Former German soldier Gerhard Hennes is set to return to the area to talk about his World War II experiences in a presentation titled “Under the Crooked Cross,” at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 6, in Tennessee Tech University’s Derryberry Hall Auditorium.
In addition to discussing his confinement at Camp Crossville, which was opened in November 1942 to house German and Italian officers and was one of the first camps in the nation for World War II POWs, Hennes will describe his life, work, fears, hopes, compromises and survival during the Hitler years.
A video highlighting Camp Crossville and including an interview with Hennes will also be a part of the program.
“He’s a fascinating individual who has the ability to keep his audience engaged,” said Calvin Dickinson, emeritus history instructor at TTU, who himself as written about and studied Camp Crossville.
Hennes served in the German army from 1939 to 1946, taking part in campaigns in North Africa, where he was captured by the Allies.
He was one of about 1,500 German and Italian officers housed at Camp Crossville. Among the other POWs was a lieutenant colonel in the German Panzer Corps and several Italian generals, including Pietro Gazzeri, the highest-ranking officer in the Italian army.
Following World War II, Hennes joined Church World Service, an American Protestant organization that provides international relief and refugee and development work.
He has spent nearly 50 years in church service and has lived, worked and traveled in about 80 countries.
Hennes became a United States citizen in 1958 and now lives in Pennsylvania.
The former site of Camp Crossville now houses a University of Tennessee Extension Office and serves as a location for summer youth camps.
The presentation is a Center Stage event and is free and open to the public.