These blog post have been written by young people from Carl-Friedrich-von-Siemens-Gymnasium prior to their visit to West Yorkshire in February/March 2017.
#4: Cultural Life
My name is O. I am 16 years old. I was born in Berlin in 2000. My family comes from Turkey. My personal topic is the cultural life in the Ruhleben Camp during the First World War.
Cultural life was very diverse. This is what I’ve found so far for the theatre: During the war, the Ruhleben Camp had many theatre performances. In the materials I found The Night of the Wake, the Shakespeare Festival, Cinderella and Mr. Hopkinson. The Night of the Wake had more than 30 actors; it is an Irish folk-play and was produced by Leigh Henry in the Ruhleben Camp. Cinderella was a Christmas production. The Shakespeare Festival had many pieces with many roles and different costumes. A similarity to The Night of the Wake is that in the Shakespeare Festival men played the roles of women. Mr. Hopkinson was very tricky because I could not find anything besides pictures of the cast.
I also searched information about the school life in Ruhleben Camp.
One internee, Hugo Lorenz, had a school member card. Hugo Lorenz was born in Forest Hill 1892 and was interned in November 1914. Before the outbreak of the war he was working in a bank. He lived in Barack Ten. In the camp school he learned multiple languages like French and Italian.
Another internee who had a member card was named E. R. Vincent. He was born in Hampstead in 1894. He studied in Germany. Later on he was a professor. He lived in Barack Six and Eleven. The Ruhleben Camp School had a committee which had five members. This is what I’ve found out so far.
#5: Theatre in Ruhleben
My name is R. and I am seventeen years old. I was born and raised in Berlin.
My task was to research the theatre in the camp. I found out that the internees arranged their own theatre programmes. They had a committee which organised the theatre. The members of this committee are not known to me.
Among the camp internees were talented writers, actors and stage directors as well as amateur performers. Among them were Wallace Ellison, Walter Butterworth and Hugo Richard Lorenz.
Actors and of course the committee played an important role in the organisation of the Shakespeare Festival. This was a festival where the actors performed several dramas by Shakespeare.
In addition I found out that many of the plays were comedies. It seems somehow ironic that the directors and actors tried to forget the circumstances of being captured in the camp and tried to have a little fun.
#6: Letter Writing
My Name is R. and I am 19 years old. I specifically focused my attention on the letters that were written by the internees in the Ruhleben Camp.
First of all we had a number of sources to collect information from. The main thing we did was to read letters that were sent out of the camp. Out of these letters, we could extract a lot of information about the circumstances in the camp, the mindset of the internees, their feelings during their time of incarceration and other things that were important to them. Not only did the prisoners write and sent a lot of letters, they also received many from their families and friends.
An important thing to mention is that the letters that were sent out of the prison would all be read by officials in the camp. That way, the authorities could prevent crucial information to be published.
Even though Ruhleben was a place where the British were held against their will, the British were not treated in a bad way. The general condition of the camp was good and the inhabitants had a lot of activities to participate in and freedom to do things. This is one of the main things that can be extracted from the letters we analysed.
It should also be mentioned that the letters were the only chance for most of the prisoners to stay in touch with their families and friends. That is why some internees wrote over 200 letters per year.
Overall it can be said that letters were one of the most important things for internees to help them to distract themselves from their current situation and their fear of what would come in the future.
I hope that I could give you a good overall picture about this topic and the things that were going on during that time.
#7: Two Internees
My name is R. I am eighteen years old. My theme is the school life in the Ruhleben Camp.
I have information about Richard Hugo Lorenz and Eric Vincent who went to the Camp School.
Richard Hugo Lorenz was born 1892 in Forest Hill (South London) as the son of a German couple. He went to Dulwich College. In 1913 he went to Hamburg for medical treatment and to work in a bank. He was interned in November 1914 and lived in Barack 10.
Eric Vincent was born 1894 in Hampstead (London). He studied German in Gotha and lived in Barack 6 and 11. After his release from Ruhleben, he became a professor.
Among the members of the Ruhleben camp school committee were A.C. Ford (Baracke 10/13 Chairman), W.G. Songhurst (Baracke 5/4) and O. Wulff (Baracke 8/25).
More entries can be found here.