LAGERECHOGerman POW newspaper in England
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Living circumstances of German POW in anglo-american captivity
German POW on the Queen Elizabeth heading to UK

In the US 363,000 German prisoners of war were in custody in 155 main camps and 760 subcamps. Every main camp was allowed to publish its own newspaper right from start and during the war. Material and work equipment was provided by the camp commandant. Around 1946, the German prisoners were transferred from to the European allies, mostly to England (123,000) and France. A total of 400,000 German soldiers spent a captivity in England. After May 1945, according to international law, they were no longer prisoners because the prisonship had to end after ceasefire. Thus, their work is no longer justified by the rule that prisoners of war must not be a burden and have to earn a living through their own work. Rather, this work was justified as a kind of reparation or war indemnity. In England alone, German prisoners spent more than 1.2 billion working hours before being released.
The prisoners knew that their fate was uncertain, and dependend on the arbitrariness of war winners. With the downfall of the German Reich as a legal entity, there was no longer any authority that effectively represented their interests and protected their human rights. No one could oppose their abuse as forced laborers after the end of the war. In comparison with other victorious powers, such as the USSR and France, the living conditions of detention among Englishmen and Americans were comparably fair. Good care, leisure facilities, and low mortality rates may make the subtle influences of opinion-based education seem rather irrelevant compared to over 1.3 million German casualties in Soviet captivity.

Canadian POW Camp 30/Bowmanville

Political Re-Education
A hidden expectation of the Anglo-American custodian powers was that camp newspapers can awaken the "democratic spirit" of the prisoners in the sense of a political reformation according to Allied notions. To the background here a further article PDF. It was assumed that the Nazi state prevailed against the majority will of the German population, and that therefore the permission for free speech could eliminate this influence. In fact, most of the German soldiers remained loyal to their state during captivity - a finding that was surprising to the reformation officers. The concept of brainwashing adopted by the Anglo-American governments, first for German prisoners of war, and later for occupied Germany, on the other hand, called for "eradicating traditional German militarism and National Socialist ideology."
When the Americans realized during the war that The camp newspapers of their prisoners were also disseminated politically unpleasant content, they launched a journalistic counter-offensive. The camp newspaper under their control "Der Ruf" (The Call) appeared in March 1945 and was distributed in 75,000 copies. The other newspapers would therefore have been uncensored, asking whether censorship was necessary at all. Anyone who wrote as a prisoner in such a newspaper had, after the demise of his state, no reason to openly oppose the ideological influence of the victors.

Freedom of Opinion?
For reeducation, the German prisoners in Anglo-American custody were divided into ethical categories by use of questionnaires and interviews. These ranged from white (A) to black (C) with gray tints (B), which were graded by plus and minus signs. (Lagerecho 2/11, p. 9 ) Category "black" inmates were "C-men" with unwanted political beliefs and the last to be released after the war. So there was the opportunity to continue influencing them further in political trainings of the camp.
The mere fact that the German prisoners were still imprisoned after the war and against international law made obvious to them how much they were subject to arbitrariness. As individuals, they could not oppose that, and as a group there was no longer a unifying political base after the end of the war. The daily vain desire to finally be able to return home from the foreign country will have made it much easier for most contributors to a prisoner newspaper to find a nice attitude. Of what it consisted was not hard to guess, because participation in political trainings in the camp was highly recommended.

British POW Camp

There were also serious attempts at reorientation in this haze. As far as one finds them in the prisoners' newspaper, it is often a balancing act between the pressure of the victorious power and attempts to find their own attitudes. In the background remained the question of how much allowing compromises to the situation. With the prospect that the occupation would continue indefinitely in the home country, it was also logical for practical reasons to find an opportune guideline for the future. Who nevertheless had the guts not to keep distance to this influnece, and even expressed francly in the newspaper, hardly belonged to majorities. He could then still be seen as evidence of how "free" the contents of a prisoner newspaper are. To the colleague inmates such an indidual could serve as a welcome negative example to which they themselves were able to distinguish themselves "positively" in the sense of the camp management - and possibly were dismissed more quickly. Anyone who kept away from all sensitive topics at the same time was also able to demonstrate in a pleasing manner where he intended to find his new place in the future of occupation and its rulers.

The Lagerecho
For the mentioned situation the inmate newspaper is a filtered documentation of the thoughts of German POW in England. It is also lamented in the newspaper itself (Lagerecho 1/20, p. 5 ) that many do not want to say what they think. There was interest in political subjects, and appropriate event offerings for passive participation were well attended. Several prisoners limited their article contributions to practical matters, technology, professional knowledge and abstract objects of all kinds, including the "creation of a small garden" (Lagerecho 2/11, p. 5 ).

German POW on British forced labor duty

Some political thoughts, obviously in the intent of the camp management, could be authentic despite of circumstances and might represent serious search for new orientation. Others are more of an attempt to adapt to them. They unintentionally document the repercussions of re-education through lectures and discussion evenings during wartime captivity.
Not only was this accomplished in regular missionary events for democratic politics, there was even a special camp nearby for young people who seemed to be assigned as political cadres for a new Germany. After all, according to information in the camp echo, these in reality were more occupied in agricultural works. If rare contributions mention lamentable aspects of captivity such as the following sample, the author is given anonymous abbreviation (Lagerecho 2/06, p. 6f.). This indicates the limits of freedom of expression as prisoners. But there also were courageous exceptions (Lagerecho 2/12, S. 6f.).

Triumphal procession according to Roman custom: Demonstration of the spoils of war in Moscow.
11.03.2019-02 Impressum 2.16
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