Prisoners of War
As we all know the Nazi’s were extremely brutal in their treatment of Jews during the war. What most people don’t realize was that the Nazi’s were also horrible to any Soviet POW’s they captured throughout the war. The Nazi’s actually said that they were “under no obligation for the humane care of prisoners of war from the Red Army because the Soviet Union had not ratified the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War”1. This was used as a justification for doing things like not feeding the POW’s or barely giving them any shelter. In some cases the POW’s had to resort to eating things like grass and leaves to stay alive.1 Auschwitz and Majdanek were actually according to some sources originally built for Soviet POW’s however not enough of them survived the trip for parts of the Soviet Union into Russia so Himmler decided to fill them with 150,000 Jews.1
The Nazi’s allies the Japanese also were very brutal in their treatment of POW’s, their POW’s were mostly Americans. This is actually shown incredibly well in the book and movie Unbroken. Which is about and American athlete turned solider who is taken by the Japanese after his plane crashes into the Pacific. The Japanese forced men to stand outside for hours in freezing cold weather, when the men in the camps were forced to work they wouldn’t be allowed to stop. In one situation Louis Zamprini sprained his ankle while carrying coal and fell off of the ramp he was on.2 The man in charge of the camp then forced him to stand with a large log above his head and wasn’t allowed to drop it or let it fall past a certain point or they would shot him.2 These men were also given very small portions for meals and occasionally not fed at all.
1 “The Treatment of Soviet POWs: Starvation, Disease, and Shootings, June 1941–January 1942.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. August 18, 2015. Accessed November 20, 2015. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007183.
2 Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. New York: Random House, 2010.