The Germans We Kept (2000)

BBC Timewatch

A seemingly endless column of German prisoners are marched under guard, through an English street on their way into captivity. Scenes like this were common in England in the months following D-Day.
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Date Added: 11 years ago.

Documentary Description

In 1946 almost half a million German prisoners of war were still being held in Britain. Interviews, archive footage and photographs shed light on the experiences of the people of Oswaldtwistle, a Lancashire town that offered the hand of friendship to the prisoners of war located near the town. With the wars end many prisoners were soon on their way back home but a program of re-education was devised to supposedly prepare the prisoners for a new life in a different Germany. The full horrors of the Holocaust were put on show and one prisoner who was at the time a hard-line Nazi remembers that many of his comrades did not believe that the Holocaust had taken place thinking it was British propaganda designed to shame the German people even more. This process of re education determined whether a prisoner would be sent home early or not and interviews took place to determine the prisoners attitude. Many who at first showed contempt for the British realized that the war was now over and the only way to secure their release was to change their attitude. Many did and the first repatriations took place in 1946. Some were less flexible however and at these interviews (which took place every six months) would show their loyalty to the Nazi regime by marching in to the interrogation room and giving a Nazi salute to the British officer present which would mean further six-months in captivity. Among Waffen SS prisoners this was common and later after the Nuremberg trials when the Waffen SS was deemed a criminal organization many prisoners were held for longer periods simply for being a member of the Waffen SS. The last prisoners repatriated, took place in 1949 but many prisoners did not want to return to Germany as their hometown was in the Soviet sector and fearing another spell of imprisonment in Soviet hands, decided to stay in Britain where they became known as "DPs" or displaced persons. Others married local girls and stayed in Britain where many still live today with the girl they married over fifty years ago. The opportunity to meet local people was given to the German POWs after the war where Christmas would be spent with a local family and regular visits would be made to present local children with toys that had been carved from wood during their spare time. By all accounts there was little animosity towards the German prisoners who by this time had become a familiar sight in several towns ad villages in Britain.


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