Violence against Prisoners of War in the First World War: Britain, France, and Germany, 1914-1920

By Barnhill, John H. | Military Review, May-June 2012 | Go to article overview

Violence against Prisoners of War in the First World War: Britain, France, and Germany, 1914-1920


Barnhill, John H., Military Review


VIOLENCE AGAINST PRISONERS OF WAR IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR: Britain, France, and Germany, 1914-1920, Heather Jones, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2011, 451 pages, $110.00.

The treatment of POWs is one of the neglected aspects of World War I. There have been studies of humanitarian agencies in the camps and of home front involvement, but because prisoners of war are a sidebar to the military, diplomatic, or social histories of the battlefields and the home front, much of the coverage has examined the interwar years, a period when prison camps and the war itself were downplayed as Europe sought harmony and forgetfulness. This is the first major study of the three major belligerents' handling of POWs, particularly in the combat zone.

Violence Against Prisoners of War in the First World War is the first to explore the extent of violence in the British, French, and German prisons. Jones has delved deeply into the pertinent archives and documents in three languages. She finds, not surprisingly, that the treatment of POWs differed among the three nations and that over time, with deterioration as the war progressed, propaganda took hold, and conditions became more desperate, particularly for the Germans.

Going into the war, custom dictated the removal of prisoners not only from the field of combat but also from any action that promoted the enemy cause. …

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