Cultural Heritage and Prisoners of War: Creativity Behind Barbed Wire

Book edited by Gilly Carr and Harold Mytum (2012), Routledge, 316pp., Hardback, ISBN: 978-0-415-52215-1

Published March 2012

Following on from a successful conference at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research in 2010, this book focuses on the numerous examples of creativity produced by POWs and civilian internees during their captivity, including: paintings, cartoons, craftwork, needlework, acting, musical compositions, magazine and newspaper articles, wood carving, and recycled Red Cross tins turned into plates, mugs and makeshift stoves, all which have previously received little attention. The authors of this volume show the wide potential of such items to inform us about the daily life and struggle for survival behind barbed wire. Previously dismissed as items which could only serve to illustrate POW memoirs and diaries, this book argues for a central role of all items of creativity in helping us to understand the true experience of life in captivity. The international authors draw upon a rich seam of material from their own case studies of POW and civilian internment camps across the world, to offer a range of interpretations of this diverse and extraordinary material.

In the introductory chapter, the editors outline a new research agenda for the field and address key research questions.

In Chapter 11 (‘God Save the King!’ Creative Modes of Protest, Defiance and Identity in Channel Islander Internment Camps in Germany, 1942-1945), Gilly Carr examines the subtle and non-confrontational ways in which civilian internees were able to express not just their silent protest against life in the internment camp, but also their anti-German stance. This was enacted through their use of patriotic interior design, choice of clothing, and the creation of arts and crafts which expressed their loyalty to the British monarchy, their British identity, and their support of Allied troops.

Find out more about the book - on the Routledge website.