German soldier Fritz Hellenschmidt was on the Russian front in World War II when it became clear that he and his company would be captured. Hellenschmidt broke into a two-mile run for the United States front to escape.
“I was afraid the Russians would take no prisoners,” he said. He barely made it and surrendered to the U.S. Army, which sent him to the German POW Camp 202, 8.3 miles on US Hwy 34 west of Greeley. He was there from 1944 to 1946.
On work detail he was in a vehicle that wondered off the highway in Rocky Mountain Park and in the accident he severely injured his kidneys, a condition that plagued him the rest of his life.
During recovery at Fitzsimons Hospital, Denver, he met Mabel Ellis who was in a group that sang for the people hospitalized. They became friends and corresponded for years after the war.
He wanted to return to Colorado from his Stuttgart, Germany, home and did that in 1976. Hellenschmidt made a trip to Denver to visit Mabel and the Paul Moloneys met him at a Denver South Broadway Camera Club meeting.
Since Mabel did not drive, we volunteered to take Hellenschmidt wherever he wanted to go in the region. We drove to Rocky Mountain National Park where he pointed out the location of the accident.
Then we drove to Greeley, Colo., for him to see what was left the prison camp at the Windsor intersection (Colorado Hwy 257 spur and US 34).
In the Hellenschmidt picture’s background is the area in which his quarters were located, and he’s sitting on one of the foundation stones.
He died about four years after returning to America.
– From ”Friends and Celebrities”
About the picture:
I made this portrait with my 18 mm full frame “fisheye” lens which aptly described the location though it created the curving background. Only two pillars with historical plaques remain, and the land is used for farming by the Rick Hertzke family.