Scott County

Alberta Erdtsieck


REPATRIATE -- Miss Alberta Erdtsieck, born in Davenport but a resident of Holland since she was four years old, is shown leaving the Swedish exchange liner Gripsholm at Jersey City following her repatriation from German internment camps. Now 20 years old, Miss Erdtsieck will make her home with a grandmother, Mrs. J. Erdtsieck, in Keokuk, but hopes to be accepted by the WAC.

Source: The Daily Times (Davenport, IA) March 20, 1944 (photo included)

FROM HOLLAND TO WACS -- Alberta Erdtsieck, shown above, being sworn in by Lt. Jane Smies, is now a WAC. It is a far cry from the German concentration camps in Europe where she spend many weary months to the uniform of Uncle Sam's WACs.

Alberta was born in Davenport and at the age of four was taken to Holland by her parents, who have since died. When the Germans invaded the Low Countries she was interned in a camp in Holland, then sent to a similar camp in Belgium and finally landed in one in Germany. She came back to t America as an exchange passenger on the Gripsholm on March 15 and came immediately to Iowa where she has been making her home with an aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. M.T. Erdtsieck at Ft. Madsion. Alberta is a accomplished linguist, speaking six languages.

She was accompanied to Clinton yesterday by Lt. Jane Smith in charge of the Davenport WAC office where she was given her final physical examination. She will leave for her preliminary training in about three weeks. She said yesterday that she felt that she should do her part and as long as her brother was still in a camp in Germany she felt that in joining the WACs she was helping to bring the war to end and reunite her family in Holland.

Source: The Daily Times, May 10, 1944 (photo included)

Back in her homeland after 18 months in German internment camps, Alberta Erdesieck joined the WAC in Des Moines Thursday to do her part in liberating her brother Fred, 17, who still is interned in occupied Europe.

Once Captive Of Nazis, She Joins WACs

A young Iowan who spent 18 months in German internment camps was in Des Moines Wednesday to begin basic training as a member of the women's army corps at Fort Des Moines.

Alberta Erdtsieck, who was born 20 years ago in Davenport, Ia., was attending a boarding school in a small Dutch village on Sept 19, 1942, when a guard and minister came to take her away to prison. She later was sent to camps in Holland, Germany and France.

She was interned because of her American citizenship, partly for a few injudicious remarks she made about the German occupation.

Returned on the Swedish exchange liner Gripsholm which docked at Jersey City, N.J., Mar. 15, the young woman has been visiting her grandmother Mrs.J. Erdtsieck, Keokuk, Ia., and her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Marinus T. Erdtsieck, Fort Madison, Ia.

"I first heard of the WACs on the Gripsholm," she said at army recruiting headquarters," and I said I would join as soon as I landed. I tried within 24 hours, but I was persuaded to rest and get strong first."

To the young woman who has seen so much horror and unhappiness, the WACs offered a chance to serve and to help bring the day when her 17-year old brother, Fred, can be liberated from internment.

Miss Erdtsieck went to Holland with her mother, Mrs. Fred Erdtsieck, and her brother, when she was 4 years old. Her mother died in December of 1941. At the time Alberta was interned, her brother was living with relatives in another part of Holland.

She speaks English with a French accent overlaid with the broad English "a", and flares with fire in her eye if anyone takes her for German. She also speaks Spanish, which a Dutch internee taught in one camp, and Polish, learned from friends made in a center.

Private Erdtsieck does not give all details of her experiences as an internee, as she fears harm might befall her brother or relatives in Holland.

As an American citizen, she had anticipates imprisonment at any time following the outbreak of war.

Sept 21, 1942, she was taken to a concentration camp at Amersfoort, Holland, where 250 Americans were imprisoned.

"The food was bad," she says. "They gave us cabbage with camphor, which works like saltpeter, only it is stronger, and bread. We had a little milk three times a week. The iron beds had straw mattresses and very hard straw pillows and one blanket."

Political prisoners worked, but the nationals had no duties.

"For two months I had nothing to do," she said. "I just sat there. It was terrible."

"Sometimes you think that if you had to stand this another two months, you will die or go crazy. But you just sit - and times goes.

If you use your will power, you can stand a lot. If you let yourself go,you are lost."

Miss Erdtsieck was sent to as women's internment camp at Liebenau, Germany, after two months at Amersfoort.

Assigned to one floor of a mental hospital, the internees were served fairly decent food by the German nuns in charge. The women slept 4 to 10 in a room, and were allowed two-hour walks each afternoon under the chilly eye of a German guard, she said.

She told about surreptitiously trading 50 Belgian cigarette butts with one of the patients for a few onions to cook with meat sent the internees in Red Cross parcels.

Because she had been unable to eat and was getting weaker, Alberta traded the contents of her Red Cross parcels, which she described as "always good" for sugar and chocolate to provide energy.

"I had some work in this camp," she recalled. It sounds funny here, but it was not there. I deloused the internees"

She described the camp at Vitel, France, where she was forced to spend 10 months as "the worst of the three."

Food consisted largely of carrots and water or a watery soup that possibly contained cabbage. French natives sent in fruits which were sold at a certain canteen. Alberta worked in the canteen, "ate fruit all day", and made soles for wooden shoes.

""I was getting weal," she asserted, "but I thought the longer I kept myself on my legs, the better I would be."

"A hair dresser came from Paris twice a week to do our hair, but we didn't get food. I don't know why the hairdresser - I just took it."

The hotels which served as camp barracks were heavily guarded and bristled with barb wire, in contrast to the Liebenau hospital, Private Erdtsieck stated.

She said American internees, who had no regular income, sold cigarettes and chocolate from their Red Cross parcels to the English, who received $6 monthly or about 300 francs.

"It was not fair to the Red Cross, but you can't live on Red Cross parcels," Private Erdtsieck asserted.
She made out papers at Liebenau in 1943 asking for repatriation, but heard nothing until Feb. 13, 1944.

When she was certified finally, she left camp with an American Red Cross coat, full of holes, shoes from the same source; another pair given her by the English Red Cross; and some worn under clothing and street clothes she had been allowed to take from Holland.

Private Erdtsieck related that the German camp authorities had declared her brother would return on the exchange ship with her. Not until she was ordered to pack suddenly and was on the train going to Lisbon did she learn differently.

She plans to ask the state department at Washington, D.C., to helps secure his release.

Source: The Daily Times, June 1, 1944 (photo included)