Saturday, July 12, 2008

Questions about WWII

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There are zillions of unanswered questions about World War II. Here is one:

Were there any Allied POW camps for captured German and Japanese soldiers, airmen and sailors? I've never heard of any. Did the Allies capture no prisoners? Why not?

Okay, that's three questions, not one.

Everyone knows the Germans and Japanese had concentration camps where they interned captured Allied military personnel. We have been watching movies and TV shows about them for decades. "The Great Escape" and "Hogan's Heroes" were two of the most popular. We have been told of the Bataan Death March [1] and the Thai-Burma railroad [2] that was built by prisoners of the Japanese. So what did we do with the Germans and Japanese?

The Germans lost 800,000 men (not including their allies) when the entire German Sixth Army was captured in February 1943 at Stalingrad [3]. The Soviets launched their prisoners on a death march to the Gulag archipelago. Some survived the march to Siberia. Almost none ever returned from oblivion. Surely we didn't do anything like that? Did we?

Yet, I can find no reference to our own concentration camps except for the Japanese-American and Japanese-Canadian civilians whose property was stolen when they were put into concentration camps in Canada and the United States. Oddly, while some Germans and Austrians (and even Ukrainians) went to concentration camps in Canada and the United States in WW I, none were incarcerated in WW II. Why not?

The thing we know most about ourselves is that we are so darn decent. Isn't that right? I'm decent. You are decent. Decent. We sure are! Maybe we put our prisoners up at the Plaza in New York City or the Savoy in London.

"From infancy, by every possible means — class books, church services, sermons, speeches, books, papers, songs, poetry, monuments — [we are lead to be] stupefied in the one direction." - Tolstoy


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