September 17, 2009

AND NOT A ONE OF THEM GOT A TRIAL?

German POWs on the American Homefront: Thousands of World War II prisoners ended up in mills, farm fields and even dining rooms across the United States (J. Malcolm Garcia, September 16, 2009, Smithsonian.com)

As World War II raged, Allies, such as Great Britain, were running short of prison space to house POWs. From 1942 through 1945, more than 400,000 Axis prisoners were shipped to the United States and detained in camps in rural areas across the country. Some 500 POW facilities were built, mainly in the South and Southwest but also in the Great Plains and Midwest.

At the same time that the prison camps were filling up, farms and factories across America were struggling with acute labor shortages. The United States faced a dilemma. According to Geneva Convention protocols, POWs could be forced to work only if they were paid, but authorities were afraid of mass escapes that would endanger the American people. Eventually, they relented and put tens of thousands of enemy prisoners to work, assigning them to canneries and mills, to farms to harvest wheat or pick asparagus, and just about any other place they were needed and could work with minimum security.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 17, 2009 7:43 AM
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