Podcast Episode 303: Camp Stark


In 1943, the U.S. established a camp for German prisoners of war near the village of Stark in northern New Hampshire. After a rocky start, the relations between the prisoners and guards underwent a surprising change. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of Camp Stark and the transforming power of human decency.

We’ll also check out some Canadian snakes and puzzle over some curious signs.


Why does Dracula go to England?

The rattleback is a top that seems to prefer spinning in a certain direction.

Sources for our feature on Camp Stark:

Allen V. Koop, Stark Decency: German Prisoners of War in a New England Village, 2000.

Antonio Thompson, Men in German Uniform: POWs in America During World War II, 2010.

Michael Greenberg, Tables Turned on Them: Jews Guarding Nazi POWS Held in the United States, 2019.

Felice Belman and Mike Pride, The New Hampshire Century: Concord Monitor Profiles of One Hundred People Who Shaped It, 2001.

Andrew Streeb, “Measuring Ideas: The Political Segregation of German Prisoners of War in America, 1943-1946,” Historical Studies Journal 26 (Spring 2009), 15-29.

Jake W. Spidle Jr., “Axis Prisoners of War in the United States, 1942-1946: A Bibliographical Essay,” Military Affairs 39:2 (April 1975), 61-66.

Earl O. Strimple, “A History of Prison Inmate-Animal Interaction Programs,” American Behavioral Scientist 47:1 (2003), 70-78.

“Roadside History: Camp Stark, NH’s WWII German POW Camp, Housed About 250 Soldiers,” New Hampshire Union Leader, Sept. 25, 2016.

Robert Blechl, “A Stark Remembrance of German POWs Storming North Country Woods in WWII,” Caledonian Record, May 16, 2015.

Kayti Burt, “Stark Remembers Former POW Camp,” Salmon Press, March 31, 2010.

“Camp Stark Is Remembered,” Berlin [N.H.] Daily Sun, March 29, 2010.

Royal Ford, “N.H. Woods Hold Echoes of War Village Recalls Life at Camp Stark, Where German WWII Prisoners Were Held,” Boston Globe, May 12, 1995, 31.

Adolphe V. Bernotas, “POW Camp in New Hampshire Was Meeting Ground,” Associated Press, May 25, 1994, 29E.

“Northeast POWs, Guards Reunite,” Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Sept. 29, 1986, 3A.

John Ellement, “Ex-German POWs and Guards Hold Reunion at N.H. Camp Site,” Boston Globe, Sept. 28, 1986, 85.

Michael Mokrzycki, “German WWII Prisoners, American Guards Reunite,” Associated Press, Sept. 27, 1986.

“Escaped War Captive Lived on Art Here,” New York Times, Oct. 15, 1944.

“Captured Nazi Escapes,” New York Times, Aug. 27, 1944.

“Two War Prisoners Escape,” New York Times, June 29, 1944.

Listener mail:

“If You’re Scared of Snakes, Don’t Watch This,” National Geographic, June 26, 2014.

Calvin Dao, “Narcisse Snake Pits,” Canadian Geographic, May 1, 2015.

“Narcisse Snake Dens,” Atlas Obscura (accessed July 1, 2020).

“Snakes of Narcisse,” Manitoba.ca (accessed July 1, 2020).

Ian Austen, “This Canadian Town Comes Alive Once a Year, as Thousands of Snakes Mate,” New York Times, June 16, 2019.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener David Roth.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we’ve set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!