Database of 10,000 army POW's held by Nazis go online at Ancestry

The records, which are almost all for British personnel, along with a few hundred Canadian and Australian troops, were compiled by the German captors, who were obliged under the Geneva Convention to notify the UK and other nations about those being held.
Also available is a more sobering set of records, the so-called roll of honour, listing the 170,000 army personnel who died in the conflict, including in many cases where and how they were killed.
Timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the war next month, the archives have been compiled by a commercial family tree research website,, which already holds a mass of searchable data from the first world war along with the usual census and birth, marriage and death information.
The list of war dead was compiled by military officials during the war as a rolling record, with details usually scribbled down using abbreviations or forms of shorthand. These have now been translated with the help of military experts, meaning people can – if they choose – perhaps discover where a relative died and what wound they suffered.
While the POW archive might seem more glamorous – "I'm sure everyone would be interested to know they had a relative at Colditz," Jones said – life inside the camps was no high-spirited game. Aside from the genuine risk of getting shot during an escape attempt, everyday life could be brutal and gruelling.

James Wicketts, a prisoner at Stalag XXIB in Szubin, central Poland, later recalled the "dire" living conditions and diet of boiled potatoes. "One of the jobs assigned to prisoners within the camps was the digging up of graves in a Jewish cemetery and taking the gold from the corpses. Many of us refused to participate, quoting the Geneva Convention in protest, but our pleas fell on deaf ears," he said in reminiscences released to mark the launch of the archives. (GUARDIAN)

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