How Were German Prisoners of War Treated During World War II?

The quality of treatment of German POWs during World War II largely depended on which country captured them. The United States was known for offering relatively humane treatment, while the USSR is reported to have forced countless prisoners into labor camps where they frequently died. Even among the Allied forces, the protections afforded POWs occasionally broke down.

The Germans captured by the Americans and sent to the continental United States were likely given the best treatment. These soldiers were placed in camps far removed from large populations and used as work gangs for manual labor. The International Red Cross was allowed to interact with these prisoners and assure that their detention was in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

With a large portion of the American male population diverted to the war effort, German soldiers were pressed into service at local farms and other low-security industries. Meals were provided to the POWs by their employers, but the U.S. government was paid 45 cents an hour for contracting out the prisoners.

Millions of Germans ended the war as prisoners of the Allied powers. With the infrastructure of Europe either destroyed or degraded, supplying the prisoners became a monumental task. Rations for prisoners held in Europe were much sparser than their comrades held in the United States. During this time, the death rate for Axis troops was roughly 1 percent of the 5 million held by Americans. By comparison, Russian-held captives faced a mortality rate of 60 percent.