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BSU grad investigates untold history of German POWs in Minnesota

German prisoners of war work in a labor camp in Remer in 1944.
Courtesy
/
Minnesota Historical Society
German prisoners of war work in a labor camp in Remer in 1944.

Fia Larsen will speak at the Beltrami County History Center at noon Thursday, May 23, 2024, on German prisoners of war, who worked in farms and forests from Faribault to Cass Lake.

BEMIDJI — While 326,000 Minnesotans served overseas in World War II, German prisoners of war were working in farms and forests from Faribault to Cass Lake.

Fia Larsen researched this little-known part of the state's labor camp history, a contract between agricultural producers and the U.S. government. Larsen also explored the connections that still exist between Germany and Minnesota from that time.

Larsen is a recent graduate in history and Spanish from Bemidji State University. She's also an intern and volunteer at the Beltrami County History Center, where she has dedicated her academic pursuits to uncovering the often-overlooked history of German POWs in Minnesota during WWII.

"The road to this topic was actually really weird. It started out with my mother reading a cozy mystery."
Fia Larsen

She will speak at the Beltrami County History Center at noon on Thursday, May 23, and was a recent guest on the KAXE Morning Show. Listen to the conversation above.

"So the road to this topic was actually really weird. It started out with my mother reading a cozy mystery," Larsen said. "And she's like, 'You might want to look into this. I want to know about this. You like research.' So that's kind of how my project started and I just moved on from there."

Photo of speaker Fia Larsen
Contributed
/
Fia Larsen
Speaker Fia Larsen who will be presenting her research at the Beltrami County History Museum at noon May 23.

These camps played a crucial role during the war, serving as both a housing facility and a source of labor for agricultural and forestry tasks. Through meticulous research utilizing newspapers, military reports, oral history transcripts and letters, Larsen will shed light on how these camps were organized and operated and their impact on Minnesota's agricultural landscape.

Originally from Hackensack, Larsen has presented her research at prestigious venues including conferences at the University of Maryland and the Minnesota Capitol Rotunda.

Attendees can expect to gain a deeper understanding of the contributions made by German POWs and their lasting legacy in the state.

For more information, contact the Beltrami County Historical Society at depot@beltramihistory.org, or 218-444-3376.

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