Life in Camp No. 133
By Isabella Lee
During the Second World War, Lethbridge was host to Internment Camp No. 133, which was designed to hold some 12,500 German prisoners of war (POWs). Housing and rations for the prisoners were the same standard as for the Canadian Armed Forces, thanks to the terms of the Geneva Convention. POWs were encouraged to be a part of a sports team or to create art that they could sell. Soon camps had a variety of recreation options including theaters, orchestras and even schools. One prisoner interned in Lethbridge, Sergeant Rudolf Senst took courses in the camp school toward a degree in building contracting, for which he received full academic credit after the war.
In 1943, Canada’s Minister of Labour authorized POWs to be employed outside the camps. Prisoners in southern Alberta stoked wheat, harvested sugar beets and performed many other jobs. Many local farmers spoke German and developed relationships with the prisoners who came to work on their farms, some housing them off-camp for days at a time.
Alfred Weiss was a prisoner of war in Camp No. 133. He was an armored car driver in the Deutsches Afrika Korps and was taken prisoner by Scottish soldiers in November 1941 at the Battle of Tobruk in North Africa. During his time in Camp No. 133, Weiss worked on 44 different farms. After the war he asked some of these farmers to be his references so that he could return to Canada.
Camp No. 133 officially closed in December 1946. Most of the guards settled in southern Alberta, and many of the prisoners returned to Canada and continued farming. The property where the camp once stood is now the site of the Shackleford Industrial Park on the north side of Lethbridge.
You can learn more about the Lethbridge Prisoner of War Camp through materials in the archives and collections at the Galt Museum & Archives and at the new Lethbridge Military Museum located in the Vimy Ridge Armoury near the Lethbridge Airport which is open from noon to 4 pm each Wednesday.