Deutsche Fassung folgt in Kürze.

In this project, we bring together academics, community, local and family historians (including descendants), performers, teachers, university students and pupils from Britain and Germany to explore the little known history of civilian internment during the First World War.

The comparative and bilateral approach of the project is motivated by a) the nature of internment itself and b) by the twinning of two sites, archives, community teams, schools and universities:

a) British and German tourists, business travellers, seamen, artists, exchange students and even permanent residents who happened to be in Germany or Britain respectively when war was declared, became ‘enemy aliens’. If male and of fighting age, they were interned for the duration of the war in special camps for civilian detainees. Within a few weeks, therefore, the normality of pre-war everyday Anglo-German relations transformed into physical and ideological segregation.

We focus on the historical detail of internment and the wider social and cultural implications for the internees and their families, the local population and those involved in camp administration and security. On the level of Centenary reflection, we also consider the memory of internment, the history of British German relations and European mobility in the early 20th and, by comparison, in the 21st century.

b) The project explores two specific sites, the camp for British civilians in Ruhleben (Berlin-Spandau, Germany) and Lofthouse Park Camp for German internees in Wakefield (Yorkshire, UK). It involves historians, descendants and local communities as active co-researchers, as contributors to various activities and as visitors of an exhibition. The exhibition is one of several project outcomes and is to be presented in Wakefield and Berlin-Spandau in 2016/17. Pupils from a German and a British high school are matched to engage in the research; the British German theme is to be reflected in this collaboration throughout, both virtually and in person during mutual study visits.

The project team makes use of local and national archives as well as the Liddle Collection at the University of Leeds, which holds a significant number of personal documents of Ruhleben internees.

We are actively looking for descendants, in particular of Lofthouse internees, as well as objects, documents and photographs not currently in the public domain (more on this here).

Collaborators in Berlin are the Youth History Workshop Spandau (Jugendgeschichtswerkstatt Spandau), the Spandau City Museum and Archive as well as colleagues at Humboldt University’s History Department. Stakeholders in the UK are descendants of Ruhlebenites, community-based historians, Legacies of War at the University of Leeds, academic colleagues in Leeds and Sheffield, Heritage Corner and the West Yorkshire Archive Service.

The project is funded by the WWI Public Engagement Centre for Hidden Histories/AHRC Connected Communities.


Related projects, also funded by the WWI Engagement Centres, are:

Knockaloe in Local, National and Global Context (Centre for Hidden Histories)
Professor Panikos Panayi (De Montfort University)
Community Partner: Knockaloe Internment Camp & Patrick Visitor Centre, Isle of Man

Hawick’s German Prisoners: Stobs Internment Camp in Global Context, 1914-1919 (Gatesways to the First World War)
Dr Stefan Manz (Aston University)
Community Partner: Live Borders and Scottish Borders Council