Free documentary ‘Splinters of a Nation’ shows treatment of German POWs in Utah
GUNNISON—The Casino Star Theatre will offer an advance showing of a public TV documentary that highlights Utah’s experience housing German prisoners-of-war (POW) in communities throughout the state during World War II.
The screening of “Splinters of a Nation: German Prisoners of War in Utah” will be tonight at 7 p.m.. It is free and open to the public. Later, the film is scheduled to be aired on KUED and possibly on PBS.
Filmmaker G. Scott Porter, who will be in attendance at the screening, says he chose the title after encountering an excerpt from an unknown German POW’s diary entry that reads: “We are part of our people. A splinter of the nation which has been separated into a foreign land.”
Porter says he got the idea for the film after his grandmother told him a story of how she got to know some German POWs who worked on her farm during the summer of 1945.
At first, Porter explained, she despised the prisoners, but as the summer progressed, she grew fond of them and realized that they weren’t all that different from her.
“I was shocked,” Porter said. “Why hadn’t I ever heard of this before? I was even more surprised to learn that my grandmother’s experience wasn’t all that unique. In fact, people throughout Utah and in 46 other states had similar experiences with more than 370,000 German POWs who were held in American during WWII. Yet no film on the subject had ever been made.
After so many years, Porter said he struggled to find living witnesses to interview for his film.
“I talked with every scholar on the subject who had ever interviewed German POWs,” Porter said. “They always told me the same thing; I was 10 years too late. I finally turned to the Internet and, through some intense searching, located a living prisoner and two of his comrades. Their interviews became a critical thread for the film.”
Porter said he spent a year finding living Utahns who had memories of the German POWs and conducted a dozen more interviews for the film.
Also in attendance at tonight’s screening will be Ken Verdoia from KUED. Porter and Verdoia will holding a question-and-answer session after the 56-minute screening.
“Please join us for this important preview of the first-ever documentary about a historic encounter of two cultures at war discovering their common humanity—right here in Utah,” Lori Nay, director of the theater, said.
“Such programs are an important part of the mission of the Casino Star Theatre Foundation. “We look forward to having a large crowd, so arrive early.”