Orders & Medals Society of America Forums General Chat Prisoner Of War Medals

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  • #38705
    fred j borgmann
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    Warfare is as old as human history. In olden times the taking of prisoners was rare unless they were to become slaves. Usually the losers of a battle that couldn’t get away were slaughtered along with their camp followers. The more humane practice of taking prisoners is a more recent concept. In American history the British captured many American prisoners during the Revolutionary War but were unsure if the Americans should be treated as prisoners of war or traitors. During the civil war both sides maintained POW camps. In both situations conditions for the prisoners were horrendous mostly due to neglect. With the establishment of the International Red Cross POW treatment improved and POW related collectibles started to appear. During the First World War both sides had camps that used notgeld like camp money in coin and paper forms. In several instances the prisoners made souvenir medals for themselves. The most well known examples were made by the Germans held on the Isle of Man. ( Fig. 1) There were also many fund raising medals issued on the home fronts for the benefit of the POW’s and their families. During WWII some of the Americans held in German camps modeled a few high quality medal designs one of which features a Luftwaffe eagle, which were produced in silver after the war. (Fig. 2) Eventually several countries issued medals to honor their POW’s and internees. However, the most unusual of all the medals is also the oldest and the rarest one known. (Fig. 3) It is a small medal (often called a token) issued for the guards and staff of the German camp for French POW’s outside of Coblenz in1870-71. This little gem is golden bronze, 25.5mm in diameter with Germania guarding the Rhine on the obverse and inscribed “ZUR ERINNERUNG AN DAS LAGER DER KRIEGSGEFANG. FRANZOSEN AUF DER KARTHAUSE BEI COBLENZ 1870” on the reverse. How many of these exist? I know of three but since these are die struck there must have been more struck.

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    #38710
    fred j borgmann
    Participant

    That leaves one more medal:

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    #38720
    KevinBeyer
    Participant

    Thank you for sharing this information, Fred!  Have you ever written an article for JOMSA about this subject?

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