Treatment of POWs and the International Red Cross in World War Two (Part 3 of 3)

All POW camps in the US maintained a canteen, as required by the 1929 Geneva Convention, at which POWs could purchase sundries such as toothpaste, razors, cigarettes as well as Coca-Cola, candy bars, Saltines, local produce, beer and wine – these last at the discretion of the camp commandant. Prisoners purchased these items with the script they were paid in lieu of US currency. Enlisted men received a stipend of 10 cents a day. If they worked, and they were required to do so unless it was dangerous, they were paid an additional 80 cents a day. Many of the men saved a portion of their script which was deposited in accounts kept by the War Department. Prior to their repatriation, the former prisoners of war were paid out their savings in US currency.

Officers were not required to work under the Geneva Convention of 1929 and were paid a monthly stipend according to rank. Captains, for instance, were paid $38.50 per month by the US. However, as was the case with American officers, the cost of food was deducted from the monthly pay of the officers held as prisoners. (American captains held as POWs by the Germans were paid 96 Reichsmarks a month which was comparable with no deductions for food.) If officers worked supervising enlisted men, and many officers did, they were paid extra.

Large camps had their own large auditoriums and the men performed plays and musicals. The Commandant and his wife along with the other officers and their spouses were traditionally invited to opening nights. Once again, I’m not kidding.

Most camps had a crafts room where men worked models, carved various items, painted pictures of all sorts including portraits of Hitler. Each camp had its own library stocked with periodicals, newspapers, and books. Many of the books and other amenities were supplied by the Lutheran Church and the Red Cross. Of special note, all camps subscribed to the New York Times because the nightly Wehrmacht communique was printed in the Times along with the communiques of the other belligerent powers.

[Images courtesy of Alabama Heritage, published by the University of Alabama.]

Published by

Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

Leave a Reply