An Oflag (from German: Offizierslager) was a prisoner of war camp for officers only, established by the German Army in both World War I and World War II in accordance with the requirements of the Geneva Convention (1929) (or the 1899 Hague Convention in World War I).
Officers cannot be required to work. A limited number of non-commissioned soldiers working as orderlies were allowed in Oflags to carry out the work needed to care for the officers. Officers of the Allied air forces were held in special camps called Stalags Luft but were accorded the required preferential treatment.
In general the German Army complied with the provisions of the Geneva Convention regarding care of officers of the armies of the western Allies, including Poland. There were notable exceptions, for example the execution of recaptured prisoners, specifically from Stalag Luft 3 and Oflag IX-C. However, the inhumane treatment of Soviet prisoners, soldiers as well as officers, did not comply with these provisions, according to Joseph Goebbels "because the Soviet Union had not signed the Convention and did not follow its provisions at all"
In March 1944 General der SS Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the head of the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt, enacted the Kugel Erlass ("Bullet Decree"), or Aktion K. It declared that prisoners who had tried to escape and were recaptured, prisoners who could not work, and prisoners who refused to work would be executed. It also stated that all officer POWs (except the Americans and British) were to be eliminated. They were supposed to be shot but instead were usually overworked, denied needed medical care, and/or starved to death.
American and British POWs were originally exempt from it (except in special cases - like air force bomber crews and commandos). The "Great Escape" at Stalag Luft III later that month caused the Germans to remove this protection from British POWs.
- List of POW camps in Germany for complete list of Oflags by military districts
- Geneva Convention (1929)
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