Brian K. Feltman

in The Stigma of Surrender

Published by University of North Carolina Press

Published in print March 2015 | ISBN: 9781469619934
Published online January 2016 | e-ISBN: 9781469622767

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This chapter examines the psychological struggles of life in captivity and argues that prisoner correspondence reflected an acute desire to reestablish ties with former units and friends beyond the barbed wire. Feelings of detachment and uselessness burdened military prisoners who preferred duty on the western front to the consequences of being safely removed from it. Surrender brought a soldier's loyalty and manhood into question, but there was a sure path to redemption. The Great War's belligerents generally accepted that prisoners had a duty to attempt escape. The rest of this chapter discusses the value that German soldiers placed on escape attempts and suggests that while escapes never threatened to turn the tide of the war, the resulting security increases aggravated a camp system low on manpower reserves. It also considers escape attempts as a reflection of the prisoners' desire to resume an active role in Germany's collective struggle, thus helping to repair their damaged sense of manhood.

Keywords: captivity; prisoner correspondence; detachment; military prisoners; surrender; manhood; Great War; escape; German soldiers; Germany

Chapter.  13647 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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