shot in right hip, still trying to get out soldier shot again this time in back of head. My dad saw Mueller's face reconstructed and was then paraded to Red Rock station and shipped to Port Arthur, from there repatriated to Germany at end of war. We were told J.R. Mar was jailed in brig in Winnipeg and died 2 years later from this shooting. This fact confirmed by letters from soldiers writing to us from home in Winnipeg.

Signed: Lloyd Roy."

The body was buried in Port Arthur cemetery, but later exhumed and transferred to Kitchener-Waterloo Woodside Cemetery...

     There will always be those who retell history, and those who retell Lore-history, and I admit even myself have done this in this case. Now that I have finally have found the truth, I will always retell what I have learned here. I am certainly glad someone had taken the time to search documents of every kind on the subject of Camp R to retell every aspect of the camp, from it's prehistory to it's design, to its people to its closing. Ernest Robert Zimmerman (RIP), Michael S. Beaulieu & David K. Rats, I thank you for putting together a great historical triumph for those wishing to learn about internment in Canada and our little town's history. It was a great read and wonderfully put together - The Little Third Reich on Lake Superior. Thank you so much!

     In the end, Britain didn't issue an apology to these "Dangerous Enemy Alien - Fifth Columnists," even though it knew it had made a terrible, hasty mistake in shoving off it's immigrants, most of whom were refugee's trying to escape what was to come in Europe. The camp was closed and on October 23, 1941 and was given back to it's previous owners. The Enemy Merchant Seamen and Nazis remained in Canada for the duration of World War 2 and repatriated in 1946 - 1947 to England, then to their wore ravaged homeland.

Camp R as it appears today (Now Norampac)
Years Later many "EMS" returned as immigrants to Canada.

Dee McCullay - Dark History


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