Monday 5 September 2016

Ruhleben WW1 Internment Camp, Germany

A report in “The Times” newspaper of 9th January 1916 gives us a good deal of information about those civilians who were interned in the camp at the outbreak of WW1.  Ruhleben Internment Camp was situated on a race track about six miles west of Berlin.

A party of released internees travelled through Holland on their way to Britain.  Those released were men from many different countries “Aden, Burma, Jamaica, and from other parts of the Empire”.  In the main they had been crew members on board merchant ships but others had been working in hotels and restaurants as waiters and so on.  

Interviewed by newspaper reporters eager for news, the released prisoners said they were very grateful indeed for the parcels that were regularly received at the camp containing butter, bacon, milk and white bread.   They were also very grateful for the hospitality they received from the Society of Friends as they travelled to freedom through neutral Holland.

On New Year’s Day 1916, internees performed a pantomime – Cinderella – in front of an audience that included the American Ambassador in Berlin, some of the female employees of the American Embassy and German Army officers on duty at the camp with their wives.

By January 1916, detainees had organised themselves to make internment as bearable as possible and the camp was set up with a wide variety of facilities for prisoners, including the possibility of studying for exams – lessons were held in Greek and Latin as well as modern languages such as Russian, French and German.   Golf, hockey, lacrosse, Rugby and Association football were played and matches were held.  There was even a magazine.  A jockey – Mr H.W. Dye – told reporters there were a dozen or so jockeys in the Camp.   One of the released mentioned that those German officers who spoke English were almost always more considerate than officers who did not speak English. 

Source:  "The Times" 9th January 2016 and various Internet sites.

Picture - from the camp magazine Ruhleben in Winter.