Thursday, March 20, 2014

More on German Prisoners of War in the United States during World War Two

The veteran of World War Two whom I’m interviewing was a prisoner of war in Germany. Many years later he met a German who had been a prisoner of war in the United States. This man commented on how these were the best days of his life, an experience not shared by my veteran.

The German prisoners of war in the United States were treated well. In fact, there was some public outrage that they were being coddled and not being reeducated to embrace democracy. A great deal of debate took place within the  War Department on whether a reeducation program should take place. Finally, an experimental program was put together, but it was kept confidential because of concerns that there might be retaliation on American prisoners of war in German if this was publicized. An interesting story I read recently relates that a Congressman who was critical that this reeducation wasn’t taking place happened to visit a prisoner of war camp where the experimental program was taking place. He didn’t recognize what was going on and continued to lambast the War Department. The reeducation wasn’t made public until after V-E Day. Ironically, the public and the press immediately lost interest in the issue. Some things never change—members of Congress who spout off without recognizing what’s going on and too much attention to the issue of the day versus long term solutions.

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