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Remembered Today:

Were all prisoners listed ?


Ed McKie
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I have noticed in various threads, not just on this forum, that there was some duplicity, to say the least, on the part of the German forces regarding the location of prisoners. For instance some are shown as being in various camps, whereas they were being used as forced labour behind the lines. Did this extend to falsifying the number of prisoners ? where all the records of captured soldiers passed to the ICRC ? Is anyone aware of any research having been done on this subject ?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have noticed in various threads, not just on this forum, that there was some duplicity, to say the least, on the part of the German forces regarding the location of prisoners...Did this extend to falsifying the number of prisoners ? where all the records of captured soldiers passed to the ICRC ? Is anyone aware of any research having been done on this subject ?

Firstly, the Germans did not register all of the prisoners therefore the total number held by them would be false if going by the ICRC records.

For your second question, see above. Some were not registered with ICRC nor registered at a recognised camp. I have some personal diaries of soldiers who were given registration cards but these were not forwarded and possibly destroyed. Some of the unregistered prisoners received Red Cross parcels despite not being registered. Some men were moved from camps in Germany to the front, as acts of reprisals. Some men who were not registered have repatriation records with the ICRC as they were liberated from unofficial working camps in France and Belgium.

Lastly, there are a number of free ebooks on archive.org site on POWs. More recent books on research regarding WW1 POWs:

Heather Jones, 'Violence Against Prisoners of War; First World War'

John Horne and Alan Kramer: 'German Atrocities; a History of Denial'

If you wish to conduct some research of your own, then the FO 383 files at The National Archives document the treatment of POWs, the allegations and counter allegations regarding mistreatment. I have posted a link to download the contents of these files in the POW area of this forum. However, the files themselves have not been digitised.

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The Germans had no central management of POWs, which made it difficult to establish numbers. On 9 January 1919, according to British records, there were still 36,000 to be released. The Germans said they had only 13,579. This discrepancy was never properly resolved, but it has been suggested that much of this was because of German laxity in reporting P.O.W. deaths to the Red Cross.(see Edmonds-Official History-Occupation of the Rhineland p.51.)

I can't find my own great uncle in the Red Cross records, but he was captured on 16 October 1918, at Haussy. I can't imagine, by that stage, reporting P.O.Ws. to the Red Cross was a priority.

Michael

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Thanks for the comments and suggestions. The thought came to mind that perhaps that perhaps some or many of the "unknown grave" missing and killed may well not have died on the battlefield and their bodies lost or blown to pieces, but could have died after being captured.

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