Camp Life

Camp routine usually began with a parade and roll call. Although the Geneva Convention forbade work for officers and NCOs the majority of POWs had to work. This was often hard labour. In theory, soldiers were not permitted to contribute to tasks of military importance. Work was not easy, in spite of regulations. One American POW who felt he was being overworked at 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, contrary to the rules of the Geneva Convention, approached a prison guard with his quandary. The guard merely tapped his rifle and replied, “Here is my Geneva Convention.”

Red Cross food parcels

When not working, prisoners distracted themselves with music, amateur theatre, sports, or by learning new skills or languages. Food was the most pressing concern, particularly in the final winter of the war. In the beginning, rations were basic. Fortunately, Red Cross food parcels provided an essential supplement to the POWs’ diet and often contained ‘luxury’ items like butter, biscuits, chocolate and condensed milk, not to mention dried fruits and vegetables. While international aid made an immeasurable contribution to the survival and wellbeing of Allied POWs in Europe, specifically those from American and British forces, in the autumn of 1944 Heinrich Himmler took charge of German POW camps and the parcels dried up.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 21/11/2011.