Why were the American authorities afraid of indoctrinating German POWs in democracy? They certainly had the chance–there were approximately 370,000 Germans on American soil working in camps harvesting everything from potatoes in Idaho to lumber in Michigan to cotton in Arizona.

But, to the credit of the War Department, serious thought was given to the limitations of the Geneva Convention regarding indoctrination. To force American propaganda upon German POWs was not only patently illegal but it might also invite serious retaliation against American prisoners in enemy hands.

Thus, the War Department examined the Geneva Convention for a loophole and it finally settled on Article 17 which states “So far as possible, belligerents shall encourage intellectual diversions and sports organized by prisoners of war.”

Since the Geneva Convention encouraged intellectual diversion, it was therefore decided that the War Department would select the proper subjects for the German POWs.

Next time: Teaching Democracy on the Sly

Copyright, Geraldine Birch. All rights reserved.

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