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Prisoners of War

World War II was the first major war fought after the adoption of the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War. Most of the countries that participated in World War II had signed the Geneva agreement. For the most part, the Germans and Italians respected its rules for detaining and handling prisoners of war. The small number of Allied POWs sent to concentration camps, rather than POW camps, endured far worse treatment. Oflag IV-C, better known as Colditz, gained fame as the supposedly escape-proof camp designated for Allied POWs who gave the Germans real trouble. Japan signed the Geneva agreement but did not ratify it. A national belief that surrender was shameful made for much harsher conditions in Japanese-run POW camps. Japan’s treatment of POWs would shape some of the proceedings of the International Military Tribunal of the East. The museum tells the story of World War II’s POWs with a range of artifacts that include a handwritten note from Royal Air Force pilot and double amputee Douglas Bader, as well as maps, diaries, cartoons, drawings, and even a chess set that an American POW made by hand out of wood.