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Did you know?

 

Between 1942 and 1946, over 400,00 enemy combatants captured during World War II were held captive in the United States. These Axis personnel were housed in nearly 500 base and branch prisoner of war (POW) camps spread across all 48 sates.

A base camp for District 7 of the American POW camps system was in north central Iowa, just outside Algona. Camp Algona housed approximately 1,700 POWs at any given time. Although POW camps in the US have been largely forgotten in American history, Algona has a yearly reminder of the Camp that was just outside the town: a nativity scene that is displayed every year around Christmas time. A nativity scene is a depiction of the biblical story of Jesus’ birth.

 

They did what?

 

In December 1945, 6 POWs from Camp Algona presented to the public a nativity scene of over 60 half-life sized figures, ranging in height from 12 inches to 56 inches. It had taken almost 6 months, and $8,000 to create the piece. To the POWs who made it and POWs interned at Camp Algona, it was a way to remember and connect to the family they could not be with back home. To the people of Algona, it represented a common faith and humanity shared with the German captives living outside their town. 

Since 1945, the Algona nativity scene has attracted people from far and near. It has become an enduring symbol of unity for the people of Algona and reminds those who visit of the impact of war and the presence of the POWs held at Camp Algona decades ago.

After the camp closed, the scene was taken in by the Algona Jaycees and is now cared for by the Men's Club of the First United Methodist Church in Algona, Iowa.

 

Want to learn more?

 

This site allows you to learn about how and why the scene was made. You can also explore what the scene meant to the POWs and the people of Algona in 1945 through the present. If you would like to learn more about the POW camp in Algona, please visit this site: http://www.pwcamp.algona.org/

The blue bar above has six tabs; Home, The Story Begins, Christmas '45, Captured in Stone, The Story Continues, and Visit. Each tab will allow you to explore different facets of the nativity scene.