Picture Postcards – Part III of PoW Mail

Continuing with the topic of Prisoner of War mail, today’s post deals with the picture postcard, a popular form of communication between PoWs and their friends and family back home.

Picture postcards are exactly what they sound like: postcards with a picture on them. As I’ve mentioned before, these photos not only allowed PoWs to show their families they were alive and well but they also served as a form of propaganda in that they demonstrated that Canada was able to treat their PoWs well within the terms of the 1929 Geneva Convention.

Prisoner of War picture postcards had to meet fairly strict regulations. First, only photographers authorized by the Department of Defence were allowed to take these photographs and they subsequently had to be censored and approved for production (to prevent any unwanted information to be sent to Germany). Once approved, these pictures were generally made available for purchase. Each of the photographs were numbered, presumably allowing the PoWs to keep track of which image they were in.

Wirth 2 - Espanola Copy

Wirth 2 - Espanola Copy 2
Front and reverse Picture Postcard send by Uffz. Wolfgang Wirth to his wife, Doris. The picture was taken at Camp 21 in Espanola, Ontario. Wirth is in the back row, middle.

While the subjects of the pictures were the PoWs themselves, there were a fairly wide range of photographs taken. For example, see the next three photographs. While the above picture shows a group of PoWs in their uniforms, they were also seen in a more “relaxed style” – I don’t think that shirt is regulation!

Wirth 6 - Civies

Wirth 6 - Civies 2
Front and rear of picture postcard sent by Uffz. Wolfgang Wirth to his wife, Doris. Wirth is in the back row, middle. Picture taken at Camp 133, Lethbridge, Alberta. Note the mix of civilian and military clothing as well as the two dogs in the front row.

Sports teams and bands were also featured in photographs, such as the one seen below.

Wirth 6 - Band
PoW Orchestra at Camp 21, Espanola, Ontario.

Officers, kept in separate camps from their enlisted counterparts, were also offered the opportunity to send picture postcards. However, unlike their comrades, them seem to have been afforded the privilege of having their pictures taken in smaller groups and in more scenic settings.

Sacolowsky, Walte

Sacolowsky, Walte Reverse
Picture postcard sent by Oberfähnrich zur See Malte Sacolowsky. Picture taken at Camp 30, Bowmanville, Ontario. Sacolowksy is seen here with his fellow Kriegsmarine (Navy) officers but is unidentified.

While the pictures were produced as postcards, some PoWs never sent their pictures home, instead preferring to keep them as souvenirs of their time in Canada. It also seems that some of these photographs, primarily those depicting funerals, camp life, or general views of the camp, were not intended to be mailed and were strictly sold or distributed as souvenirs. The photo below is one of these, kept as a souvenir and brought back to Germany after the war.

Wirth 6 - Theatre
Theatrical Troupe at Camp 21, Espanola, Ontario.

That’s it for this post – hope you enjoyed it!

Published by Michael O'Hagan

Historian studying German Prisoners of War in Canada during the Second World War

2 thoughts on “Picture Postcards – Part III of PoW Mail

  1. Hi Michael, do you know what the date is for the Espanola “Theatrical” card? I believe one of the men is in one of my Espanola postcards. I have shown you mine before actually through email a few years back. Thanks! – Bill

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