Baracke 1918 cover

This website makes an important historical source from the First World War accessible to the general reader. At the start of the war the German colony in Tsingtao was attacked by the Japanese, together with a relatively small British contingent, and overwhelmed. The prisoners of war were taken to Japan and interned till the end of the war. The website contains scans and translations into English of the 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 unique First World War internment camp.

The first edition of the camp newspaper was published in September 1917. It was then published weekly until March 1919, after which larger monthly editions were published until September of that year.1 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 can build ourselves a picture of daily life in the camp – how the prisoners kept themselves busy by playing various sports, and by performing plays and even 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, most 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, as are scans of the original handwritten newspapers. The Table of Contents provides a convenient means of browsing in the Baracke.