Life in the Camp

A view of the camp

A slightly ironic article published in January 1918 is the first to provide a description of the physical environment of the camp and something of what it was like to live there1. In March of the same year a there was an attractively illustrated and positive account of daily life in the camp2. Even the need to attend the twice-daily roll-call was not seen as a great imposition. A further article from the 5th of May 1918 highlights some peculiarities of the camp3. An article published in February 1919 provides a useful statistical survey of the camp inhabitants4. It shows that on the 1st of January 1919 most occupants were aged between 23 and 44, and that the modal age was 265. Despite the continued use of military ranks in the newspaper, there were many more businessmen than military professionals in the camp6.

Although it was apparently an improvement on previous accommodation, the space provided to the ordinary prisoners in the camp was very restricted, with a width in the barracks of only 95 centimetres per person7. This map, published in April 1919, illustrates the layout of the campsite. There was also a rented area outside the camp which was used for sporting activities and agriculture. This map illustrates how it was used in November 1917. There were two separate barracks for officers, consisting of 18 rooms, but only four more senior officers had separate rooms8. The layout in Barrack 1 was different, and part of it was used for performances9.

There were a number of well-organised activities in the camp. There was also a library which mainly consisted of works of fiction10. When the camp was in the process of closing, people were concerned that the books which were not reclaimed should go to a deserving German cause11.

An article from Easter 1918 deals with the camp’s population of dogs12.

The end of 1918 brought the armistice and an outbreak of Spanish flu. What it did not bring was a swift closure of the camp. As a result of the boundary changes agreed as part of the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed on the 28th of June 1919, some inhabitants of the camp found that they would no longer be living in Germany when they returned home. As they were no longer viewed as German nationals, they were given the opportunity to leave the camp and return home before the other inhabitants, causing resentment13. The early return of the people from Schleswig was viewed differently, because they left in order to take part in a referendum which would determine the future of their region14. Not everyone wanted to return to Germany. A number chose to stay in Japan, while others went to the Dutch East Indies15. Although they appreciated that they had been treated reasonably,people were undoubtedly frustrated by the delay, but it did not stop them from making the most of the remaining time. Their mood on departure is probably best summed up by the last page of the final edition16 .