Censored at both ends: The two stamps on the back of this letter not only indicate that it had been opened and read by the Wehrmacht (Army) High Command, but that it had been processed at the Berlin censoring station, which handled airmail received from North America during the war.
On the front of the envelope we see that it had been first examined on the Canadian end by the censor No. 682, the unwavering person who in two months time would also examine the postcard at the top of this page.
Equally interesting is the date written on this letter: June 7, 1944 was the day after D-Day. How much Leisner as a POW might have known at the time about the Allies’ invasion of France is open to speculation.
Feldwebel Gotthardt Leisner
Gotthardt Leisner is not among the 187 interred German prisoners of war at Woodland Cemetery.
The Luftwaffe Feldwebel (Sergeant) was fortunate to have survived World War II and his captivity as a prisoner of war in Canada.
The following images are of correspondence that was sent by Feldwebel Leisner (POW No. 19237) during his stay in Canada and they provide a small glimpse into the life of a German POW.
When looking over Leisner's letters it is immediately apparent that he was a prisoner of Camp 133 that was located in Alberta. Initially called the Ozada Tents, Camp 133 first opened in May 1942 with a capacity of 10,000 POWs, but by November of the same year the camp was relocated and renamed. The newly built Lethbridge Barracks had an increased capacity to hold an additional 2,500 POWs.
Camp 133 remained in operation well after the end of the war before finally closing on December 18, 1946.
Group photos such as these were turned into postcards so that POWs could send them home and demonstrate that they were still alive.
The postmark on the back of the card is an interesting detail. Encircling the August 31, 1943 mailing date are "POW" and "133", which indicates that the card originated from a prisoner of war in Camp 133. Of course this information was required to be handwritten on the card by the POW as well. Note that Leisner was also required to write Base Post Office, Ottawa, Canada, to keep the camp’s real location anonymous.
Another stamp on the card indicates that it had been examined by censor D.B. 682 who was tasked with making sure that the POW wasn’t trying to share any important information with the enemy.
The recipient of the postcard, Fräulein Hanna Schneider, also survived the war, but was one of the millions who lost their home forever. Hanna Schneider lived in a small town called Gross Wilkau, which had been located in Eastern Prussia, an area of Germany that was gifted to Poland after the war by the Allies and resulted in the forced expulsion of those who had lived there for many generations.
History of German POWs in Canada
German War Graves in Canada