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How many German POWs stayed in the U.S.?

Originally published under Ask Mr. History. Published Online: August 14, 2012 
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How many World War II German prisoners of war interned in the United States stayed in the United States after the war?

Thank you.


? ? ?

Dear KM,  

Officially, none of the more than 425,000 Axis POWs kept in the United States should have stayed there after the war—POWs are supposed to be repatriated after the war is over. It is believed that about 1 percent of Germans did stay, and an unknown percentage later came back to the United States, largely because of poor employment prospects in the immediate postwar Germany. A few Germans who escaped from the camps settled in under assumed names—one finally "surrendered" in 1985, then acquired American citizenship and as of 2009 was living on in the U.S. under his now-legal name of Dennis While.  

A higher percentage of Italian POWs probably worked their way into American citizenship. Of the 51,000 held in the United States, 45,000 agreed to take up work for the war effort and a good many fell in love with American women (I interviewed a fighter pilot who did). They were not allowed to marry, but after being repatriated (and again, this applies to my interviewee) the women traveled to Italy, were married there and their husbands took them back to the U.S. to find work and process their way into citizenship.  

Under these not-so-simple circumstances, however, exact statistics are hard to ascertain.

For additional information on German POWs held in the United States, see German POWs: Coming Soon to a Town Near You by Ronald H. Bailey in the September/October 2012 issue of World War II magazine.  

For some further reading, also see  



Jon Guttman
Research Director
Weider History Group
More Questions at Ask Mr. History


7 Responses to “How many German POWs stayed in the U.S.?”

  1. 1
    Bruce Albert says:

    I remember my father starting a business in the late '50s and a large
    number of German and Italian men joined his wood working firm. I asked him why he hired them because his military record showed he fought them from Africa to Casino. Then he told me that he was wounded in Casino, and shipped home to the GreenBrier Hotel, where
    German prisoners waited on the patients and took care of everything,
    even planting a farm so the GIs could have fresh veggies. One asked
    if he could procure a file, with out any fear they wanted to escape, he did and a few weeks later was presented with a beautiful stag handle hunting knife. That was prepayment for sponsorship for this imprisoned German airman that after the war he returned to Germany,
    send his sweetheart over with passport, then he followed knowing that
    his sponsor was waiting, as was his bride in American church. Just one of many stories of my father

  2. 2
    Kathy Crow says:

    I enjoyed it was interesting.the Germans treated the allies POWs with malice .the germans are monsters .My grandfather liberated one of concentration camps .He was horrified

  3. 3
    Erik Larsson says:

    Perhaps you have seen too many Spielberg's films.

    • 3.1
      Tony Rees says:

      Erik are you properly educated ? Don't you know what happened ?Perhaps the innocent millions killed with malice in the German death camps generously might find you a little simple and the British and American troops in great numbers shot by the German SS after surrendering might have a view about your dismissive comment ( if they were alive). Unfortunately evil systems find it all too easy to find simple minded and evil collaborators.

      • 3.1.1
        Michelle36 says:

        Does anyone truly know about history? Case in point, Stalin killed more innocent people in his death camps than Hitler did. It's in the history book, check it out! In fact, Hitler got the "death camp" idea from Stalin. So when it comes to evil, we are splitting hairs. Also, I think it's wrong to condemn a nationality. Why? Because it's bigotry. And bigotry is what Hitler and Stalin believed in. Think about it. It's the regimes that can be evil and regimes come and go.

  4. 4
    Erick Stocan says:

    My grandfather used to tell me their was a pow camp next to my hometown and that when there were allowed to go back to Germany most of them stayed. Please note my Grandfather is from West-Virginia and Im from Illinios

  5. 5
    Brian Mooney says:

    I remember a story some years ago in a Canadian magazine about a German POW who was imprisoned in the western provinces of Canada and after he was released at the end of the war stayed in Canada because there was nothing to return to in Germany. He bought some land across the road from the POW camp where he was interned and build his home there. I thought that quite ironic.

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