Prisoners of War in New Mexico Agriculture
Abstract of Interview
Jerry Zachek and Emanuel Vocale
TAPE NUMBER: RG2000-115
OF BIRTH: Zachek: April 9, 1934; Vocale: January 28, 1913
OF INTERVIEW: August 30, 2000
OF INTERVIEW: Zachek residence, rural Deming
OF INTERVIEW: NMF&RHM__x_
OF TAPES: One
ABSTRACTED: April 18, 2001
OF RECORDING (SPECIFY): Good
AND CONTENT NOTE: Employment of German prisoners of war (POWs) on Deming area
farms during World War II.
(IMPORTANT TOPICS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE):
ONE, SIDE A:
parents began farming in the Deming area in 1928.
They started in agriculture as sharecroppers, but eventually purchased
the farm where Vocale still resides today.
Zachek’s parents began farming in the Deming area in 1940.
They originally came from Texas to Deming to work in the tuberculosis
sanatorium. They raised cotton and
pinto beans on the farm, but more cotton during WWII. (Pinto beans increased greatly in price immediately after the
the war, relatives of the Zacheks would come from south Texas to assist with the
cotton harvest. If farmers had
children in school, the children were excused from school in order to help with
the harvest. (Right after WWII,
Vocale hired neighbor women to work on his farm.)
Zachek was approximately ten years of age he could pick 250 pounds of cotton (Acala
1517) a day. His father could pick
500 pounds and his mother 400 pounds. Both
consultants knew of men who could pick 600 pounds of cotton a day.
father transported “twelve to fifteen” POWs and their guard in a trailer
pulled behind a car. Some days,
Zachek’s mother would prepare “chile and beans” for the POWs.
Zachek and his two siblings would work alongside the POWs in the same
field. The POWs came from the camp
at the Deming “airport.”
remembers that on occasion the guard would fall asleep in the cotton trailer. The POWs would come in and weigh their cotton, take his
rifle, “make some rounds with it,” and then return the rifle.
remembers talking and joking with the Germans, and some tried to teach him to
count in German. (The owners or
farm managers were ordinarily expected to weigh the cotton picked by the POWs.)
of the POWs ability to pick cotton. Vocale
explains that on average the POWs were expected to pick 200 pounds of cotton a
day. If the group didn’t meet the
quota, they had to stay at the farm until they did.
Some POWs refused to pick and if they couldn’t be convinced in any
other way, they would be put in solitary confinement. (The POWs picked clean if slow.)
wage paid to the POWs was established for the entire Deming area.
Zachek isn’t aware of whether his parents felt that they were receiving
a good return for the money they spent on POWs’ wages.
Vocale states, “We were glad to get em.” Zachek
and Vocale remember only German POWs.
describes going to the compound and contracting for POW labor.
This had to be done on a day-to-day basis.
ONE, SIDE B:
heard of POWs being employed by a rancher, but cannot remember who the rancher
general, according to Vocale, the townspeople in Deming accepted the POW camp.
The army bought supplies from local businesses.
states the POWs asked him for “potatoes, cigarettes, and, of course, beer.”
There was a strict observance of the non-fraternization policy on his
farm, which he discusses in detail. In
his opinion the POWs were treated well, even though the POWs might have thought
otherwise. (Zachek will look for
photographs of the POWs; Vocale doesn’t think that photographing the POWs was
and Zachek remember employing the POWs only for one year.
Following employment of the POWs, Vocale employed conscientious
the camp was demobilized, Vocale purchased one of the former POW barracks to use
on his farm. There was POW graffiti
and drawings on the walls of the barracks that have since been defaced by
subsequent farm workers.
believes that the POWs were lonesome and wanted to be around children.
He remembers the POWs singing while they worked.
compares our treatment of German POWs, with other country’s treatment of our
soldiers that had been captured.
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