News out of Nothing: POW Newspapers
I think most would agree whatever the worldâs current problems, a lack of news is not one of them. With so many world changing events going on and the level of interconnectivity we now enjoy, there is an unending stream of news available for us to consume from a whole host of outlets.
A very different situation presented itself to those incarcerated as prisoners of war between 1939-1945. Kept in relative isolation in the depths of a hostile country, the only news available to them was either heavily censored or originated from pro-Nazi sources. Given the obvious obstacles to setting up a newspaper in these circumstances it is quite surprising to discover the sheer number of newspapers that were created in POW camps â thirteen of which feature in the upcoming module of online rescource, Service Newspapers of World War Two.
In the almost total absence of news it is generally quite interesting to see what the editors of said newspapers turned to for content. , the newspaper of Oflag VII-B, ran pieces on everything from the merits of English food to whether foxhunting would survive the war (apparently it would, but only if âthe poorâ began to hunt). Oflag VIII-Bâs published a piece on a post-war solution to dirty laundry. Other papers took an approach that would be instantly familiar to anyone who has read local news - they covered everything going on in camp, from amateur theatre, to arts and crafts to seemingly inane conversations between inmates. Anything that could conceivably be considered news was printed.
Of course to say that POW papers never featured any news is unfair. Some news did filter through, indeed on the 12th of June 1944 a handwritten edition of the announced the Allied invasion of Normandy, only five days after the mainstream press. However the absence of news was never far away. The same issue also announced that: âOwing to a lack of News, ideas, gags, ect ect it may be another fortnight before we go mad [publish] againâ. Some newspapers had more luck than others with news; small details could make all the difference, the harshness of the censors, the attitude of camp authorities and perhaps none more so than the presence of a POW-made radio, which seems to be what stood behind the s news column.
Whatever you might make of the content of POW newspapers Iâd suggest they are deserving of some credit â after all itâs not easy to spend six years making news out of nothing.