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During major wars, armies will often capture numerous enemy soldiers. These enemies must be kept somewhere, preferably some place where they can not return to their fellows. This usually results in a Prisoner of War Camp. As soldiers on the battlefield, these two groups are enemies. For whatever reason, a group of soldiers has been captured by the very guys they were trying to kill just the day before. The camp guards will not like the prisoners because those same prisoners may have been responsible for the death and destruction visited upon their homeland. Typically, the guards will not be nice about the way they treat their prisoners.

Since governments don't like having large numbers of 'potential enemies' running around loose in their back yard, something must be done about them. The answer to this problem is an internment camp. It's basically a POW camp for civilians. Since they are almost always run by the military, we can consider them to be closely related, and therefore included. The concentration camp is the evil twin to the internment camp. Its main objective is to contain political prisoners for either extermination or to keep them handily available for slave labor. While detainees at an internment camp are generally not mistreated, detainees at a concentration camp can expect nothing but constant pain and hunger or instant death at any moment. Any way you look at it, you don't want to be a resident of any of these. Unless you're a guard.

As a Sub-Trope of Prison, most Prison Tropes will apply. This camp can readily turn into a Hellhole Prison. If it is sufficiently escape-resistant, it can become The Alcatraz. You will always see plenty of heavily armed guards, unfriendly guard dogs, guard towers with machine guns and spotlights. Expect miles of barbed wire, often in tangled loops. Sometimes, the wire can be connected to high voltage for added deterrent to escape attempts. Frequently, you will see someone working on a Great Escape. Many Military and Warfare Tropes will be seen as well.

  • Important to remember: the Geneva Conventions are treaties that set standards for how POWs are supposed to be treated. They haven't always been honored -- both in fiction and in Real Life. Camp guards have figured that it's Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught -- but if someone does get caught, it's Serious Business of the "kiss your military career goodbye" variety.

The POW Camp as a setting is a major fixture of many war films as well as many TV Series. In many FPS games, the PC must rescue a fellow soldier from a POW Camp.

No Real Life Examples Please

Works Featuring the POW Camp:

Comic Books


  • The Bridge on the River Kwai: Captured British soldiers are forced to build a railroad bridge by a Japanese officer.
  • The Great Escape Dramatized account of a major breakout by mostly British prisoners from a German POW Camp.
  • In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Blondie and Tuco end up in a Union POW camp after their scavenging of Confederate uniforms backfires on them. Angel Eyes is running the show. It's nasty.
  • Harts War: Immediately after the start of the Battle Of The Bulge, Lt. Hart is sent to a camp where there is an escape attempt brewing. One prisoner murders another to keep him silent and Hart must conduct the court martial.
    • Interestingly, the adjoining camp filled with Polish POWs is run more like a concentration camp, complete with prisoners not being fed and being forced to work in a nearby munitions factory.
  • Stalag 17 After a failed escape attempt, American prisoners suspect a traitor tipped off the Germans.
  • Escape to Victory (Victory in North America). Most of the movie takes place in a World War II Nazi POW camp, where a group of Allied prisoners train to play in a soccer game vs. a German team.
  • Chicken Run, being a spoof of WWII prison escape movies, depicts Tweedy's chicken farm as this.


  • Andersonville is a novel by MacKinlay Kantor concerning the Andersonville prison.
  • The beta plot of Tom Clancy's Without Remorse is about a group of American prisoners in a secret POW camp in North Vietnam during The Vietnam War, and an attempt to rescue them. The prisoners are kept in isolation from each other, however they are not tortured, because the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) officer there believes that the best way to get information from them is to get the prisoners to let down their guard by treating the prisoners well and acting friendly.
  • Red Cap is a Historical Fiction Children's Literature novel by G. Clifton Wisler. The main character is a drummer boy that ends up in the Andersonville prison cap.

Live Action TV

  • The 1996 TV Movie Andersonville, directed by John Frankenheimer, tells the story of the notorious Confederate prison camp.
  • British series Colditz is about the German PoW camp of the same name. It is partly based on the film The Colditz Story which itself was based on a book by that name.
  • Hogan's Heroes Comic misadventures of prisoners trying to disrupt the German war effort from right under their noses.

Single Episodes of Live Action TV

  • The Ripping Yarns episode, "Escape from Stalag Luft 112B" was set in a POW camp.

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In the "Puppet Master" episode, Hama tells the gang how she, and the other water benders from the Southern Water Tribe, were rounded up and taken prisoner by the Fire Nation. There, they were kept in cages, with their hands shackled, so they couldn't bend. The warden even pumped in dry air as an added measure. And while they were given food and water, it was only enough to keep them alive, but just barely.

Video Games

  • In Ace Combat 5 The Unsung War, one of the missions revolves around storming an enemy POW camp to free your soldiers in the middle of a snowstorm.
  • More than one game in the Call of Duty franchise have featured POW camps.
  • The final level of I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is set in a concentration camp.
  • The aptly named cult classic 6th generation game Prisoner Of War was set in a POW camp, and cast the player as an American airman with the objective of escaping.

Works featuring the Concentration / Internment Camp:

  • Band of Brothers: Easy Company found and liberated a concentration camp in one episode.
  • Empire of the Sun tells the story of Jamie "Jim" Graham, a young boy who goes from living in a wealthy British family in Shanghai, to becoming a prisoner in the Lunghua Civilian Assembly Center, a Japanese run internment camp in occupied China, during World War II.
  • Escape from Sobibor is a 1987 prison escape/war/Holocaust movie set in 1943, in the Sobibor extermination camp, where inmates who have been selectively spared for their skills in manufacturing material goods plot their escape from the camp, in part utilizing the skills they possess.
  • The end of The Hiding Place was set in a concentration camp.
  • Tenko is a BBC TV Series about an internment camp for women in the far east during the second world war.
  • Schindler's List shows glimpses of the horrors of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
  • Life Is Beautiful. A man and his son are sent to a concentration camp, the father acting like it's all a game to hide the truth from his son.
  • Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay They aren't inmates, though.
  • Journey To Topaz follows one Japanese American family following the attack on Pearl Harbor as they're sent to Tanforan and then to Topaz.
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