Britain, France and other European countries were not the only ones to utilize repatriated German prisoners of war–the American Military Government in Germany was by far the largest ”employer” of Germans still being held in European camps and those who were newly repatriated from the American mainland.

At the end of WWII, the United States proclaimed the men “Disarmed Enemy Personnel” which stripped them of any rights under the Geneva Accords. Although this enabled the men to receive a higher level of treatment by the American Military Government than their status of prisoner of war, this designation allowed the military to use the men for any job, including those that were dangerous.

The War Department insisted it was paying the men the prevailing civilian wage for jobs such as hospital technicians, interpreters, longshoremen, and day laborers, but the men were also pressed into service to clear mine fields. More than one million former German prisoners of war were used until the spring of 1946, when the War Department began to untangle itself from the POW-labor program in Europe.

Next time: The American Way: Using Logical Persuasion

Copyright Geraldine Birch. All rights reserved.

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