The next window to place a request for Prisoner of War (POW) records from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) opens up on 24 January 2022 at 8:00 (GMT +1).
My father, George Edwin Farrar, was an American Prisoner of War (POW) of Germany during World War II and because of that, my research into his WWII history includes an extra aspect of his military service. On top of learning about his stateside training and combat history, I want to know about his time of imprisonment by the enemy.
The information to be learned, once I’m past the initial information of dates and places, will not be very pleasant, but it’s important for me to know. And the best place to start is to find out how long he was a POW and where he was held prisoner.
There are a couple of places to find information, but today I want to write about the request for information from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) because a short window opens up to request this information only a few times a year and the next window is opening very soon.
This website of the International Committee of the Red Cross is the place to request information about someone held as a prisoner of war or civilian internee during the Spanish Civil War or the Second World War.
If you open the website at any time other than when the short window is open, you will see the page heading, “Requests for information about people held during Spanish Civil War or Second World War: Quarterly limit reached.”
If you open the website during the window of opportunity to request information, you will be able to access an online form which you can fill out for your request.
The website did not supply me in advance with a list of the information the form would require me to fill in, so I had to scramble at the time I was completing the form to make sure I had the correct information and to enter it before the quarterly limit was reached. For that reason, I’m going to list the items I had to provide so you can prepare in advance and be able to fill out the online form quickly and as accurately as possible.
The fields I had to complete were:
Person about whom the information is sought:
- First name
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Date of death
- Place of residence at the time of the conflict
- Father’s surname and first name
- Mother’s maiden name and first name
- Wife/husband’s name
- Conflict (2nd World War)
- Status (Military)
- Service number
- Date of capture
- Place of capture
- Prisoner of war number
- Place(s) of detention
- Date of release (and repatriation)
- Additional information (large text box)
Person requiring the research:
- First name
- Street No.
- Postal code
- Family tie (the person about whom I am seeking information is my…)
- Reason for enquiry
- Reason for enquiry (additional information) – large text box
It’s possible you may not have some of the requested information, but the more you can provide, the better the chance the Red Cross can find the records of your POW.
The next window to place a request opens up on 24 January 2022 at 8:00 (GMT +1) (note this is the time zone of Geneva, Switzerland). It only opens four times a year and they only take a limited number of applications, so determine what time it correlates to in your own time zone (use Google or a world clock app) and then get online immediately at the time the window opens to request the info.
I also want to point out that each applicant is allowed to request information for only one POW. If you are considering requesting information for more than one POW, it’s best to realize in advance you only get one request, so make it the one for which you most want to seek information.
I requested information about my father last year. In my case, I determined that Geneva is six hours ahead of my time zone, so I got online at 2 a.m. on 20 September 2021 to submit my application. By 2:10 a.m. my form was complete and submitted.
I did wait several weeks and was rewarded with an e-mail from the ICRC on 5 November 2021 with a digital document of results attached. The information arrived exactly thirty-nine years to the day of my father’s death.
Unfortunately, I learned nothing new from the report I received. But information I already knew was confirmed. My father was held in Stalag Luft IV and the date of his liberation by Allied forces was confirmed as 2 May 1945.
The report did not indicate the date of his capture, but I already knew that date, too, and there are other resources to find that information, like a NARA search of records of WWII POW’s, which I’ll address in a couple of weeks.
I still think it was worth the time and effort to get up in the middle of the night to submit the request. There was no charge or fee to request the information or to receive the results, and you just never know what you might find out unless you ask. If you miss the window coming up on 24 January, you should have three more chances in 2022 and the dates will be announced on the ICRC website.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll remind you about this opportunity again and write more in detail about searching the NARA records and a place on Facebook to connect with other relatives of POW’s, Kriegie Kids.
I’ve only covered the ICRC requests today, but am including a couple more links to information I’ll be covering in a future post in case you want to do a little exploring on your own…
ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) Requests for Information About Someone Held POW
NARA search of Records of World War II Prisoner of War
Kriegie Kids Facebook group
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022