Hitler's Generals in America: Nazi POWs and Allied Military Intelligence

Hitler's Generals in America: Nazi POWs and Allied Military Intelligence

Hitler's Generals in America: Nazi POWs and Allied Military Intelligence

Hitler's Generals in America: Nazi POWs and Allied Military Intelligence

Excerpt

Discussions of World War II German generals often bring to mind names like Erwin Rommel or Heinz Guderian. Undoubtedly, these men and officers like them played significant roles in the conduct of the war. Scholars have paid less attention to the fates of hundreds of senior German officers taken prisoner by the Allies, with the exception of Wehrmacht officers in Soviet hands, those issuing anti-Nazi propaganda from Russian prisoner-of-war camps being of particular note.

What seem to have been of least interest are the general officers captured by the Western Allies who spent anywhere from a few months to a few years in England or North America. Indeed, little has been written about the fiftyfive German general officers who were held as prisoners of war in the United States during World War II. Yet the collective story of these men’s experiences as prisoners of war reveals a great deal about the differences in American and British perceptions of these men, and even more about the differences in America’s national security concerns in the summer of 1943, when the army first brought Wehrmacht general officers to the United States, and the summer of 1946, when it repatriated the last of them.

From the earliest stages of the war, providing for captured enemy soldiers increasingly burdened Allied authorities. When General Hans Jürgen von Arnim surrendered the Axis’s North African forces in May 1943, 250,000 German and Italian soldiers became the responsibility of the British and American governments. This represented the first massive influx of prisoners of war into Allied custody. These prisoners included not only the usual German and Italian enlisted men and lower-ranking officers but seventeen German general officers as well, including General von Arnim himself. Washington and London engaged in a great deal of discussion regarding who should take responsibility for these select prisoners. The two Allies agreed that Britain’s Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre (CSDIC), the agency charged with interrogating important prisoners of war in England . . .

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