German Prisoners of War 11.5 million German POWs • declared not POWs but “Disarmed Enemy Forces” or “Surrendered Enemy Personnel“ • in 1947, USA had repatriated most, Britain held 500,000 France 640,000 USSR more than 890,000
No “Welcome Home” Ex-POW returning to Passau (Bavaria), July 1945 (Photo: Tony Vaccaro)
Finding Work Legless Vendor Frankfurt, October 1948 (Photo: Tony Vaccaro)
Problems of Returning POWs • no housing • residence permits refused if non-native • only limited work available (mining, agriculture, rubble clearing) • no military or war disability pensions (345,000 officers, i.e. , professional soldiers, without civilian skills and jobs) • lobbying organizations prohibited
Reason: Allied Goal of Demilitarization “The objective of abolishing war pensions is to discredit the military class in Germany, to reduce their influence in society, and to impress upon the public that a military career bears neither honor, profit nor security.” Report of the U.S. military government, Jan. 8, 1947 (Diehl 1993, p. 73).
Problems of Disabled Vets • no prosthetics • often young and unskilled • only ca. 50% of disabled employed
“Solutions” • public welfare, poverty • 1948: small payments for severely disabled war veterans • French Foreign Legion (60% German in 1946)
After Founding of the Federal Republic of (West-)Germany(May 1949) • March 1950: War Victims Benefits Law (Bundesversorgungsgesetz, BVG) covering 4,000,000 disabled vets and survivors of killed soldiers • Dec. 1950: Returned POW Law (Heimkehrergesetz, HKG) • material support to ease transition to civilian life (DM 150 cash, up to DM 250 clothes and personal effects) • assistance in finding employment • Jan. 1954: POW Compensation Law (Kriegsgefangenenentschädigungsgesetz, KgfEG) - one-time payments for war reparations work
Today • 1.2 million missing soldiers and civilians still sought by German Red Cross • In 1990, still 1.700 war blind (members of Bund der Kriegsblinden Deutschlands)
Literature • Diehl, James M. The Thanks of the Fatherland. German Veterans after the Second World War. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina Press, 1993. • Smith, Arthur L. Heimkehr aus dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. Die Entlassung der deutschen Kriegsgefangenen. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1985. • Vaccaro, Tony. Entering Germany, 1944-1949. Cologne: Taschen, 2001.