Treatment of World War II Prisoners of War: Age Trends


Figure 1.-This is a group of mostly teenage Hitler Youuth (HJ) boys at the end of the War in British custody. It is unclear what they were doing, but presumably were part of the defense of the Reich. We are not sure what the British and other Allied powers did with did with boys like these. The photograph is undated, but looks to have been taken in March-April 1945, jut before the German surrender.

Age is another factor which needs to be accessed concerning the treatmet of POWs. Here we are talking boys meaning individuals under the age of 18 years and eldrr men meaning well above military age, mostly men in their 50s. We do not think very many men in their 60s outside of top commanders were involved in combat. There are two countries which employed boys in combat, the Gerams and Soviets. And one country employed older men, the Germans. The Germans in the last year of the War, mobilized boys and older men up to 60 years of age in a people's militia--the Volksstrum (September 1944). The Volksstrum was authorized to conscript boys 16 and 17 years of age. Earlier the age of conscription was 18 years of age. And men up to 60 years of age could be conscripted. In additioin to 16 and 17 year olds, many younger boys took up combat roles asthe conerging Allied and Soviet armies entered the reich, including some preteens. We also notice boys in the Red Army. Here we are not entirely sure why. The age of conscription before the War was 21. With the German invasion (1941) the age was loweed to 18 years. But we notive many obviously younger individuals in the Red Army. Apparently younger individuals were allowed to enlist. This increased exponentially with the German invasion. German genocidal policies forced boys anf girls into the military. Here patriotic fervor was a factor. Another factor was severe food shortages after the German occupied much of the most productive agricultural land of the Soviet Union, including the Ukraine. Childrn were given special rations until they turned 12 yeatrs of age. Children who did not get a job in the war industry or join the military had to survive on very low rations. Another facor was the partisans. Here in addition to patriotism children. especially boys but some girls as well, may have witnesed their family being killed and took to the woods. What we do not know at this time is how these younger and older indviduals were treated if vcaptured as POWs. Here we are looking for policies of the different beligerent countries, including America, Britain, France, Germany, and the Soviet Union. We have not yet been able to find any specific regulations issued by military authorities to deal with this problem. We have read that American GIs in the front lines sent the younger boys home. But we do not yet have any real evidence shedding light on this question.

Age of Soldiers

Age is another factor which needs to be accessed concerning the treatmet of POWs. Here we are talking boys meaning individuals under the age of 18 years and eldrr men meaning well above military age, mostly men in their 50s. We do not think very many men in their 60s outside of top commanders were involved in combat. There are two countries which employed boys in combat, the Gerams and Soviets. And one country employed older men, the Germans. The Germans in the last year of the War, mobilized boys and older men up to 60 years of age in a people's militia--the Volksstrum (September 1944). The Volksstrum was authorized to conscript boys 16 and 17 years of age. Earlier the age of conscription was 18 years of age. And men up to 60 years of age could be conscripted. In additioin to 16 and 17 year olds, many younger boys took up combat roles as the converging Allied and Soviet armies entered the reich, including some preteens. We also notice boys in the Red Army. Here we are not entirely sure why. The age of conscription before the War was 21. With the German invasion (1941) the age was loweed to 18 years. But we notive many obviously younger individuals in the Red Army. Apparently younger individuals were allowed to enlist. This increased exponentially with the German invasion. German genocidal policies forced boys anf girls into the military. Here patriotic fervor was a factor. Another factor was severe food shortages after the German occupied much of the most productive agricultural land of the Soviet Union, including the Ukraine. Children were given special rations until they turned 12 years of age. Children who did not get a job in the war industry or join the military had to survive on very low rations. Another facor was the partisans. Here in addition to patriotism, children. especially boys but some girls as well, may have witnesed their family being killed and took to the woods.

Treatment of Captured Younger and Older Soldiers

What we do not know at this time is how these younger and older indviduals were treated if captured as POWs. Here we are looking for policies of the different beligerent countries, including America, Britain, France, Germany, and the Soviet Union. We have not yet been able to find any specific regulations if any issued by military authorities to deal with this problem. We have read that American GIs in the front lines disarmed and sent the younger boys home. Thus was most likely for the preteen boys caughtbup in the War. Older teenagers were probably processssed as normal POWs. This depended on the attitudes of individual soldiers. We also note some teenage HJ boys being caught spying and engaged in espionage. Some were apparently tried and executed. There wer no summary executions We have not been able to find any statistics on this. A reader writes, "I am not sure about how young POWs were treated by the British/Canadian military. I think I have read that they were placed in regular POW camps at first but most of them were the 1st to be released after the war. I believe the same treatment was done for the old age troops the Germans used in final months of the war." We have no informtion at this time on Soviet policies. But we do not yet have any real evidence shedding light on this question.






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Created: 11:15 PM 6/19/2014
Last updated: 11:15 PM 6/19/2014