Canada’s WWII Prisoners Were Treated So Well, They Stayed Behind

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Canada’s WWII Prisoners Were Treated So Well, They Stayed Behind



If you’re a prisoner of war--or of anything, really--it’s safe to say that you will likely do everything in your power to amend your situation. Some people resort to dominance in a prison, establishing a tough persona or hanging with and getting indoctrinated in various prison gangs, while some plan dashing prison escapes, and some just surrender -- and stay. 

Here is where you might be thinking, “that last group of prisoners must be staying in that prison for something--but what?” This bizarre period in human history happened in World War II. Prisoners of war in Canada were reportedly treated so well, they didn’t want to leave. 

Canadian magazine, Legion, recounts that the 35,046 German soldiers who were imprisoned there and during the second world war--whether they were airmen or even potential insurgents--experienced such a pleasant time in Canadian prisons that one called it “the best thing that happened to me.” 


A sports team at Gravenhurst, Ontario / Photo by: Ruth Altendorf via Legion Magazine


How is that possible? According to the article, the Canadian prison system followed Geneva Convention rules and established a roundabout system of incarceration and society reintegration so great that they would even give out jobs to prisoners of war. In 1943, the Canadian government mandated that the prisoners be given jobs in farms and logging camps. Those who would house them would pay the government $2.50 “per day, per worker, from which they could deduct room and board.” 

Before they were sent off to work, these prisoners were also able to enjoy other amenities in the prison, including recreation halls, educational huts, workshops, and dining halls. For entertainment, these prisoners had regular soccer tournaments. If you don’t believe that, you can always look up photos of these soccer teams online. It’s that public. 

Red Cross workers who were assigned to the camps in Alberta and New Brunswick even reported that the Canadian prison system provided other sports--wrestling, gymnastics, tennis, skating, handball, boxing--as well as orchestras, bands, and other musical groups. 


A German Prisoners of War soccer team / Photo by: Kurt Gunzel via Legion Magazine




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