The Better Germany in War Time - Being some Facts towards Fellowship
by Harold Picton
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Being some Facts towards Fellowship.




"Forsooth, brothers, fellowship is heaven, and lack of fellowship is Hell."—A Dream of John Ball.

"Either we are all citizens of the same city and war between us, a civil war, a monstrous iniquity to be forgotten, as soon as it may bring in peace; or else there is no city and no home for man in the universe, but only an everlasting conflict between creatures that have nothing in common and no place where they can together be at rest."—Times Literary Supplement, Nov. 11, 1915.

"He had to be extremely careful, said Lord Newton at Knutsford last Saturday, because if he made any statement which did not accuse the Germans of brutality he was denounced by many people as pro-German."—Common Sense, April 20, 1918.

"Des faits de ce genre meritent detre mis en evidence. Il faudrait, dans ce dechainement d'horreurs et de haines, insister sur les quelques traits capables d'adoucir les ames."—La Guerre vue d'une Ambulance par L'Abbe FELIX KLEIN.

"Hate as a policy is either inadequate to deal with the crimes (real and invented) of our enemies, or, if adequate, so recoils on the hater that he himself becomes ruined as a moral agent."—G. JARVIS SMITH, M.C. (late Chaplain at the Western Front). Nation, Nov. 2, 1918.

"The belief at home that the individual enemy is an incurable barbarian is simply wrong...."—Second-Lieut. A. R. WILLIAMS, killed in action August, 1917.

"I will go on fighting as long as it is necessary to get a decision in this war.... But I will not hate Germans to the order of any bloody politician; and the first thing I shall do after I am free will be to go to Germany and create all the ties I can with German life."—J. H. KEELING (B.E.F., December, 1915).











One kind of German has been too often described, and not infrequently invented. I propose here to describe the other German. At a military hospital a lady visitor said to the wounded soldiers: "We've had lots of books and tales of horror; why don't some of you fellows prepare a book of the good deeds of the enemy?" There was a slight pause. "Ah," said one of the soldiers, "that would be a golden book." Very imperfectly, and in spite of all the barriers raised by war passions, I have tried to collect some of the materials already to hand for such a book.

In any quarrel it is difficult to recognise that there is good in one's opponent. Yet in order that any strife may be wisely settled, this recognition is plainly necessary. Mere enmity, without recognition of good, belongs to primitive barbarism. It was against the foolish unpracticality of this older barbarism (not surely only against its wickedness) that Christ protested in the words, "But I say unto you, love your enemies." He saw around him the folly and unenlightenment of the perpetual feud. I have collected the testimonies that are in the following pages because such facts seem to me to need wider recognition, if we are ever to gain an outlook upon a fairer and a truer world.

If my desire for peace has anywhere shown itself unduly, or in a way irritating to others, I ask forgiveness. Whenever peace is made, the world will need a peace built on all the facts of human nature. I have tried to give here some of those which war passions inevitably obscure. That is the whole of my task.

HAROLD PICTON. September, 1918.


[Footnote 1: With the exception of a few minor insertions the whole of this book was compiled, and the preface written, before Peace came. It seemed, however, that it might only be harmful if published then. I, therefore, kept the book back, but, as the wording expressed my feeling as I wrote, I have left it unchanged.]

The Better Germany in War Time



The cases of bad treatment of prisoners in Germany have been made known very widely. No one, I imagine, can wish to defend bad treatment of prisoners anywhere (even of criminal prisoners), and such a horrible state of things as that of Wittenberg during the typhus epidemic is a disgrace to human nature.

But Mr. Lithgow Osborne says: "My whole impression of the camp authorities at Wittenberg was utterly unlike that which I have received in every other camp I have visited in Germany." (Miscel. 16, 1916, p. 6). I propose to give some account of these other camps. I shall not exclude adverse criticism, but as the public have heard little but such criticism, I do not think it will be unfair to deal in these pages more fully with the favourable reports.


The following letter from a British Officer appeared in the Times of December 30, 1914. It may well serve as an introduction and a caution:

I do not doubt Private O'Sullivan's wonderful experience as a prisoner, but his is, I am sure, only an isolated case, and not at all the usual treatment to which British prisoners are subjected. I can speak from experience, as I, too, was a prisoner (wounded), but afterwards released, as the building in which I was, along with several German wounded, was captured by the British. During the time I was with the Germans they treated me with every consideration. Food was scarce, owing to the fact that the roads were so well shelled by our artillery that their transport could not come up; but they shared their food with me. They also dressed my wound with the greatest care, and in every way made me as comfortable as possible. Being able to speak a little German, I talked to the other wounded, and found that their papers also published dreadful tales of our treatment of prisoners, which I am glad to say I was able to refute.

I am, Sir, yours faithfully, A BRITISH OFFICER. December 27.

I would especially call the attention of fair-minded men to the last sentences.

Here is a letter written by Second-Lieut. F. Phillips Pearce (aged 18) of the 2nd Essex Regiment, from Crefeld on October 27, and printed in the Times of November 19, 1914:

We are treated very well indeed here. We have good beds and fires in the rooms, three good meals a day, and a French soldier for a servant, and this morning I had a splendid hot bath. We have roll call twice a day, at 8 a.m. and 9.45 p.m., and lights out at 10.45, and we have a large courtyard to walk about in. We have a canteen here where we can buy clothes and anything we want. Prison fare is very good—new rolls and coffee and fresh butter. Not bad! I had a very decent guard when I was coming up on the train; he got me food, and when one man tried to get in to attack me he threw him off the train. I am afraid I am out of the firing line until the war ends (worse luck). I am in no danger of being shot unless I try to bolt, which I shan't do. I shot the man who was carrying their colours, and he wanted to have me shot, but luckily nobody seemed to agree with him. The next time I saw him he had been bandaged up—he was shot through the shoulder—and he dashed up and shook me by the hand and shouted, "Mein Freund, mein Freund."

On November 25 other letters appeared in the Times. One was from a cavalry subaltern in a German fortress:

You ask about money; they provide lights and firing and all the men's food. The officers get 16s. a week and buy their own. Quite sufficient, as it is cheap. I have learnt German fairly quickly and do interpreter now in the shop for the men, though, I am afraid, tant mal que bien. One of the officials here used to be a professor, and is very kind trying to teach us. Thanks for the warm underclothes, and most awfully for the footballs. We have quite good matches.... It is better not to try to send any public news of any kind from England; people having been stupid trying to smuggle letters in cakes and things, and it only makes trouble for everyone.

A Captain writes:

For dinner at 1 p.m. we are given soup, meat and vegetables.... Supper takes place at 7 o'clock and consists of tea, sausages or meat and potatoes.... We receive L5 a month as pay, of which 1s. 6d. is deducted for food each day. We have a canteen here at which we can buy everything we want, ... so there is no need to send me anything at all, except perhaps those small 7d. editions of novels.

An English lady wrote early in 1915 from Munich:

I must tell you I had permission to visit a wounded English officer, a cousin, and I think it would reassure many people at home to know how warmly he speaks of the great kindness that has been shown him now for five months, as well as the skill and attention of the doctors.—(Times, March 17, 1915.)

Here, too, is a letter from Lieut.-Observer J. E. P. Harvey, an officer of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry, and attached to the Royal Flying Corps:

I met one of the pilots of the German machines that had attacked us. He could speak English well and we shook hands after a most thrilling fight. I had brought down his machine with my machine-gun, and he had to land quite close to where I landed. He had a bullet through his radiator and petrol tank, but neither he nor his observer was touched. I met two German officers that knew several people that I knew, and they were most awfully kind to me. They gave me a very good dinner of champagne and oysters, etc., and I was treated like an honoured guest. I then came by train the next day to Mainz, where I was confined in a room by myself for two days. I have now been moved into a general room with eight other English officers, where we sleep and eat. We are treated very well, and play hockey and tennis in the prison yard.—(News of the World, February 27, 1916.)

Miss Colenso gives the following account, which appeared in the Daily News of June 28, 1918:

A minister friend of mine told me the story of a young Scottish boy of his acquaintance, now a military prisoner in Germany—I forget for the moment in which camp. This boy received a letter from home one day telling of his mother's serious illness and the doctor's verdict that she could only live a few weeks. The German Commandant, finding the boy in great distress, asked him what was the matter, and on learning the cause of his grief, said: "Would you like to go home to your mother?" The boy sprang up, exclaiming indignantly, "How can you mock me when you know it is impossible?" "But you shall go, my boy," said the commandant. "I will pay your return fare on condition that you give me your word of honour to come back here." The boy went home to Scotland and remained by his mother's side for about three weeks till her death, when, true to his word, he returned to Germany.

The writer of "Under the Clock" considers that "well-attested" stories of this kind should be given publicity. It is even more necessary to examine the "attestation" of the other kinds of stories, for all the bias is against the enemy, and demand is apt to create supply.


I pass on now to a report made by a United States Official. The American Consul writes from Leipzig under date of November 16, 1914: "On Saturday afternoon, the 14th instant, I visited the military concentration camp near Merseburg, where some 10,000 prisoners of war are interned. The object of my visit was to investigate the claim of a French prisoner that he is an American subject. The result of my observations regarding the welfare and humane treatment of the prisoners at large was a surprise to me.... Separated by nationality, these prisoners are housed in wooden buildings, well built, ventilated and heated.... They sleep upon straw mattresses in well-warmed quarters, and, as far as I could judge, are as well or better housed than labourers upon public works in the United States. The prisoners are fed three times a day. Breakfast consists of coffee and bread. Dinner consists of vegetable and meat, soup and bread, and for supper they are given bread and coffee. I was informed that many of the prisoners have some money, and that they are allowed to buy whatever else they may wish to eat. If I may judge from the mounds of empty beer bottles at hand, there is evidence in support of this statement. The prisoners appeared to be in good health and cheerful, many of them engaging in games and other pastimes."

The diet described must be frightfully monotonous. Feeding has throughout been one of the German difficulties. "Germany claims to hold 433,000 prisoners of war," wrote an anonymous American journalist (probably in November, 1914); "the housing and feeding of so great a number must be a tremendous strain upon resources drained by the necessities of war." The numbers must now exceed two million. The Press article referred to [Misc. No. 7 (1915)] is severe on the misery of camp life, and the verminousness of the men (they were of mixed nationality) in the camp at Doeberitz which he visited. (See, however, the further official reports quoted below at p. 9). But the writer does not confine his condemnation to one side. "One hears of battles in which no quarter is granted. There are stories of one side or the other refusing an armistice to permit the other to gather its wounded. Each side is desperately determined to win, and neither is counting the cost. So men must rust in prison camps until the struggle is over." The monotony in this case seems to have been varied by fights between the prisoners of different nationality, each set considering that the others had not done their part in the war. We need not be contemptuous about that. The monotony of the prisoners' life must tend to produce the maximum degree of mutual friction. There is absolutely no privacy for the prisoner of war. To be forced to remain, day and night, for months and years in idleness, with a crowd of others, not of one's own choice is, I believe, one of the psychological factors which make internment (especially to many civilians) decidedly worse than imprisonment in a criminal prison.


My next document illustrates the fact that each side makes similar complaints about the other. Telegram received by American Embassy, London, December 23, 1914, 22nd from Berlin Embassy:

"Foreign Office reports receiving many complaints that money and packages sent German military and civilian prisoners in enemy countries from Germany do not reach addresses. Please secure information for Department to forward German Foreign Office whether money and other postal matter will be delivered to such prisoners promptly and intact.—BRYAN, Washington."

There is no doubt that many letters and parcels have not reached German prisoners in England. Lord Robert Cecil has fully allowed this. (Times report. March 11, 1915.) In spite of this, I have no doubt that the British authorities have done their best to expedite delivery. I would suggest that this is probably the case on the other side, too. We shall indeed later come upon some definite statements in support of this view. One frequent cause of the non-arrival of parcels in Germany has been convincingly described by Mr. Ian Malcolm, M.P. (Daily Mail, November 8, 1916, and Reprint):

I did not approach this subject quite "new to the game." I had already visited general post offices in England, Switzerland and elsewhere, and had seen thousands, literally thousands, of food parcels intended for our prisoners of war in Germany falling to bits and incapable of being forwarded for want of skilled packing. The sight was enough to make angels weep. To think that so much self-sacrifice had been exercised in humble homes to save up bits of dripping, crusts of bread, broken cigarettes, and what not, in order that these should reach son or brother or sweetheart in Germany, yet packed so badly albeit by loving hands, that in the first rough and tumble of the post the paper burst, the string came undone, and the contents of a dozen parcels fell in an inextricable jumble upon the floor.

There will unfortunately, too, be those in every land who will take opportunities for mean thefts. We have all had experience of that during this war, and the following cutting from the Daily News of October 5, 1915, may be given in illustration:

In a letter of thanks to the secretary of the committee of the Elswick and Scotswood workmen, formed for the purpose of sending comforts to the troops, Sir Ian Hamilton says:

I am extremely touched by the extraordinary generosity and kindness of the Elswick and Scotswood workmen. I will take great care to let our soldiers know to whom they are indebted for this most handsome contribution. Pray heaven the parcels will escape thieves and scoundrels who waylaid some of the gifts, and will arrive in good condition.

If there are, alas, not a few men who will steal from their comrades, there are not likely to be fewer who will steal from their enemies.

Speaking generally, however, the delivery of parcels on both sides soon became commendably regular. The care shown on the German side is warmly praised by Captain Gilbert Nobbs, who remained quite able to appreciate good deeds even after enduring terrible hardships and hearing worse stories from others. The bad deeds of war, soldiers are able to judge better than civilians. In his book "Englishman, Kamerad," Captain Nobbs writes:

I was very much impressed with the fair and systematic handling of our parcels, letters and money; even letters and postcards which arrived for me after I had been sent back to England, were re-addressed and sent back. A remittance of five pounds which arrived for me after I had left was even returned to me in England, instead of being applied to the pressing need of the German War Loan.—(Daily News, January 25, 1918.)

An acquaintance of my own, a lecturer in a technical school, spoke to me to the same effect. He told me, as an illustration, of a parcel sent to him which had become quite shattered in transit (p.p. 7). The Germans transferred the contents to a sack, and, as he said, the temptation to pilfer the sorely-needed foodstuffs must have been great. My informant also spoke of the very thorough inoculation against disease.


On December 31, 1914, Mr. Damm reported to Mr. Gerard on the Camp at Altdamm near Stettin. The general arrangement, he remarks, is the same as that of the camp at Stargard on which he had reported previously.

"It appears to me that every effort is being made to treat the prisoners of war as humanely as possible in the two camps I visited. Dry and warm shelter is provided, the food is simple and perhaps monotonous, but of good material and well prepared, sanitary arrangements are good, and the health of the men is carefully looked after."


But the general inspection of all camps had not yet been agreed to by the German Government, and on February 23, 1915, Sir Edward Grey wrote to Mr. Page (the American Ambassador in London) complaining that no definite replies to his questions were forthcoming. "His Majesty's Government," he continues, "have only unofficial information and rumours on the subject to guide them, which they trust do not accurately represent the facts." The "unofficial information and rumours" had, however, attained wide publicity, and obtained still more later.

The German authorities agreed on March 17, 1915, to general inspection of detention camps and consideration of complaints. The reports now to be cited were made after this date. [Misc. 11 (1915)]. I propose to give examples of almost all the earlier reports, for it was in the earlier stages of the war that there was most difficulty everywhere in providing accommodation for prisoners. We ought not to forget that the earliest reports on our own camps which the British Government have published begin with February, 1916.[2]


On March 31 Mr. Jackson reported on the camp at Doeberitz, a large camp with between three and four thousand British prisoners. "So far as I could ascertain, British soldiers are called upon to do only their share in fatigue work.... So far as I could ascertain, after inquiry of a number of men, nothing was known as to the stopping of either incoming or outgoing correspondence.... The camp at Doeberitz is in a healthy location, and the barracks are new and of a permanent character.... They are at least as good as those used by the Germans at present in the same neighbourhood. As was to be expected a number of men had individual grievances, but there were no general complaints, except with regard to the German character of the food—and those were the exact counterparts of complaints made to me by German prisoners in England." I have italicised the last clause as it will surely, to a fair-minded man, seem a somewhat important one.

Mr. Lithgow Osborne visited the camp at the same time. He says:

Until two weeks ago the Russians and English were, in cases, housed together—a source of complaint to the latter, more especially on account of vermin. The races have now been separated. The men all stated that they had the two blankets and the other requisites provided in the German rules, and I heard but one complaint about overcrowding. Most of the English and French receive clothes from home. All the prisoners who do not, are furnished from the camp supply; the men stated that this was carried out according to the rules.

No complaints whatever were made regarding the Commandant, the non-commissioned officers, or the general government of the camp. The food was the source of the few real complaints that could be heard, although at least half of the men spoken to admitted that it was quite as good as could possibly be expected.

The impression of the whole was excellent, and one received the idea that everything that could reasonably be expected was done for the men by the authorities in charge.


Mr. Jackson's reports on Burg bei Magdeburg, Magdeburg and Halle a/d Saale are the most unfavourable. They were all small officers' camps, Burg containing 75, Magdeburg 30, Halle 50 British officers. There were a few orderlies at each camp.

The chief points are inadequate ventilation, inadequate service for officers and, in the first two, the fact that living rooms were used for all purposes, there being no special mess or recreation rooms. There seemed, however, to be no discrimination against the British.


Mr. Page himself reports on Goettingen, where there were about 6,000 prisoners. "The Camp Commandant, Colonel Bogen, has done everything possible to make this a model camp, and he has accomplished a great work. The only complaint is as to the food, the quantity of which, of course, is not under the control of the Commandant, as he is limited to an expenditure of only 60 pfennigs (about 7d.) per day per man.

"Everything was in the most beautiful order. There was a very fine steam laundry and drying room, bath rooms, with hot and cold showers, and the closets, etc., are in a very good condition and scientifically built. There is running water and electricity in the camp. A French barrister of Arras, named Leon Paillet, who was working with the French Red Cross and who, for some reason or other, has been made a prisoner, has done marvellous work in organising libraries, etc.

"I am pleased to say that the professors and pastors in Goettingen have, from the first, taken an interest in this camp, and Professor Stange has done much in helping the lot of the prisoners. The Y.M.C.A. building, erected through the efforts of Mr. A. C. Harte, who for a number of years has been working with the Y.M.C.A. in India, will be a great help to the men in the camp.

"At the opening ceremonies there were speeches by Colonel Bogen, Mr. Harte, and Professor Stange, and then each speech was delivered in English and French by prisoners. These were followed by short speeches by French, English, and Belgian prisoners. Then came a concert by the camp orchestra and the camp singing society, followed by songs and recitations by various prisoners."

Dr. Ohnesorg reported further on April 22. At that time there were 6,577 prisoners, of whom 1,586 were British. He warmly commends the steam laundry, the steam disinfecting plant, and the hospital. "A spirit of contentment pervaded the camp. The British prisoners were well clothed. I tasted the evening meal, consisting of a vegetable soup, which was very palatable and, I should say, nourishing.... The citizens of Goettingen have taken a great interest in the camp, and some of them, notably Professor Stange, of the University, have given a great deal of their time to the welfare of prisoners and the formation of classes for study amongst them."


The interest taken by prominent Germans in the welfare of prisoners of war is little recognised in this country. The Berlin Committee (of which more will be said later) has received considerable support. At the end of June, 1916, a meeting in support of its work was held at the house of Prince Lichnowsky, former Ambassador in London, who returned specially from the front to preside. The Bishop of Winchester, writing in the Times, tells us that many notable men and women were present, and that at the meeting a collection of 8,000 marks (about L400) was made.


Mr. Michelson visited in April, 1915, the three Cologne hospitals in which wounded British prisoners are lying. He reports as follows:

These institutions are so typical of large, modern, well ordered hospitals that little need be said of their employment or management. They are provided with all the machinery and paraphernalia usual to surgical work on a large scale, contain all standard and necessary conveniences and fittings, afford to patients a maximum of protection in the matter of sanitation, quiet and relief from preventable irritation, and are conducted in a thoroughly scientific, professional and humane way.

The names of the 49 wounded British prisoners are hereunto annexed. I personally spoke to every one of these men, and with many of them I conversed privately and without being overheard. With but one exception no English-speaking British prisoner had any complaint to make, and a number of the British prisoners eagerly expressed to me their appreciation for the care and attention given them.

The physical condition of the Indians is particularly good. Only 21 deaths have occurred among the 1,000 wounded cared for in hospital No. VI. since the war began, and the death rate in the other two hospitals is correspondingly low. The physicians in charge consider the rate to be somewhat remarkable in view of the many grave injuries treated.

In closing I may say that there is no discrimination or segregation among the patients and that certain French patients with whom I spoke expressed, likewise, their appreciation for the care and attention given them.


At Crefeld Mr. Michelson visited the camp for interned officers. Of these interned 137 were British. The general statements of the Commandant "were afterwards independently confirmed by the one interned British medical officer, Captain Benjamin Johnson, who said that as a physician he had no complaints to make or improvements to suggest. He did, however, complain on the score of being held prisoner, but the Commandant and the German medical officer, and I with them, feel that the presence of a British medical officer in the barracks is desirable.

"The bath room which I saw has a floor space of about 1,500 square feet, one-half of which, drained in the centre, lies under some 20 shower nozzles. There are a couple of porcelain tubs in the other half, and in the centre there is a large stove. Hot and cold water is available. The British officers were enthusiastic in their praise of this room.

"As regards the sleeping rooms, wash rooms and latrines, and their equipment, the general German housing regulations are being fully complied with. I visited a great many sleeping rooms, and in none of them did I find overcrowding, uncleanliness, insufficient light, heat, or equipment.

"The orderlies are housed in stalls in one of the stables, and in their regard, too, the general German housing regulations are being fully complied with. Their quarters looked sufficiently comfortable and clean, and two or three of the orderlies with whom I spoke said that they had no complaints to make, and that they were happy to be interned with, and not apart from their officers. I visited the one building fenced off from the others—also a stable—in which German soldiers are quartered, and I found the accommodation and equipment there to be precisely that furnished to the orderlies. The comparison was, however, somewhat in favour of the orderlies, for the orderlies were fewer in number and less crowded than the soldiers. Although exercise is not compulsory, there is ample space in the central rectangle for out-door games of all sorts and for walking. No appropriate form of exercise, recreation, or amusement is denied the interned, and opportunities for distraction within the barracks lie largely in their own hands. Smoking is freely permitted, and English, French and Russian songs are sung without interference. The walls of one French officer's room were covered with good-natured caricature drawings. When I asked the Commandant if the interned might not be permitted to go out into the country under guard, he replied that the barracks were too near the frontier for that, and he mentioned that one officer had already escaped and succeeded in getting over the border."

Food is provided to all officers at the rate of two marks daily. This absorbs the whole of a lieutenant's pay, and the Commandant recognised the difficulty. But "none of the officers want the present arrangement altered if alteration is to involve a decrease in the quality, quantity, or variety of the food furnished. All of them agree that the food is entirely satisfactory, under the circumstances, and that it is fully worth two marks a day.

"The officers told me that letters and packages were delivered to them with commendable rapidity, and that the Commandant was unfailingly obliging when, for important reasons, any officer needed to send off more than two letters a month."


Dr. Ohnesorg, of the U.S. Navy, inspected Gardelegen and Salzwedel. Owing to typhus, the former was not completely inspected. Two hundred and twenty-eight British soldiers were interned here. Dr. Ohnesorg remarks that the situation is open, with natural drainage. There was a good and unstinted water supply. "I had a long talk alone with Captain Brown. He spoke well of the camp." "Work was being rushed on" for the complete eradication of the clothing louse which is the carrier of the infection. "It should be mentioned that the Russian prisoners, who are primarily responsible for the introduction of the disease, are quartered alone, ... but all the prisoners associate with one another in the compound." At Salzwedel, out of a total of 7,900 prisoners, only 49 were British. The supply of water was unstinted. Shower baths and hot water were available. Each man could have a bath every three days, and the baths were being added to. In the hospital "the English doctor informed me that the medicines and treatment accorded to the sick were good."

"The majority of the English prisoners complained of not getting enough food and the monotony of the diet. The black bread was another point of protest. I myself was given a sample of the mid-day meal as it came from the kettle. It consisted of a thick soup containing potatoes, beans, and small portions of fish. It was palatable, and I should say nourishing. The prisoners do not do heavy work, their work being police duties, etc. I must add that those whom I saw were well nourished, of good colour, and appeared to be in good physical condition. There were only a half-dozen on the sick list, and, with one exception, they were under treatment for wounds."


Mr. Jackson reported on the first four of these. The Guestrow camp (Mecklenburg) contained about 6,000 prisoners, of whom 300 were British. It is situated in the pine woods, and consists of "solid, newly-built wooden barracks, lighted by electricity and heated." Washing and bathing facilities were good and the postal department well organised. "Clothing is furnished when required, if asked for."

"There are several workrooms, and most of the men who have trades can find something to do to occupy their time and can earn a little money.

"Most of the British soldiers spoke of harsh treatment immediately following their capture—at the beginning of the war—and while they were being transported to Germany, and several spoke of their having been handled roughly while in the tents. Others said frankly that most of those who had been treated badly since they came to the camp had done something to deserve it. In any event all admitted that their present treatment was good, and that there was now no discrimination against the British. British soldiers had never been called on to do more than their share of the dirty work about the camp. A party of Russians had always had charge of the latrines, voluntarily, in return for some small compensation. The spirits of the British prisoners seemed good."

The account of Muenster is almost precisely similar—"solidly-built barracks," "good bathing arrangements," "well-arranged hospital." Suggestive of the nervous strain of internment is the following: "Here the relations between the British and Belgians seemed cordial, and the former participated in the recent celebration of King Albert's birthday, which the French declined to do."

At Soltau there were about 30,000 prisoners, principally Belgian. Four hundred were British. German control was largely eliminated, but the results in this case do not seem to have been satisfactory.

"In this camp there seemed to be fewer German soldiers on duty than is the rule elsewhere, and practically the whole of its administration is in the hands of the Belgians, who have organised many courses of study (under Belgian professors) and who have a Catholic Church, a theatre, an orchestra, and a choir. The British complained that there is discrimination against them here (apparently more by the Belgians than by the Germans), and that they are not permitted to participate in the administration or to be represented in the kitchen or post office. Complaints were made about the food and the delivery of mail and parcels, and it was said that the Belgians objected to have them join in football games, etc. They also said that they were compelled to do much more than their share of fatigue work in connection with the latrines. All these complaints were brought to the attention of the officer in charge, who promised to investigate them, as apparently but little attention had been paid to such matters so long as there had been no trouble in the camp."

At Scheuen near Celle a similar difficulty existed. There were 118 British out of a total of 9,000 prisoners. "The British non-commissioned officers muster their men and exercise some general control over them, but the French or Belgian non-commissioned officers are in charge of the barracks and designate the men who are to do fatigue duty. In consequence, it is claimed, British soldiers are detailed to such work more frequently than those of other nationalities. On speaking of this to the Commandant, he promised at once to arrange so that a more fair division of work should be made in the future. Otherwise the men made no complaint with regard to any discrimination against them."


The reports issued in Miscellaneous, No. 14 (1915) continue the inspections and reinspections up to the middle of May. As improvements were continuously being made in the camps, it is scarcely necessary to refer in detail to these further reports. There are reports on fifteen camps for military prisoners. Two of these reports (those on the "working camp" at Zueder Zollhaus and Wahn) are unfavourable, thirteen are favourable. At Zueder Zollhaus were 2,000 prisoners, of whom 479 were British. The camp was for prisoners who were willing to work on the land. "I was given to understand," writes Dr. Ohnesorg, "that this camp would only be occupied during the summer months." The inspector finds the hospital accommodation in this case "very crude." There were about thirty cases of sickness which should certainly have been removed elsewhere. The morning meal seems very small for the morning's work. It consists of either soup or coffee with 300 grammes (say 10 oz.) of bread. Altogether it is plain that improvements here were urgently needed. Dr. Ohnesorg, however, says: "All of them (the British prisoners) appeared to be in good physical condition.... The work is not hard, and they are permitted to take it leisurely.... They informed me that their treatment was good, they were not overworked, and practically the only complaint they had to make was that a more substantial meal to begin the day on should be given them." At Wahn the food was complained of, and the most unpleasant feature is that the Commandant did not seem on good terms with the British.


As regards the camp for officers at Blankenburg, Mr. Jackson writes:

The house itself is as comfortable as any of the places where I saw interned officers in England.... It is surrounded by attractive, well-kept grounds, in which a tennis-court has just been made.... There are several modestly furnished mess and recreation rooms, and a terrace which is used for afternoon tea.... The Commandant is interested in his work, and evidently does all he can to make conditions agreeable.

There were 110 officers, of whom nine were British.


At Sennelager Mr. Osborne reports:

The situation of the camp is good ... on very dry, sandy soil, surrounded at a few kilometres by pine forests. The buildings are good. Though there were the customary complaints about the food, more than half the men I spoke with expressed themselves as satisfied.... The men looked healthy, and they all stated that the general health of the camp was excellent.... There are shower baths with hot and cold water.... The men said they were well treated by the Commandants and the German soldiers and N.C.O.'s in charge of them.

The camps at Sennelager are large ones, and include more than two thousand British prisoners. Games, concerts, and theatrical performances help to pass the time. A play given by French prisoners was entitled: Avant et apres la guerre.


Of the officers' camp at Mainz, Dr. Ohnesorg reports that "The quality and quantity of the food was good and varied.... One and all the British officers spoke in the highest terms of their commanding officer, his kindness and courtesy, and said that they received every privilege which could be afforded them, considering their position." There were about 700 officers, of whom 25 were British. "If anything," says the American Consul at Wiesbaden in a later report on Mainz, "I should think the British officers would ... receive almost greater courtesy at the hands of their keepers than those of the other nations."


Dr. Ohnesorg appends some general remarks on the camps he visited. In the following quotations I have omitted nothing which is in the nature of adverse criticism:

"On the whole the treatment accorded them is good, but frequent protests were made to me concerning the food—not so much because of its quality, as because of the insufficient quantity and the monotony of the diet. The prisoners, however, appeared to be in good physical condition and well nourished. Appended are various weekly dietary slips. I had an opportunity in various camps to sample either the mid-day or the evening meal. I found them palatable and, I should say, nourishing. Considering the fact that the men have practically no hard work to do, it appears to be sufficient in quantity, each man getting a liberal allowance—probably a litre and a half of food per meal.

"The treatment accorded the sick and wounded prisoners is excellent. They are given every advantage of medicines and treatment, and special food when necessary. A dietary slip of the latter is appended. The same routine, the same food, etc., as in use in German military hospitals, apply for these various hospitals in prison camps.

"I found no discrimination made between prisoners of various nationalities. With the exception of Limburg, the British prisoners are housed with the Russians, French and Belgians, and this is the cause oft-times of complaint on the part of the English, especially if they are under the direct supervision of a non-commissioned officer of another nationality. Some of them stated that the work, i.e., the police duties, etc., largely because of this are not equally and justly divided.

"Every precaution is taken by the authorities against the spread of disease in camp. All the prisoners are vaccinated against smallpox, and are immunised against typhoid and cholera. Certain simple rules against the contraction of disease are posted throughout the camps, and the men are impressed with the importance of personal cleanliness. Baths are obligatory, the facilities affording each man a weekly bath under the showers.

"The water supply in the camps is good. In most of them it is connected with the city supply, and when not, Artesian wells have been sunk on the premises and water thus obtained. Taps are placed throughout the company streets, and the use of water is unstinted.

"As a rule, the prisoners were found to be well clothed, although not all in their own uniforms. Some were in French uniforms, and some in a combination of Russian, French, and British.

"In many of these camps, prisoners are loaned out throughout the country to work upon farms, and, in some cases, in various industries. This is entirely voluntary on the part of the prisoner, and this service is mostly accepted by the French. No British volunteer. These men have a guard over them, are housed and fed by their employer and receive five pfennigs a day in pay. It breaks the monotony of prison life, and many more volunteer than are needed for this work."


On April 24, 1915, the Prussian Ministry of War issued a new set of regulations respecting the maintenance of prisoners of war. They show great thoroughness and forethought, but I am afraid the average Englishman would be as unready to believe that they showed genuine good intentions, as the average German would be to believe that favourable regulations issued by the English authorities were really bona fide. Yet, as it seems to me of general interest, I will here give the second regulation: "Self-management as regards catering has already been ordered for military and civilian prisoners' camps, as this system has been proved far preferable to the employment of contractors. Nearly all the complaints about the food come from camps where contractors are employed."


It is impossible to do more than make very brief citations from the remaining reports. In no case is the report otherwise than favourable, and the food is described as good.

At Erfurt "the kitchens are clean, and the midday soup (which I tasted) was good". The British soldiers had no complaint against German officers or soldiers, but "they claimed that the French or Belgian non-commissioned officers caused them to be detailed as members of working parties more frequently than their fellow prisoners of other nationalities." This reminds us that complaints arise in institutions other than those worked by "enemies."

At Ohrdruf "a number of men who had been treated for their wounds in the lazaret at Weimar spoke in the highest praise of their treatment by German doctors and nurses.... Some of the British thought (as at Erfurt) that they were detailed to working parties (by French non-commissioned officers) more frequently than the others, but otherwise no complaint was made to me of any discrimination against them." The British did not like the soup, "but almost without exception they seemed in good physical condition and in good spirits."


"The food question," writes Mr. Gerard (U.S. Ambassador at Berlin), "is of course a difficult one in a country where the whole population is put upon a bread ration. Most of the rumours current in England are without foundation or very exaggerated.... No British prisoner needs clothes in Germany ... and I have just learned that British prisoners at Zossen, to whom we sent clothes, shoes, etc., have sold these articles to the French prisoners and are asking for a second supply."


Thirteen British prisoners at Hannover-Muenden "said that they were not discriminated against in any way.... All seemed in good spirits." At Friedberg were 13 British officers. "The commandant drew my particular attention to the row of little gardens cared for by the interned, and is much pleased with this feature of the place. He also told me he would like to allow officers to have dogs, but he fears this cannot be done.... The officers' rooms amply exceed all requirements as to housing and equipment.... The dining-rooms are two ... and either room would do credit to a club or hotel of the first class." At Torgau "the commandant spoke of the British officers to me in very complimentary terms." At Merseberg "the new food regulations are in force.... No complaints were made to me about the food, and the men appeared to be in good health."


On May 14, 1915, Viscount (then Sir Edward) Grey, writing to Mr. Page (U.S. Ambassador in London), mentioned that His Majesty's Government "have heard with pleasure that there is a distinct disposition on the part of the German authorities to accept suggestions made for the welfare of the prisoners of war." These words gave hope of the development of better feeling and of those "reprisals of good" which many believe to be more constructive than reprisals of frightfulness. The Penny Blue Book on the treatment of prisoners of war, issued not long after this, was not helpful to these hopes. As regards Germany, this publication consists almost exclusively of the "unofficial information and rumours" which, as Sir Edward Grey stated in February, 1915, His Majesty's Government "trusted did not accurately represent the facts." The result is unfortunate. The Blue Book is limited by its title to "the first eight months of the war," and deals almost exclusively with charges brought before the close of 1914, when, as is well known, there was confusion everywhere. The method of arranging the evidence is too much that of an advocate aiming at producing the maximum effect. For example, we read (page 6): "The United States Consul-General at Berlin heard on October 16 that information regarding the treatment of non-commissioned officers and men of the British Army who are prisoners of war in other camps is anxiously awaited at Torgau. 'Rumours of their exposure to the elements, their starvation and their treatment, are rampant all along the line.'" On turning to Misc. 7 (1915) we find that these last words were not those of the American Consul-General, but those of an officer interned at Torgau. The American Ambassador, Mr. Gerard, writes: "It should also be added that, although the British officers at Torgau state that they have heard reports of starvation and ill-treatment of British soldiers in other prisoners' camps, the Embassy have no reason for believing that this is the case." This statement is omitted in the Penny Blue Book.

To give the public an idea of the camp at Doeberitz quotations are made (page 33) from an article by an anonymous American journalist. An early official report is cited which gives a very different impression, but as it is quoted in quite a different part (page 18) of the Blue Book, the contradiction is only seen on careful examination. On the covers of the two copies of the Blue Book which I have are lists of Foreign Office publications. Amongst these (see pages 9, 10) is Miscel. No. 11 (1915) (price 3d.), which contains two official U.S. reports on Doeberitz, one by Mr. Jackson, the other by Mr. Lithgow Osborne, both of them entirely favourable. No hint of the existence of these reports (received on April 10 and April 24 respectively) is given in the body of the Penny Blue Book. As regards British camps, the only evidence cited is the report made by Mr. Chandler Hale of the U.S. Embassy after the riot at Douglas in November, 1914.

I am fully aware that the sufferings of prisoners of war, as of soldiers in the field, cannot be adequately presented in official reports, but the sifting of more human and biased evidence is an extremely difficult task, and it is sufficiently plain that we should not rely on official evidence to exculpate ourselves, while using rumours and unofficial information to condemn the enemy.

There are very many prison camps in Germany, and their individual tone must depend enormously upon the aims and efforts of the commandant in charge. A mistake of appointment, almost a slip of the pen, and a man may be in charge who will make life unendurable as only unlimited authority can.

The words used by Lord Newton in the House of Lords on July 31, 1917, are noteworthy in this connection. One impression he derived from his intercourse with the German delegates at the Hague was that "in spite of the German power of centralisation, Berlin headquarters did not know a great deal of what was going on. As the Germans had thirty times as many prisoners as we had, it would be surprising if they did know what went on." (Daily News, August 1, 1917.)


Here is an account of a British member of Parliament, a prisoner in Austria:

Captain A. Stanley Wilson, M.P., who is a prisoner of war in Austria, has written the following letter to Colonel Duncombe, chairman of the Holderness Conservative Association, here:

"I am a prisoner of war, and with only one hope—that the war will be over soon. I was taken off a Greek steamer by a submarine on December 6. After two nights and a day on board I was brought here. I must not give any details. Colonel Napier was also taken prisoner, and we are together. Fortunately I have in him a capital companion who can speak German very well.

I am afraid it will be a very long time before I see my constituents. I wish them all a happy new year and hope that during next year I may meet them again. The outlook for me is not very bright, but I intend to do my best to be cheerful. Up to the present we have been very well treated. We had some most exciting experiences in the submarine. The officers on board treated us as though we were their guests and not their prisoners. We have as companions two French officers who were made prisoners the day before us, their submarine having run ashore."—Manchester Guardian,

January 10, 1916.

Captain Wilson (an able-bodied prisoner) has since been unconditionally released.


The report already given makes it clear that very similar complaints, or (as Mr. Jackson puts it [page 16]) complaints that were "exact counterparts" as to food, have often been made on both sides. It is also plain that complaints on this score in German camps have been by no means universal. I do not in the least suppose that the food in general would be satisfying or other than dreadfully monotonous. ("Oft recht eintoenig," says Professor Stange quite frankly in his interesting pamphlet on Goettingen camp.) Loss of appetite, depression, indigestion will then in many cases produce grave physical trouble. All this may occur and does occur, without anything like a deliberate attempt at starvation. British born wives of interned Germans would sometimes, even before the reduction of rations, speak bitterly of their husbands' needs. An anti-English journalist might have used such complaints to charge us with starvation. But even perfectly bona fide complaints need indicate only monotony, loss of robustness, and consequent physical (and mental) ills—and indeed the tragedy of these things may become terribly dark. It is, however, something very different from deliberate starvation.

In any comparison between the two sides it is only fair to take into account the special difficulties of the German case. The number of prisoners in Germany by August, 1915, was probably over one million. This is an enormous figure. While Great Britain and her Allies have tried to prevent food from reaching Germany, the drain upon the German food stock has continually grown as the number of prisoners has increased. By the end of 1917 this famished country had to support probably more than two million extra persons. The French Press long ago frankly regarded this as one of the means of helping towards the starving out of Germany, while in an American cartoon the Russian prisoners were figured as an enormous beast with its head in a cupboard labelled "Germany's Food Supply." These are considerations for the fair-minded, and it is for them to recall that as soon as there was in our own case a menace of food shortage, there was also what might in official language be described as a complete revision of the prisoners' rations. The prisoners' own language would very likely describe it differently. We can scarcely be surprised at sad and even very bitter words at times from prisoners' wives.

That prisoners themselves are, however, sometimes able to envisage the difficulties is indicated by the following extract from a Daily News interview with a corporal repatriated from Muenster. He commented on the fact that some men were the recipients of more parcels than they needed, while others got none. The interview continues:

You see, without regular parcels from home a man simply starves at a camp like Muenster. If the Germans had the food I believe they would give it, but they haven't: they are starving themselves.[3] All they allowed us was bread and water and thin soup. The consequence is that the men who get no parcels have to go round begging from the other chaps just to keep body and soul together.

From what I saw of it, getting so much while others get nothing isn't good for a man either. Some fellows—the stingy sort—will save up their parcels against a rainy day. Make a regular little store they will. Others—the lively sort—sell what they have over to the unlucky ones, and spend their time gambling with the few marks they make. Poor devils! You can't blame them!

The word "starvation" has been, and is here, too freely, if very naturally, used. The remarks of Lord Newton, speaking in the House of Lords on May 31, 1916, are important in this connection:

If Lord Beresford was accurate in his assumption that prisoners of war would literally starve to death if parcels did not arrive, hundreds of thousands of prisoners would be dead already. Russian prisoners, of whom there were over a million in Germany, received no parcels at all, and if it was impossible to exist upon the food supplied by the Germans, these men would literally have died like flies.... Lord Beresford and other noble lords had been rather prone to ignore the fact that Germany was a blockaded country. It was common knowledge that there was a general scarcity of food throughout Germany, and, if the prisoners did not get as much as they ought to have, in all probability the vast majority of the German population was in a state of comparative hunger.... He could not see what advantage there was in making out that the case of our prisoners was worse than it really was, and it seemed to him little short of an act of cruelty to the relations of these unfortunate men to lead them to suppose that our men were not only in a state of misery, but in a state of starvation.—(Morning Post, June 1, 1916).

There is no question either that nerve strain and monotony accentuate the critical attitude towards food. Here is an extract from Mr. Jackson's report on Senne (September 11, 1915): "There were some complaints, as usual, in regard to the food. I had arrived in the camp just after the midday meal was served, and while some of the men said that the meat had been bad, and they wished that I had an opportunity to taste it, others said that the meat had been particularly good, because the officers had heard that I was coming. None of them knew that I had actually eaten a plate of their soup and had found it excellent, both palatable and nutritious, and that my visit to this particular camp had not been announced in advance. The menu for the day had been made out at the beginning of the week, and could not have been changed after my presence in the camp was known, and I had a bowl of the soup which was left over after the prisoners had been served." (Miscel. 19 [1915], page 41.)

It is sometimes forgotten that complaints as to food are frequent in all institutions, schools, colleges, workhouses, hospitals, etc. I have before me a recent letter from an Englishman in a consumptive sanatorium in his own country: "I exist as best I can, and the less said about it the better. I am no better, and only glad that I am not worse. I at least don't feel so ill as I did a week ago, although I have lost 31/2 lbs. since then. The food is atrocious, and my appetite small. The fellows here buy quite two-thirds of what they eat, otherwise they too would lose in weight. No good comes of making complaints ... nothing is ever done." Things may be so, I am not a great believer in institutions, but certainly independent investigation is needed to warrant any conclusion. The same I feel to be the case as to complaints of feeding, whether in British or German camps.

Each side, too, is also unreasonably certain of its own justice and of the injustice of the others. Thus the Social Democrat, Herr Stuecklen, speaking in the Reichstag debate of June 6, 1916, said: "I have received a letter about the treatment of our prisoners in France which says, 'If pigs were so fed by us they would go on hunger strike.' But I do not wish our Government to exercise reprisals, which, after all, could only hit the innocent." [Cambridge Magazine, August 26, 1916, Supplement "Prisoners." An important supplement for those who wish to get a glimpse (it is no more than a glimpse) of recriminations made by others as to treatment of prisoners.] It is odd how exactly the same phrases occur on both sides. Thus a private at Doeberitz, according to the unknown American journalist referred to on pages 5 and 25, relieved his feelings as to the German food with the words: "I 'ad a sow. And even she wouldn't eat skilly."

To suit the tastes of all the different nationalities would at any time be difficult; under war conditions it is impossible. Professor Stange relates how the hostess of some Russian working prisoners thought to give them a specially good meal of meat. The result, however, was less bulky than a soup, and the Russian comment on this occasion was, "Mother good, eating not good." ("Das Gefangenen-Lager in Goettingen," page 9.)


A serious and responsible statement of experiences has been made by Chaplain Benjamin O'Rorke, M.A., in his little book, "In the Hands of the Enemy." I commend the book to the notice of those who wish for a fair statement by a patriot who has actual experience of a good many German camps in the early days of the war. As he was taken prisoner in August, 1914, his experiences belong to the time before the improvements introduced in all countries had been begun. There are callous episodes, for instance, one of revolting caddishness of an orderly standing by without offering help when an invalid officer is struggling to tie up his bootlace. Military bounce, popular vulgarity, hardships, homesickness, courage—all these things one may read of, but the incidents which some journalists revel in are to seek. It was a neutral journalist, we should remember, who sent to a German paper a wonderful account of the panic fears and regulations of London under the Zeppelin menace.

Chaplain O'Rorke's reminiscences give us a good many "facts towards fellowship." Let us select a few. Even the unpleasant ones may help us, where they show that the failings of the others are the same as our own. The prisoners were taken to Germany from Landrecies.


At Aachen a hostile demonstration took place at our expense. There happened to be a German troop train in the station at the time. A soldier of our escort displayed a specimen of the British soldier's knife, holding it up with the marline-spike open, and declared that this was the deadly instrument which British medical officers had been using to gouge out the eyes of the wounded Germans who had fallen into their vindictive hands! From the knife he pointed to the medical officers sitting placidly in the train, as much as to say. "And these are some of the culprits." [It is not surprising that thus monstrously misinformed, and ready to believe all evil against the hated English, the soldiers] strained like bloodhounds on the leash. "Out with them!" said their irate colonel, pointing with his thumb over his shoulder to the carriages in which these blood-thirsty British officers sat. The colonel, however, did not wait to see his behest carried out, and a very gentlemanly German subaltern quietly urged his men to get back to their train and leave us alone. The only daggers that pierced us were the eyes of a couple of priests, a few women and boys, who appeared to be shocked beyond words that even a clergyman was amongst such wicked men.

I have quoted this passage as I have not the least wish to give a merely couleur de rose picture of the situation. Human nature is, I fear, everywhere very much the same, and, once its passions are aroused, extremely credulous of evil against its opponents. Only one thing in the account a little surprises me, and that is the colonel's order. If the officer was a colonel, would a subaltern be able quietly to countermand his orders? Is there not some mistake of rank here, or perhaps a misunderstanding of an angry exclamation?


The populace at Torgau called them swine with variations—all of which, alas, is exactly what has been done, in some cases, by the populace on our side too. At Torgau "the Commandant was a Prussian reservist officer with a long heavy moustache. We were told [by the other prisoners] that he was courteous and considerate in every respect, and that, provided we took care, to salute him whenever we passed him, we should find him everything we could reasonably wish." And later, "It was a subject of universal regret when the first Commandant resigned his position."


A great deal has been made of the use of dogs in some prison camps. The following is the account given in Mr. O'Rorke's book (page 41):

As time went on our numbers increased to about 230 British officers, and 800 French officers joined us from Maubeuge, including four generals. One of the latter had been interned in Torgau before, in the 1870 war, and had made good his escape. The authorities guarded against the recurrence of such an eventuality on the present occasion, their most elaborate precaution being the enlistment of dogs to reinforce their sentries. Their barkings could be heard occasionally by night, but their presence disturbed neither our repose nor our equanimity.

It is worth while to quote from a report made by Dr. Ohnesorg and Mr. Dresel on Wittenberg in March, 1916:

The police dogs are not now a cause of complaint on the part of the prisoners.—(Miscel. 16 [1916] p. 85).

Dr. Austin in "My Experiences as a German Prisoner" writes:

For a long time previous to our arrival at Magdeburg we had been informed that large and savage dogs were to be provided to aid the sentries.... They were certainly savage enough, but were always led by a sentry, or chained in their den, and were never let loose on us. (p. 141).

To return to Chaplain O'Rorke's narrative: "When we first arrived [the barrack warder] had adopted the role of gaoler in his demeanour towards us, but after a while he became civil and deferential, and—when his son was captured in the war—actually sympathetic." (p. 45.) At Torgau "the meals, though far from sumptuous and not always palatable, were sufficient for our needs." (p. 43.)


At Burg, at the canteen, "we used to treat one another to a whole roll or a cake and a cup of excellent coffee; and, until they were put on the verboten list, to a chop or steak. The serving was done under the direction of a kind, motherly Frau at the one canteen, and by a polite German boy-waiter at the other.... The regular meals seemed to be provided by the proprietor of the larger canteen under contract with the German Government. They were served at 8 a.m., 12 noon and 6-30 p.m. In quality they were superior to the Torgau fare, but in quantity scarcely sufficient in the depth of winter for hungry young men. Still it must be remembered that they cost only 1s. 6d. a day" [out of the daily pay allowed]. Weekly baths were the regulation, but "it was often possible for pushing natures to get an extra bath on other days," by a method which works all the world over. At Burg "the new Commandant was a tall, well-made, soldierly figure. He had a strong face, curiously resembling an owl." An amusing little story follows as to the preciseness of the Commandant and Mr. O'Rorke continues: "It is pleasant to add that this new Commandant was in one respect just the man that was needed. From the first day he began to make the place hum, the foul clean, and in time rendered it habitable. Had there been any, he would have made the dust fly, but there was not. Indeed the court was at first almost a bog through which we threaded our way inch deep in mud, and hopped over the pools. All this disappeared in a few weeks under the Commandant's direction; the swamp was drained and the path widened." British officials, too, know that the problem of mud in a confined space trodden by thousands of feet is one needing energy for its solution.

The Commandant seems to have had a quality more valuable even than energy—a capacity for learning from those under him. He was a judge by profession, and was at first stern and terrible, as well as thorough. To him the prisoners were as ordinary prisoners, "but in time he learnt to place us in a different category. As for myself, eventually he granted me facilities for carrying on my work outside the Lager, which he might easily have refused, and when, five months later, we parted, it was with a certain measure of mutual cordiality" (p. 74). The Adjutant also learned more cordiality, and adjutants are sometimes prouder of making others feel their authority than commandants are.


The Chaplain instituted a system of fines for "unparliamentary expressions." "Once I had to fine the German censor. He was engaged on a hot day in examining a very large number of packages before distributing them to their owners. He let fall in an unguarded moment the remark that it was a nuisance to have to open so many parcels—specifying the particular kind of nuisance he felt it to be ... but unfortunately I overheard it and he had to pay the penalty. He did so with a good grace." A touch like this seems to me, personally, to tell more eloquently than many orations how absurd it is to be regarding one another as all monsters who ought to be put out of the world.


The hospital accommodation at the camp was very poor, and a lieutenant was sent out to a hospital in the town to have his little finger amputated. Mr. O'Rorke asked for permission to visit him. The Adjutant at once agreed. "It was not long before I presented myself at the office for my escort. I expected a couple of armed soldiers at the least, remembering our reception at the hands of the populace. Instead, my escort consisted of Herr Kost—the friendly censor and interpreter—and a soldier. 'Are you going to run away?' asked Herr Kost. I smiled at the futility of such an idea. 'Then we won't take a soldier.' My journey of half an hour to the hospital, my reception there, and my return to the prison were unmarred by any unpleasant incident whatever. The hospital was of the latest and best. Lieut. George had nothing but words of gratitude about the doctors and nurses."

The Chaplain was allowed to visit the "reprisal prisoners," those put in solitary confinement owing to the infliction of this penalty on the officers and men of two German submarines. He found them well treated. "The privacy of this little room," said the Hon. Ivan Hay "is preferable to the liberty and Babel of the Burg dormitories." The prisoners were specially selected from families of distinction.


The other Burg prisoners were afterwards removed to Mainz. "The German Commandant took pity on my loneliness and offered me the privilege of going into the town where and when I liked if I would give my word of honour that I would make no attempt to escape. I agreed to the proposal. We shook hands over it, put it down in writing, and he presented me with a passport for the period of a week." Mr. O'Rorke, dressed in khaki, was soon the centre of a crowd of about twenty-five boys and girls. But, and this is really worth our noting, "they behaved extraordinarily well, and made no offensive remark." His followers increased, and he made things worse by giving them sweets! He called upon the German Pastor in order to get rid of them, but even this failed. A long stop at a cafe did not tire the vigilance of his escort. When he again came out, there they were. "We exchanged smiles and off we started." A bookseller, whose shop Mr. O'Rorke visited, came to his rescue and dispersed most of the little crowd, but another one gathered later, though again it showed no impoliteness or unfriendliness.


It remains to be said that Mr. O'Rorke's diary was confiscated on his release, but was restored to him by post a few weeks later, marked as having passed the German Censor!


Another useful little book of reminiscences is that of Mr. L. J. Austin, F.R.C.S., of the British Red Cross, "My Experiences as Prisoner in Germany." "About ten miles from Namur we suddenly ran into the outposts of the German Army, consisting of a picket of about twenty Uhlans, who examined our papers, obligingly removed the tree from across the road, and allowed us to proceed. Shortly afterwards we were again held up, this time by an officer, who re-examined us all, and again we were allowed to proceed.... Near midday we came to a small village called Maffe, and here we had the misfortune to run straight into the head of the main German Army marching upon Namur." Detention was, under the circumstances, practically inevitable. The party could scarcely be allowed to motor off with valuable information as to the position of the German Army in their possession. They were indeed suspected of being spies. Said an interpreter: "You know you've been incredibly foolish to come anywhere near our forces; you will not be able to return after seeing our Army, but will have to be sent back into Germany. I do not know what will become of you, but you will be treated as gentlemen." "During the afternoon of the first day an officer of the Motor Cycle Corps who spoke excellent English came in and had a friendly talk with us, and seemed to be inclined to laugh at the position he found us in. We were struck by the familiarity between the privates and some of the officers. For instance, in this particular case, some of the soldiers had practice rides on their officers' motor-bicycles." There followed a long interview with Prince Heinrich, the 33rd of Reuss. He was very suspicious, but polite. "Finally His Royal Highness shook hands with us and said: 'I do not know what will become of you gentlemen, but probably you'll be sent back to Germany to assist in looking after wounded soldiers of France and Belgium, and possibly English if they are foolish enough to cross the Channel.'" The prolonged detention of Mr. Austin is inexcusable, but there seem to be somewhat inexplicable detentions on both sides. A document handed to the prisoners on their release was to this effect: "The German Government advises the English Government that unless all Red Cross units at present in England are immediately returned, no further exchange of British medical officers can be contemplated." [Cf. too Miscel. 30 (1916) pp. 2, 36; also International Red Cross Reports, First Series, pp. 18, 19.]


The general experiences of Mr. Austin are very similar to those of Mr. O'Rorke. At Bouvigny "a somewhat offensive non-commissioned officer ... removed all knives that we had and was greatly excited at the presence of the large jack-knife which had been issued to us before we left. These knives carried a long spike, for punching leather and opening tins, and the story has been circulated in Germany that these knives were issued to the troops for the express purpose of gouging out the eyes of the German wounded." There is something pathetically hopeless about these aspects of human credulity in war-time. When we see the extraordinary nonsense that each side readily believes of the other, we must accept it as something to the credit of human nature that any reasonable treatment of prisoners occurs at all.


"Our other personal effects," the narrative goes on, "including our money, were returned to us." The doctor's papers had not been returned by the German officers who originally examined him, and this fact caused many delays and annoyances, but one does not read of any actual ill-treatment. The use of dogs is referred to (see p. 33). The last incident on German territory is thus recorded: "When the Holland train drew in the officer had not returned, but one of our party who spoke German well informed the sergeant that the officers had told us we were to go by this train, and he very obligingly placed us in it after we had taken tickets to the nearest Dutch station, Ozendaal."


To me it seems that the Swiss have made some of the finest efforts of the spirit during this war. It is no mean achievement. Some are bound by many ties of friendship to the German people, some to the French. There has, of course, been occasional failure and sheer partisanship, but an utterance such as that of Carl Spitteler is marvellous in its determination to do justice, and in its reverence for the suffering of all the nations. The International Committee of the Red Cross at Geneva has been a centre of kindliness in the midst of carnage. In France and in Germany a committee was, by mutual agreement, established consisting of representatives of the national Red Cross, of the American and Spanish Embassies, and one delegate of the International Committee. These committees arranged that delegates of the International Committee should visit prisoners' camps in both countries. No such committee existed in Great Britain, but with the consent of the British authorities some camps in this country were visited in January, 1915. (See footnote, page 9.)


In January, 1915, National Councillor A. Eugster was deputed to visit French prisoners in Germany. In general, the Swiss reports[4] give an almost exactly similar impression to those made by the United States. As regards the food, M. Eugster remarks that the sum of 60 pf. (just over 7d.) is allowed daily for the German private, and exactly the same sum for the prisoners. In his second report, made in March, he points out that the food question has become more serious and (as far as his experience goes) complaints are more numerous. He summarises very reasonably the difficulties of the case, especially as regards the bread problem. Prisoners were originally allowed 500 grammes daily, but when the bread rations of the German civilians were reduced from 250 to 200 grammes, some reduction in the prisoners' allowance was only to be expected, and their ration was fixed at 300 grammes. They would otherwise have been allowed two and a half times as much as the Germans themselves. Potato meal was allowed to make up the quantity, but the result was not good. Writing in March, M. Eugster says: "There are to-day from 750 to 800,000 prisoners in Germany. Allowing 300 grammes per man, this makes a daily consumption of 240,000 kilos. of bread (about 235 tons). This is not a bagatelle at a moment when the importation of cereals is impossible."[5] By Art. 7 of the Hague rules an arrangement between belligerents as to prisoners should be possible, and Eugster suggests that meal might be sent under neutral care to the camps, and bread baked there under neutral surveillance.


M. Eugster's reports on the individual camps convey almost exactly the same impression as the American reports. At Sennelager the English doctor spoke highly of the treatment of the wounded, and the French doctors readily acknowledges that German wounded and French wounded were treated alike. At Zossen a sculptor was at work in his studio, a painter painted landscapes, a gardener ornamented the grounds, and a musician had his compositions rendered by a choir of 150 to 200 practised singers. It is the best educated prisoners, remarks the deputy, who are the most content. Summarising the impressions of his first tour, Herr Eugster says: "I am glad ... to be able to assert that the French prisoners are humanely treated. In such distracted times errors and mistakes can easily occur, but on the whole one can say that Germany does her duty by her French prisoners."

It is not surprising to learn that M. Eugster received anonymous letters reviling him for not producing evidence to support the prejudices of the writers. Some readers of this account may indeed be made suspicious by his German name. M. Eugster was fully alive to these suspicions, and he suggested that a German and French Swiss might with advantage visit camps jointly. The suggestion was carried out, and in the third series of visits Dr. de Marval accompanied him. The general evidence is as before.


The Swiss reports are in some respects more outspoken than the American ones. The heading "vermin" occurs in almost all. It requires a special campaign to deal with the lice, but the campaign seems to be carried on with vigour.


There is another point. "We must not forget," writes Eugster, "that to be a prisoner is in itself a very trying fate." It needs a little contact with prisoners to realise how hard their fate is, and how easily the wrong way with them may produce soured and embittered men. Writing of Halle in May, Eugster and de Marval remark: "The relationship between the Commandant and the prisoners is correct, but without cordiality; the subordinates were often wanting in tact." I confess it is simple words like these that depress me more than rumours of starvation or bad housing. Anyone knows that authority does not readily become the friend of the fallen. The military manner, even when acquired by Englishmen, is not always pleasant, and the sergeant who bullies his own men is not likely to be more considerate to prisoners. Let us face plain facts in these matters, and remember that all imprisonment is rather terrible, and that all absolute authority (especially among underlings) is apt to become tyrannous. In the prison camps of every nation it is examples of a foolish military officialdom that make for embitterment and degradation; and in these camps, too, it is the tact which comes of true insight, that is doing much for that brotherhood of hearts which is the only way to peace. "These people," says Eugster in another place, "ought to be treated with tact. They should not be treated as enemy prisoners, but as men and chivalrous adversaries. A little consideration, not costing much, will make a good impression. A friendly word, as from man to man, breaks the ice of discontent, and the chivalrous spirit of the superior is recognised with gratitude."

To reach this standard we must try to think the best of our adversaries. Charity is something less meagre than justice, and it holds the future of the world in its grasp. In the past we denounced French, Russians, Irish and Boers in turn. It was not denunciation that did much for the future, but the larger-hearted charity which took its place.


M. de Marval reports well of the feeding of prisoners in France. There is the usual difficulty about vermin. The officer prisoners seem, in many ways, to have the worst time. "Their lodging is in general too crowded, badly ventilated, and badly lighted ... and lacking in elementary comforts. They can ... buy ... chairs, tables, blankets, etc."[6] There was in France, as elsewhere, considerable complaint in the earlier days as to the delivery of parcels. The parcels arrived broken and partly or wholly emptied of their contents. So it was, we may remember, with parcels intended for English prisoners in Germany. The probability is that in both cases imperfect packing was responsible for the damage. (Cf. pp. 6, 8.) In the report just cited, De Marval states that, in general, there has been great improvement in the lodging of the prisoners, and that some bad camps (Vitre, Lorient, Belle-Ile) have been broken up (January, 1915). Here again the reports coincide with those made upon German camps. In all countries the prisoners of war presented at first a problem not readily solved, and great hardships resulted. "Some of the hospitals," writes M. de Marval, "lack comforts, are not sufficiently roomy, or do not possess the necessary medicaments." He goes on: "I shall not delay over the retrospective complaints often formulated by prisoners.... Officers who had been injured by the populace or bound during transport and soldiers who had told me of bad treatment were alike pleased to declare that all such things were past." Here again the report is exactly paralleled by the American report on the German Camps. (Cf. p. 16). "Religious services are in general arranged for the Catholics; it is very difficult to secure ministrations for the Protestants." "If the officers are often meanly lodged, the same is true of the soldiers. The bedding sometimes leaves much to be desired, the straw in many of the camps is scanty, damp, and pretty often full of lice. The litter is actually being replaced everywhere by straw palliasses. As a support for these an open wooden framework is placed on the beaten ground which is often wet. Those who sleep under tents are subject to bronchitis and rheumatism, those who are in forts or old convents sometimes lack the proper allowance of air.... Though the quality of the water leaves something to be desired, it is supplied filtered and boiled, and in amount generally sufficient.... In some camps there is not enough water for washing either the person or clothing.... In general each man has a blanket, but it is very small and often much worn; some are still needed in some of the camps.... If I have not referred to certain regrettable incidents of which I have been told, it is because they appear isolated, and one must guard against generalising from them. Besides, these incidents are bygones and few in number." At Fougeres (Brittany) "the beds are touching each other." Cassabianda was a bad camp. So much has been made of earlier defects in German camps that it is well to remember (as indeed the above report shows) that defects may easily occur in other countries besides Germany. Of Cassabianda (February 12)[7] we read: "Huts extremely dilapidated. Sanitary accommodation worse than scanty. (Les W.—C. sont plus que sommaires). Nourishment scarcely sufficient for those who are working.... The cooking arrangements are worse than scanty.... Sleeping accommodation extraordinary: beds made from boughs by prisoners and superposed in two or three tiers. The ceilings and windows are falling in ruins.... Wishes of the prisoners—to have more to eat.... A very poor camp (depot tres mediocre), but well governed by a good and conscientious commandant who is badly seconded by his officers. It is a difficult task to render habitable premises that are falling into ruins." I am quite sure that none of us would impute ill intent to the French authorities. We should say simply that the prisoner problem was at first beyond their power, that in exceptional cases there were bad officers and in others lack of organisation. If we are capable of fair play, we shall, in many cases, say exactly the same thing about the German authorities. In Germany the one outstanding question is food, otherwise, as M.M. de Marval and Eugster state in a joint report issued in May: "We fully recognise the excellent arrangement and perfect organisation, thought out to the smallest detail, and the admirable administration of the Camps."


It is allowed by all investigators that camps almost everywhere have been improved as the war went on. Mr. Gerard himself writes, under date June 10, 1915: "It is generally admitted that conditions in the camps are constantly improving, and no good can be attained by the investigations of complaints based upon reports of conditions as they are supposed to have been several months ago." In citing the earlier U.S. and Swiss reports I have therefore by no means exaggerated the facts favourable to German treatment. There have been many later reports, but it will be impossible and unnecessary to give more than a few references:

The reports in Miscel. No. 15 (1915) give a quite favourable account of the German efforts on behalf of the prisoners. Canadian officers at Bischofswerda, however, complained of their treatment on the way from the front. They said that "they were at first compelled to share their compartments with French Algerian (black) soldiers, but that other arrangements were made by a German officer in the course of their journey." Some may consider this an interesting comment on the employment of Algerian and other native troops.


The Canadian officers also said "that while on the road they had received but little food, their treatment not differing, however, from that of other prisoners." On reading this I could not help recalling a Daily News interview headed "The Blue Ladies: Good work at the Free Buffet at Euston." (June 24, 1916.) "We have just had the escort of some German prisoners in," said one of the ladies. "We do not give anything to the prisoners. We have enough to do to look after our own men." I recalled, too, the British nurse who said in my presence, with a snap of her fingers, "We have not that much sympathy with the German wounded." I want to believe that in the great majority of cases the attitude on both sides is very different; but what a sundering influence war-like patriotism is! We must surely reach brotherhood by some other way.


Mr. Michelson reports highly of the camp at Friedrichsfeld. All kinds of work was going on. "No German foreman were to be seen, and only on looking for them did I notice that there were, here and there, guards watching the prisoners. In two instances I saw unguarded prisoners at work." Some wounded at Magdeburg "all, without exception, said they had been treated with great consideration while being transported from the front." (June 3, 1915). The hospital treatment is spoken well of both here and at the base hospital at Isighem, W. Flanders, visited by Dr. Ohnesorg.


I pass on to Miscel. No. 19 (1915). Writing in June, Mr. Gerard gives an interesting account of the courses of instruction and lectures arranged for German N.C.O.'s and men in order to increase their efficiency in managing the camp kitchens. There is a characteristic touch of German thoroughness in the scheme. Mr. Gerard concludes: "I should be glad to have you bring the foregoing to the attention of the British Government. The German military authorities have now satisfied themselves that German prisoners in England are being treated as well as the conditions admit (except with regard to the confinement on board ships, which is still a sore point), and they are showing every disposition to treat British prisoners (both officers and men) in the most favourable manner possible, and to pay attention to their wishes in so far as can be done consistently with the principle that all the prisoners (of whom there are considerably more than one million) must be treated in practically the same manner."


Writing from Hamburg, the American Consul-General, Mr. Morgan, says: "It is not necessary for me to enter into the details of the different lazarets which I visited, beyond stating that they are all in the most up-to-date condition, and everything is being done for the wounded that could be done anywhere." At the Paderborn lazarets, "Some of the men said to me that it would be necessary to drive them away (that they would make no attempt to escape) because they were so well cared for and so comfortable." (p. 40, l.c.) At the Wesel lazarets, "Many of (the British) were very uncomfortable from their wounds, but all replied that their present treatment, as well as that which they had received at the front, and on the way from the front, was, and had been, entirely satisfactory.... All those consulted in regard to the matter said that they had come from the front in a German lazaret train, together with German wounded, and that, as nearly as they could tell, they had received exactly similar treatment and care as accorded to the German wounded. Their only request was for books and tobacco." (October 26, 1915.)


At Neubrandenburg, "until a few days ago the officers were permitted to use a tennis court outside the enclosure, to swim in the lake, and to walk in the neighbouring woods. As four officers (one Englishman) made an attempt to escape (from the bath house) these privileges were temporarily suspended, but I was told by the Commandant, whose relations with the prisoners are of the best, that they would be restored at an early date."

The excellence of the bathing facilities at the officers' camp, Friedberg, is commented on, as it frequently is in other cases. At Giessen, Dr. Ohnesorg spoke with many prisoners who had had experience of working camps. "They said (the work) was not hard, and before being allotted to these various working camps, they underwent a thorough medical examination, and those who were found in an unfit physical condition were not detailed for this work. They are fed and housed by their employer, and in one instance I met a complaint of insufficient food."


At Bad Blenhorst a number of prisoner officers are taking the "cure" under a German military surgeon. At Clausthal "the situation of the camp is ideal, being placed in the midst of the Hartz mountains, with a wide expanse of view, and my visit gave me a very favourable impression in general." At Cuestrin "The German officers treat the prisoners like unfortunate comrades." At Bischofswerda the complaints were that "shorts" were forbidden for football, and that baths were not allowed more than once daily. The Commandant promised to remedy both grievances. The report on Halle is unfavourable. There was overcrowding, and "the enclosure for exercise leaves much to be desired." The food was not complained of, except as regards monotony.[8]


Koenigsbrueck, a camp for 15,000 prisoners (but with only three British), "is complete in all respects, and adheres to a high standard in regard to the kitchens, theatre, washing-places, canteens, supply-room for clothing, etc." Zwickau (with two British) "is excellent ... outside each barrack is a specially built stand where the mattresses are aired every day ... and within the confines of the camp are several acres of vegetable gardens ... in which the French take particular interest." The arrangements at Goerlitz (with thirteen British) "in all details struck me as being exceedingly good." In general hospital treatment at the camps is entirely satisfactory.


In Miscel. No. 16 (1916) we may note the following: At the officers' camp, Schloss Celle, "the Commandant in civil life is a judge, and seemed on excellent terms with the prisoners." Mr. Gerard reports on a visit of his own to Wittenberg on November 8, 1915. The soup for the mid-day meal appeared to him "to be very good," and the testimony of the men was to the effect "that the food had improved considerably during the last two months." About 300 out of the 4,000 prisoners in this camp were British.[9] At Stendal Mr. Osborne found the thick soup "exceedingly palatable, though thoroughly un-English." The British prisoners "admitted that they could live on the camp rations, if necessary, and still retain good health, as is the case with the Russians, and that their objection to the food was on account of its sameness, and because it was not cooked in an English way." In March, 1916, Mr. Osborne reports that a large swimming pool is in process of completion at one end of the camp.


At Fort Friedrichshafen, Ingolstadt, "those who had no overcoats said that they could get them from the German authorities if necessary, but that they preferred to wait for the present to see if they could not be sent from home. All would like new boots, as they are not pleased with the wooden-soled boots provided locally." Sir Edward Grey, writing just before the receipt of this report, referred to information "that the few British prisoners of war at this camp are very badly fed, and that parcels arrive with great irregularity, their contents being frequently abstracted." In a reply dated a week later, Mr. Gerard (U.S. Ambassador at Berlin) writes that "in reply to a direct inquiry, which was made out of the hearing of any German officer or man," the British prisoners at Ingolstadt "stated that there was nothing to which they would care to have special attention paid. The men were in good spirits, and there was no evidence to show that any of them were badly fed. All were in touch with their friends at home, and no complaint was made with regard to irregularity in the receipt of parcels."


Of the officers' camp at Blankenberg i/Mark, Messrs. Jackson and Russell report, "The atmosphere of the camp is excellent." There is a touch of humour in the report on Merseburg (l.c. p. 29). "One man complained to me that he had been punished for 'having a hole in his trousers' (as he said), but on investigation I found that he had cut a new pair of trousers, which had been given him by the German authorities, in order to make a pair of boxing shorts. One man had a black eye, another a sprained thumb, and a third a broken nose, as the result of boxing matches."[10] The four English prisoners at Koenigsmoor said "that there was no discrimination against them of any kind, and their relations with the German guard were evidently pleasant. They all said that they had plenty of warm clothing, including overcoats, and one even had an overcoat which had been given him by the German authorities in addition to one which he had received from home. They said the food was 'not bad' ..." At the working camp at Hakenmoor, "the midday 'soup' was excellent.... All looked in good health and seemed to be contented, and their relations with the German guards appeared to be friendly.... Several complained that the clothing furnished soon became too tight for comfort, and nearly every man in the camp had put on from ten to thirty (even more) pounds of flesh. None spoke of any bad treatment ... although one Englishman said that there were occasional differences with the (Belgian) barrack captains. The Commandant is interested in his work; he knows most of the men by name, and seems to try to do all in his power to add to their comfort."


In these reports the food is almost invariably referred to as good, and to save further quotations we may cite the evidence at Guestrow i/Mecklenburg as giving a fair general view of the case (January, 1916): "The men told me that while they depend on their home parcels for variety, a man who received nothing (as is the case with the Russian prisoners) could live on the food supplied, although in that case he would always be glad when meal time came."

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