The Kay Hively Gifts
In at least one instance, the friendly relations between the POWs at Camp Howze and their guards transcended generations. Kay Hively was a journalist who was born on December 15, 1943. At the time, Hively’s father was working as a supervisor of the POW carpentry shop at Camp Howze. Hively’s father, just like all the other men tasked with overseeing the POWs at Howze, was instructed to view POWs as “the enemy.” Despite this, Hively’s father developed a friendly relationship with the POWs based on mutual respect.
When Hively was born in the middle of the war, her father announced this to the POWs and was met with many congratulations. When he also announced that he was planning on building a crib for his new baby, one of the POWs immediately insisted that he wanted to make it for Hively’s family as a gift. This POW barely spoke any English, and his name his been lost to history. Hively’s father, despite his positive relations with the POWs, was taken aback by the request. Nevertheless, the POW was enthusiastic and insistent, and eventually Hively’s father accepted his offer.
Two weeks later, the crib was done. Adorned with carvings of the Black Forest and German storybook characters, it was by all accounts a thing of great beauty. Hively’s father expressed his gratitude to the POW, but the story didn’t end there. In the following days, Hively’s father noticed that the POW was pilfering small pieces of wood and other items from the carpentry shop. Hively’s father knew that something was afoot, but trusted the POW enough that he didn’t feel the need to report it.
Eventually, the POW revealed his project: a to-scale model of his house back in Germany. He had taken materials back to the POW barracks and had secretly carved the house each night after lights went out (with a contraband pocketknife). After turning over the house, and the knife, to Hively’s father, he told him “Take this home to new baby.” And Hively’s father did. When Hively turned nineteen, her father decided that she was old enough to be responsible for the house herself. She watched over it for several years before donating it to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.