During World War II, Adolf Hitler instituted prisoner-of-war camps throughout Germany. Some prisoners were mistreated and malnourished, but conditions were generally much better than those at concentration camps. POW camps held military personnel from the Allied forces. Historians and military officers have examined authentic documents to provide reliable data as to the number of POW camps in Germany during WWII.
Dulags: Interrogation Centers and Temporary Camps
"Dulag" is short for the German "Durchgangslager," which means "transit camp." Prisoners of war were held at these facilities on a temporary basis until they were relocated to more permanent camps. Allied soldiers were interrogated and processed by German intelligence during their stay at dulags. Prisoners were only required to reveal their name, rank and serial number, according to regulations established by the Geneva Convention. However, German officers often tried to manipulate and trick prisoners to get them to reveal military secrets and information about the Allies’ war strategies. There were three types of facilities that made up dulags: military hospitals, interrogation centers and transit camps. There were about 215 dulags in Germany.
Oflags: Camps for Officers
"Oflag" is short for "Offizier Lager," which means "officer camp." Oflags primarily held U.S. and British officers who were airmen and ground troop leaders. There were about 140 oflags in Germany in WWII. German POW food rations were often limited and didn’t provide sufficient nutrition for those held captive. If the International Red Cross hadn’t shipped food to Allied war camps in Germany, malnutrition would have been a huge problem.
Stalags: Camps for Officers and Enlisted Soldiers
"Stalag" is short for "Stammlager," which means "base camp." The Germans housed both POW enlisted men and officers in stalags. Some stalags were called "Stalag Lufts," which means "air force camps." Stalags were the most common POW camp in Germany during WWII. There were about 335 stalags, according to the National Ex-Prisoner of War Association.
Marlags: POW Camps for Navy Servicemen
"Marlag," short for the German "Marinelager," means "naval camp." German officers generally tried to treat prisoners of war acceptably, unless they were caught violating regulations of the camp, such as attempting to escape or participating in activities contrary to Germany’s war efforts. Because both German officers who were monitoring the camps and captured soldiers were military personnel, there was some mutual respect. There are reports of about five marlags.
Total POW Camps in Germany
There were other POW camps that served primarily as hospitals or secondary camps when needed. Some POW camps also housed civilians who were taken captive as part of the broader war efforts. All total, there were about 995 POW camps in Germany during World War II.
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.