Santa Rosa filmmaker Robyn Kasper has been a finalist in three film competitions since 2012 but never won an award. In January, the spell was broken.
Kasper was honored by the Sonoma County Historical Society for “Camp Windsor,” her 27-minute documentary about the German prisoner of war camp that housed 250 captives during World War II. It was a branch of the Army’s Camp Beale in Marysville.
Her film won the first Jack Taylor Media Award, named after the late filmmaker and historian.
“I didn’t expect it. I didn’t know who selected me,” Kasper said.
Stephen Lehmann, president of the Windsor Historical Society and Museum, nominated Kasper for the prize. He lives on the former Camp Windsor site west of Windsor near Eastside Road.
Kasper, a paralegal, first heard about the POW camp in 1988 when TV-50 broadcast “The Enemy Lived Next Door,” an episode of its “California North” program.
“I got the idea for the film in the beginning of 2014. I didn’t know anything about it, so I did my own research,” said Kasper, who spent about 10 months on the project.
She visited the Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library, read stories by Press Democrat writer and historian Gaye LeBaron, found photographs on the Internet and interviewed Lehmann, who gave her a tour of the site.
Kasper also interviewed young and old Windsor residents, learning that only a few were aware of the POW camp that opened in the summer of 1942.
John Moran, a consultant for CMedia, narrated the film, and Kasper’s husband, Hans, was the voice of one of the two POWs who escaped the compound. That story and one about providing the German POWs with cold beer on a hot day are among the highlights of the film.
The German POWs, submariners, Afrika Corpsmen, veterans and foreign conscripts weren’t caged or mistreated. They helped local farmers with their crops and established lifelong friendships before they returned home at the end of the war.
One of the POWs, Horst Liewald, came to the camp as a young man. He was later sponsored by a farmer and returned to the United States.
“They were in their 20s, not hard-core Nazis. They were conscripted as young men,” Kasper said.
Her next project is filming scenes along the Sonoma Coast and setting them to comforting music.
“Camp Windsor” is available at pd2go.net/WkQKTl.