Chicago in WWII, housing the Nazi POW's

Chicago in WWII, housing the Nazi POW's

Great Britain had been at war since 1939 fighting the Nazi's. As the war raged many Nazi soldiers were captured as POW's and sent to camps throughout the country. Great Britain was developing a lack of space and needed help.  Their answer came via Adolph Hitler when he declared war on the United States of America. For you historians President Franklin Delano Roosevelt attempted to stay out of the European war until Dec 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. As an ally of Japan, several days later Germany declared war on the USA and we entered World War 2.

The British Government met with our State Department and pleaded to relieve them of the burden of caring for thousands of Nazi POW's. We did. Chicago and surrounding suburbs became one of the locations in Illinois. Our neighboring State of Wisconsin took nearly 300,000 Nazi prisoners and used them as farm workers around the multitude of farmland in the 1940s. They were paid a stipend for their work according to the Geneva Rules of War. As a matter of record each POW was entitled under the Geneva Rules to have the same accommodations  as our own GI's.

If our GI had a 60 watt bulb in his bunk then the Nazi prisoners had the same. Also, the food had to be the same as our own soldiers received. And, believe it or not, quite a few of the Nazi's complained they liked their German diet much better guessed it....the diet was changed to fit their country's menu. One of the main reasons all this was done was because our government felt if their prisoners were treated well then our GI prisoners of war would be treated equally as well.  As history tells us that never happened.

Our GI's were treated brutally by their Nazi captors. In Chicago my younger brother and I used to walk to an area of the West side where these men with different clothes were tending garden and had a large "P" imprinted on their back. There were U.S. Soldiers with rifles guarding them in case of trouble. As it turned out, these Nazis were delighted to work outside with fresh air and sunshine and did not cause any problems. However, every time my brother and I would come close to the enclosed fence we were ordered to move along and not hang around.

We had no idea we were witnessing history develop in Chicago and around the country. Fort Sheridan in Highwood, IL was a facility from which POWs were sent to other places. Other sites were Camp Pine on the northwest border of what is today Mount Prospect. My research states that 200 German soldiers were held throughout the war, living in 5 barracks. As earlier stated they worked mainly in farms and some worked at Pesche's flowers. In addition, in the Sweet Woods Forest Preserves in Glenwood, IL there was a German POW camp during World War II. The prisoners drew a U.S. flag in cement, which still remains there today.

When the Nazi POWs arrived in America they were astounded to discover our cites were still standing and no craters that supposedly were made by the German Luftwaffe (Air Force). They quickly realized the propaganda department lied under the leadership of Joseph Goebbels. The rumors were propagated by the ministry of propaganda to bring pride to their soldiers and keep their spirits high crushing the enemy.

Many of this generation and even my generation never realized the amount of Nazi prisoners that were held till the end of the war in the United States.

This memory did not light the corner of my mind...but it must be told.

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  • Now that is really interesting. Has anyone seen that marker? Please share.

  • Very interesting article.

    Sites of the Japanese, German and Italian interment camps of US citizens, initiated by FDR are interesting and fading sites as well. I think we will see these again, too.

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