The Barbed-Wire College: Reeducating German POWs in the United States during World War II

By Ron Robin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
Der Ruf:
Inner Emigration, Collective Guilt,
and the POW

The German Prisoners in the United States now have their OWN NEWSPAPER.…“Der Ruf” will be way above any party or small group quarrel. It will not serve the personal ambitions of the few. It will foster real German Culture. It will serve us all and through us, our country. It will denounce in the strongest terms any idle chatter and gossip. It will demonstrate clearly the seriousness of our position and will not hide the hard and cold facts of world events behind high sounding words. It is the reputation of the German people we have to serve, believing in a sense of goodness and decency. We must give it our full approval and cooperation. When “Der Ruf” reaches you, answer with a military “Present.” Make sure that not one of us who still has a spark of feeling left for home and family is absent.

—Editorial, Der Ruf (March 1, 1945), 1–2

Captain Walter Schoenstedt, chief of the programs branch in the Provost Marshal General's Special Projects Division (SPD) and godfather of the newspaper “written for and by prisoners of war in the United States, ” waited anxiously for the field reports following the distribution of the first edition of Der Ruf. “You have hit the nail on the head” a regional commander notified a relieved Schoenstedt and his commanding officer Lt. Colonel Edward Davison, as he sifted through the reports from a number of camps. The paper had sold extremely well. Major Kreze of the First Service Command reported that a measure of the publication's success was the displeasure it aroused among both radical anti-Nazis and die-hard National Socialists; “but the middle of the line … they are only in accord with what you are doing.” Schoenstedt was elated. He had planned for a negative response from pro-Nazi elements. The bonus of an unfavorable response from radical anti-Nazis—in particular those suspected of Communist leanings—would, according to Schoenstedt, raise the paper's credibility in the eyes of middle-of-the-roaders. 1

Edward Davison did not share this enthusiasm. Apart from a few

-75-

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