TEACHING DEMOCRACY ON THE SLY

The War Department decided to use a loophole in the Geneva Convention that would allow them to slyly democratize the more than 370,000 German prisoners of war that toiled in the factories, fields and forests of America during WWII.

The loophole said belligerents shall encourage intellectual diversion and sports for prisoners of war. And so that is what we did–we taught the Germans baseball and basketball, showed them movies about the American way of life such as “Abe Lincoln in Illinois” and the “The Human Comedy” and stocked POW libraries with books by Ernest Hemingway, Thornton Wilder, and William Saroyan.

In addition, newspapers from around the nation could be found in camp libraries as well as books by the famous German novelist Thomas Mann.  The men were also encouraged to learn the rich history Germany had before the takeover of the nation by the Nazis.

Many who spent the war housed in American camps knew very well they were being fed propaganda that espoused the ideals of democracy and independence. For most, it was tolerable considering they were far from the horror of the war and they were getting three meals a day. And for some, it was a bitter pill to swallow in addition to the unconditional surrender of Germany.

Next time: The US Army School Center

Copyright, Geraldine Birch. All rights reserved.

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