Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




In 1942, the United States committed itself to the retention of German prisoners of war on American soil. Over 350,000 German soldiers lived and worked in several hundred camps throughout the contiguous United States. These prisoners required not only food and shelter, but spiritual care as well. The Geneva Convention of 1929 granted prisoners of war the right to worship according to their faith. The United States government not only permitted, but also encouraged, ministry to the prisoners in its care. Relying on the assistance of international relief organizations and national church bodies, the Office of the Provost Marshal General arranged for Lutheran pastors and Catholic priests to counsel and minister to the captive Germans. This thesis examines that ministry from several perspectives: the Office of the Provost Marshal General, the Catholic Church in America, the two major Lutheran synods in America, and the prisoners and clergy themselves. Each organization had its own agenda and purpose in providing for the spiritual needs of the prisoners. In addition to the work of these organizations, individual chaplains and civilian clergy devoted time and effort to counseling and preaching. Their experiences and recollections added a personal perspective to this multi-faceted undertaking.

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