In the autumn of 1914, the German forces took a total of around 300,000 prisoners of war, mainly from the Eastern Front. The soldiers were placed in temporary POW camps because everyone thought that the war would soon be over. Towards the end of 1914, however, it became clear that it would be a long, drawn-out conflict in which industrial and agricultural production capabilities would play a key role. The POWs were therefore used as free labour to replace the men conscripted into the German army.
Around 7,000 POWs – mainly Russians – were interned in camps in Southern Jutland (North Schleswig). The prisoners also numbered Englishmen, Frenchmen and Italians, but the Russians were those most sought after throughout the region. They were originally confined to camps and transported out to the farms to work. Later, however, they were billeted with the farmers’ families. These thousands of foreign soldiers (who were officially “enemies of Germany”) were assimilated into the everyday work with surprising ease, and there were very few violent incidents.