For the German prisoners of war held in America, 1945 was a difficult year. Not only did Germany unconditionally surrender, but the men were suddenly subjected to a severe cut in rations that coincided with the end of the war and the liberation of American prisoners in Germany.
Most German prisoners felt the rationing of food was retribution for the horrors found at Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald and Belsen-Bergen. In truth, the American people were enraged about the death camps, but they also felt the German POWs had been coddled. The War Department responded that the cut in rations were due to increased demands of America’s armed forces now facing Japan.
Whatever the reason, beef was served only twice a month, and margarine was served at all times instead of butter. Eggs were now a rare treat for the German prisoners of war. In many instances, the men were eating not much more than vegetable sandwiches and the result was a drop in weight.
While Americans felt smug about the POWs cut in rations, the farmers who used their labor were upset. Many farmers’ wives began feeding the men. One farmer even said that any farmer knows a underfed horse cannot put in a good day’s work and the same was with the German POWs.
Despite the new food policy, the POWs were more concerned about repatriation. When would they be going home?
Read my novel “The Swastika Tattoo” about life for German POWs held in a camp in Arizona.
Next time: A Secret Reeducation Program
Copyright, Geraldine Birch. All rights reserved