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Barbed Wire DiplomacyBritain, Germany, and the Politics of Prisoners of War 1939-1945$
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Neville Wylie

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199547593

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199547593.001.0001

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(p.265) Conclusion
Barbed Wire Diplomacy

Neville Wylie (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The concluding chapter begins by questioning the validity of the explanations commonly put forward for the comparatively high survival rates of British POWs in German hands during the Second World War, notably the absence of any ideological or racial antipathy towards British POWs, and the influence of reciprocity in German thinking. It suggests, by contrast, that British POWs directly benefited from the support of their government, and the existence of a well‐informed and active next‐of‐kin lobby at home. Working through neutral intermediaries, London ultimately exercised considerable leverage over its adversary. More importantly, though, it suggests that Britain's success rested on the basic symmetry of values existing between the two sides. For all their differences, the two governments were familiar foes. Hitler and his generals were constrained in their treatment of British POWs by a set of traditional beliefs and assumptions that proved remarkably resilient to change, and encouraged German compliance with customary western European norms over imprisonment and captivity.

Keywords:   prisoner(s) of war, reciprocity, ideology, norms, traditional beliefs, lobby group, intermediaries, Second World War

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