Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Scott Porter is making a film about German WWII POWs held in Utah. These headstones mark where some of the German soldiers are buried at Fort Douglas, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014.
German war prisoners in Utah subject of new documentary

Filmmaker seeks a living account of massacre of Germans in Salina.

First Published Mar 04 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Jun 25 2014 10:59 am

Scott Porter stood beside the iron cross and swastika-adorned gravestone of German Army Cpl. Paul Eilert.

Then Porter pointed at the headstone for German Army Sgt. Fritz Wiemken. He died of a brain tumor.

At a glance

‘Splinters of a Nation’

Anyone with memories, photographs or film of the German prisoners in Utah can contact Scott Porter at www.splintersofanation.com or https://www.facebook.com/splintersofanation.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Porter wasn’t strolling through a war memorial in Berlin or Hamburg. Eilert and Wiemken are two of 20 German prisoners of war buried at the Fort Douglas Cemetery in Salt Lake City.

About 8,000 German POWs were sent to Utah during World War II. Porter, a 30-year-old video producer for Usana, is making a one-hour film about the prisoners’ experiences he calls "Splinters of a Nation."

He said he’s already raised about $100,000 from nonprofits and individuals. He is seeking another $20,000 through a Kickstarter campaign that ends Thursday.

The documentary is well underway. Last year, Porter traveled to Germany to interview some of the prisoners held in Utah.

"That’s half the story," Porter said. "The other half is here in Utah."

Besides donations, Porter is seeking Utahns who interacted with the POWs and have stories to tell. Porter already has one witness: his grandmother.

German POWS, under guard by U.S. troops, worked on her family’s farm near Lewiston. There are similar stories of prisoners working on farms across northern Utah.

But Porter says he’s missing two big pieces of the POWs’ Utah story: U.S. soldiers who guarded the Germans and anyone who was present in Salina on July 8, 1945.

story continues below
story continues below

That was the morning U.S. Army Pvt. Clarence V. Bertucci, of New Orleans, climbed into a guard tower and fired a machine gun into the tents below where the prisoners were sleeping. Nine Germans died and 19 more were wounded.

"So far, we don’t have any living account" of the massacre, Porter said.

As gruesome as the Salina massacre was, Porter says the research he was able to find, much of it based on the work of Utah historian Allan Kent Powell, as well as the interviews in Germany, indicates the POWs were treated well in Utah. About 7,000 Italian prisoners came to Utah, too, but most of them agreed to support the Allied war effort by joining Italian Service Units and taking civilian jobs in exchange for increased freedom in the United States.

German POWs were not given that option. For those who worked on farms, the labor could be grueling, especially when picking sugar beets. At night they returned to camps, Porter says. In the case of the prisoners who worked on his grandmother’s farm, those POWs stayed in a camp at the Cache County fairgrounds.

Kurt Schnepper, one of the German POWs, told Porter that the prisoners even adopted some American ideologies while in Utah.

"It was very interesting for us," Schnepper told Porter, according to translated transcripts of his interviews he provided to The Salt Lake Tribune. "How America is governed and democracy was practiced. ... We adopted this attitude already in the camp. We didn’t want to have anything more to do with the Nazis. It was part of history."

Porter said a public television station has agreed to broadcast the film in 2015 with the coinciding of 70th anniversary of World War II’s end.


Twitter: @natecarlisle

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.