Confronting Captivity

Britain and the United States and Their POWs in Nazi Germany

By Arieh J. Kochavi

392 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 8 illus. 1 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-1482-3
    Published: March 2014
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-7640-4
    Published: January 2011

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How was it possible that almost all of the nearly 300,000 British and American troops who fell into German hands during World War II survived captivity in German POW camps and returned home almost as soon as the war ended? In Confronting Captivity, Arieh J. Kochavi offers a behind-the-scenes look at the living conditions in Nazi camps and traces the actions the British and American governments took--and didn't take--to ensure the safety of their captured soldiers.

Concern in London and Washington about the safety of these POWs was mitigated by the recognition that the Nazi leadership tended to adhere to the Geneva Convention when it came to British and U.S. prisoners. Following the invasion of Normandy, however, Allied apprehension over the safety of POWs turned into anxiety for their very lives. Yet Britain and the United States took the calculated risk of counting on a swift conclusion to the war as the Soviets approached Germany from the east. Ultimately, Kochavi argues, it was more likely that the lives of British and American POWs were spared because of their race rather than any actions their governments took on their behalf.

About the Author

Arieh J. Kochavi is professor of modern history and chair of the history department at the University of Haifa. He is author of Post-Holocaust Politics: Britain, the United States, and Jewish Refugees, 1945-1948 and Prelude to Nuremberg: Allied War Crimes Policy and the Question of Punishment.
For more information about Arieh J. Kochavi, visit the Author Page.


"A captivating and well written and well researched book that is highly recommended for those interested in the plight of POWs and the difficulties surrounding negotiations with both belligerents and allies."--Journal of Military History

"Offers an important glimpse into a neglected aspect of wartime diplomacy."--Central European History

"Carefully researched… written in an accessible and engaging fashion. . . . Kochavi successfully marries a traditional narrative policy study with social history."--H-German

"Highly recommended."--Choice

"[Confronting Captivity is] an excellent, thoroughly researched study enlivened by many quotations from the diaries and letters of World War II POWs."--Foreign Affairs

"Kochavi's book… is the topic's definitive work. . . . Kochavi's fine book fully illuminates the political aspects of the POW issue from the allied side. His treatment of German policies, while thoughtful, actually opens up a new area for fascinating research."--Journal of Modern History