anzac POW freemen in europe

Part 4 - Nominal Roll All ANZAC POW "Evades" in Switzerland

 Chapter 6 - 2NZEF

When World War II ended, there were some 17,000 Anzac POW in Europe, most - but not all - sitting in German prison camps - in round figures, 8,000 Australians and 9,000 New Zealanders.

For some arcane reason, the politics of war left the New Zealand division still attached to Montgomery's Eighth Army, then in North Africa. They and the bulk of the RNZAF remained in Europe, while the Australian Sixth, Seventh and Ninth Divisions returned to Australia to be retrained and refitted to fight in the Pacific theatre of operations.

While a third New Zealand division was formed to fight in the Pacific, it contributed only 100 New Zealand POW to the overall count. When the Eighth Army stood on the Italian frontier with Yugoslavia at Trieste, overall New Zealand POW held during World War II amounted to 1 in every 200 of the entire New Zealand population being “in the bag”.

The 97 articles of the 1929 Geneva Convention, to which Germany was a signatory, protected the rights of these POW, including the all important weekly food parcels. Those POW unfortunate enough to be sent to Gestapo-controlled concentration camps had no such protection. Russia had not signed the 1929 convention, and although Japan had done so, it had not ratified it.

When the Italian Armistice was promulgated in early September 1942,3,200 POW in Italy were rounded up and taken into further captivity in Germany. However, 106 New Zealand soldiers and six Royal New Zealand Air Force men escaped to reach safety in Switzerland. These are included in the attached pdf (3 pages, 23kb).

In all, 447 New Zealand POW eluded recapture to become Anzac "Free Men" in Europe.

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