Abstract

Around 135,000 German soldiers captured by the Allies in North Africa in May 1943 were subsequently brought to the United States and interned there until 1946. These men, which included the members of the famous German Afrika-Korps, were widely regarded and admired as elite masculine soldiers by contemporary Americans and are still often portrayed in this way in academic and popular publications. This article argues that the German prisoners used several strategies to successfully maintain their masculine-soldierly image behind barbed wire, and that doing so provided them with concrete benefits. It challenges the growing scholarly consensus that captivity is usually an emasculating experience and highlights the importance of gender as an analytical category in prisoners of war studies. It also argues that historians need to pay greater attention to the agency prisoners of war were sometimes able to exercise in captivity. The article concludes that the German prisoners' continuous performance of a soldierly-masculine identity allowed them to build bridges to their captors long before the end of the war, and thereby contributed to paving the way for the rapid reintegration of the Federal Republic of Germany into the Western world after 1945.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 23-47
Launched on MUSE
2012-09-13
Open Access
No
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