Austria Hand

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Austria Hand

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Hand Transplant - Austria

Australian POW labour in Germany in World War II.

The experiences of Australian POWs in Japanese captivity during
World War II have assumed a central place in the Australian
historiography of that war. Moreover, the literature in the field makes
clear the centrality of labour in the lives of POWs, whether in the form
of the provision of medical services to fellow POWs or, more commonly,
the subjection of Australian POWs to forced heavy labour, especially in
the context of the construction of the Thai-Burma railway. In popular
culture too, the representation of labour in Japanese captivity has been
fore grounded, whether in popular written accounts by survivors such as
Rohan Rivett, Russell Braddon and Weary Dunlop or in feature film
treatments such as A Town Like Alice, The Bridge on the River Kwai,
Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence and Paradise Road. (1) In both the
scholarly literature and in the popular imagination, Japanese captivity
is intimately connected with work. (2)

By contrast Australian captivity in the European theatre of war has
received relatively little attention generally. (3) This may be
attributed to two main reasons. The first concerns numbers. Official
records suggest that the total number of Australians captured by
Japanese forces was 22 376, some two-and-a-half times the number
detained in Europe--8,591. (4) Secondly, it became quickly apparent at
the end of hostilities that those who had been in Japanese captivity had
endured the most appalling privations and abuses, both at the workplace
and outside it. The harshness of their experiences was confirmed in the
mortality rates of Australians in Japanese captivity--34 percent. In
comparison, only 242 Australians died in German captivity, representing
just three percent of the total number. (5)

Where the POW experience in Germany was dealt with in popular
culture, the theme of work was largely avoided. The prevailing
perception was of a period of captivity characterized by idleness and
relative comfort. In books, in movies, and on television,
representations of captivity in Germany created a dominant image of POWs
confined to their camps, passing their time at leisure, occasionally
focusing their energies on planning and executing cunning escape plans
so as to outwit a guileless foe. (6) This is especially evident in
representations of airmen POWs, who had prominent roles in some of the
best-known escape attempts, and for whom as officers the experience of
working in the German war economy was quite alien. Such was the strength
of this image of the non-working POW that one historian has coined the
phrase 'the Colditz Myth' as a label for this distorted image
of captivity in Germany, its distinguishing features a combination of
frustrating but not otherwise distressing leisure on the one hand and
moments of heightened daring and resistance, typically in the form of
escapes, on the other.(7) Similarly, scholarly literature on the British
experience of captivity has tended to marginalize the work experiences
of POWs. Discussions of it tend to focus on issues of policy and
diplomacy from a British perspective, with little attention to the
everyday perspective 'from below' of the other ranks, whose
lives were dominated by their labour commitments. (8)

This paper argues that despite its minimal presence in both the
scholarly literature and in popular culture, labour was central to the
wartime experience of the great majority of Australian POWs in Europe.
It seeks to investigate that experience by proceeding from the premise
that labour, like any other aspect of captivity, has to be understood
above all in terms of the relationship between the detaining power and
its captives. Such an approach requires an investigation not only of the
reported and remembered experiences of Australian POWs, but also an
understanding of the principles, motivations and exigencies which shaped
German behavior toward the Third Reich's POW population over the
duration of the war. Therefore the methodology adopted here will be to
analyze oral and written testimonies of Australian POWs, and to consider
these alongside evidence of German policy and practice as they related
to Australian and other 'British' POWs, as well as
contemporaneous 'neutral' sources such as Red Cross and
Protecting Power reports on POW working conditions.

In establishing the centrality of labour in the Australian POW
experience, this paper seeks to record the extraordinarily wide gamut of
treatment in the German workplace. Practice varied from periods of
prolonged idleness and work in benign conditions under gentle
supervision through to extraordinarily long hours in harsh, even
life-threatening conditions. The existence of such conditions sits
awkwardly with the 'Colditz Myth', yet, as this paper will
show, they became more common as the war progressed. The variations of
labour conditions described, from soon after capture through to the
final months of the war, defy any notion that German treatment of POW
labour was determined by any single factor. Rather, the reasons for
these variations must be sought above all in the changing dynamics of
the German POW regime and the developing exigencies of a detaining power
in the grip of what by 1943 was understood as 'total war'.

Finally, as Rosalind Hearder has observed, the lack of interest in
the experiences of POWs generally has implied 'that captivity
represented a situation of stasis--men were imprisoned and nothing
changed except that some lived and some died. Nothing could be further
from the truth. Constant change and flux characterized the
prisoner-of-war experience'. (9) This study of the work experiences
of Australians in Germany will show that indeed POW labour was a dynamic
phenomenon, changing with the course and conditions of war.

The Australian POW Population

Most Australians who became POWs in Europe spent a period of close
to four years in captivity, longer than those in Japanese hands.
Large-scale capture of Australian forces, along-side other British or
Commonwealth forces, occurred during the disastrous campaigns conducted
to halt German advances in Greece (2,065 Australians captured) and Crete
(3,109) during April and May 1941. In North Africa, in battles fought
against Italian forces from the end of 1940 through to the battles
against Rommel around El Alamein in 1943, 1,941 Australians were
captured. (10) Most of them were captured by German forces, but
according to agreements reached between the Axis partners, POWs were
passed as soon as convenient into Italian hands. There followed a period
of captivity in provisional camps in Libya before transport to Italy and
allocation to one of the Italian POW camps, most commonly in northern
Italy. Like those who were taken from Greece and Crete to Germany, the
fate of most of these men was to be integrated into Italy's
war-time labour force, performing either agricultural or industrial
work. A regular destination was Vercelli in north-west Italy, where POW
labour was able to compensate for the absence of a good part of the
local male workforce required for working the rice-fields of that
district. However, with the Italian surrender in September of 1943, the
majority of these men passed from Italian to German captivity and were
transported north into the Reich, where the majority joined the existing
POW labour force there.

Not all members of the 2nd AIF captured in Greece, Crete and North
Africa were integrated into the workforces of their respective detaining
powers. Following the terms of the 1929 'Convention Relative to the
Treatment of Prisoners of War' (hereafter simply The Geneva
Convention), to which both Australia and Germany were signatories,
officers could not be obliged to work. (11) Their experience of
captivity did bear some similarity to the images which were to comprise
the 'Colditz Myth', that is, lengthy periods of inactivity
punctuated by engagement in a variety of educational, sporting and
entertainment pursuits. Similarly, Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs)
according to the Geneva Convention could not be required to perform any
work beyond supervisory duties within their camp. However, should they
choose to make themselves available for labour duties--not an entirely
irrational impulse given the possibility that physical labour offered to
relieve the stifling tedium of everyday life--such a wish would be
accommodated. In reality, this was an option very rarely exercised,
since for most NCOs the benefits were easily outweighed by the stigma of
aiding the enemy, even in the performance of labour that--as the terms
of the Geneva Convention insisted--could not be directly war-related.
(12) From October 1942 most of the British POWs, including significant
numbers of Australians, who were able to identify themselves as NCOs and
who exercised their prerogative of not working were concentrated in
Stalag 383 in Bavarian Hohenfels, formerly the Oflag XIII C. (13)

Similarly, all 1,476 Australian airmen POWs, whether they had
served in RAF or RAAF squadrons, were exempted from labour duties, since
all air personnel were classified as either officers or NCOs. (14) This
applies not only to those who were accommodated in a Stalag Luft, that
is, a camp run for airmen by the Luftwaffe, but also those who were sent
to a Stalag run by the High Command of the German Armed Forces
(Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, or OKW). Both Stalag VIII B Lamsdorf in
Silesia and Stalag IV B Muhlberg in Saxony contained airmen's
compounds with Australian airmen POWs, but these men were exempted from
the work duties imposed on army POWs. The very rare exceptions to this
rule were those airmen who swapped their identities with army POWs for
the express purpose of qualifying to participate in a work detachment
outside a Stalag in the hope that this would facilitate an escape
attempt. (15)

Captured merchant seamen were treated by the German authorities as
civilian internees, (16) and civilian internees were not required to
perform any work beyond maintaining their accommodation and tending to
their own needs. Merchant seamen were detained in a merchant
seamen's compound at a facility called Marlag/Milag Nord, located
at Westertimke near Bremen and managed by the Kriegsmarine, the German
Navy. No Australian sailors serving on Royal Australian Navy vessels
fell into German or Italian captivity. The small number of Australians
captured while serving on vessels of Britain's Royal Navy were
treated as POWs, were imprisoned at the compound for naval (as distinct
from merchant navy) POWs at Westertimke, and, if they were ratings, were
available for labour deployment.

A further category of marginal interest here were doctors and
medical orderlies. Unlike the Pacific theatre of war, in Europe and
Africa no female Australian nurses fell into enemy hands in the Second
World War. In the terms of the Geneva Convention, doctors and orderlies
were classified as 'protected personnel', which in theory
should have qualified them for immediate exchange and repatriation.
However, early in the conflict British and German authorities reached an
agreement that the respective complements of captured medical staff
would remain in captivity to minister to the medical needs of POWs. (17)
Their foremost priority was the health of their countrymen, though
commonly these men were accommodated and employed alongside the medical
personnel of other belligerent states, and they provided assistance to
the men of many different nationalities. The most prominent of the
Australians who served such a role was Colonel Leslie Le Souef, whose
autobiography records his capture on Crete, his transfer to Germany via
Greece and his multiple postings within Germany to care for the sick and
wounded. (18) There are good grounds for viewing Le Souef as a kind of
'European' Weary Dunlop, providing dedicated and desperately
needed succour to Australian POWs and others from the time of his
capture in May 1941 through to his liberation a full four years later.

The primary focus here rests then on the AIF's other ranks who
became POWs. Excluding officers, non-working NCOs, doctors, medical
orderlies and also the non-medical orderlies who in effect acted as
batmen to officers in POW camps for officers--Oflags--there were
probably in the order of 4,000 to 4,500 Australians who performed some
kind of labour for longer or shorter periods in Germany. The figures are
difficult to establish with any accuracy, in part because German
authorities did not distinguish between Australian POWs and other
'British' POWs, that is other POWs from Britain or other parts
of the Commonwealth. That failure is unsurprising, as Australian
citizenship was not introduced until 1949; all Australian soldiers were
technically 'British subjects'. This means that in the German
documentation there are rare references to Australians specifically; it
also means that by and large the Australians were treated in a manner
very similar to other 'British' POWs. Among an overall
'British' POW population in German captivity of around
180,000, the Australians were a small minority.

Labour Outside Germany

Immediately after capture POWs were placed in temporary holding
camps until their captors could solve the logistical problem of
transferring the men to more permanent accommodation in the Reich
itself. This provisional accommodation could be as crude as an open
space enclosed by barbed wire or a commandeered school-house or factory.
Written and oral sources indicate that even during this initial,
provisional phase German forces exploited POW labour in a variety of
ways. Australians in the Corinth camp in southern Greece, for example,
were subjected to German regulations which said quite explicitly,
'The English prisoners must be put immediately in work detachments.
They must rebuild all that they have destroyed'. (19) Under the
supervision of sergeants men were formed into work detachments and sent
out under tight guard from the Corinth camp to perform such tasks as the
repair of roads and bridges or even the removal of bombs and dud shells
scattered across the area. (20) Reg Worthington was one of those men
captured at Kalamata and sent to the so-called 'Corinth cage'.
He considered himself lucky to be assigned to a work party, because it
meant extra rations-in the misery of Corinth an extra half-biscuit was
highly desirable. After transfer to Salonika he behaved no differently,
because there too work offered the prospect of extra rations and the
chance to maintain a level of fitness in preparation for the unknown.
When the Germans guards approached to request working parties, he chose
to make himself available. Others, however, refused to do so, insisting
that they 'were not going to work for the Huns'. (21)

On the island of Crete, where the largest group of Australians fell
into enemy hands in the European theatre of war, a number of Australians
were given more grisly tasks to perform. Captured near Sfakia on the
south coast of Crete along with so many others, Arthur Marshall was
marched to Suda on the north coast to spend time in a Suda jail before
working for the Germans, reburying their dead and harvesting grain. (22)
Roy Heron, too, was one of the Australians engaged in burying the dead
near Suda Bay. (23) After his move to Salonika on the Greek mainland,
more of the same awaited him--digging graves in a local cemetery,
exercising artillery horses and cleaning out their stables. (24)

From the Skines camp in northern Crete men like Roy East were taken
down to the wharf at Suda Bay or the airfield at Maleme to unload
ammunition from ships and airplanes. Apart from breaching the Geneva
Convention with its express prohibition of war-related labour, the work
was punishing for men who had been on half rations even before capture
and had not fared better since. East fell down many times and was beaten
across the back or neck with rifle butts on numerous occasions. (25)
Charlie Parrott was also in the Skines camp, where he joined those
assigned to burying and even re-burying the dead. Parrott's job was
to retrieve the German bodies and place them in coffins for cemetery
burial. He recalls his brother, also a POW, attempting the procrustean
task of inserting a long body into a coffin plainly too short. He called
a guard over to seek advice, whereupon the guard took a pick and bashed
the shins until the legs could be doubled up and he could report,
'He'll fit now'. Such was the jumble of rotting body
parts that some coffins received just one leg, others three. (26)

In the provisional North African camps, too, Australian POWs could
find themselves working for the enemy, usually the Italian armed forces.
One of the strangest cases was at Gargaresc near Derna, unusual because
this was initially an Italian camp but had been returned to German
control. In effect the Germans retrieved their POWs in order to exploit
their labour, so that the unpleasant Italian Campo 59 became the German
Feldpost 12545. (27) If that was not unusual enough, the Germans then
set about using POW labour for purposes in egregious breach of the
Geneva Convention, unloading German military supplies in brutal
conditions, working from sunrise to sunset. Moreover, a good percentage
of the men drafted into this exhausting labour were medical orderlies, a
further violation of the Geneva Convention. One of them was the
Australian John Milbank of the 2/8th Field Ambulance, who spent
four-and-a-half arduous months at Feldpost 12545. (28) Another was the
Australian chaplain Edwin Broomhead, also technically protected
personnel and therefore in principle exempted. In Broomhead's
recollection there were about 120 Australians in the camp along with 180
British POWs, inhabiting a kind of German-controlled enclave in
territory where otherwise Italians ran the Axis POW camps. In terms of
the roughness of treatment meted out to him and others, it had no
equivalent in the years of captivity still lying ahead of Broomhead in
Italy and Germany. (29) The work days were long and their routines so
repetitive that they melted into each other:

   Coffee, bread and a cubic inch of jam for breakfast; barely time to
   wash; the bawling and hectoring of parade; and the roaring lorries
   in the dark. By 4 o'clock in the morning the slave gangs had
   arrived at their destinations and started work, while the hot
   mid-summer day commenced. They arrived home at eleven o'clock that
   night, lined up for a ladle of stew and ate their meal beside their
   bunks, in the darkness of the barracks. The next morning the call
   came at 4. (30)

The men, Broomhead recalled later, worked on in a kind on
nightmare, over time becoming 'so thin and wan that we feared for
their lives'. (31)

The 'Rat of Tobruk' Bill Cousins suffered a similar fate.
Though not protected personnel--he was from the 2/24th Infantry
Battalion--when removed from his Italian camp in Benghazi he too was set
to work by the Germans unloading ammunition from barges. The barges
brought the ammunition from ships anchored in the harbour, then the POWs
had to transfer it from the barges onto trucks. It was heavy work,
potentially lethal in the event of an air raid. Moreover there was no
joy in the knowledge that the ammunition would then make its way to the
front to be used against his countrymen, but there was one consolation.
When the guards were looking the other way, the men would allow
quantities of ammunition to slip overboard into the water. (32)

From their provisional camps Australian POWs were eventually
transferred into the Reich itself. The common route for the more than
5,000 Australians captured in Greece and Crete in 1941 was via the
transit camp (Durchgangslager or simply Dulag) in the Greek city of
Salonika. Those captured in North Africa were sent under Italian
supervision to Italian POW camps and work camps, and from there, in the
wake of the Italian surrender in September 1943, the majority were taken
under German supervision to camps in Germany.

The Labour Regime in Germany

On entering Germany the POWs passed from the control of the Army
High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres) to the Armed Forces High Command
(Oberkommando der Wehrmacht), a section of which administered the POW
camp system inside the Reich. Australian other ranks were sent to German
base camps--Stalags--in a number of Military Districts. Of the 17
Military Districts into which the Reich was divided, the greatest
concentrations of Australian POWs were in Military District VII Bavaria
(where the main camp for rank and file POWs was Stalag VII A Moosburg,
just north of Munich), Military District VIII Silesia (where the major
Stalags were Stalag VIII A Gorlitz and Stalag VIII B Lamsdorf, which
from November 1943 was relabelled Stalag 344), Military District XIII
(where Stalag XIII C Hammelburg was the main 'British' camp,
and where Stalag 383 Hohenfels acquired a significant NCO population)
and Military District XVIII in Southern Austria, where the main camps
were Stalag XVIII A Wolfsberg and Stalag XVIII D Marburg. The Marburg
camp was located on a piece of Slovenian territory which had been
annexed to the Reich.

The transfer of POWs into Germany raises questions about the
comparative treatment of Australian POWs and the reasons for differences
of treatment. Outside Germany Australian POWs were treated as
'British'; German forces applied the same standards of
treatment to them regardless of which part of the Commonwealth they
might have been from. That applies, for example, to the Palestinians
(both Arabs and Jews) who were captured with Australians in Greece and
transferred via Salonika to Germany. It applies also to Jews within the
Australian armed forces, who were not treated differently from non-Jews.

Inside Germany the Australians joined POWs of other nationalities.
According to the terms of the Geneva Convention, they and other
'British' POWs were detained separately, whether within
designated 'British' camps or 'British' compounds;
the same principle of separation applied in work detachments. It is
evident that the 'British' POWs received relatively favorable
treatment, both within their Oflags and Stalags and at their workplaces.
It is important, however, as Rudiger Over mans cautions, not to
attribute the differences of treatment to any single factor. It is
tempting to point to the role of racism--a hallmark of Nazi ideology--in
explaining the sometimes egregious variations, for example between the
treatment of Soviet and of British POWs. Without doubt racist attitudes
did inform the thinking which shaped both official German policy on POW
matters and the everyday behavior of Germans--military and non-military
officials, guards and civilians--toward POWs. Over mans however points
to two other crucial factors. The first is history, and in particular
the history of World War I, which heavily influenced the attitudes of
many German veterans, among them Adolf Hitler himself. The overall
decent mutual treatment of British and German forces and of their
respective POWs in that war augured well for the treatment of British
POWs in the Second World War. At the other extreme, while political and
racial ideology no doubt influenced the horrendous treatment of Soviet
POWs, a further factor was the German memory of the harsh treatment of
German POWs by the Russian military in the Great War. The second factor
is the tacit application of the principle of reciprocity as a
determining factor in the treatment of POWs, whether at the workplace or
outside it. It was to the advantage of Australian and other Commonwealth
POWs that there were German POWs in captivity in various parts of the
Commonwealth, including some 1,500 in Australia. The principle of
reciprocity meant that any maltreatment of Australian POWs, for example
through brutal labour practices, might result in German POWs being
subjected to similar behavior on the other side of the world.
Recipcrocity therefore served to moderate German behavior toward
British, including Australian, POWs. (34)

It is important however to bear in mind that German attitudes to
and policies on POW labour changed over time. When the great majority of
the Australians became POWs, the German authorities had little
appreciation of how important POW labour was to become to the German war
effort. The successful German Mediterranean campaigns were soon followed
by the early successes of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the
Soviet Union launched on 22 June 1941. In the weeks that followed there
was every expectation that Barbarossa would bring Hitler a rapid
victory; the war would be won with only limited and provisional
adjustments to the German economy. However, by the latter part of 1941
the invasion had stalled, and it became clear that the war in the East
would be more protracted than expected. Moreover, in the wake of Pearl
Harbor and then Hitler's declaration of war on the United States,
what had been a primarily European conflagration took on global
dimensions. The year 1942 did not deliver Hitler the cherished final
victory; by 1943 Joseph Goebbels was demanding that Germans brace for
'total war'. It was evident that major structural adjustments
to the German economy were required, and that a central part of those
adjustments was the establishment of a workforce to replace the millions
of German males required for military duty and to feed the massive
armaments and ammunition requirements of a military machine fighting, as
it became progressively clearer, for the Reich's very survival.

The consequences of these military and strategic developments for
Germany's POW population are illustrated most dramatically in the
case of Soviet POWs. Initially it was Hitler's intention that the
huge numbers of Soviet POWs who fell into German hands in the first
weeks of Barbarossa would be held in or adjacent to the Wehrmacht's
operational areas. That is, they would be kept out of the Reich, and a
process of 'attrition' would reduce their numbers. Within just
six months of the beginning of Barbarossa some two million of the Soviet
POWs were already dead. (35) By the end of 1941, however, German
official attitudes had changed, and Soviet POWs were being brought into
the Reich to serve in effect as slave labourers, Hitler having abandoned
his earlier reservations. (36) From February of 1942 the Nazi regime
shifted the 1.1 million surviving Soviet POWs and newly captured Soviet
into the Reich's labour force, where they joined the 700,000 Poles
already working for the Germans since the first year of the war, along
with 2.1 million civilian workers conscripted into labour ranks. By
1944, there were eight million foreign workers and POWs in the Reich and
a further two million working under German command outside it. (37)
Though in a less dramatic fashion than the Soviets, Australian POWs too
were affected by Germany's changing military fortunes. Arriving as
they did in the Reich just as the need for foreign labour was about to
grow exponentially, the Australians in time became aware that for the
majority of them labour would be a dominant feature of captivity, and
that it became more likely that they would be deployed in industrial
rather than agricultural labour.

In Germany a number of agencies competed ever more fiercely for the
exploitation of foreign labour: Albert Speer's munitions factories,
Fritz Sauckel's foreign labour empire, the economic arm of Heinrich
Himmler's SS, and countless small and large businesses throughout
the Reich desperately sought to counter chronic labour shortfalls. Each
of them, including the OKW itself, jealously guarded its labour pool.
The OKW's district commanders commonly struck convenient
arrangements with their local employment offices and were reluctant to
transfer their POWs to other districts. (38)

POWs were entitled to be paid for work performed on work
detachments--Arbeitskommandos--but payment took the form of Lagergeld,
camp money. Outside the camp the Lagergeld was virtually worthless, and
even inside it, depending on the state of the camp canteen and the black
market, the situation was not much better. Wages were not paid directly
to the POW but to the camp authorities, who after all had negotiated the
work contracts with the businesses using POW labour. Moreover the camp
authorities were entitled to keep some of the payments for themselves,
supposedly to cover such costs as accommodation or board. (39) Work
hours and work conditions for Australians were determined loosely by the
Geneva Convention, which stated, 'The duration of the daily work of
prisoners of war, including the time of the journey to and from work,
shall not be excessive and shall in no case exceed that permitted for
civil workers of the locality employed on the same work'. (40) The
problem for the Australians, as they would learn in time, was that work
norms for civilian labourers were on the rise as Germany's military
situation deteriorated.

Broadly two possibilities awaited the Australian other ranks in
Germany. They might be employed in agricultural labour--in the
Landwirtschaft--or, as became increasingly likely over time, they might
have one of a very large range of jobs in the German Gewerbewirtschaft,
in industry. The former option was likely to entail participation in a
relatively small work detachment under conditions which varied hugely
depending on the location, the season, and above all on the employer. It
was almost invariably some form of farm-work or forestry duties, and
that brought with it the not inconsiderable advantage of access to food,
almost constantly a thought on the POW's mind. With its often
makeshift security arrangements, the agricultural work detachment also
offered the potential benefit of relative ease of escape.

The first transports from Salonika delivered men to Austria and
southern Germany, where commonly they were allocated to farms in the
surrounding areas, from which the young men had been conscripted into
the Reich's armed forces. Unwilling and often inexperienced POWs
were generally considered a poor substitute for the dead or absent loved
ones, yet from the farmers' viewpoint they were better than no
substitute at all. Farmers generally would turn to the local Employment
Office, the Arbeitsamt, which would seek to meet their needs from the
available pool of forced labourers and POWs. If the pool included
workers from the nearest Stalag, then either the men would be allocated
directly to farms, or the farmers themselves would choose from an
assembly of available men. The POWs themselves had little say in where
they were employed, what kind of work they were to perform and how long
they were to stay there. Some might stay for years on the same farm,
whereas others over the course of their captivity worked in different
kinds of labour at a variety of locations.

For those Australians who were not from rural backgrounds, farm
labour could be tough. The employer could be ill-disposed to his
hireling, and even the landscape, picturesque though it often was in
Austria, could provide challenges of its own. One Australian sent to a
farm near Markt Pongau in southern Austria joked that the fields were so
steep that 'farmers used to look up the chimney to see if the cows
were coming home'. (41) Reg Worthington was one of the Australians
allocated to a work detachment on an Austrian farm, together with nine
Englishmen. Worthington brought with him farm experience from Australia,
but on the small-scale German farms things were different. Where in
Australia he had milked 80 cows, the German farm had just four, two of
which were used for ploughing in the absence of horses. Happily he got
on well with the farmer, Adolf, with whom he worked 12 hours a day
through winter, 14 in summer. (42)

Because of the necessarily close nature of the relationship with
the employer, the POW's attitude to rural work depended hugely on
his host. Two contrasting stories, both concerning men who had been
captured on Crete and delivered to Stalag XIII C at Hammelburg in Lower
Franconia, illustrate neatly how important the role of the employer was
in determining the POW's work experience.

Charles Robinson was taken to a tiny medieval village called
Unterbehrungen, where he was one of 11 Australians from Hammelburg
billeted in the village under armed guard. Every day each of the men
would leave the village to travel to the farm of the respective employer
who had chosen him. Robinson had been selected by Leo, 'a short,
rat-faced, little man in a blue ribbon coat', (43) and was soon
introduced to the quirks of rural life in Germany. Leo lived with his
mother, 'a bent old woman in black' and his deaf sister. His
relationship with his chosen Australian labourer was based on mutual
loathing, 'Leo abusing me with a string of Teutonic oaths which I
countered with some ripe Australian'. (44) The 40 or so houses in
the village were crude affairs. During the winter cows would be housed
indoors, so there was dung heap in front of each of them. For the human
inhabitants there was neither bathroom nor lavatory; the contents of a
chamber-pot could be emptied onto the dung-heap each morning. The
villagers shared just half a dozen surnames among the 40 or so staunchly
Catholic households, eager not to share their gene pool with the
inhabitants of the neighboring village a kilometer down the road. Its
inhabitants were Protestants. Both villages took their religions very
seriously, which for the prisoners at least brought the benefit that
Sundays were respected as a day of rest. (45) Robinson worked on
Leo's fields, 15 in number, but some of them no bigger than a
tennis court. They produced a variety of crops, from rye and wheat
through to cabbages, potatoes and mangel-wurzels. Though Leo commonly
threatened that lack of labour would be countered with a withdrawal of
rations, the very presence of food meant that starvation, at least, was
not one of Robinson's concerns. (46)

Ray Willoughby was also sent on rural labour duties from the Stalag
at Hammelburg, in his case to the village of Waigolshausen. His employer
was a certain Isidor, by temperament quite a different creature than the
short-tempered Leo. Isidor was married to Lena and had a daughter, Eva.
Unlike Charles Robinson, Willoughby got on famously with his host
family, who perhaps saw him as something of a substitute for their two
sons serving in the Wehrmacht. He shared his meals with the family and
worked with them in the fields, sowing and harvesting crops or, in
winter, cutting down trees for fire-wood. The outdoor activity and the
bland but plentiful food were good for his health. When Willoughby was
transferred back to his Stalag--the German authorities having finally
acknowledged that as an NCO his work was in breach of the Geneva
Convention-his host family was 'very sorry to see me go as no doubt
they knew the conditions I was going back to in a non-working camp.
Isidor brushed tears from his eyes and I too felt a little sad as this
family had nursed me back to fairly good health'. (47)

Even in the two military districts in annexed Austria, not known
for its industrial economy, most POW employment was not in the rural
sector. German studies suggest that in annexed Austria the proportion of
rural to industrial work among POWs was approximately 40:60, with
industrial work much more prevalent in other districts, especially
Silesia. (48) It was not at all uncommon for POWs to perform multiple
forms of labour during their captivity, which for most was close to four
years. Albert Gibb, for example, recalls, 'Throughout the four
years in Austria, I was sent to 7 different camps where we worked in a
variety of jobs, such as quarry work, road-making, timber mill, hauling
in logs at a paper mill, talcum powder mine and the last camp was a
Straflager (punishment camp) for escaping'. (49) Similarly, Doug
Nix, though based at the Stalag in Wolfsberg in southern Austria, never
worked on a farm. Mostly he was allocated to factory jobs, but for him
the toughest of the work was railway work. After bombing raids his gang
would fill in craters and insert new sleepers. (50) Inspectors from the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) agreed that the
industrial working parties from Wolfsberg were demanding. A report from
October 1944 recorded sympathetically, 'Work is hard, tiring and
dirty in the industrial working parties. Only a few town detachments
provide work which corresponds to the prisoners' civilian
occupations; all the other working parties continue from 10 to 12 hours
daily, very often on piece work'. (51)

From his base Stalag at Markt Pongau, Patrick Toovey was required
to perform a range of duties, from heavy labour building air-raid
shelters in Graz--so heavy as to lead to a stint in hospital--to various
lighter jobs in numerous places. One of the more unusual workplaces was
a hospital, which was being expanded to take larger numbers of German
soldier casualties being sent back into the Reich from the eastern
front. The most common wounds were from frostbite rather than gunshots,
but whatever the cause or hospitalization it was evident that the steady
flow of the wounded from the east was a reality to which the German
authorities preferred not to expose its civilian population. For that
reason, POW labour was worth tapping. (52)

The shift to industrial work became more pronounced as the war
developed and the needs of the German economy became more desperate.
Some of the physically most demanding labour was performed in Military
District VIII in Silesia in the east of the Reich, where the largest of
the 'British' Stalags, Lamsdorf, was located. From that and
other Stalags men were sent to work detachments in mines and larger
scale industrial complexes. As early as March 1942 the Stalag at
Lamsdorf had more than 260 work detachments dependent on it; (53) by the
middle of the following year Lamsdorf had 23,235 British POWs, including
Australians. Of these men two-thirds were employed at any one time on
the work detachments. (54) Some Australians had been sent directly to
Lamsdorf from Salonika in 1941, while others, such as Arthur Leggett,
were transferred there from Bavaria as German needs changed. From the
Stalag Leggett was sent to a labour detachment in a Silesian coal-mine,
where conditions, as he recalls,

   though not brutal, were extremely harsh. We worked three weeks day
   shift followed by three weeks night shift shovelling at the
   coalface until bribery and black market dealing with Red Cross
   cigarettes and chocolate manoeuvred me into less demanding
   underground activities. Nevertheless, rheumatism and sinusitis were
   developed due to the damp conditions; especially in the winter when
   months of heavy snow and not seeing sunlight for weeks on end added
   to the misery of our existence. (55)

Norm Tuckwell, too, was shifted to Lamsdorf from the Stalag in
Bavarian Moosburg. A range of unpleasant work experiences awaited
him--in a coal mine near Cracow, a saw mill, an oil refinery,
steel-works in Beuthen and, finally, a quarry. The experiences left a
permanent impact on his health. At the stone quarry he suffered a badly
crushed finger, while a bashing with a rifle-butt incurred in the coal
mine led eventually to three back operations after the war. (56) Roy
East, another veteran of Moosburg, was sent down a coalmine, where he
worked closely with a Polish civilian; together they had to put out 15
skips of coal each day or night on their 11-hour shifts. Water dripped
constantly, the ground was wet underfoot, and of the two days they got
off every two weeks, one had to be donated to the Fuhrer. (57)

Mining work was by its nature extremely unpleasant and dangerous,
but this was especially true for those POWs who had no experience in the
industry and were unfamiliar with conditions in Silesian mines, where
they worked according to instructions issued to them in Polish or
German. British miners who did have mining experience reported that
Upper Silesian mines were more difficult to work than British mines
because of the height--up to six metres--and steepness of the seams.
This meant that coal would sometimes fall or roll down on them from a
great height causing numerous injuries. (58)

In Silesia POWs were not the only labourers integrated into the
German war economy. Most notoriously the camp complex at Auschwitz was
providing massive labour resources, mainly of Jews, who were in many
cases worked to death. There exists at least one specific reference to
Australian POWs in an Auschwitz work detachment. They are named and
identified on a list of members of a POW detachment transferred in
January 1944 from Ottmachau in Upper Silesia to an Auschwitz detachment
at Trzebinia, where there was an oil refinery. All 45 members of the
detachment were from Commonwealth countries; three of them are listed as
Australians. (59)

One of the biggest work complexes employing POW labour was at
Blechhammer in Upper Silesia. At its height Blechhammer had some 20,000
POW and slave labourers, including Jews. The latter were accommodated
separately, yet at the work place the POWs would come in contact with
them and could see just how abject they were. Blechhammer was a series
of factories spread over a site of some 12 square kilometers; the common
specialty was the production of synthetic products ranging from oil to
petrol and coke. (60) Ray Corbett was sent to one of the Blechhammer
work detachments, E3, from Lamsdorf, where he became one of some 800
labourers at a site adjacent to the Adolf Hitler canal. The purpose of
the nearby worksite was to use coal, which was in plentiful supply
locally, to produce oil and a range of other goods. (61)

Alex Barnett was another Australian sent to various work
detachments in Silesia, including to a mine, from his Stalag VIII A
Gorlitz. The stint in the mine was preceded by an even more unpleasant
spell in a quarry, where he worked for a time splitting stones:

   We had never imagined that like convicts we would be committed to
   the degradation of this grueling labour. We worked in pairs. With
   long-handled metal tongs one man placed a chisel on the rock, while
   the other wielded a heavy sledgehammer. By this method, larger
   pieces of rock were split into smaller fragments ready to be fed
   through a rock crusher ... We were forced to work for twelve hours
   each day, seven days a week. The only respite permitted coincided
   with the civilians' fifteen minute coffee breaks mid-morning,
   midday and afternoon. (62)

The German exploitation of POW labour was driven by necessity, yet
the benefits gained from this new labour source of mainly young males
were balanced by a number of disadvantages. Whether in Stalags or work
detachments, POW labourers had to be constantly guarded; the risk of
escape was ever present. It was because of their work commitments that
other ranks were disproportionately well represented among escapers.
(63) Where officers and NCOs were confined to secure camps, other ranks
had opportunities to escape from their relatively lightly guarded work
detachments or workplaces. Through their work they commonly had contact
with local populations, contact which could be invaluable after an
initial break was made. Apart from the ever-present security demands,
German authorities also had to feed, clothe and accommodate POWs,
creating a not inconsiderable logistical burden which grew as the POW
population increased and became more difficult to carry as defeat
loomed, food and other supplies dwindled, and it became ever harder to
meet both civilian and military needs.

On top of that, a problem associated with POW labour was that it
was typically uncommitted and recalcitrant; shirking was common, and for
obvious reasons. The German dilemma was expressed neatly in an OKW
memorandum from May 1942:

   POWs have to be treated so that industry and the farming sector
   fully benefit from their capacity to work. A precondition for this
   is adequate nutrition, but this has to be matched by a willingness
   to work. Every hour of work lost by sickness or malnourishment is
   lost to the German economy. Treatment must be strict but correct; a
   lack of willingness to work will be punished by the Wehrmacht ...
   Whoever treats them better than German workers is a traitor to the
   German people. (64)

The task of coaxing greater efforts from POW labourers fell to the
guards. Though the civilian supervisors had an interest in boosting
productivity, technically, at least, the Geneva Convention did not
permit them to step in and drive the POWs to greater efforts. Indeed,
the Germans' own regulations made it clear that this was among the
duties of the guards. A May 1943 supplement to the German document
'The Foreign Worker in Germany' impressed on its readers the
role of the guards and the lengths to which they should go if they
suspected a POW of shirking:

   Every Prisoner of War liable for work and able-bodied is expected
   to exert himself to the full. Should he fail to do so the guards or
   auxiliary guards who fail to take such action will themselves be
   held responsible and severely punished. They are entitled to
   enforce their orders by force of arms. (65)

Efforts were made to impress on the POWs that shirking could have
consequences in law. At Wolfsberg and its hundreds of labour detachments
the authorities in the final months of the war went so far as to invoke
Paragraph 139 of the German Military Penal Code, as the ICRC noted in a
report filed in December 1944. A Stalag order cautioned,

   POWs, who without reason report sick, thereby shirking work, will
   have to make up the lost work. Furthermore a detailed report will
   be submitted to the Court Martial on the ground of false statements
   made ... This may lead to anything up to 5 years imprisonment, in
   aggravating circumstances up to 15 years hard labour. (66)

Indeed, in isolated instances POWs could pay the ultimate price for
non-performance. One source has it that in 1943 seven Australian and
seven other British POWs were shot and killed in the mines around
Jawozno in Silesia. (67)

Despite a harsh sanction regime Australian POWs appear to have
garnered a reputation for non-compliant behavior which ranged from
shirking through open displays of defiant attitudes to deliberate acts
of sabotage. The security services regularly received reports on the
state of the Reich, and in December of 1942 one of them dealt
specifically with the poor work performance of POWs. It went so far as
to list Australian POWs, along with English, French and Belgians, among
those whom reports accused of chronic under-achievement. (68) Negative
reports were coming from both the agricultural and industrial sector.
Another assessment from the middle of 1943 had it that the work
performance of the British could in no way be compared with that of the
German worker. By and large they did only enough to avoid being noticed.
And if that was troubling enough, it was added that their negative
attitudes of British POWs were spreading to other foreign workers,
leading to a general decline in performance. (69)

Some Australians ex-POWs report on measures taken to avoid work.
They might have been as mild as attempting to feign illness in the hope
that the camp doctor would be deceived. Others took more extreme steps.
Charlie Parrott witnessed men placing their hands on a table and having
a mate smash their fingers with a stick to get time off. Other would
scratch an open wound in their arm, rub in salt and bandage the wound to
make it go septic. (70) Doug Nix witnessed POWs strap their arms to
their bunks so as to roll out and break them. Others tied wet towels
around their knee and then beat them until they swelled far beyond their
normal size. Others would bang their teeth out, all in the service of
ensuring that they were sent anywhere but the workplace. (71)

POW labourers also adopted more direct ways of sabotaging the
Reich's war effort. While options were limited for those working on
farms, there were various possibilities for those in industrial
employment. They could, for example, surreptitiously pour sand or gravel
into grease-boxes, drive pick axes through cabling being laid, mix
concrete foundations with an excess of sand or drop nuts and bolts into
machinery. As Ron Mackenzie puts it, they applied their own variation to
a Churchill an dictum, 'Give us the job and we will finish the
tools'. (72) Charlie Parrott, sent to work building a canal in
Bavaria, recalls the POWs holding a competition among themselves to see
who could bury the most shovels. (73)

The multiple dangers and challenges facing Australian working POWs
were a matter of some interest to the Australian government in Canberra.
There were essentially two mechanisms via which problems confronting
POWs could be reported. Like other signatories to the Geneva Convention,
Australia nominated a Protecting Power, that is, a neutral state charged
with representing Australian interests. Initially the Protecting Power
was the United States, but from the time of American entry into the war
it was Switzerland. Representatives of the Protecting Power would visit
POW camps, observe conditions there and report breaches of the Geneva
Convention. Where breaches were not soon resolved at the local level,
they could be escalated to the level of international diplomacy.
Similarly, the ICRC instituted a system of regular inspections of POW
camps. Labour detachments too were visited, though with some Stalags
having well over 100 detachments a comprehensive inspection regime was
impossible. ICRC reports relating to 'British' camps would be
sent to London, translated, and copies sent via the Australian High
Commissioner to Canberra. In the case of ICRC reports, too, the
identification of unresolved issues could escalate to a level requiring
diplomatic intervention.

Among issues which exercised diplomats was the exploitation of POW
labour. Inspectors could not visit all work detachments, but it became
common during their inspections of larger mines to receive complaints
from POWs about long hours, dangerous conditions, primitive equipment
and the denial of rest days. (74) In the view of the British Foreign
Office, these circumstances amounted to a 'definite contravention
of the letter and spirit of the POW convention'. (75)

One Swiss Protecting Power report on a mine in Saxony observed the
men were getting up at 3am, leaving the camp at 4am and not returning
until 7.30pm, while POWs at Detachment E 744 in Silesia were working
shifts of 11.5 hours with one day's rest in twenty. (76)

Via the British Foreign Office the governments of the Commonwealth
countries concerned registered their displeasure at this report via the
Protecting Power. The German Foreign Office simply countered that coal
mining was not in contravention of the Convention and that the work
norms for POWs were no different from those imposed on civilians. (77)
If civilians were being hideously exploited, as non-German forced
labourers no doubt were, then POWs had no right to expect anything
better. The issue came to a head in the case of a tank factory at
Austrian Gneixendorf, which used both POW and concentration camp labour
drawn from Mauthausen and Gusen. It did not allow its workers even a
single day of rest. (78) Complaints registered through the Protecting
Power that the lack of that rest day was a breach of the Geneva
Convention were stubbornly blocked by the German Foreign Office. The
overriding principle, the Germans maintained, was that POW working
conditions should match those of civilian workers. If civilian workers
were being deprived a day of rest, then the POWs could be expected to do
so as well. (79)


Their work and their war ended, Australian POWs were repatriated
over the following weeks and months, even as the war in the Pacific
continued. They braced themselves for the possibility that they might
have to take up arms again, but most arrived in Australia after
hostilities in the East had ceased and the POWs who had been held in
Japanese captivity returned. On the surface the differences between the
two sets of former POWs were striking. The suffering of those returning
from Japanese captivity was evident in their hollow faces and emaciated
bodies. Since their liberation in Europe the former POWs of the Reich
had spent time recuperating in England and on their long voyages home.
Physically they appeared almost normal. Only in time did the extent of
the physical and mental consequences of prolonged captivity become
evident. For many of those men, the consequences were directly related
to their work experiences, since that was how they had spent the
greatest portion of their captivity.

In a seminal essay, the economic historian Gerald H. Davis argued
that from the perspective of the detaining powers the exploitation of
POW labour in the twentieth century brought with it benefits but also
costs. He makes the point that to examine the component of the
POW's labour alone 'may over accentuate his contribution to an
enemy system; to balance this against the burden his very existence
places upon the enemy may clarify his role'. (80) His conclusions
were based on a sweeping comparative survey of POW labour in two world
wars. Focusing on the economic dimensions of the issue, Davis concludes,
'On balance, the economic advantages of keeping war prisoners are
reduced by the costs of their maintenance and the fact that the POWs
have generally been inefficient workers, poorly motivated, ill-suited to
their tasks, often unable to communicate in their employer's
language and subject to eccentricities induced by confinement'.

These conclusions concerning the ambivalence of POW labour hold
true for Australians held captive in Germany in the Second World War.
They apply in Davis' narrowly defined economic terms, since the
Australian involvement in both rural and industrial labour has to be
balanced against the substantial costs associated with the exploitation
of labour, costs which arose from capture, transport, security,
accommodation and the provision of food. Moreover, both German and
Australian accounts attest that the labour was performed half-heartedly;
shirking was common. In extreme cases, the performance of labour could
be used as an opportunity to commit acts of sabotage or escape. Both
eventualities had to be countered with a substantial commitment of
scarce German resources, human and other. While the German wartime
economy came to rely ever more heavily on forced labour and POW labour
as the war progressed, the Australian component of it was
minimal--especially when the mass exploitation of Soviet POW labour is
taken into account--and Australian workers were not valued for their
devotion to the workplace.

From the perspective of the Australian POWs, too, considered in a
manner which extends beyond Davis's narrowly economic
conceptualization and assessment of POW labour, there was an essential
ambivalence in their captivity. That ambivalence can be seen to apply
generally to capture and detention. On the one hand those outcomes
brought with them the stigma of captivity, the denial of the opportunity
to fight the enemy, and a prolonged period of curtailed freedom in often
harsh and sometimes even extremely dangerous conditions. On the other
hand, captivity in most cases at least meant the avoidance of death,
maiming or serious injury.

The ambivalence of captivity applies also to labour specifically,
the dominant daily experience of non-officer POWs. It could bring with
it the benefit of physical activity which might alleviate the
psychological strains of prolonged detention. It might also afford the
prisoner an opportunity to continue the battle against the enemy via
shirking, sabotage or escape. On the other hand, performing labour in
Nazi Germany was an extremely harsh and challenging experience.
Psychologically it confronted POWs with the discomfiting notion that
they were lending assistance to the enemy's war effort. Physically,
it demanded an ever growing cost on their well-being, especially as the
war progressed, and as the POWs were required to worker harder and
longer in more trying conditions.


(1.) Rohan Rivett, Behind Bamboo: An Inside Story of the Japanese
Prison Camps, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1952; Russell Braddon, The
Naked Island, Lloyd O'Neil, Hawthorn VIC, 1975; E.E. (Weary)
Dunlop, The War Diaries of Weary Dunlop: Java and the Burma-Thailand
Railway, Nelson, Melbourne, 1986; A Town Like Alice, dir. Jack Lee, 1956
(also a television mini-series by the same title directed by David
Stevens in 1981); The Bridge on the River Kwai, dir. David Lean, 1957;
Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, dir. Nagisa Oshima, 1983; Paradise Road,
dir. Bruce Beresford, 1997.

(2.) For the scholarly literature on Japanese captivity and the
centrality of labour see especially Hank Nelson, Prisoners of War:
Australians under Nippon, ABC Enterprises, Sydney, 2001; Joan Beaumont,
Gull Force: Survival and Leadership in Captivity 1941-1945, Allen &
Unwin, Sydney, 1988; Gavan McCormack and Hank Nelson (eds), The Burma-
Thailand Railway: Memory and History, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards,
1993. Gavan Daws examines the experiences of Australian and other POWs
in Prisoners of the Japanese: POWs of World War II in the Pacific,
William Morrow, New York, 1994. For the experience of working Australian
nurses in Japanese captivity, see Christina Twomey, 'Australian
Nurse POWs: Gender, War and Captivity', Australian Historical
Studies, vol. 36, no. 124, 2004, pp. 255-74.

(3.) A notable early exception is the section of the official
history of Australia's participation in World War II by A.E. Field,
'Prisoners of the Germans and the Italians', in Barton
Maughan, Tobruk and El Alamein, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1966,
pp. 755-822. Thereafter the POW experience in Europe was generally
confined to sections of more general histories, for example Patsy Adam
Smith, Prisoners of War: From Gallipoli to Korea, Penguin, Ringwood,
VIC, 1992, and Richard Reid et al., Stolen Years: Australian Prisoners
of War, Department of Veterans Affairs and Australian War Memorial,
Canberra, 2002. A recent attempt to address this deficiency in the
Australian historiography is Peter Monteath, POW: Australian Prisoners
of War in Hitler's Reich, Pan Macmillan, Sydney, 2011, a work which
surveys the POW experiences of both officers and other ranks across all
branches of the services.

(4.) 'General Information about Australian Prisoners of the
Japanese', Australian War Memorial Online Encyclopedia,, accessed August

(5.) 'Australian Prisoners of War: Second World War: Prisoners
in Europe', Australian War Memorial Online Encyclopedia,, accessed August
2012. Beaumont gives the numbers of death as 265. See Joan Beaumont,
'Prisoners of War', in Peter Dennis et al. (eds), The Oxford
Companion to Australian Military History, 2nd ed., Oxford University
Press, South Melbourne, 2008, p. 429.

(6.) The most egregious television example is the American
production Hogan's He-roes, CBS Productions, 1965-1971; the theme
of escape dominates movies such as The Colditz Story, dir. Ivan Foxwell,
1955; The Great Escape, dir. John Sturgess, 1963; The Wooden Horse, dir.
Jack Lee, 1950 ; Von Ryan's Express, dir. Mark Robson, 1965.

(7.) S.P. Mackenzie, The Colditz Myth: The Real Story of POW Life
in Nazi Germany, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004.

(8.) A noteworthy but unscholarly attempt to address the issue of
work as it affected British POWs--a category which German authorities
understood to include Commonwealth POWs such as Australians--is Sean
Longden, Hitler's British Slaves: British and Commonwealth POWs in
German Industry 1939-1945, Arris, Adlestrop, 2005. Two scholarly works
on the British POW experience devote chapters to work; see Mackenzie,
The Colditz Myth, pp. 193-230, and Adrian Gilbert, POW: Allied Prisoners
in Europe, 1939-1945, John Murray, London, 2006. The latter heads a
chapter with the words 'Forced Labour' and surveys mainly
English work experiences, though without integrating German sources or
perspectives. Arieh Kochavi in his study of the international diplomatic
dimensions of British and American captivity in Germany devotes some
sections to the inspection regime in Arbeitskommandos (work detachments)
and the diplomatic consequences of concerns expressed by the Protecting
Power and the Red Cross over alleged breaches of the Geneva Convention;
see Arieh J. Kochavi, Confronting Captivity: Britain and the United
States and their POWs in Nazi Germany, University of North Carolina
Press, Chapel Hill, 2005, pp. 58-65. Neville Wylie, Barbed Wire
Diplomacy: Britain, Germany, and the Politics of Prisoners of War,
1939-1945 Oxford, OUP, 2010. As its title suggests, Wylie's book is
devoted to the international diplomatic dimensions of POWs. This extends
only in small part to negotiations over the use of labour, working
conditions and alleged breaches of the relevant paragraphs in the Geneva
Convention. See, for example, pp. 20-21, 174. Vourkoutiosis's study
is similarly focussed on high politics and diplomacy rather than the
experiences of POWs themselves; see Vasilis Vourkoutiosis, Prisoners of
War and the German High Command: The British and American Experience,
Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2003. Making extensive use of
Oberkommando der Wehrmacht and Red Cross archival material, it devotes a
section of a chapter to 'Labour and Finance' pp. 109-33. See
also David Rolf, Prisoners of the Reich: Germany's Captives,
1939-1945, Leo Cooper, London, 1988, pp. 62-75.

(9.) Rosalind Hearder, 'Memory, Methodology, and Myth: Some of
the Challenges of Writing Australian Prisoner of War History',
Journal of the Australian War Memorial, no. 40, 2007, available online
at, accessed August 2012.

(10.) Statistics extracted from Beaumont, 'Prisoners of
War', p. 429.

(11.) The full text of the Convention Relative to the Treatment of
Prisoners of War, Geneva, 27 July 1929, with its 97 articles, is
available in the collection of international treaties and documents held
by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at: FULL/305?OpenDocument, accessed August

(12.) Ibid. Article 31 specifically stated, 'Work done by
prisoners of war shall have no direct connection with the operations of
the war. In particular, it is forbidden to employ prisoners in the
manufacture or transport of arms or munitions of any kind, or on the
transport of material destined for combatant units'.

(13.) Rolf, Prisoners of the Reich, p. 63.

(14.) 'Australian Prisoners of War: Second World War:
Prisoners in Europe'.

(15.) Monteath, POW, p. 356.

(16.) Rudiger Overmans, 'Die Kriegsgefangenenpolitik des
Dritten Reiches 1939 bis 1945', in Jorg Echternkamp (ed.), Das
deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. Band 9. Zweiter Halbband.
Ausbeutung, Deutungen, Ausgrenzung, Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Munich,
2005, p. 788.

(17.) Overmans, 'Die Kriegsgefangenenpolitik des Dritten
Reiches', p. 840.

(18.) Leslie LeSoeuf, To War Without a Gun, Artlook, Perth, 1980.

(19.) Order of the 40th Corps Headquarters on the subject of
collecting and guarding booty and the concentration of captives 1 May
1941, Bundesarchiv-Militararchiv (hereafter BA-MA) XLAK, 11652. In Yoav
Gelber, 'Paletinian POWs in German Captivity', Yad Vashem
Studies 14 (1981), pp. 89137. Available online via Shoah Resource
Centre, Word%20-%206565.pdf, p.
7, accessed August 2012.

(20.) Gelber, 'Paletinian POWs', p. 8 (online version).

(21.) Reginald Worthington, video-testimony, Australians at War
Video Archive (hereafter AAWFA).

(22.) Arthur Jilbert Marshall, The Trials and Tribulations of POW
Life, diary manuscript, archival collection of former POW Ron Zwar,
Adelaide (hereafter Zwar collection).

(23.) Roy Douglas Heron, Statutory Declaration, 19 July 2001, Zwar

(24.) Arthur Jilbert Marshall, The Trials and Tribulations of POW
Life, diary manuscript, Zwar collection.

(25.) Roy E.L. East, POW Experiences, Zwar collection.

(26.) Charlie Parrott, Australians at War Video Archive; Charlie
Parrott, An Aussie Nobody: The Story of an Ordinary Man in Extraordinary
Circumstances, published by the author, Darwin, 1997, p. 50.

(27.) Field, 'Prisoners of the Germans and Italians', p.

(28.) SX8622 Milbank J. 2/8th Field Ambulance, Zwar collection.

(29.) Edwin N. Broomhead, Barbed Wire in the Sunset, The Book
Depot, Melbourne, 1944, pp. 56-57.

(30.) Ibid., p. 56.

(31.) Ibid., p. 58.

(32.) W.E.H. (Bill) Cousins, A Lot of Fun in My Life! Memories of
W.E.H. (Bill) Cousins, POD Centre, St.Lucia, QLD, 2002, pp. 110-11.

(33.) See Monteath, POW, pp. 187-93.

(34.) On these factors influencing varying treatments of different
nationalities among the POW population see especially Rudiger Overmans,
'German Prisoner of War Policy in World War II', in Bernard
Mees and Samuel P. Koehne (eds), Terror, War, Tradition: Studies in
European History, Australian Humanities Press, Adelaide, 2007, pp.

(35.) Mark Mazower, Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth
Century, Vintage, New York, 2000, p. 168.

(36.) Overmans, 'Die Kriegsgefangenenpolitik des Deutschen
Reiches', p. 810.

(37.) Mazower, Dark Continent, pp. 154-55.

(38.) Gerald H. Davis, 'Prisoners of War in Twentieth-Century
War Economies', Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 12, no. 4,
1977, p. 628.

(39.) Werner Borgsen and Klaus Volland, Stalag X B Sandbostel,
Temmen, Bremen, 1991, p. 56.

(40.) Article 30 of the Convention Relative to the Treatment of
Prisoners of War.

(41.) James Wright, The Lantern of Hope, manuscript of a book,
1991, National Archives of Australia AWM MSS 1586.

(42.) Worthington, video-testimony, AAWFA.

(43.) Charles Robinson, Journey into Captivity, Australian War
Memorial, Canberra, 1991, p. 120.

(44.) Ibid.

(45.) Ibid., p. 121.

(46.) Ibid., p. 123.

(47.) Charles Raymond Willoughby, I Was There, Brewarrina and
District Historical Society, Brewarrina NSW, 1994, p. 40.

(48.) Edith Petschnigg, Von der Front aufs Feld: Britische
Kriegsgefangene in der Steiermark 1941-1945, Selbstverlag des Vereins
zur Forderung der Forschung von Folgen nach Konflikten und Kriegen,
Graz, 2003, p. 53.

(49.) Albert Gibb, The War Years 1939-1945, Zwar collection.

(50.) Interview Doug Nix with author.

(51.) Report of ICRC visit to Stalag XVIII A Wolfsberg 28 October
1944, The National Archives Kew (hereafter TNA) WO 224/45.

(52). Interview with Patrick Toovey, AAWFA.

(53.) Rolf, Prisoners of the Reich, p. 64.

(54.) Kochavi, Confronting Captivity, p. 60.

(55.) Statutory Declaration by Arthur Leslie Leggett, Bassendean,
16 August 2001, Zwar collection.

(56.) Unpublished statement by Norman Tuckwell, Zwar collection.

(57.) Roy E.L. East, POW Experiences, Zwar collection.

(58.) Kochavi, Confronting Captivity, p. 63.

(59.) The three Australians listed were John Potts, Thomas Warren
and Kelvin Cornell. The document from the State Museum of
Auschwitz-Birkenau confirming arrival of POW Work Detachment E 738 at
Trzebinia is dated 25 February 1944, was kindly made available by Dr
Piotr Setkiewicz, Head of Archives, State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

(60.) Rolf, Prisoners of the Reich, pp. 67-68.

(61.) Corbett interview with the author.

(62.) Alex J.R. Barnett, Hitler's Digger Slaves: Caught in the
Web of Axis Labour Camps, Australian Military History Publications,
Loftus, 2001, p. 132.

(63.) Monteath, POW, p. 356.

(64.) Bundesarchiv-Militararchiv (Freiburg i.B.) RH 53/17/181
Merkblatt Verhalten gegenuber Kriegsgefangenen, May 1942.

(65). 'The Foreign Worker in Germany: 18 Supplement
1.5.43', Conditions of Labour in Prisoners of War Camps 1943, TNA
FO 916/520.

(66.) Stalag XVIII A. Report of Red Cross visit 5-13 December 1944,
TNA NA WO 224/45.

(67.) S. Slodash, Be-Kavley ha-Shevi, Tel Aviv, 1946, p. 177, cited
in Yoav Gelber, 'Palestinian POWs', p. 23 (online version).

(68.) Meldungen aus dem Reich Nr. 340, 3 December 1942,
Bundesarchiv Berlin-Lichterfelde (hereafter Barch) R 58 /178, f 13.

(69.) SD-Berichte zu Inlandsfragen, Britische Kriegsgefangene im
Reich im Urteil der deutschen Bevoelkerung, 12 August 1943, Barch R
58/187 f. 81.

(70.) Charlie Parrott video-testimony AAWFA.

(71.) Doug Nix interview with the author.

(72.) Ron Mackenzie, An Ordinary War 1940-1945, Wangaratta,
Shoestring Press, 1995, p. 65.

(73.) Parrott, An Aussie Nobody, p. 59.

(74.) Wylie, Barbed Wire Diplomacy, p. 174.

(75.) Minute, Sir Harold Satow, 19 August 1943, TNA FO 916/519,
cited in Wylie, Barbed Wire Diplomacy, p. 174.

(76.) Letter from Swiss Consul, Dept. of Protecting Power Affairs
to German Foreign Office, 30 January 1945, Politisches Archiv im
Auswartigen Amt Berlin (hereafter PAAA) R 40/721.

(77.) TNA FO 916/519.

(78.) Hubert Speckner, Kriegsgefangene in der 'Ostmark'
1939-1945: Zur Geschichte der Mannschaftsstammlager und Offizierslager
in den Wehrkreisen XVII und XVIII, doctoral dissertation, University of
Vienna, 1999, p. 214.

(79.) Englische Kriegsgefangene in Deutschland, Arbeitseinsatz und
Entlohnung, Memorandum AA to Swiss Legation Dept., Protecting Power
Affairs, 30 September 1944, PAAA R40/924.

(80.)Davis, 'Prisoners of War', p. 623.

(81.) Ibid., p. 630.

Peter Monteath, The author would like to thank the two anonymous
referees of Labour History for their comments and suggestions.

Peter Monteath teaches European History in the History Discipline
in the School of International Studies at Flinders University. His
research interests are primarily in the areas of modern and contemporary
German history and German-Australian relations.

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