World War I mail from a German Prisoner of War held at the American prison camp at Krasnaya-Retchka, Siberia during the Allied intervention in Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution

Vladivostok, Siberia: October 2, 1919. Unbound. Envelope only, no letter. The envelope is addressed to Anna Raumgarten, Altona-Elbe, Germany. The return address reads, “Prisoner of war Mail / Vladivostok / Siberia / American prison camp / Martin Prigge / No. 326.” It bears a small steel circular postmark that reads, “U.S. Postal Agency Siberia, Oct 2 10 AM 1919,” and a type C-5 Unit Censor handstamp that reads, “A. E. F. Siberia / Censored / Sig ………….” The censor stamp has been initialed in red ink. The envelope is in very nice shape. Very good. Item #008851

In November 1918, a company of the U.S. 27th Infantry Regiment assumed control of the Russian prison camp at Krashnaya-Retchka (Red River) which was located about 10 miles southeast of Khabarovs. The company was augmented with additionsl command and medical personnel, and Lieutenant Colonel Morrow was assigned as the camp commandant.

Morrow found camp conditions to be abysmal and camp records nearly non-existent. Two-thirds of the 2,000 Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians held in the camp were officers. 1,800 of them were incapacitated to varying degrees by influenza, about 450 badly so.

The Americans immediately began to reorganize the camp and set the prisoners to work using Russian supplies and equipment to build barracks, establish a boiler plant, install water and electrical systems, create a mess hall and hospital, begin barber and laundry operations, organize an orchestra and athletic teams, and much more.

Almost needless to say, the prisoners were overjoyed to be treated humanely. Later during the intervention when the 27th Infantry was reassigned to Verkhne-Udinsk, one thousand prisoners volunteered to fight alongside the unit against any and all forces without pay.

Not much is known about Prigge, however other cards and envelopes he sent from various Russian prisoner of war camps exist dating back to 1915.

While the Allied intervention in Russia was all but forgotten in the West, it remained an open wound in the mind of Soviet leadership throughout the Cold War.

This remarkable envelope documents one of the least known facets of that conflict. All mail related to the American intervention in Siberia is scarce. Mail from the prison camp at Krashnaya-Retchka is rare as are signed examples of the C-5 censor stamp. Van Dam’s Postal History of the A.E.F. notes only eight extant examples of American prison camp mail from Siberia, all of which are preprinted official POW cards.

For more information about the American prisoner of war camp see Wolfhounds and Polar Bears in Siberia by John M. House.

Price: $1,750.00

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