Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Arts




Nathans, Eli

2nd Supervisor

Vance, Jonathan



Over 35,000,000 soldiers, sailors and aviators, statistically one in three combatants, were taken prisoner during the Second World War. Some 35,000 of these prisoners were members of the German army, navy and air force, imprisoned in twenty-five internment compounds and 300 small, isolated labour camps across Canada. Once on Canadian soil, German POWs were treated with remarkable hospitality in lieu of their status as the “Nazi” enemy. Canada’s excellent treatment of German POWs was a product of many things: a desire to adhere to the Geneva Convention; concern for the well-being of Canadian and other Allied POWs in German hands; and the discovery that German POWs often made valuable workers, for which there was a great need during the war. It was also a product of racism, expressed in numerous actions, suggesting a willingness to perceive German POWs as potential members of society - a willingness not extended to German-Jewish civilian internees or even to Japanese-Canadians who were already citizens.

Summary for Lay Audience

During the Second World War, Canada was the wartime home of several thousand prisoners of war and civilian internees. Though some of these prisoners were Canadian citizens, they were ultimately treated worse than the enemy from overseas due to the prevalence of racism in Canadian society.