An interesting look at the reeducation of German prisoners of war held in the United States during WWII was captured by Ron Robin in his book “The Barbed-Wire College.”
Robin asserts that intellectuals hired to run the Special Projects Division had a deep distrust of popular American culture. They were committed to reeducating German POWs through rational persuasion and scholarly enlightenment. As a result, the medium of film was considered an auxiliary tool–the officials ignored the popularity of film among the prisoners. The American officials were also influenced by several anti-Nazi German prisoners (one of whom was noted German-author inmate Hans Werner Richter) who were part of the reeducation program, men who felt typical American movies stifled the intellect.
Previous to putting into effect the reeducation program, Nazi-indoctrinated spokesmen for the many camps made sure the inmates saw films that “prove…that Nazi propaganda which had emphasized the senility of the American people, rampant gangsterism in the United States, the corruption of the U.S. government and the debilitating effects of democracy and the American way of life, was true.” As a result, the kinds of films that POWs saw about American culture were Lady Scarface, Millionaire Play Boy, Seven Miles from Alcatraz, Dead End, Legions of the Lawless, and Too Many Blonds, mostly B movies that showed America as wayward and lawless.
However, given the kind of fare the Nazis in the POW camps used for entertainment, the Special Projects Division had no alternative but to bring in documentary films that showed the Allies perspective of the war and the official interpretation of the impending new world order. Beside the documentaries, light entertainment films were also included.
Next time: Hollywood Studio Heads Oppose “Entertaining” German POWs
Read my novel “The Swastika Tattoo” about life at Camp Papago Park
Copyright, Geraldine Birch. All rights reserved.