“They did not feel like the Enemy”: German prisoners of war in Michigan

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Southern New Hampshire University
Seventy years after the end of World War Two, many topics concerning the United States’ involvement are rarely discussed. One of these topics is the German Prisoner of War (POW) camps that dotted the United States from 1942-1945/46. The United States began transporting POWs to the United States due to pressure from its Allies in Europe. Allied camps could no longer house captured troops. Land and economic food supplies within Allied camps were lacking, due to the British being unable to financially supply these necessities. With misgivings, due to the proximity to the American people, the United States began to erect camps. Approximately, 378,000 prisoners of war arrived from the European theater. Of those, 4,000-5,000 prisoners arrived in Michigan to begin a process of becoming economic laborers. Viewed as workers, according the residents, these men did not feel like the enemy. These laborers, though prisoners, allowed Michigan to maintain its economic stability. Utilizing unpublished letters, contemporary newspaper articles, personal interviews, National Archive records, and secondary sources, it is possible to review how the camps and the prisoners in Michigan were viewed. These camps followed the confines of the Geneva Convention. However, escapes still happened from the camps. Despite these instances, without the prisoners during the war, Michigan’s economy would have suffered due to the lack of farming crops. Without these prisoners, Michigan civilians would have been unable to realize the average German soldier was not the same enemy as a Nazi. (Author abstract)