Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Andrew Morris




American Aid for German War Prisoners, Germans, war prisoners, relief, tolerance, community


When Europe was thrown into conflict in 1939, German Americans feared treatment reminiscent of the discriminatory practices of World War I. Recent immigrants were in an especially difficult position, as they sought to remain loyal to their adopted country, while also desiring to assist those affected by the war abroad. In answer to this dilemma, Emil Auer, a native of Munich and naturalized resident of Buffalo, New York, formed a war relief organization in 1940. Initially focusing its efforts on the British Commonwealth camps established in Canada, the American Aid for German War Prisoners grew to assist Axis soldiers and internees imprisoned worldwide.

Closely scrutinized by the government before and after American entrance into the war, the group emphasized its humanitarian intentions to preempt disapproval. Nevertheless, the President’s War Relief Control Board pursued a campaign of consolidation among philanthropic organizations, and revoked Auer’s permit in 1943. However, the American Aid for German War Prisoners reflected a growing tolerance for German Americans, as the effort came to signify the reemergence and greater acceptance of a cohesive ethnic community.

This thesis traces the progress of the relief organization through its rise, expansion, investigation, and dissolution. Research draws upon government documents, association newsletters, and personal correspondences housed in the New York State Library in Albany, New York City Public Library, and National Archives in College Park, Maryland. Most notably, this work reflects upon the evolution of the German American community through a humanitarian effort that concurrently supported both German heritage and American patriotism.