French POWs in German Prison Camps, 1940-1945, had a 1.6% death rate

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Sannhet
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French POWs in German Prison Camps, 1940-1945, had a 1.6% death rate

Postby Sannhet » 2 months 3 weeks ago (Sun Jul 23, 2017 9:59 am)

Looking up some information about the fighting in France in May to June 1940 for another thread (Could Hitler Have Won the War at Dunkirk?), I found this data on French POW losses 1940-1945. I think is relevant to the Holocaust in that (1) sometimes Allied POWs are included in Holocaust talk, and early atrocity narratives often focused more on alleged mistreatment of POWs than on Jews or other ethnic groups as such; (2) When trying to determine Jewish losses, given that there were no Death Camps, comparisons with the fates of other categories of prisoner may be helpful. (With the caveat that conditions for the Jews were certainly tougher and all ages and conditions of Jews were interned, not just prime-age men as in the French POWs case):

In August 1940, 1,540,000 [French] prisoners were taken into Germany, where roughly 940,000 remained until 1945, when they were liberated by advancing Allied forces. At least 3,000 Senegalese Tirailleurs were murdered after being taken prisoner.[217] While in German captivity, 24,600 French prisoners died; 71,000 escaped; 220,000 were released by various agreements between the Vichy government and Germany; several hundred thousand were paroled because of disability and/or sickness.[218] [Source]

  • The source for Note 217, on the killing of Senegalese POWs in 1940, is given as p.58 in Raffael, Scheck (2005). Hitler's African Victims: The German Army Massacres of Black French Soldiers in 1940. London: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-85799-6.
  • The source for Note 218, on total numbers for French POWs and their fates, is given as p.21 in "Durand, Yves (1981). La Captivité, Histoire des prisonniers de guerre francais 1939–1945 [The Captivity: History of the French War Prisoners] (in French) (2nd revue et corrigée ed.). Paris. OCLC 417568776."

3,000,000 (circa): French Army strength in September 1939 (2,240,000 in France north of the Alps + 150,000 at the Alps + 600,000 Overseas [Source]) (this 3 milion is for autumn 1939; it presumably rises considerably by May 1940)
(May 1940: France is defeated. Hundreds of thousands escape to Britain and elsewhere to continue the war effort under General De Gaulle)
1,540,000: French POWs taken to Germany, May to June 1940
...940,000: French POWs, still interned, liberated circa spring 1945 [61.0% of those interned as POWs in 1940]
...504,400: Released by Germany at some point between 1940 and 1945 [32.8%]
.....71,000: Escaped (not recaptured?) (not specified when) [4.6%]
.....24,600: Died in German POW camps [1.6% death rate of those interned in German camps]

As most French soldiers were apparently not interned at all (some due to evacuation from a collapsing France and some due, presumably, to being considered unimportant by German authorities), perhaps 0.5-0.75% of entire French Army can be said to have died in German POW camps, a figure much lower than that for German POWs after the war.

I should also note that some number of these French POWs who died will have been killed by Allied air raids. Up to one thousand British POWs are said to have been killed by Allied air raids; if so, as there were more French POWs than British, this number may likely be higher for the French.



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Re: French POWs in German Prison Camps, 1940-1945, had a 1.6% death rate

Postby Sannhet » 2 months 3 weeks ago (Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:20 pm)

I ran across the following statistic that bears comparison here.

As of 2007, U.S. Black men age 20-39 had a death rate of 252 per 100,000 (or 0.252% dying every year) [PDF]. A large part of this is explained by gun homicides alone, among young Black males (recently at 89 per 100,000 for Black men in their 20s [The Brookings Institution], or .09% of young U.S. Black men killed by gun homicide every year, or nearly 1% killed by gun homicide in the course of their 20s). For a direct comparison here, we can also calculate it as follows: In a given five year period, 1.26% of U.S. Black men age 20-39 will die early deaths.

Compare the 1.6% death rate among French in German POW camps, of the same age range, over the five years between French surrender and German surrender (June 1940 to Spring 1945). The numbers are quite similar (1.3% vs 1.6%). However, we have to recall that Germany released almost one-third of its French POWs. Assuming the released men served an average of 2.5 years (for simplicity of calculation), that would make a <0.4% death rate per year among French POWs, 1940 to 1945.

In summary
Death rate, all causes, U.S. Black males, age 20 to 39 (2000s): 0.252% per year.
Death rate, all causes, French POWs, military age (1940-1945): Circa 0.400% per year (factoring in early releases).

In other words, the average French POW in 1940-1945 was (only) 1.6x as likely an average Black male of the same age range in the U.S. in the 2000s to die an early death. A good part, maybe all, of this difference will be explained by advances in medical technology...

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Re: French POWs in German Prison Camps, 1940-1945, had a 1.6% death rate

Postby Kingfisher » 2 months 3 weeks ago (Thu Jul 27, 2017 6:51 am)

This is purely anecdotal but may be of interest.

My wife's grandfather was a French POW in Germany from 1940 to1945. He was sent to work on a farm and treated correctly. Another relative was also taken prisoner but found himself in Lithuania at the end and was "liberated" by the Soviet army, who held him and his comrades captive for some time, though I don't know how long. We know that the Soviet attitude was that a POW was a traitor for surrendering and that the Soviets held a number of Westerners caught behind their lines as bargaining tools. It seems he was eventually released and returned home, but in very weak condition. He described his treatment by the Soviets as very harsh and he died within a year or two of his return.

This was a very long time ago and my knowledge of it is indirect, but it does seem to support the view that French POWs in Germany were properly treated. And indeed, why not, since we know that British and Americans were?

A French lady I knew talked to me about being smuggled out of the occupied zone into the Vichy zone to join her Army officer husband. This would seem to suggest that military personnel in the Vichy zone were not required to surrender, but simply to demobilise. I don't know whether Vichy maintained troops within France but they did in Syria and Vietnam. In Syria they were involved in conflict with the British and I think with the Free French. The Navy remained in Toulon, and scuttled in 1943 when the Germans occupied Vichy.

The conditions under which the Germans had to accommodate 1.5 million French prisoners were quite different from those in which they latter has to absorb several million Russians. The conflict was over, the French government was cooperating and both parties respected the Geneva Convention.

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Re: French POWs in German Prison Camps, 1940-1945, had a 1.6% death rate

Postby Sannhet » 2 months 3 weeks ago (Thu Jul 27, 2017 12:03 pm)

Some Frenchmen, many of whom were presumably ex-POWs, served in the Waffen-SS. The prestige unit was the 33rd SS 'Charlemagne' Division (or the "1st French SS Division"), formally organized during the 'Fortress Europe' phase of German strategic war thinking (1944). The wiki says this on its precursor unit says this:
The original French unit in the German army was the Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism (French: Légion des Volontaires Français contre le Bolchévisme, or LVF). [...] The LVF was mainly recruited from Pro-Fascist Frenchmen and elements among French prisoners of war. The LVF received 13,400 applicants, but many were weeded out and 5,800 were placed on the rolls [this number later rose to 11,000].
Googling around, I see many sources have it that as many as 22,000 Frenchmen served in various outfits in the Waffen-SS.

How many of these men were originally POWs? Many presumably were; many presumably died. Are the ex-POWs who joined the Waffen-SS and didnt survive the war included in the 24,600 said to have not survived Germany captivity? This could account for many thousands in itself.

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Re: French POWs in German Prison Camps, 1940-1945, had a 1.6% death rate

Postby Sannhet » 2 months 3 weeks ago (Thu Jul 27, 2017 12:05 pm)

Kingfisher wrote:My wife's grandfather was a French POW in Germany from 1940 to1945.

Thanks for this: What other details do you know? What was his unit? Where was he captured? Where was he held in Germany? When and by whom was he liberated? Did he receive any compensation (back pay) from the French Army or anyone for time served as a POW?

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Re: French POWs in German Prison Camps, 1940-1945, had a 1.6% death rate

Postby Kingfisher » 2 months 3 weeks ago (Thu Jul 27, 2017 2:36 pm)

Sannhet wrote:
Kingfisher wrote:My wife's grandfather was a French POW in Germany from 1940 to1945.

Thanks for this: What other details do you know? What was his unit? Where was he captured? Where was he held in Germany? When and by whom was he liberated? Did he receive any compensation (back pay) from the French Army or anyone for time served as a POW?

I will ask, but I'm afraid not only his generation but my father-in-law's , too, are now gone.


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