The Limits of Attraction

Neville Wylie

in Barbed Wire Diplomacy

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780199547593
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191720581 | DOI:
The Limits of Attraction

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This chapter returns to the development of Anglo‐German relations by considering the impact of the Gestapo's shooting of fifty British prisoners involved in the ‘great escape’ from Stalag Luft III in March 1944. It examines how the event transformed British thinking, both towards its POWs and the German regime more generally, and explores the policy ‐options open to the British government in defending its men against death and ill‐treatment at the hands of their captors, particularly in the final days and weeks of the war. While the massacre of the great escapers inevitably cast doubt on Germany's willingness to adhere to the POW regime, the chapter explores how the existence of the POW convention placed constraints on German behaviour and prevented the regime from inflicting on British POWs the same level of violence and intimidation routinely meted out to other categories of POWs in German hands. As a result, although the events of 1944 undermined British confidence in the POW regime and the power of reciprocity to hold Germany to its legal obligations, German officials continued to acknowledge the existence of external constraints and to tailor their behaviour and policy accordingly.

Keywords: great escape; Stalag Luft III; Gestapo; POW convention; atrocity; reciprocity

Chapter.  9711 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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