In a secret deal, the United States agreed to give up captured German soldiers to European states after the war to rebuild the countries Germany destroyed.
According to Arnold Krammer’s book, Nazi Prioners of War in America, more than 700,000 German POWs were sent to France. Of those, 200,000 worked on farms, 55,000 in mines, 40,000 in construction, and 30,000 in forestry. There is no mention regarding where the remaining 375,000 men worked. Many men who were put into labor battalions in France worked no longer than three or four months; however, thousands more were kept for several years.
The French were motivated by vengeance as much as by the genuine need for labor; however, “as late as April, 1947, the French government still retained in excess of 440,000 German prisoners.” It was only because of the intercession of the American government (American citizens were infuriated by what they called ’slave labor’) that France offered repatriation to all German prisoners under its control. The other option was to remain in Franch as voluntary salaried workers. The vast majority of the men wanted to go home, but about 10,000 remained to work until mid-1948.
Read my historical novel about Camp Papago Park, The Swastika Tattoo, a German POW camp located on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona during WWII. My book is now out in paperback!!
Next time: American Use of Newly-Repatriated German Prisoners of War
Copyright Geraldine Birch. All rights reserved.