U.S. POW Policies Don't Change

MNH 2/12/02

I remember it so well; the French prisoner of war returning from the fields unobtrusively dropping a hand full  of candies,  and the three of us, three little German girls,  scampering to pick up the caramel bonbons. It was the only candy I got during the war. You might ask, how come a  prisoner  had candies when we, the Germans had none. The candy came from Red Cross packages which the Germans duty bound by the Geneva convention handed over to the prisoners of  war under their control. (This was not the case with the Russian POW since Stalin, approached by the Germans wanted no part of the Geneva convention).

I have another  memory. It was about two weeks after the war. Now the Germans were the prisoners and the Americans the keepers. The German prisoners were kept in the open  without shelter on Hamp's field  for about three or four days.  Shelter was available, a big unused barn, and it was right there on the field. Just like Stalin Eisenhower wanted no oversight by the Red Cross. He simply  changed the status of  the captured  German soldiers  by changing  the name  from POW to DEF, disarmed enemy  forces.  Tenth of thousands of German  POW were  held for weeks and months on end along the fields near the  Rhine  with inaedequate rations  and no shelter. The death rate was horrendous. The Red Cross having been given access to POW camps administered by the Germans  found nothing amiss in these camps.  It might come as a surprise to you that  Sep.. l944 the Red Cross was at Auschwitz. And yes, the concentration camp inmates did receive Red Cross packages. When a Red Cross convoy was on the way to relieve the suffering of the German POW under American control it was turned around.  Americans are prone to make  moral judgments according to the side on which you are fighting.  If you are on the American side you are automatically good, if you are on the opposing side you are morally bad. Your moral standing can quickly change,  since American friends from yesterday can almost overnight become the American enemy of  today.  Eisenhower considered the Germans and their soldiers  morally bad and therefore they deserved to suffer.  The Talbian fighters,  friends of yesterday, are now American enemies and have suddenly become an evil lot. Bush, like Eisenhower thinks a name change is all that it needs. By calling  these Taliban fighters held in wire cages (6 by 8) illegal combatants the Bush administration feels free to ignore the Geneva convention. When the German POWS  suffered and died in the mud of the Rhine fields, nobody  paid any attention. But now the International community is watching and does not like what it sees.