The Law of War and the Treatment of Prisoners of War during the World Wars

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Ohio State University. Mershon Center for International Security Studies

Research Projects

Organizational Units

Journal Issue


International humanitarian law on prisoners of war and other issues has grown extensively over the last century and a half. I lay out a general argument about how the law can aid warring parties in limiting violence during wartime. The patterns of compliance and violations during the World Wars illustrate both the strengths and limitations of law to protect prisoners. During the First World War, all parties wanted to follow the war but disagreed about what it required. As a result, conduct deteriorated during the war. In the Second World War, some parties wanted to follow the law while others rejected it, resulting in great differences in conduct across theaters. Practical issues also limited the ability of the parties to control abuses of prisoners of war.


The media can be accessed here:


laws of war, humanitarian, world war, prisoners of war