German POWs in America
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.
Capture and Arrival
By May of 1943, the British government had asked the United States to help with over 300,000 German POWs taken from the North African campaign There was simply no more room to house all of the prisoners within their country. The U.S. agreed, and throughout 1943, POWs were arriving at the rate of 10,000 a week until around 450,000 were housed in over 500 POWs camps across 45 states. They arrived on crowded troop carriers, converted freighters not meant for passengers, and even cruise ships used for troop transport. The first arrivals were the elite Afrika Corps who had surrendered after they had run out of ammunition and supplies. The POWs were sent to processing centers where the S.S. and hard-core Nazi’s were to have been weeded out of the POWS being sent to the U.S., but many eluded detection and were sent to the U.S. in the numerous shipments of soldiers. S.S. soldiers were easily identifiable as they had a tattoo under their arm that designated that they would be the first to receive blood, medicine and rations in the case of injury in battle. However, many Nazi soldiers passed through undetected as the U.S. simply asked each solider if they were a Nazi, and a good number of the Nazi soldiers simply said “no” when they answered. This was unlike the British screening process which had a more thorough approach in determining party affiliation.
Surrender and capture in North Africa.  These soldiers had been without food and on limited water rations for some time. They arrived on the troop carriers in New York or Norfolk wearing the same clothes they had been wearing in North Africa. They were allowed two hours a day above decks for fresh air and exercise, although many of the POWs interviewed said there was no room to move around on the decks because of the over crowding.
Elite officers from the Luftwaffe and other commanders were also captured. In all, three Admirals and forty Generals were among the POWS. While on board the ships, the convoy spotted several U-boats. The International Red Cross wired the German High Command who in turn wired the U-Boat commanders that they should not fire upon the ships as there were thousands of German POWs on board. The U-boat commanders requested that those ships carrying Germans separate from the convoy and run with their lights on day and night, as well as change course. The ships in this convoy ended up docking in Boston instead of New York or Norfolk as all other convoys did. During the course of the war, no ship carrying German soldiers was ever attacked or sunk.
The POWs were processed and sent by train to the first camps. Many of the POWs marveled at the U.S. and realized that propaganda stating that large cities had been bombed out of existence were false. The first POWs were sent to Aliceville, Alabama, although the officers were sent to a camp of their own in Mississippi. One POW, Walter Felhzer, said the POWs were served peanut butter with American white bread and hot coffee while on the train. They had never tasted peanut butter before, but the POWs declared that the best dinner they had ever had because they were so hungry.
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