Historical Context

German prisoners of war in a re-education class taught by an anti-Nazi prisoner of war. Published by Gale Cengage

World War II at Home: POWs and Rationing
World War II had a great impact on daily life in America. Like the Bergens, Americans were subjected to rationing of supplies such as milk, butter, and gasoline. The shortage of able-bodied male workers forced industry to hire previously marginalized workers, which opened up career opportunities for women. The heroic American working woman was idealized as "Rosie the Riveter." At the same time, many jobs lost to the war effort on agriculture and industry were filled by POWs like Reiker. The government contracted out POW labor to private citizens, with over half of the contracts going to farm work. In the South, POWs picked cotton, cut sugarcane, and harvested tobacco.

Nearly 372,000 Germans were held in U S. prison camps during World War II. Conditions in the POW camps were relatively pleasant, allowing the prisoners to cook for themselves and spend limited amounts of money at their own discretion. Some POWs made friends with Americans from the surrounding communities. However, there was great tension surrounding such relationships, and frequent panics about escapes. There were 2,803 escapes during the war, and fifty-six prisoners were shot while attempting to escape. Thirty-four of them died.

Anti-Semitism at Home and Abroad
The German government seized property and businesses from Jewish citizens in the 1930s; in addition, laws were passed to take away their civil liberties and rights. After the invasion of Poland in 1939, this systematic destruction of rights turned into an attempt to...

(The entire section is 653 words.)