From one of our Muslim prison camps. Dolce far niente in the sunshine
The photo shows a group of North African prisoners of war, two prisoners of unknown origin, and an officer, all in front of barracks. The prisoners are arranged in a way that shows them to be carefree, to reflect their easy and safe life in the camp. This visual message is reinforced by the text, which claims that the prisoners spent their days resting in the sun, doing nothing but enjoying themselves.
Life in the prison camps was not easy. Most of the prisoners had to work, either in agriculture, in road-making, or in industry. When the Reich had issues with supply, the prisoners were one of the first groups to feel it.
As part of Germany’s global revolutionary program, a special propaganda strategy was created. Orientalists at the Nachrichtenstelle für den Orient (NfO) developed a concept in an attempt to incite those from the Orient: Muslim clerics gained easy excess to the camps; a mosque was built; halal food was prepared; and Muslim holidays were celebrated. The NfO believed that this would lead to broad sympathies for the German cause. They wanted their prisoners to think so highly of German culture and hospitality that it would lead to greater hatred for their British or French ruler. It was hoped that the prisoners of war would be so impressed by the opportunities offered to them by the German government that, upon returning to their homeland, they would incite their compatriots to revolt against the colonial power. The French and British would be forced to reinforce their troops in the colonies, thus leading to a peace settlement in Europe.
The plan was never put fully into operation; some measures were implemented, others not. The German authorities underestimated the cultural differences among the Muslim prisoners and never managed to address all of them.