I stumbled across this postcard that was apparently made for the use of the 3,000 German-born Civillians interned at Ally Pally during WWI. Worth sparing them a thought as we near Xmas 2014.
Press reports at the time described ‘A Palatial Prison’ (Evening News) and dubbed the inmates ‘Luxurious Huns’ (Daily Mail). But first hand accounts tell a very different story. Uprooted from their homes, family, friends and work, these overwhelmingly upstanding citizens were subjected to daily life without privacy in the huge, open-plan dormitories. Imagine spending your Christmas like that this year away from those you love.
The pictures below will give you some sense of life inside the building during the war.
Sleeping Accommodation beneath the Willis Organ
German prisoners in the tailors workshop
Prisoners with their model yachts
German prisoners making models and toys
Several years into the war, one of the internees, Rudolf Rocker, was asked by the camp’s commandant, Major Mott, to write a first-hand account of his experiences. Rocker was deported to Germany in 1918 before he could finish the essay, but his rough drafts and notes were preserved and edited together by ‘W. Stz’ and Rocker’s son, Rudolf Rocker, Junior.
This is available as Alexandra Palace Internment Camp in the First World War (1914-1918). Rocker also wrote about his experiences in London before and during internment in The London Years (A.K. Press, 2005).
So many people interned and packed up 'home'. Which probably didn't feel like home to many and I bet they suffered abuse in Germany for having lived in England for so long.
I've read of verbal encounters across the trenches (friendly communication when they were meant to be killing each other) of people knowing so-and-so the German butcher or baker from somewhere and saying how great their ham used to be or such like. But then they were ordered to stop such exchanges and get back to fighting…
The sinking of the Lusitania plus the attacks on homes in Scarboro (was it there?) did change public feeling and handed our govt. a huge propaganda and recruiting tool I suppose.
The late - and great - Janet Harris gave a talk about the internment. Her German grandfather, a Mr Turk, was interned here. Janet was a local historian who was the author of several book, including one on the Tottenham Outrage (1909).
I've read such friendly verbal exchanges across the trenches about the German butchers and bakers in England and other tradespeople in 'Forgotten Voices of the Great War', Max Arthur. This is such a good book.
War is always a terrible thing. Some profit from it though, always.
Utterly inhuman treatment. Vengeful and barbarous.
Oh wow, what a terrible experience that must have been for those 'innocent' people. But, must remember that this was a common place occurence throughout the warring nations. It sounds and was no doubt terribly harsh but the powers that be must be seen to protect their public as much as possible. However one can only imagine the disruption caused to family life living in such conditions. Imagine sleeping amongst hoards of strangers, the noise, the lack of privacy etc, etc. And I would imagine the chill in such a vast space. However a very interesting article with great pics. If only wars were a thing of the past................!
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