H.O.W. Shades of Humanity in the Louisiana POW Program

World War II prisoners of war were stationed in roughly six hundred camps across the United States, including fifty in Louisiana alone. Even in the event that a modern American citizen is aware that enemy POWs resided here, a bleak testament to our knowledge of our own history, he or she will most certainly assume the stereotype for the prisoners, in particular the Germans. Most Americans assume that all German soldiers were Nazi sympathizers beholden to Hitler, when in truth, there were many factions among them that caused major problems both at home and in the American camps. In fact, most prisoners of war had been either anti-Nazi or only nominal supporters, a reality some had to live in order to escape Hitler's tyrannical retribution.

This example of historical nuance, all the shades of meaning, is just the beginning of a story that reveals the humanity behind these men. With visuals and text, this exhibit breaks stereotypes and assumptions. It is a story that reminds us, despite what politics and the big history of textbooks might make us believe, that at the soul of every war are the human beings that have to suffer through it. It is a history that, in this exhibit, begins with a series of letters between farmers, congressmen, and war personnel that form a political war unto itself. It then illustrates what men looked like as they lived their daily lives, provides a glimpse of a single prisoner and his letters and drawings, and ends with the photographs of dilapidated structures and dug up artifacts--the ghosts of a setting long swallowed in the shade of time.