The International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, has digitized and placed online World War I POW Records. Eight million soldiers and 2 million civilians were captured and sent to POW camps during WWI. About 80% of these records are online and the database is searchable for free. The other 20% should be online by the end of the year.
The ICRC is over a 150 years old. It was started in 1863, and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. According to their website, “They work worldwide to provide humanitarian help for people affected by conflict and armed violence and to promote the laws that protect victims of war.” They are a neutral and independent organization.
If you know your relative (or friend) was a POW in WWI, you can search and find an index card with their name, service number, birthdate, and a reference number to the list containing their name. You might have to do a little searching after the cards come up. I noticed they are not in exact alphabetical order.
Once you find your person, hover over the card and a message will pop up, “More information about this person.” Click to go to the next page where you need to enter the reference number. It then takes you to the actual record. Some POW’s have more than one record. I got a real eerie feeling when I viewed my first card and record. It’s like a window back in time.
You can zoom in and out, print it, save it, send to friends or post on social medial. It even asks if you need translation. If you get stuck, or can’t figure out something, there’s lot of help on the website.
There’s three other sections called, “Postcards,” “Camp Reports,” (nice interactive map there) and “Accounts,” where you can learn more about the prisoner-of-war and internment camps through ICRC historical records
If you like history, or want to know more about World War I, then this is the place for you. Lots of things to explore.
It’s great these soldiers and civilians are getting recognition. They deserve our respect and admiration for their courageous duty during a very difficult time in history. If one of your ancestors is in this database, stand proud. The world would be a very different place had they not fought for their countries.