The last bunch of German POWs arrived in America on May 12, 1945. There were 3,000 men offloaded in New York to be processed into prisoner of war camps. As noted by a New York Times reporter, the men, albeit bedraggled, were well fed, none had been tortured, and there was no instance of inhuman treatment of any sort because it was American policy to adhere to international law regarding prisoners of war.
It was a sharp contrast from the American soldiers who arrived in New Jersey on May 13 from German camps. They were emaciated, many had been tortured and some spoke about seeing fellow Americans left to starve in the roadsides as they were forced marched from camp to camp.
The youngest of the German soldiers was a frightened 13-year-old; the eldest was 65 and a veteran of WWI. Many of the men had yet to see their sixteenth birthday.Most of them spoke against the Fuehrer, that they did not know Germany had committed atrocities, and Heinrich Himmler, the head of the feared SS and who oversaw all police and security forces including the Gestapo, was a “Schweinehund” (a vile German insult meaning pig-dog).
Before being transported to American prisoner of war camps located throughout the United States, one interpreter yelled at the men in German ”By the way, former American prisoners of war are going to be your guards from now on.”
Information for this blog came from the New York Times, May 13, 1945, “Arrival of Two War Prisoner Groups Provides Vivid Contrast: Our Soldiers Bitter at Brutality, Enemy Plainly Well Treated.”
Read my novel “The Swastika Tattoo” about life for German POWs held in a camp in Arizona.
Next: Fallout at the End of WWII
Copyright, Geraldine Birch. All rights reserved.