Tag Archives: Land of Mine

What to Do with Your Enemy after You’ve Won the War?

If you’re one of the Allied countries and you’ve got approximately 11 million German soldiers in your custody, what do you do with all of those prisoners of war?  The Armchair Historian discusses this very topic (don’t mind the bit with the video’s sponsor…it goes by quickly).

Did you know that there were German soldiers imprisoned in American facilities and were “leased out to farms and factories to serve as laborers”?  I definitely never learned about that in any school text book or class.  Moreover, “German laborers were treated on par or just slightly better than Black workers — recall that this was during the days of Segregation.”  It happened.

Behold this Smithsonian Magazine article and this tidbit:
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.”


If you’d like to watch a dramatized version of what German POWs experienced in Europe, say, in Denmark, take a look at Land of Mine (Martin Zandvliet, 2015).