Sunday, November 11, 2012

"German POWS on the American Homefront" vs. Treatment of Current POWs

German POW Camp in Nebraska from the article in the Smithsonian.
I've just read an article in the Smithsonian by J. Malcolm Garcia:  German POWs on the American Homefront

The subject interests me because I've been working on a short story based on a story my father told me about German POWs who worked on a farm for Libby's canning factory outside of his one room schoolhouse in rural Illinois in the early 1940s.  When my father was telling me the story of his interactions with these German men working on the farm, I was struck, immediately, by how differently the US treats POWs now.  As I searched the Internet for information, I came across this account published in the Smithsonian.  The writer of this post directly addresses that difference.  There is also, in the article, a reference to how civilians responded differently to the idea of a "prisoner of war."  Civilians want more retribution.  To mind, this represents a shift in our cultural mindset that runs far deeper than trying to blame the military forces.

As I was perusing the unreliable Net, I did find differing views of how the German POWs were treated.  Some were put into camps.  Those who tried to escape were kept in stricter conditions. What I also find notable in terms of "now vs. then" is not all prisoners of war were assumed to be Nazi supporters whereas now we assume a great uniformity about those who labeled as an "enemy."

This account byJ. Malcom Garcia sounds most like my father's story.  Racism must play a part in this different treatment in addition to the need for media sensation.  The subject is far too complicated for simple blogpost, but our society seems, with advancing technology to have less and less respect for human life.  Drones, prisons, people stripped of all rights, an alarming trend in comparison to this story in the Smithsonian.

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