Wars have essentially been the backbone of history. A war can make or break a country. As the result of war, a country can lose or gain territory and a war directly impacts a countries’ economy. When we learn about wars in schools we usually are taught about when they start, major events/ battles, and when they end. It would take a year or two to cover one war if we were to learn about everything. One thing that is commonly overlooked and we take for granted, is prisoners of war. Most people think of concentration camps and the millions of Jews that suffered when prisoners and war are mentioned in the same sentence. Yes it is terrible what happened during WWII, but what about our troops that were captured and potentially tortured trying to save the Jews? How did they suffer? Being captured as a prisoner of war is just an on the job hazard. In this paper I will explain what POWs went through and how it has changes between countries, and I will only scratch the surface.
Taking prisoners of war have been a battle tactic for ages. Capturing an enemy troop could be done for many reasons. Mainly enemy soldiers are captured to be interrogated for unknown information on the enemy. There were usually common rules and procedures for taking a prisoner of war, weather they were followed or not was really up to the country. Come 1929, there was a document in the works that set rules regarding prisoners of war. More than 40 countries got together to sign and agree on these new set of rules (“Life” 11). The signing of the Geneva Convention was held in Geneva, Switzerland.
This document of ninety-seven articles defined a prisoner of war as a member of a regular military unit, wearing a uniform (thus spies were excluded). The Convention declared that a prisoner must be humanely treated . . . listed the rights of a prisoner and the duties of the captor. . . . the prisoners’ food, clothing and shelter were to be comparable to what was provided to the captor’s troops. Captors had to release lists of who they had taken prisoner and permit prisoners to communicate with their families. Officers (lieutenants, captains, majors, colonels, generals) could not be forced to do work, while enlisted ranks (privates, corporals, sergeants) could perform work as long as it did not endanger their health of have anything to do with war operations. (“Life” 12)
Just because nations signed a piece of paper saying they would follow these rules, did not mean they would be necessarily followed. The governments only had so much control over how each unit handles POWs. Although the International Red Cross inspected camps and was the only universal form of enforcing the Geneva Convention, they had almost no power. The Germans and Japanese were the most regular violators. “When American Private Harold J. Farrell and other prisoners complained to a German guard that their lengthy work schedule violated the Geneva Convention, the guard tapped his rifle and replied, “Here is my Geneva...