As I continue to write the second volume of my historical novel, The Swastika Tattoo, my main character Rudolf Meier returns to Germany after spending several years as a prisoner of war housed in an area outside of Phoenix called Camp Papago Park. The area is still called Papago Park. Now it houses the Phoenix Zoo, the beautiful Phoenix Botanical Garden, and the Arizona National Guard is now located where the POW camp formerly was, against the strange geologic hills with their pock-mark holes.
After years of research about the rise of the Nazi regime, WWII, and the 370,000 POWs in the United States, I believe, that in the main, the American public treated the POWs well. Many of the POWs reported friendships with the the people they worked for. In fact, some of the POWs did not want to return home to a devastated Germany.
Yes, it is true that after the Jewish concentration camps were found by American troops as they moved into Nazi territory, there was a cutback of food to the POWs, and it was in response to the outcry by an outraged American public. But the cutback did not last long because American farmers and industrialists who needed POW labor to pick cotton and food crops, harvest lumber and labor in factories. went to the War Department, complaining the men needed to be fed well if they were going to work well. That outcry did not go on deaf ears and the men were once again given the protein they needed.
However, once the POW’s returned to Germany in areas that were considered the American Zone, treatment changed. We were the conquerors and American occupation was not the sweetness and light I was taught about in grammar school. No war zone with foreign occupiers could possibly be what I thought as a kid–CARE packages and kindness. Still, I am dismayed at information about the Americans as portrayed in the 2007 book After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation by Giles MacDonogh.
There were four occupiers in that broken-up Germany. The British, Soviets, French and the Americans. According to MacDonogh, the French were corrupt; the British handed out fewer food rations than any of the other occupiers, the Russians were raping brutes who stole everyone’s watch; and the Americans were arrogant bastards.
Next time: More about Post-War Germany
Copyright, Geraldine Birch. All rights reserved.