Other Camps

This map shows the location of all the camps in Japan used to house German prisoners during the First World War. Initially the prisoners were accommodated on a temporary basis, as it was anticipated that the war would not last for long. At a later stage, larger camps were set up and prisoners were transferred to them. The following table, based on data from the DIJ, summarises the changes which occurred:

Camps table

The individual accounts gathered by Mr Hans Joachim Schmidt in his comprehensive website provide an insight into life in some of the other camps. It would require significant extra effort to provide a detailed and balanced study of these camps, but it is worth noting that they were not run on the same liberal basis as Bando. The following translations are taken from these accounts. The behaviour of the camp authorities - and of the prisoners - could easily lead to problems.

For example Karl von Bodeker, in his account of life in Ninoshima, describes poor relations and unjust punishments:

“Five officers who had attempted to escape fared very badly, which in itself was a very foolish thing to do, because their chances of success were nil. The steamer took almost an hour to reach the Japanese mainland, there was no boat available, and even if they had reached the mainland, they would have had to travel for almost a day by train to the next port, where every European was just as conspicuous as a Japanese was here. Moreover, the plan had long since been betrayed to the Japanese by informers, and when they appeared through a hole on the other side of the fence, they were immediately arrested by the guards. Their sentences: the two eldest got 4 years in prison, the others 3 years. They actually wanted to shoot the ringleader, but he could not be identified because each claimed to have been the instigator of the escape.

The prison sentence was served in a real Japanese penitentiary, among murderous Japanese thieves. One of the five did not survive this ordeal long, another went insane. When we were allowed to travel home, the others came out as old, white-haired men.”

Ernst Kluge describes the situation in Kurume:

Unfortunately, it must also be said that the blame for the bad relations between the Japanese and us was also largely to be found on our side. Especially the tactless, stupid behaviour of some of our officers has caused us many a difficult hour. If they had only made difficulties for themselves by harping on about exaggerated notions of honour, that would have been up to them, but unfortunately, in the end, it was the men that had to face the music for the officers' behaviour.

Adalbert von Kuhn's account of Aonogahara is equally dismal:

“Another way of harassing people consisted of the many roll calls and rounds at night. Every night, until the day before our departure at the end of 1919, the guard patrol came two or three times to make sure that people were lying on their mattresses. If the noise and the rather noisy opening of the sliding doors did not wake you up, the guard would do so by shining a paper lantern in your face for as long as possible. In summer, when we slept under mosquito nets, the brave warriors of the Mikado could not see anything and then used another means to make sure of our presence. They simply poked around with a bayonet until the person who might still be sleeping made his presence known with a strong curse!”

He also mentions Bando:

“One exception may have been the model camp in Bando on the island of Shikoku. This camp was built by the Japanese in 1917. Situated on a small island in the Inland Sea, it was the model Japanese camp that they would probably show to any outsiders. It was by far the largest, included a rather large pond where people could bathe at will, and even bathing in the sea was allowed.”