Captivity is existing as long as wars and changed in time. It always were warriors, persons of armed forces or the population in the hands of the foe who had to bear the total loss of liberty and the usage of labor.
In antiquity the defeated population could be convicted to slavery and could be sold or given away like a object. Only by killing the enemy was eliminated from further hostilities and just the labor in slavery kept him alive.
Nobels waged the wars in the Middle Ages. Prisoners of war had an economic value for them by requiring ransom for their liberty. Political concessions were forced of a captured prince and with the knightly word of honor, not to intrude in the clashes any more, he got released.
This continued in the 17. and 18. century while ransom and prisoner exchange were object of treaties and it came ideationally and legally to the separation between fighters and civilians.
The situation of the prisoners of war during the captivity got improved at the end of the 18th century.
With the general draft in the 19th century and the large armies arising from this, captivity arise in huge numbers for the first time like in the regionally restricted war between Germany and France in 1870/71 with 400.000 prisoners in total. To give the prisoners any rights, the Hague land warfare was introduced in 1907 which regulated like in old traditions the release after a word of honor and the rights of the custody power to use the prisoners as workers.
During the first World War with 8.400.000 prisoners it came to so many violations, that the insufficient Hague land warfare order was completed by the Geneva convention in July 27th, 1929.
Nevertheless the destiny of the approx. 35 Million prisoners of war was more heavily in the 2'nd World War than in the 1'st one because it was led ideologically and totally. Ancient appearances returned: the prisoner of war was spoils and slave for a uncertain time, he was used for reprisals and was submitted like a object from one custody power to the other.
The destiny of the German prisoners of war in the 2nd World War is unique in the world history. More than 11 million people were in foreign custody around the globe. The gigantic extents of the 2nd World War, the withdraw of rights, the feeling of uncertainty, the consciousness to be total surrendered, the duration which was very long in most cases and the end not known, lead to an unbearable increase in the load of the German prisoners of war. The strategic forms of the surround- and destruction battles and the complete collapse of Germany led to unknown extents in the organization of the prisoners of war.