Baracke 1918 cover

This website is intended to make an important historical source from the First World War accessible to the general reader. It contains scans and translations of a German-language newspaper which was produced in Bando Prisoner of War Camp near Tokushima on the Island of Shikoku in Japan. So far the newspaper has only been accessible to those with a good command of German or Japanese. We hope that readers will enjoy reading its pages which give invaluable insights into a rather unique First World War internment camp.

The German Colony of Tsingtao was established in 1898. After the outbreak of the First World War, Japanese forces, together with a relatively small British contingent laid siege to the colony, which surrendered after fierce fighting on the 7th of November 1914. The German combatants were taken to Japan and most remained in captivity until the end of 1919. Initially the prisoners were accommodated on a temporary basis, but in April 1917 the inhabitants of the camps in Matsuyama, Marugame and Tokushima on the Island of Shikoku were transferred to the purpose-built camp in Bando. In August 1918 they were joined by 90 prisoners from Kurume on the Island of Kyushu.

The first edition of the camp newspaper was published in September of 1917. It was then published weekly until March 1919, after which larger monthly editions were published until September of that year. The newspaper gives useful insights into the attitudes of the inhabitants of the camp. As they had access to Japanese and English-language media, they were able to follow the events of the war, and were obviously not constrained in reporting on them from a German standpoint. We also learn about how, given the very liberal regime, the inhabitants were able to relate to the local population. We learn about daily life in the camp – how the prisoners kept themselves busy by playing various sports and performing plays and orchestral concerts.

The newspaper displays a lively interest in China and Japan. This also manifested itself in lectures given in the camp. The picture on the right depicts the cover page for the first week in January 1918. Despite the humane treatment that they received in Bando, it is understandable that they hoped for the war to come to an end, preferably as a result of a German victory. We learn how their hopes were raised by the events in Eastern Europe at the start of 1918, and by the initial German victories in the West. The subsequent defeat and the end of the war coincided with an outbreak of Spanish flu in the camp. When the inhabitants were eventually released, many of them chose to return home to Germany. The first ship, the Hofuku Maru, took 944 men back, including 633 from Bando. Possibly unsurprisingly a newspaper was also published on board. This too is available on the website.

The camp newspaper was originally handwritten. A transcription was completed in Japan in 2006. The newspaper was then translated into Japanese. Unfortunately, for copyright reasons we are unable to provide access to the transcriptions or the Japanese translations, but we are grateful to the German House in Naruto for providing us with the transcriptions for translation purposes. They also provided the scans of the original newspapers which are available here. The newspaper from the return journey was transcribed for us, so the German text is provided. This website is still a "work in progress" and is likely to change substantially in due course. The structure of the website is derived from the one used for Stobs Camp near Hawick in the Scottish Borders. The descriptive articles are currently blank, but it is intended to update them in due course.