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Civilian prisoners of South Asia in Germany during World War II in German archives

South Asian civilian prisoners in German captivity during World War II have received very little scholarly attention. Whereas there has been extensive research on the South Asian soldiers who have joined Subhas Chandra Bose’s Azad Hind Fauj and preliminary research on ordinary captives who had either chosen not to join the Indian Legion, as it was called in Germany, or were considered unfit for it, South Asian civilian prisoners do not play a role in either of these historiographies. Yet, these captives, mainly Indian seamen working for the British Merchant or Royal Navy or European shipping companies, inhabited, for instance, the barracks of the camps in Sandbostel and Westerimke in northern Lower Saxony and the make-shift arrangements in Hamburg and Bremen.

In this essay, I will first outline the historic context of South Asian civilian captivity in Northern Germany by identifying, locating and reconstructing the formation of the different camps and internment facilities. Second, I draw attention to the sources, mapping the archival landscape and pointing out the relevance of each holding within the overarching framework of the MIDA project and its Digital Archival Reflexicon. Although I am digitally reordering the sources along the pertinence principle, the provenance of the holdings is not lost as I start each section with situating the respective holding in the structure of its physical repository.

Throughout the paper, I reflect and comment on possible vantage points for historic scholarship in this under researched field of study as they are emerging out of this tentative survey on the material.



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MIDA Archival Reflexicon


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