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Presenter: Dr. Robert D. Billinger, Author and Professor Emeritus, Wingate University
More than 10,000 German prisoners of war were interned in 18 camps across North Carolina during World War II, working at military bases, on local farms, and in agricultural industries—especially pulpwood harvesting—when civilian labor was not available. Yet, apart from the guards, civilian workers, and FBI and local police who tracked escapees, most people were—and remain—unaware of their presence. Using interviews with former prisoners and their guards, Red Cross and US military reports, German-language camp newspapers, local print media, letters, memoirs, and other archival sources, Billinger has chronicled the German POW experience in North Carolina during WWII to reveal that both the POWs and the citizens of North Carolina came to realize that enemies are human, uniforms conceal diversity, and wartime enemies can become life-long friends.
Billinger taught history at Wingate University from 1979 to 2014. In addition to Nazi POWs in the Tar Heel State (2008; available through the Museum Shop) he is also the author of Hitler’s Soldiers in the Sunshine State: German POWs in Florida (2000).
Answering the Call was made possible by funding from the North Carolina Museum of History Foundation and the North Carolina Museum of History Associates; by a grant from the US Department of Defense, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of World War II with a series of programs and events focused on honoring WWII veterans and helping the American people gain a better understanding of their military’s history; and by support from the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, with special thanks to the State Archives of North Carolina and the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. The Museum of History is also pleased to have CBS17 News as the sole media sponsor for this exhibit.