Rheinwiesenlagers were 19 POW camps set up in the Rhineland (Germany) just before the end of World War II. Various groups of German military prisoners were temporarily imprisoned in the camps, under not very good conditions.

Back then, the question was: where do you leave one or two million prisoners of war who fought along the Nazi regime? And that answer was quite a difficult one. Enormous (!) Numbers and those people all have to eat, drink, go to the toilet, they have to be guarded (Not all had just “sweaty feet”) and the 2nd world war is not over yet. Downright chaos around troops arriving, no idea who they are and if they were bad or not so bad, what was their real age... and so on and on and on .....

And then you have a huge problem. In addition, the first guards of those camps were Americans who just survived the hell of the Ardennes offensive (in which the Nazis shot American prisoners of war...) and some of them had also just liberated some concentration camps… so they were not happy. TO day the least... And you had a shortage of everything, guards who are not happy and a prioritization that lies with fighting / ending ww2 as quickly as possible and certainly not with a prisoner camp.….

The result was (certainly in the beginning) an enormous chaos, degrading circumstances, and an estimated number of deaths, which is somewhere between 5000 and 500,000.

Huh? Why the difference in numbers? Well, some Germans were better off (politically) when the official numbers were high, the western forces were politically better off when the numbers were lower ... and they tried to figure out those numbers at the height of the Cold War when there were even more politics involved. The "east" did not want the "west" to know what had happened, and vice versa. So until today ... there is little clarity and (again for political reasons) a huge game is being played how great the chaos was, who was “guilty” of it (if you can speak about guilty in that era) and how many deaths have occurred ...

“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, 'What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”

Nothing remains of the camps themselves. You are not allowed to dig there because there are remains of Roman times underneath and you should not touch them or… politically, nobody wants to stir up "dirt". So even today ... political "games"....

The only dedicated museum that has been established specifically for this subject is located in Bretzenheim. But even that small museum… until today still has little response to politics. The last people who experienced the camps are now almost all deceased, the people who researched it in the past are also getting old, and the politicians ... are in absolutely no hurry to do something with it and nobody really wants to do anything with it is seems ... In other words: humanity does not learn. Up to the present day.

If you have the chance .. visit that little museum. Take a LOT of time and make an appointment before uou go. You will get a lot of explanation about what it was and the politics surrounding now and then. Fascinating! Take at least 3 hours, at least. See: https://www.bretzenheim.de/project/feld-des-jammers/

2 Responses

  1. Juanita McGuiness says:

    Great information it would be great to read more about Bretzenheim museum, is there something in English I could read? And also anywhere else I can find information about Rhinewiesenlager?

    • admin says:

      There is (sadly) not a lot to find online, although the owner is VERY helpfull when you send him an email. (use ggl tranlate if needed) More info at: https://nat.museum-digital.de/institution/758?navlang=de

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