Ruling out of the discussion some restricted topics, Captain Thomas descried regulations under which the German prisoners are handled here and at other similar prisoner camps in this country and abroad.
The prisoners have through knowledge of the provisions of the Geneva conference, the officer said, and are quick to seek flaws in the manner in which its provisions are followed. He explained that the international agreement requires that a war prisoner be treated, fed and cared for in the same manner as are men of the same rank in the holding army.
"They cannot be subjected to the curious and cannot be interviewed. They can gain an interview with the camp commanding officer by going through prescribed channels.
"The prisoners are not hard to handle," the captain asserted and indicated that the incident at the local camp last week was "quickly straightened out without difficulty." He said the chief cause "was ill-advised leadership from non-commissioned officers."
The captain's only reference to the two escaped prisoners was to note with a smile that the Gettysburg camp has now dropped to third place in the nation in the number of prisoners with one camp losing five and another three. The escape here was described as "an unfortunate incident."
Captain Thomas, who was a school superintendent before re-entering military service, explained that the prison camp was placed here at the request of the War Manpower Commission and the Adams county canners. "The prisoner labor is not competitive and is not intended to be used where free labor is available. If no need for labor should exist here, the camp would disappear overnight."
The prevailing labor scale in the community in which the camp is operated is used as the basis for the prisoners' pay. The prisoners cannot receive more than 80 cents per day under the terms of the Geneva conference. "Officers who are prisoners and non-commissioned officers cannot be required to work and are not kept in the same camp as enlisted men," he added.
Captain Thomas said that during the two-week period in June the Gettysburg camp became the first to go on a "paying basis" financially for the government with the government receiving the prisoners' pay in excess of the 80 cents per day given each man.
The camp here originally was scheduled to remain until November 1 but with the pea canning season shortened by the dry weather and with a similar prospect in sight for the bean and tomato crops changes in the plans may be necessary, the speaker indicated. He said that when the food harvesting and canning season is over the prisoners may be transferred to pulpwood cutting work.
Captain Thomas referred to the "many types of unfounded rumors which have been current in this community about the "camp" and spoke specially of one frequently heard comment. "People say the prisoners are too well treated but we are bound to treat them with the same care and consideration given our own men because we are bound by the Geneva regulations. We know our men are not receiving the same treatment in enemy prison camps. Even if the Geneva rules were to be followed, they would not get the same treatment we deal out hear because the standards of the Axis armies are so much lower than ours."
Captain Thomas was presented to the clubmen by Burgess Fred G. Pfeffer.