New Yorker: On May 13, 1943, Axis forces in North Africa surrendered. The Allies suddenly found themselves saddled with nearly three hundred thousand prisoners of war, including the bulk of General Erwin Rommel’s famed Afrika Korps. Unable to feed or house their share, the British asked their American comrades to relieve them of the burden. And so, by the tens of thousands, German soldiers were loaded aboard Liberty Ships, which had carried American troops across the Atlantic. Eventually, some five hundred P.O.W. camps, scattered across forty-five of the forty-eight United States, housed some four hundred thousand men. In every one of those camps, the Geneva conventions were adhered to so scrupulously that, after the war, not a few of the inmates decided to stick around and become Americans themselves. That was extraordinary rendition, Greatest Generation style.

That’s the opening to a piece by Hendrik Hertzberg from 2011 and thus the piece is motivated neither by President Trump nor about separating children from their parents on the border. For that reason it is perhaps more relevant to these issues than otherwise. We can and have been worse but let no one say that we have not and cannot be better.

Hat tip: Jason Kuznicki.


Make conditions so pleasant that people want to stay? Gee, what perverse incentives could that create for people deciding which country to go to file their overwhelmingly invalid asylum claims?


In contrast, in WWII we had every incentive to encourage enemy soldiers to surrender rather than fight. What better way than to create the reputation for decent treatment once the prisoners were in our hands.

More to the point, the Axis held OUR soldiers as POWs. Treating their POWs well was a tacit quid pro quo for our boys.

From a more economic point of view, we were not paying for the care of our imprisoned soldiers, so that offset at least some of the funds we spent caring for foreign POWs. More or less budget neutral. So if Mexico was caring for tens of thousands of American caught sneaking into their country, we might be even on net.

Tan blanco usted señor, no le da pena?

End Asylum and send them all back. End immigration, legal and illegal. Use force if necessary. Require the parent country to pay the costs.

Marginal Revolution: where some of the comments are shrewder than the original posts.

It's more like "all" than "some" when it comes to AT posts.

"overwhelmingly invalid asylum claims"
Half were invalid in 2015 and 2/3 were invalid in 2018.

And most of those granted were based on lies fashioned by attorneys.

No, nearly all are invalid. These people are marching here from countries with low standards of living and high crime rates. None of the source countries are in the midst of a civil war, none of the source countries are police states, very few people at any one time are so active in politics that they'd come to the attention of security services anyway, and for even the few refugees among them there are places between here and there to alight. That witless immigration magistrates are doing what the courts do and impose process process process is an indictment of the courts, not an indicator of social reality.

Correct. There is no such thing as a blanket approval of refugee status by country. Each refugee must PROVE that they face a specific threat to themselves personally. This could come from warfare, but it need not.

"None of the source countries are in the midst of a civil war, none of the source countries are police states"

Almost all of them are from highly dangerous unstable places where gangs could easily kill them. There is no more reason to doubt their status as refugees than there is to keep them out. You animus towards non-white people doesn't entitle you to another reality.

The UN convention on refugees, and US asylum law, offers absolutely NO protection against general criminality and gang violence. None. Zip. Nadda. But virtue signalling idiots can't be expected to understand even basic international law.

It protects, and was designed to protect, only against political persecution by STATES or para-state groups. The signatories saw protection against general lawlessness as neither anticipated nor desired.

Cytotoxic is a typical Dem; reasoning backwards from a desired outcome and inventing "law" in his head to justify it. Oh, and anyone who disagrees with him is waaaaaycist. Jeez.

So if an 8 year old kid (he or she must be a "gangster") tries to steal my cell phone I can apply for asylum. It goes without saying that I fear for my life and my famiy's safety. Gangs could easily kill me. I need asylum in a rich country.

'It protects, and was designed to protect, only against political persecution by STATES or para-state groups. '

Well, in the case of America in the past, only those states where the state or para-states groups are not supported by the U.S.

Almost as if everyone has forgot the huge wave of approved asylum seekers from Central America in the mid-80s. Well, forgotten is wrong - it never happened, since the people fleeing the violence were generally fleeing American government supported violence in the entire region, and thus had no claim to asylum in the U.S. In contrast to the hundreds of thousands that fled Cuba and Vietnam in a comparable time span who were granted asylum in the U.S.

Strange how it is still the same region of asylum seekers we are talking about today, isn't it? Just one of those recurring coincidences, undoubtedly.

I couldn't care less what the UN thinks.

"people fleeing the violence were generally fleeing American government supported violence"

That violence liberated the region.

With a murder rate of 82 per 100,000, El Salvador is now more dangerous than it was during its Civil War...

Don't worry, we did not grant too many asylum requests from El Salvadorans during its civil war either.

Admittedly, there was a certain tacit acceptance of El Salvadorans who managed to reach the U.S. during that time - particularly around the DC area, oddly enough.

Yes, I am sure that 2/3rds invalid is overwhelming, especially when it is probably an underestimate.

I attended a talk once about the history of one of these camps in my home town, which primarily housed Italian POWs. By the time most of them were in place there, Italy was technically on the Allied side, but the US obviously had higher priorities for their ship capacity going TO Europe, so they couldn't be immediately repatriated. IIRC they were basically told to be back by nightfall, and in the meantime they got jobs, carried out romances, etc. Many or most of them stayed when the war ended.

... America generally treated POW's well and had the resources to do so, though there were incidents of brutal executions of German POWs by frontline US soldiers in Europe.
Russians and Japanese did not much concern themselves with the well being of captured enemy troops.

General survival rates of POWs in any war are 50-50 at best.

Overall death toll in WW II was near 100 million

Actually approximately 97% of American prisoners of War hell by the Germans survived the war.

Once in the formal prisoner chain, the Germans generally treated Western Allied prisoners well. Food and shelter was basic, but Red Cross contact was observed and decent medical care was provided. Compared to the privations suffered by German civilians in the same years, prisoners were treated well.

A few more % died than German prisoners in Allied hands, but that was probably just due to nutrition effects in austere environments rather than maltreatment or retaliations (escape attempts were too infrequent to effect the stats) .

Japan, on the other hand...

'rather than maltreatment or retaliations'

By the end of the war, a captured bomber crew were subject to both, though more than occasionally before they became POWs officially.

Then there was this -

However, broadly speaking, it is true that the German military treated POWs well enough - though it should be noted that the SS is not to be considered part of the German military in this context.

Nearly all maltreatment was before entry to the POW chain.

Of course, the SS didn't run POW camps. They might shoot you out of hand, but once in the formal prisoner chain, you were relatively safe.

From memory I think the survival rate of German prisoners captured by Soviets was about 63%. That is a very high death toll, but far better than Soviet forces captured by the Germans who were generally starved and/or worked to death as slaves.

They used them for various forms of labor, too, and paid them minimum wage.

All that said, part of the reason why that may not have been too controversial was because during wartime, the scale and number of the POW camps was censored information.

This is from the Wikipedia article on them:

Newspaper coverage of the camps and public knowledge were intentionally limited until the end of the war, in part to comply with the Geneva Convention and in part to avoid the fear of an enemy presence in such large numbers.[16] While most citizens living near camps accepted the prisoners' presence, the government received hundreds of letters each week protesting their treatment. Many demanded that the POWs be immediately killed, a sentiment the regular casualty lists in American newspapers encouraged.[21][22][23] The government had difficulty in persuading the public that treating the prisoners according to the Geneva Convention made it more likely that Germany would treat American prisoners well.[16] Labor unions were the largest opposition to the use of the prisoner workers, citing the War Manpower Commission's rules that required union participation in worker recruitment whenever possible.[19]:98–101 Given the wartime labor shortage however, especially in agriculture, many valued their contribution; as late as February 1945, politicians in rural states asked the government for 100,000 more prisoners to work on farms.[11]:6

"...politicians in rural states asked the government for 100,000 more prisoners to work on farms."

And nothing ever changes for farmers. They always, always want a low-paid, exploitable workforce, whether it's POW's, illegal immigrants or, my favorite, "guest workers."

Damn right. That's what makes food affordable. We all have a right to import cheap labour. If only farmers didn't want an endless array of subsidies.

I read about some German POWS at a camp in Oklahoma, who were sent out to work on local farms. They soon demonstrated their greater farming acumen, and came to be appreciated by the community. So much so that reunions were held in after years.

After they returned to Germany.

The US built over 2,700 Liberty ships between 1941 and 1945. They were used mostly to transport troops to the war, not from the war. Many were built near my low country home. Only a couple remain. From time to time, one will dock nearby where they were built, and I have been aboard. Time stands still. It's ironic that Liberty Ships would transport enemy troops back to America, something I did not know - liberty for all. America's capacity to build stuff during the war continues to amaze. But I am a product of the greatest generation, and I know they could build stuff, build stuff bigger and better than anyone. What the Hell happened? Today, America's most talented build social media. Several years ago tech decided to undertake something different, to build a car, a car that would be self-driving. That didn't last, once the boy wonders realized that building a reliable car is hard, really hard, so back to digital advertising the boy wonders went. Liberty won't won't last either, not with the boy wonders busy at work with the only thing they seem to know.

My Uncle (RIP) served in the WWII USN as a machinist mate (engine room) on Liberty ships. The ships also carried ,military cargo.

Well, uncle was granted a three-day pass to attend his brother's wedding, but was delayed in returning and missed his ship's sailing. He was given Captain's Mast punishment (Company Punishment/Article 15 in the Army) lost whatever stripes he had and was fined $50. He shipped out on another Liberty Ship.

Not to worry. The ship he missed was the USS Mount Hood. It was blown to atoms - carrying munitions - in Manila Bay.

Shockingly, I agree. post-modern US economies are based on smart phones, texting, video games, phone apps that do everything people used to do themselves.

2 old guys yelling at clouds.

In My Day....

Laugh it up but try to tell me the US could put together the effort they did in WWII today. Even something as relatively simple as building 2,700 Liberty ships, if we started that today four years from now all we'd have is a draft environmental impact statement on the possible sea level rise caused by floating them. It's a shame but on the other hand a weak society full of weak men is the sort of problem that solves itself, one way or the other.

Oh frig off. The US military is far more powerful than ever before. The US economy generates massive amounts of wealth and manufactures more than ever. Manufacturing just accounts for a smaller slice.

You seem to be confusing the ability to produce with the will to produce.

You seem to not understand that America's ever-increasing production implies both.

Is anybody even aware of stuff like this?

They're also busy building the largest rocket ever in a f**king field in Texas. They have a competing team in Florida that was secret until somebody found them out. Things are probably going to be okay.

That dude will literally never understand the world he lives in, especially when it comes to technology and economics.

+1. Also, there still appear to be a huge number of folks working on autonomous vehicles, FWIW.

Considering all the best and brightest were jumping into finance 15 years ago, tech of any kind is an improvement

Right! All southern border invaders legally, justly belong in POW camps.

RE: WWII North Africa POW's. My father (RIP) turned 18 years on June 1, 1945. He was drafted, trained as an MP and assigned to guard Afrika Korps POW's on eastern Long Island, NY. Most of them repatriated.

One story: the US rented out POW's to work on local farms. My father guarded them. German-American farmers gave the POW's lunch and pies, and nada for my GI dad. Go figure.

FYI. The invaders and WWII POW that stayed here are not the existential threat. You are.

At least we could let the parents and kids stay together in the POW camps.

Thankfully, that Trumpian fiasco was stopped months ago. The 9th circuit court holds sway.

Now we need to push for full amnesty and open borders. We’re close this election. Inches from paradise...

How do you prove the people bringing the kids over are actually the parents? What if they arn't? You think these invaders are coming over with birth certificates and passports?

Invaders! Oh my, you must be, have a hug and a cookie. We won't let those mean old invaders get you.

Existential to what? White-topia as geriatric pricks like you imagine it? Well guess you're right we're taking that away.

Existential threat to progressive Chicken Littles' liberal nightmares.

Right! Make America Guatemala!

Are you a black woman or a brown woman?

WTF are you even saying? You really don't understand the world around you.

American Civil War Prison Camps were operated by both the Union and the Confederacy to handle the over 400,000 soldiers captured during the war.
Just over 12% of the captives in Northern prisons died, compared to 15.5% for Southern prisons.

In fairness, it was a lot harder to deal with problems of disease in 1863 than it was in 1943. My impression is somewhere between 1860 and 1900 we went from not having a clue to having a pretty good handle on community health via things like sanitation, mosquito control, etc. Compare the French Panama Canal project to the American one.

Agreed. It's useful to compare the Army death rates for non-battle injury and disease in the same period to see how "lethal" the camps were. Deaths per man year, not total deaths or deaths over duration.

Generally, folks are right to be more upset over deliberate mistreatment of prisoners than privations inflicted by incompetence, or simply very limited resources.

It seems like the different climates would be enough to explain a ~20% difference in mortality.

Early in the winter, thirty-two years ago in a small living room on the Argentine Pampa, a family I don’t remember had another guest that evening besides myself. The old man, upon learning that I was an American, was thrilled to meet me. He had been a soldier in the Italian army in the Second World War and had been captured and interred in Texas as a prisoner. “It was great there,” he effused. “I would go back in a second if I could. As a prisoner again if I had to.” Never before did I so swell with pride for my nation.

Aren't you proud that millions (maybe billions?) share the same sentiment as that old man? Is there a big difference between him and any other who wants to come to the US?

We’re a nation of immigrants.

If there’s any resistance, just let more immigrants in. They’ll vote...for more immigrants!!

The moral arc of the universe bends towards justice. Open borders is de facto now, but were 4-8 years away from de jure. A victory for humanism !

You can drop the sarcasm now. We get it, immigrants suck.

Immigrants worked out super-well for the native Americans, didn't they?

But hey, GDP went up! So that was alright then!

Who’s better off, “conquered” American Indians in the US today or I conquered natives in Guinea?

(Yeah it took a while for the benefits to kick in, that’s for sure)

Afraid those big bad Hondurans are gonna wipe out 330 million Americans like the Iroquois.

And the Italians I talk to in Italy now ask, "why are Americans so fat?"

We've come so far...

The biggest difference is that the Italian soldier wasn't coming into a country with plentiful government welfare programs and a citizenry poised to establish that many more. Kind of makes you think about his motivations for coming versus those coming today.

The immigrants leave shitty countries for a better one to improve their lives. What monsters!

I don't know about "monsters" unless you intend it in the sense of beings who ought to be ostracized from a healthy society.

That is to say, we don't need people in our society who would rather abandon their homes to seek greener pastures than work to improve their own environment.

If you don't understand the trouble involved with this sort of mentality I'd wager it's because you'd do it as well when the opportunity presents itself, which means the rest of us would be better off if you did it today.

I presume you wish to ban people from leaving their hometowns too. If you want to move away from the slum or trailer park you grew up in, you should be ostracized from a healthy society for not working to improve your own environment.

You might do well to stop for a minute and think about how certain groups might take your reductionism as an endorsement of the idea that some people are less equal than others.

Just showing how silly your argument is.

So you agree then that certain groups of people are on the aggregate less able to maintain a functional civilization than others. That's pretty bigoted of you. Or perhaps you think the problem is just that there's lead in the trailer park or slum supply pipes?

Are there places where making up stuff other people think works as a troll strategy? It doesn't here.

Just admit you got caught claiming people are wrong to leave a bad place for a better one to improve their lives, take the L, and move on.

They are wrong. The flight of human capital from areas of poverty and oppression to wealthy, free areas is exactly what keeps them unequal. How else are we supposed to guarantee a standard of living for everyone on the planet equal to that we enjoy in the first world? Do you intend to relocate all 7.7 billion people on the planet into wealthy nations? Choose the wealthiest areas of each and pack people in like sardines? You must, because the alternative explanation for believing that those who leave these places are morally correct is that these places are populated and run by people who are not able to create a wealthy civilization on their own.

...the difference between a libertarian and a nationalist then.

Exactly, the libertarian is a virulent racist who believes that people should behave like post-modern nomads, packing billions of people into one area until the quality of life decreases, then moving on to the next area, ad infinitum. Sort of like, I dunno, a cancer. Whereas the nationalist is a noble optimist who believes that people should work to improve their homelands and make life a little better for everyone. See, no need for us to fight like this.


There's no evidence that immigration begets welfarism and good evidence to suggest the opposite.

Well, that certainly explains the episodes of America's Next Top Democratic Presidential Candidate I saw the previous two nights, where all the contestants were given the challenge to produce their own remix of the popular refrain "Let's Make More Stuff Free (And Then Open the Borders So We Can Give More People Free Stuff!)" I can't wait to see who gets kicked off next week.

You know those evil Democrats can strawman your side just as idiotically. Wouldn't they be wasting as much time as you are?

Which side is mine? I didn't realize you had to subscribe to a certain ideology to notice that leftist demagogues are a cancer upon civilization.

Here, I'll show you what I meant:

"Rightist demagogues are a cancer upon civilization. Trump is literally Hitler and will destroy the US and the world. All rightists are fascists who hate minorities and women and wish the world was The Handmaid's Tale".

That's you, in reverse.

Homework assignment: head on back to the top of the thread and see how much of what you wrote was projection based off of one jab.

In any case I think we agree that we've wasted enough time.

You finally got one right.

Has nothing to do with anything. The data is the data and the data is clear that immigration does not beget welfarism, period.

Ask and ye shall receive!

Alex, you have to remember that the Roosevelt administration had a lot of experience running internment camps by then, because it had rounded up a hundred thousand Japanese-Americans, confiscated their businesses, and sent them off to desolate facilities in the desert, except that there no one much cared about the Geneva Conventions. There's your Greatest Generation.

The point being that Hertzberg was engaged in politically-motivated cherry-picking of events, much like people who ignore something when it's happening under one president but suddenly decide that it's a moral imperative when continued by another.

When Japanese internment is mentioned without the context of other crimes-by-states against specific ethnic groups during the early forties, I stop taking the author seriously, especially if they are bitching about cherry-picking.

There are a lot of trolls already on this site, so if you want to stand out, troll boldly. Cite something irrelevant. Change the subject. Hijack the discussion. These empty allusions that you could be a really good troll if you wanted to be won't cut it. It's all about the follow-through.

If we had spent $5 billion on a long lived wall, we wouldn't have had to spend $5 billion on food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and legal costs pissed down the toilet on a continuous basis.

The issue isn't whether we CAN support these people. The issue is whether we want to. We have more important spending priorities than caring for foreigners who violate our laws and lie about being refugees. They are exactly the last type of people we need here.

I am an immigrant. My parents and wife are immigrants. We all came here legally.

Go back to your own country then and stop stealing our jobs.


I'm not interested in spending on either of those items but if I have to choose I will take food and water.

Get used to it this is the price you pay for your insanity on immigration. If you don't want to pay, just let them in. You don't get to say no.

"You don't get to say no." Sure we do. What are you, a 5 yr old?

No, you don't. We ALWAYS win, you always lose. Gay marriage, pot, etc we get our way. This is all just a waste of time.

My grandfather (I'm 50 today) told me about how the community in Savannah GA got along just fine with German POW's. Basically the idea was that once they were in Georgia, there wasn't any specific reason for them to do anything other than adapt. They did, the community did as well, and everything was fine.

We should take Alex at his word and do things EXACTLY as in WWII.

The invaders should be shot on sight. The survivors who surrender can then be interned in the nice little camps....for the duration of the war. Which means until their governments agree to control their own damn borders, not until they can be deported on a rolling basis.

More WWII prisoner rules for Alex and his friends.

In WWII and previous wars, prisoners were sometimes released "on parole", with the understanding that they would not fight again in that conflict.

Violating parole (i.e. being captured fighting a second time) was a capital offence. Bang-bang.

That resolves the policy issue of what to do with people who insist on re-entry after being deported once.

....compares poor immigrants to invading Nazis. So scary! Good thing ol' Alistair is snarkily typing away in the UK to protect us all!

Alex Tabarrok is a repugnant psychopath.

Use of Hendrik Hertzberg as a source is an error in judgement regardless of the conclusion.

Doing the right thing, even when it is not the most expedient thing, is what it means to be good. The quality of mercy is not strained, etc.

Trespassers. They shouldn't even be on US soil.

Why not? There is no legitimate reason to keep them out, and the USC does not give the USG any authority to stop immigration.

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