Tending the Enemy's Flock: German Pastors and POWs in Britain, 1940-1955 Public Deposited

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  • February 26, 2019
  • Dell'Omo, Augusta
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • This thesis argues that German pastors, through the medium of the German POWs, created a space for themselves to take part on international conversations of denazification, humanization, and reintegration of the postwar world. These actions were undertaken under the umbrella of the movement toward an end to the Second World War, and later, on the coming Cold War. Both British authorities and German pastors recognized that these POWs presented them with an opportunity to influence part of the population that would rebuild Germany, and German pastors recognized an opportunity to attempt to transform the image of Germany conveyed to Britain and the world. First, I argue that because of the failure of British efforts to reeducate the German POWs located on the Isles, German pastors took up the mantle of reeducation. Their efforts involved a holistic program of reeducation, including employment, intellectual engagement, and the forging of personal connections to Germany. By participating in these efforts, German pastors sought to reeducate German POWs, and to improve the image of the German citizen worldwide, particularly as the war came to a close. Second, I contend that the pastors’ aid to POWs in their transition to Germany was motivated by a desire to evangelize the POWs and also to help change the damaged German Protestant Churches. Because the West, due to the events of the war, called the ethical reputation of German churches into question, pastors sought an opportunity to show how Germans could contribute to the global movement for Christian Reconstruction. As Britain failed to prepare POWs for repatriation, pastors instead helped ready POWs for their reintegration into the homeland. Finally, I assert that the POWs remaining in the camps after the war ended, experienced a critical moral reckoning, facilitated and monitored by the German pastors. Some members of the British populace began to perceive the great suffering of the POWs, and protested the government’s efforts to treat them as second-class citizens with restricted opportunity to remain in Britain. In tandem, German pastors began to try and “return their humanity” to the POWs, by reconnecting them with their families and using them to examine their feelings toward their captors. The German pastors were then able to expand these transcontinental POW connections to help not only German migrants coming to Britain, but German-Jewish refugees as well. As the war ended, Germans and Britons alike were compelled to assess their roles in the coming new world order. Ultimately, through their involvement in German POW affairs, pastors endeavored to create a transnational, religious, and cultural connection between Germany and Britain that would be vital in the coming Cold War.
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  • In Copyright
  • Funding: David Anthony Kusa Undergraduate Student Memorial Award in History
  • Funding: Tom and Elizabeth Long Excellence Fund for Honors
  • Pennybacker, Susan
  • Bachelor of Arts
Honors level
  • Highest Honors
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • 107

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