Captured at Arnhem: Men's Experiences in Their Own Words

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For the British 1st Airborne Division Operation Market Garden in September 1944 was a disaster. The Division was eliminated as a fighting force with around a half of its men were captured. The Germans were faced with dealing with 6,000 prisoners in a fortnight; many of them seriously wounded. Somehow the men were processed and despatched to camps around Germany and German occupied eastern Europe. Here the men experienced the reality of the collapsing regime - little food and shrinking frontiers. Once liberated in 1945 returning former prisoners were required to complete liberation questionnaires. Some refused. Others returned before 'Operation Endor' to handle released men and their repatriation to Britain was in place. Around a third did. However the questionnaires that do exist give an picture of every day experience for the 2,357 of these elite troops' time in captivity from capture to release. They show that German procedures still operating, but that men were often treated inhumanely, when moved to camps by closed box cars and when camps were evacuated. Although their interrogators were interested in Allied aircraft and airfields, their interrogators were also concerned the effect of the new miracle weapons and with politics, how Germany would be treated after an Allied victory? Nevertheless the airborne men's morale remained high; carrying out sabotage at artificial oil plants, railway repairs, factories and mines. Some overcame their guards when being evacuated at the end of the War, in some cases joining the Resistance. They record help received from Dutch, French and German civilians.


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