German POWs in America
Camp Orientation
When the POWs arrived at the first camps they were not completed, so they helped with the carpentry and other construction tasks to finish the barracks. Because the U.S. followed the Geneva Convention to the letter of the law, which stated that POWs shall have the same living accommodations as their guards, the U.S. soldiers were forced to move from their completed barracks into tents so the housing was equal in style.  Once completed the barracks each held 50 POWs with 25 cots on each side of the large room. They were furnished with cots, blankets and pillows, toiletry kits and paper and pencils so they could write their one allowed letter a month to family. The POWs also built sports fields, especially football or soccer fields. The local chapters of the YMCA’s or local churches often provided sports equipment for the POWs. A sore point with the local residents is that the POWS were also fed in accordance with the Geneva Convention which stated that the meals of POWS and their guards shall be of equal nutrition and portion. This rankled the residents who had their food rationed because of the war. Because the camps were under Federal control, rationing was not applicable. The German POWs were so starved when they first arrived they all said that they couldn’t possible consume so much food because it was too much and too rich. There are actually reports of them burning their left overs so the rations wouldn’t be reduced. Once their bodies adjusted to having proper nutrition again, they enjoyed three plentiful meals a day. Many of the POWs did not eat American sweet corn, however, and there are reports of the kitchen workers actually burying the ears of corn provided to them. In one camp. the POWs were caught doing this after the camp commanders found corn abundantly sprouting in the ground the following Spring.
In addition to working within the local community, the POWs took advantage of educational opportunities. Not only could they learn English, they could study mathematics, engineering and science. Some of the younger POWs completed the equivalent of a high school diploma, and other POWs completed courses of higher learning, all complete with graded class transcripts.
The POWs lived in tents until their barracks were completed. Because of the strict stipulations in the Geneva Convention, the U.S. Army staff also had to move into tents from their completed barracks so their housing was of equal quality.
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These images are all screencaps from the History Channel DVD: Nazi POWs in America. This DVD is a tie-in to Arnold Krammer’s book of the same title. This DVD is is available from the History Channel and features interviews with Arnold Krammer, some of the former POWs, and residents of Aliceville, Alabama which was one of the very first towns to house German POWs.  The various other sources for this information are listed here.