WWII Jewelry Box Historic Piece - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

9/23/07-Longview

WWII Jewelry Box Historic Piece

An East Texas woman has an unusual hand made item that marks a little known World War II history here in East Texas.  During World War II there were dozens of POW camps in Texas, two major camps in East Texas.  It's a simple hand made jewelry box but for Betty Shrum, it's proof of a little known piece of World War II history.  German prisoners of war, who were living and working among East Texans.

"I was just afraid," said Shrum.  "All I was hearing was the bad things going on overseas."  In 1943, then 19 year old Betty was working at Lone Star Steel, when a man she recognized as a German prisoner of war approached her.

"This boy that came walking up there he was a nice looking young man blonde haired blue eyed," said Shrum.  "I shook my head no when he held it out and he said gift.  I used it as my jewelry box for years."  According to records, more than 78,000 were held in Texas camps many were used as laborers at places like Lone Star Steel and Harmon hospital in Longview, which is now LeTourneau University.

"They probably were just a bunch of kids down there, just glad they weren't in the fighting and making the best of where they were," said Shrum.  They were not the monsters that propaganda made them out to be and Shrum often wonders about the young German, who even left his name on the gift, Walter Holthoffer.

"Yes, I did I wondered," said Shrum.  "It's just been a secret in my bathroom for all these years."  She is allowing the Gilmer Historical Museum to display the box, as proof that it really happened.  Shrum says the jewelry box will be put on display when the Gilmer Historical Museum opens after renovations in October.  

Bob Hallmark, Reporting. bhallmark@kltv.com

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