(Photo by Marion Amberg)
It’s a traditional Nativity scene. Christ Child. Angels. Wise men. Shepherds and sheep. What isn’t so traditional is who made it: German POWs incarcerated at Algona, Iowa.
The story begins in 1944 when Sergeant Eduard Kaib was captured in France and shipped to Camp Algona, a base camp in north-central Iowa that housed 3,200 German POWs and oversaw 34 branch camps in Minnesota, Iowa, and the Dakotas.
Suffering from war injuries, Kaib was also mired in depression. He missed deeply his homeland, family, and German Catholic religious traditions. One day, the radio operator had a divine idea.
“Sir, I’d like to build a Nativity,” Kaib petitioned Camp Commander Arthur T. Lobdell.