ALGONA, Iowa (WHO) — In 1944, Algona was the location of a large Prisoner of War camp near the Algona Airport. The camp housed some 10,000 prisoners. Algona was the hub for many other smaller camps in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Dakotas.
Many of the prisoners worked to fill jobs in the community since many men were off serving in World War II. Now, Collective Development, Inc. of Lansing, Michigan has come in to make a full-scale movie called “Silent Night In Algona,” telling the story of what happened.
The film was written a number of years ago, and some big Hollywood types wanted to take the story and change it. The writer D.J. Perry, who is also working on the production, did not want to fictionalize any of the story so he took the rights back. Now the film is being made thanks to help from a local man, Don Tietz, who was a small boy in Algona when the POW camp opened.
“They came in as Nazi prisoners they came in what many people thought were enemies and they left as friends,” said Donna Kitzinger, who is the local coordinator for the movie. “So they did a lot of work for the local people, never ever fear any of those prisoners escaping or having violence of any kind.”
Kitzinger said the POWs worked on many jobs. On her family’s farm, the prisoners used a rowboat to probe the ground covered by water and also worked to lay tile to drain the farm ground to increase available farmland. Much of Kossuth County was swampland at the time, which was drained.
“It is an incredible story it’s a story about what makes us alike,” said Tony Hornus, Director of the film. “In ’44 when the young men were fighting they needed these men to work on the farm. They eventually find out that all the prisoners were not ideological Nazis were just like us, farmers, doctors, lawyers, bakers, and butchers.”
Silent Night In Algona may see a premiere next spring, with wide viewing near Christmas time. The filming of the movie will conclude this week.