How should we treat our enemies?by Nikki Tundel, Minnesota Public Radio
A local historian says the way the United States treats its prisoners of war has changed drastically since World War II.
St. Paul, Minn. — During World War II, more than 400,000 prisoners of war were held on American soil. Captured German soldiers were housed in POW camps across the United States. Twenty-one of those camps were in Minnesota -- in places like Moorhead, Owatonna and Crookston.
Many Minnesota communities had seen the majority of their workforce go off to war. For them, these Nazi representatives were a godsend. The prisoners were immediately put to work in canneries, at construction sites and on family farms.
They detasseled corn in Iowa, cut timber in Wisconsin and saved a threatened pea crop in Minnesota -- producing a record-breaking 2,594,150 cases of canned peas.
And though keeping the men well-fed and healthy was certainly in the best interest of local economies, American POW camps more than met the prisoners' basic needs.
Axis POWs were allowed to participate in camp orchestras and put on plays. They took English classes and even went on trips to the demolition derby.
Historian Michael Luick-Thrams says the way German POWs were treated in America had a positive impact on international relations after the war.
He says Americans should be asking why the treatment of today's Iraqi and Taliban POWs is so different from the treatment of German POWs during WWII. He says it's important to consider the possible political repercussions of the country's actions.