Sergeant Angelo Spinelli was captured in North Africa by the Germans on Valentine's Day, 1943, and shipped to Stalag IIIB near Furstenburg, Germany. Using cigarettes obtained from the Red Cross, Spinelli bribed a camp guard to procure a Voitlander camera and film. Life behind Barbed Wire features photographs Spinelli took during his time in prison camp.
Of the more than one thousand photographs Spinelli risked his life to take, more than one hundred appear in this book. The remarkable photographs, enhanced by Lewis H. Carlson's explanatory text, feature prisoners trading with the guards' combating ticks, lice, and other vermin, preparing meager rations on ingenious cooking contraptions, fighting off boredom by playing baseball, soccer, and football, putting on musical and dramatic theatre presentations, and worshiping in a chapel the prisoners themselves built.
These snapshots give us a window on camp life, where catastrophe was normal and normalcy was often catastrophic. In addition, there are dramatic shots of liberation from Stalag IIIA, where Spinelli and some thirty-eight thousand other Allied prisoners had been moved during the final months of the war. Mounted as a traveling exhibit by the National Prisoner of War Museum in Andersonville, Georgia, 92 of these photographs are currently on display at the Italian American Museum in New York City.