Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: November 2019

Chapter 4 - Saving lives


As the military and economic situation deteriorated in Germany, so did the military’s ability to respect the pre-war agreements on the humane treatment of prisoners of war. Shortages worsened throughout 1917 and 1918, causing all social classes to feel the effects of the war in the pits of their stomachs. Tens of thousands of Allied prisoners of war in Germany had no option but to rely on whatever their captors could feed them. Conditions were dire, but Germany was able to defray some of the long-term costs of feeding prisoners of war by granting some of them access to humanitarian aid from the Red Cross. The food situation at Karlsruhe had become so desperate in 1917 that British officers imprisoned there were offered 30 pfennigs a day to forgo the German-supplied rations so that they could be used to feed starving civilians.