Historical & Special Collections •

In Ruhleben Camp: “British Organisation”

In Ruhleben Camp follows the production schedule of the magazine created by prisoners at Ruhleben, an internment camp for British civilians in Germany during WWI. On the day that an issue of the magazine was released a hundred years ago, Marissa Grunes will post highlights from that number and tell part of its story. 

“Sport.” In Ruhleben Camp, No. 2, 27 June 1915. Masterman, Box 2 Seq. 202

“Sport.” In Ruhleben Camp, No. 2, 27 June 1915. Masterman, Box 2 Seq. 202

In addition to paving the way for greater self-governance within Ruhleben, the American Ambassador James Gerard also helped the camp put its best foot forward in a more literal way: sport.

After Gerard’s visit, the German authorities lifted the ban on organized sporting competitions, including football (soccer). The return of sporting events to the field in March of 1915 transformed the camp. Sport stood at the heart of popular British culture, and the internment of several prominent British sportsmen at Ruhleben, including the celebrity footballer (later inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame) Steve Bloomer, made the matches an especial source of pride to the internees.

Apart from the benefits of rigorous activity and purposeful competition, sporting events allowed the prisoners to exercise the British value of sportsmanship, implying not just physical excellence but also team spirit, fair play, and good humor. Sports took off with a vengeance, and the organization necessary to arrange games, then leagues, then full seasons called for “a multitude of clubs, committees, and subcommittees” including the Ruhleben Football Association, Cricket Association, Rugby Football Club, Lawn Tennis Association, Hockey Club, Boxing Club, and Golf Club, among those that J.D. Ketchum recalls (Ketchum, p. 194).

Sport provided a model for increasingly complex bureaucratic structures. A Sports Committee was formed to manage sporting demands, and was complemented by the Entertainments Committee for theatrical and musical events, while the Education Committee took charge of the Ruhleben Camp School. All such committees answered to the Captains’ Committee, which held the purse strings for the camp. Surveying the administration that emerged, the Captain-of-Captains Joseph Powell would later subtitle his history of the camp, a “record of British organisation.”

Under the aegis of the Education Committee, the first issue of In Ruhleben Camp was published in June 1915, amidst this efflorescence of “British organisation. Positioning itself as a platform for public debate, the magazine began printing interviews with camp administrators, open letters to and from the Captains’ Committee, and zinging satirical articles and cartoons. It was also filled to bursting with reviews of theatrical and musical performances in the camp, reports from boisterous debating society meetings, updates on new groups such as the Horticultural Society, the Irish Players, the French and Italian language magazines, and so on—all liberally marinated in British sarcasm.

In subsequent issues, In Ruhleben Camp and its successor The Ruhleben Camp Magazine would reveal populist leanings, encouraging the camp to keep its officials accountable for their projects, budgeting choices, record-keeping, and attitude towards their fellow prisoners. Taking a humorously combative stance, the magazine demanded that the Captains, Committee Chairs, and other administrators justify their sense of self-importance—which it often delighted in deflating. As one wit quips in the opening pages of the first issue: “Consider the officials, how they grow!” (Masterman Coll., Box 2 Seq. 155). Readers could finish the original verse sotto voce: “consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not” (KJV Luke 12:27).

The editors also recognized the vitality of sports in the camp. Towards the front of the first issue, readers found a review of the football season by “the English International, F.B. Pentland, of Middlesborough F.C. [Football Club].” Pentland, who had arrived just before the war to train the German Olympic team, relates a telling anecdote: “Passing through our Trafalgar Square some days ago,” he chuckles, “a man from Barrack 9 asked could he book the football ground for October 1st next. It sounded a strange request, of course, and an individual near remarked, “October indeed, what’s the matter with being at home by that time?”” (Masterman Coll., Box 2 Seq. 161).

As Pentland well knew, sport brought structure to the blank tedium of camp life. Like theatrical performances, sport colored in the future—at least provisionally—and gave internees a reason to keep track of time. And like theatre, sporting matches could absorb the attention and erase the outside world so effectively that they jeopardized the prisoners’ sense of reality.

This problem would fuel the most heated debates and stinging satire in the camp magazine: could internees make camp life vivid without losing their perspective? In struggling for psychological survival, were internees reducing themselves to spoiled children, playing at war? Were folks back home right in imagining Ruhlebenites lounging in deck chairs, enjoying the “quiet life” while Europe burned?

Bibliography & Further Reading

John Masterman collection of Ruhleben British Civilian internment camp documents, 1914-1919, Harvard Law School Library, Box 2, sequence 155

John Masterman collection of Ruhleben British Civilian internment camp documents, 1914-1919, Harvard Law School Library, Box 2, sequence 161

Ketchum, J. Davidson. Ruhleben: A Prison Camp Society. With a Foreword and Postscript by Robert B. MacLeod. Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1965. Foreword (Ithaca, NY, April 1964)

Powell, Joseph and Francis Henry Gribble. The history of Ruhleben: the record of British organisation in a prison camp. London: W. Collins Sons & Company Ltd., 1919.

Marissa Grunes is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Harvard University, focusing on transatlantic literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her dissertation project explores frontier architecture in 19th century poetry, fiction, and non-fiction of the United States.

In Ruhleben Camp: “Home Rule” for Ruhlebenites

In Ruhleben Camp follows the production schedule of the magazine created by prisoners at Ruhleben, an internment camp for British civilians in Germany during WWI. On the day that an issue of the magazine was released a hundred years ago, Marissa Grunes will post highlights from that number and tell part of its story. 

Pondside Stores. In Ruhleben Camp, No. 3, July 1915. p. 5. Masterman Coll., Box 2 Seq. 246

Pondside Stores. In Ruhleben Camp, No. 3, July 1915, p. 5. Masterman, Box 2 Seq. 246

The story of the magazine In Ruhleben Camp begins in March 1915, when James Gerard, the American Ambassador in Berlin, first visited Ruhleben as a neutral observer. His appalled response prompted quick action by the German military authorities, who prepared to build new barracks to ease crowding, and immediately fired the corrupt kitchen manager. Food preparation was placed under prisoner control, and by the time General von Kessel, supreme commander in the marches, visited two weeks later, Ruhlebenites were running an efficient and clean kitchen.

During the bustling summer of 1915, the prisoners established a post service, police force, and financial chain of command, building an autonomous civil administration alongside the cultural institutions (including a school, theatre, orchestra, and debating league) that sprang up in the camp. In September of 1915, Ruhlebenites were granted “Home Rule,” and became responsible for virtually every aspect of camp business save guarding the barbed wire itself.

Three significant changes in 1915 made “Home Rule” successful: 1) a Relief Fund provided by Great Britain; 2) a Camp Fund to pay internees employed in the camp, also underwritten by the British government; and 3) lowered restrictions on parcel deliveries to internees.

Parliament and the folks back home were initially suspicious of these supposed expatriates fiddling while the Western Front burned. When the government relented and set up a Relief Fund for civilian prisoners, the disbursements were limited to 5 Marks per week and were given on loan, to be paid back when the war ended. This amount was a pittance, but it enabled the poorest recipients to purchase basic foodstuffs at the Camp Canteen (also run by Ruhlebenites).

The Canteen, in turn, was internally subsidized by the Captains’ Committee, the central administrative body of the camp. Subsidies were financed by profits from less essential services such as the boiler house (which dispensed hot water for tea) and were put towards items like milk or margarine, according to public statements by the Captains (Masterman Coll., Box 2 Seq. 416-7). The profits were available because the Camp didn’t pay its employees: Gerard had also arranged a Camp Fund, underwritten by the British government, to pay the wages of critical workers, including kitchen employees and those on fatigue duty. All of these employees were prisoners.

Finally, the spring of 1915 saw a surge in private relief flowing into the camp, as German authorities lifted restrictions on parcel deliveries. Here, negotiating pressure played a larger role. The sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915 provoked the large-scale internment of German citizens resident in Britain. These changed stakes made “both governments more willing to reach an agreement on a system of camp inspections and on the delivery of relief parcels from home,” which transformed conditions in Ruhleben, as historian Matthew Stibbe remarks (Stibbe, p. 111).

Ambassador Gerard also kicked off the keenest source of pride and internal organization in the camp, as we shall see: football.

Bibliography & Further Reading

John Masterman collection of Ruhleben British Civilian internment camp documents, 1914-1919, Harvard Law School Library, Box 2, sequence 246

John Masterman collection of Ruhleben British Civilian internment camp documents, 1914-1919, Harvard Law School Library, Box 2, sequence 416-417

Stibbe, Matthew. British civilian internees in Germany. The Ruhleben camp, 1914-18. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2008.

Marissa Grunes is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Harvard University, focusing on transatlantic literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her dissertation project explores frontier architecture in 19th century poetry, fiction, and non-fiction of the United States.

852 RARE – New Exhibit! One Text, Sixteen Manuscripts: Magna Carta at the Harvard Law School Library

Magna Carta posterFirst written in 1215, the ideas of liberty and human rights contained in and derived from England’s Magna Carta (the Great Charter) have persisted for 800 years. They have provided inspiration for developments in law now enshrined in constitutions and treaties across the world. The survival and resonance of those ideas is reflected in the manuscripts in this exhibit.

The Harvard Law School Library owns close to 30 manuscript copies of Magna Carta; a few of our favorites are presented here. Tangible items like these connect us with the past and allow us to approach the people who created, used and treasured these documents. Each manuscript tells a different story and raises many questions.

This exhibit was curated by Karen Beck and Mindy Kent, HLS Library. It is on view daily 9 to 5 in the Caspersen Room through March 11, 2016. An online companion to the exhibit is available. All our manuscript Magna Cartas have been digitized and may be viewed online.

In Ruhleben Camp: Civilian Interment during WWI

In Ruhleben Camp follows the production schedule of the magazine created by prisoners at Ruhleben, an internment camp for British civilians in Germany during WWI. On the day that an issue of the magazine was released a hundred years ago, Marissa Grunes will post highlights from that number and tell part of its story. 

The mass internment of non-combatants during wartime was a disturbing development in the First World War. The idea of the “concentration camp” (as the British then called it) was not new, historian Matthew Stibbe points out in his article “The Internment of Civilians by Belligerent States during the First World War.” Systematic detention of civilians had been an element of both the Spanish occupation of Cuba and the British policy in the Boer War, and was a dark part of the Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913. However, internment during WWI was implemented on an unprecedented scale. Hundreds of thousands of people from across Europe and European-controlled colonies were confined, many in labor camps.

Historians have identified a number of factors contributing to the expansion of internment. Universal military conscription on the European continent made every male civilian a potential recruit. Off the battlefield he might be “spy” or “saboteur,” in the language of war hysteria that drew from popular prejudices against foreigners. Extensive railway lines were available to transport people in large numbers. Especially vulnerable were civilians in occupied territories, imprisoned for punitive reasons or as conscripted labor to make up manpower losses. The labor historian Ulrich Herbert notes that the German conscription of several hundred thousand Poles and Belgians, among other nationalities, was economically vital to the war effort (see Stibbe, p. 9).

The mutual internment by Britain and Germany of one another’s citizens was among the less brutal—if more insidiously absurd—episodes within this vast network of POW and labor camps. When Britain declared war on Germany in August of 1914, around 10,000 British nationals were on German soil, while roughly 70,000 German and Austrian nationals were to be found in Great Britain. Before the year ended, men of military age within both populations would be behind barbed wire.

However, military prudence, mingled with a certain cultural respect, restrained both nations in their conduct towards each other’s civilians, who were generally treated like captured officers, spared hard labor, and fed on soldiers’ rations. Since neither the revised Geneva convention of 1906 nor the second Hague convention of 1907 included explicit provisions for protecting non-combatants, the unofficial pressures of reprisals, martial success, and (more vaguely) cultural esteem, were crucial to the experience of civilians during the war.

Initially, civilian detention in Germany and Britain was prompted in part by propagandistic (often fabricated) accounts of atrocious conditions for POWs, which stirred public belligerence, and in part by the need to boost morale in response to military setbacks. Germany interned some 4,000 British men at Ruhleben in early November 1914, after the First Battle of the Marne halted the German invasion of France. The sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915 prompted Britain to a large-scale reprisal, resulting in the internment of over 30,000 German, Austrian, or Hungarian civilians by the fall of 1915.

Ruhleben, on which this series will focus, was the only camp in Germany to hold only British civilians. The shared nationality and language of this population, which hovered at a relatively stable 4,000 men throughout the war, enabled the creation of a new identity: that of the “Ruhlebenite.”

Bibliography & Further Reading

Stibbe, Matthew. “The Internment of Civilians by Belligerent States during the First World War and the Response of the International Committee of the Red Cross.” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 41, No. 1 (Jan., 2006), pp. 5-19.

Marissa Grunes is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Harvard University, focusing on transatlantic literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her dissertation project explores frontier architecture in 19th century poetry, fiction, and non-fiction of the United States.

Welcome to Ruhleben Camp

In Ruhleben Camp follows the production schedule of the magazine created by prisoners at Ruhleben, an internment camp for British civilians in Germany during WWI. On the day that an issue of the magazine was released a hundred years ago, Marissa Grunes will post highlights from that number and tell part of its story. 

Trafalgar Square looking to Y.M.C.A., Ruhleben Internment Camp. VIA record number olvwork427586

Trafalgar Square looking to Y.M.C.A., Ruhleben Internment Camp. VIA record number olvwork427586

Wilkommen in Trafalgar Square, Ruhleben, Germany. From here you can wander under the Marble Arch, or venture down Fleet Street to visit the offices of the local print journal.

If it doesn’t look much like London, no wonder: these flimsy, dirty wooden buildings and barren expanses of mud are the heart of Ruhleben Camp, an internment camp for British civilians erected in 1914 at a hastily vacated horse racing track outside Berlin. Over the next four years, this racetrack would house around 4,000 male British nationals, ages 17 to 55, with backgrounds ranging from saltwater tars to Society nobs, and including celebrity athletes and a future Nobel laureate in physics. Commonwealth and colonial subjects were also represented by Irish, Scottish, Jamaican, and West African prisoners, among others.

Sharing British citizenship and the fact of imprisonment, this hodgepodge would spend the course of the war transforming the bleak racecourse into a bustling barbed wire society with a civil administration, postal service, university, scientific laboratories, a garden, weekly theatrical productions, an orchestra, sporting leagues, and a full-color, illustrated magazine to serve as the camp “mouthpiece.”

Blending homesickness with a dash of dry irony, the inmates christened their dingy environs after iconic landmarks in the capitol of the British Empire. They reserved the names of areas around Berlin—Charlottenburg and Spandau—for the two latrines on either side of the camp.

The photograph above is one of hundreds housed in the HLS Library’s Special Collections, among the private papers of former internees Maurice Ettinghausen and John C. Masterman (Masterman was a hugely popular figure in the camp, and became head of counter-intelligence for MI5 during WWII). These collections also include copies of the Ruhleben magazine, written and edited by the prisoners, and professionally printed in Berlin from 1915 through 1917. This magazine offers a window into the busy life of what became a little British outpost on the Continent during the so-called Great War.

Bibliography & Further Reading

Stibbe, Matthew. British civilian internees in Germany. The Ruhleben camp, 1914-18. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2008.

Marissa Grunes is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Harvard University, focusing on transatlantic literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her dissertation project explores frontier architecture in 19th century poetry, fiction, and non-fiction of the United States.

New Series: In Ruhleben Camp

I’m pleased to announce a new series here at Et Seq.: In Ruhleben Camp.

Ruhleben Coat of Arms

Ruhleben Coat of Arms, 191401818. VIA record number olvwork418594.

In Ruhleben Camp will follow the production schedule of the magazine created by prisoners at Ruhleben, an internment camp for British civilians in Germany during World War I. On the day that an issue of the magazine was released one hundred years ago, our guest blogger Marissa Grunes will post highlights from that number and tell part of its story. (Note that the first five issues won’t be covered in proper sequence, as they were printed from June through August 1915, and their anniversaries passed while Marissa was abroad, exploring the archives at the Imperial War Museum, the British Library in London, and the Liddle Collection at Leeds University, one of the most extensive repositories of Ruhleben material.)

The Harvard Law School Library also holds two major collections of materials for the study of the history of Ruhleben: : The Maurice L. Ettinghausen collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp papers, 1914-1937 and The John Masterman collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp papers, 1914-1919. These collections contain manuscripts, newsletters, artwork, photographs, and other ephemera created by the prisoners, who built their own culture and society within the camp. You can explore Harvard’s Ruhleben collections at the Ruhleben: A Digital Exhibit website. Those of you who are local can view a poster for a Ruhleben cricket match on permanent exhibit on the 5th floor of the Library.

Marissa Grunes is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Harvard University, focusing on transatlantic literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her dissertation project explores frontier architecture in 19th century poetry, fiction, and non-fiction of the United States.

We’re delighted that Marissa is sharing her knowledge of Ruhleben with us and look forward to reading and learning more about it. We hope you do too!

852 RARE: A Refresher from Historical & Special Collections

Welcome to campus! Longtime followers of Et Seq. may know that the Library’s Historical & Special Collections staff often submit posts under the heading “852 RARE.” With the start of a new academic year, we wanted to provide a quick reminder of how the name “852 RARE” came to be. The name pays homage to the MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging) designation for items in the rare book collection; in other words, in Harvard’s HOLLIS catalog record, the 852 RARE field identifies the materials in the Library’s collection which are part of its Historical & Special Collections.

Watch this space for occasional 852 RARE announcements about new exhibits (one is coming soon!); stories about fascinating, unique, beautiful, and occasionally weird items from our collections; and information useful to those who wish to use HSC’s collections – and we hope many of you do.

In addition to rare books, Historical & Special Collections encompasses early and modern manuscriptsprints, photographs, objects, and The Red Set—a collection of Law School faculty, organizational, and student publications made famous in The Paper Chase.

Welcome, and we hope to see you soon!

– From the staff of HSC: Karen Beck, Jane Kelly, Ed Moloy, Mary Person, and Lesley Schoenfeld

Last Chance to See Summer Exhibits!

If you find yourself in or around Langdell Hall next week, stop by the Caspersen Room to see our two exhibits, both in their final week. It was a Dark and Stormy Semester: Portrayals of Harvard Law School in Literature and By Popular Demand, an exhibit of items from Historical & Special Collections selected by HLS students, are both on view Monday-Friday from 9-5 through Friday August 14.

852 RARE: Open for Research: The Papers of Abram Chayes and Louis Jaffe

Historical & Special Collections is pleased to announce the opening of two Modern Manuscript collections for research: The papers of Abram Chayes and Louis Jaffe.

The Abram Chayes Papers cover the entirety of his professional career as a Harvard Law School professor, lawyer, and public servant. The collection spans from the 1930s up to his death in 2000, and contains correspondence, casework, teaching materials, publications, and research materials. The majority of the collection is of a professional nature, though there are some personal materials, as well. His academic career is represented by a large amount of administrative and teaching materials, including memoranda, meeting minutes, exams, and course handouts. His work as an international lawyer is documented through a copious amount of court documents and correspondence. Meeting minutes, speech drafts, mementos from work-related events and trips document Chayes’s time as the Legal Advisor for the State Department.

 

Meeting Notes

Notes from a meeting discussing options during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Abram Chayes Papers, box 276, folder 6

 

The Louis Jaffe Papers cover Jaffe’s professional career, which included clerking for Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, serving as dean at the University of Buffalo School of Law, and as a professor at Harvard Law School. Professor Jaffe received national recognition for his arguments and positions on the scope of judicial review of agency decisions, and for his analysis of the role of courts in the review of administrative agencies. The collection ranges from the 1930s up to his retirement in 1976, and contains correspondence, teaching materials, publications, case notes, writings and readings. The majority of the collection is of a professional nature, though there are some personal materials as well.

Both collections are open to all researchers and have an online finding aid: Louis Jaffe Papers and the Abram Chayes Papers. Anyone interested in using these collections should contact Historical & Special Collections to schedule an appointment.

 

852 RARE: A Controversial Execution in 1818 Edinburgh

In December 1818, Robert Johnston, age 24, was executed for robbing Mr. John Charles of some £600 in pounds and notes, plus a watch key and chain. This single crime, trial, and execution ignited a swarm of controversy – evidence of which can be found in our collections. We recently acquired a pamphlet, Letter to the Magistrates of Edinburgh … with Regard to the Execution of Robert Johnston, which joins several others in our collection that describe the trial and gruesome execution that followed.

Letter to magistrates

Letter to the magistrates of Edinburgh, 1819, HOLLIS 14401279

Opinion diverged about Johnston and the severity of his punishment. Some noted that Johnston, a 24-year-old carter, had repeatedly been in custody on various charges; in fact, he had only been out a few days before robbing Mr. Charles. Others noted that his parents were “honest and industrious,” and pointed out that Johnston had been thrown out of work due to economic distress in Scotland. These writers thought his only choice was to steal or starve.

All agreed that the punishment – execution by hanging – was severe. Other carters had recently committed crimes in Edinburgh; perhaps local magistrates wanted to make an example of Johnston. Citizens interceded on his behalf, to no avail.

On the day of the execution, a noose was slipped around Johnston’s neck, and he mounted a table, which was supposed to drop suddenly at Johnston’s signal. Unfortunately, the table did not drop completely, leaving him half standing and half suspended, struggling. As the crowd realized he was still alive, they urged the attending magistrate to halt the execution. Soon the crowd threw stones at the magistrate, overpowered the police, cut Johnston down, partially revived him and carried him off. The police eventually recaptured him, dragged him to the station, and continued their attempts to revive him before returning him to the gallows. During all this time Johnston appeared conscious but did not speak.

When the execution resumed and the table dropped once again, Johnston continued to struggle for about 20 minutes before finally expiring. The whole gruesome business lasted almost two hours.

Witnesses agreed on the sequence of events, and all were shocked at the inhumane and error-ridden execution. However, they vehemently disagreed about whether the magistrates exercised their duty to ensure a working scaffold and secure a competent executioner. Some blamed the magistrates; others blamed the crowd (which they called a mob) for cutting Johnston down and thereby prolonging his suffering.

Robert Johnston trial account

Authentic account of the trial … of Robert Johnston, 1819, HOLLIS 4390803

Letter to the citizens of Edinburgh

Letter to the citizens of Edinburgh; in which the cruel and malicious aspersions of an “eye-witness” are answered, 1819, HOLLIS 4388450

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For historians of crime and punishment, it is useful to consult materials like the pamphlets here, which offer multiple perspectives, reminding us that there is often more than one “truth.” These pamphlets also shine a light on issues that concerned the populace and the police nearly two hundred years ago. They show that controversy over the death penalty was, and remains, a recurrent theme in other legal systems as well as our own.