852 RARE: WWI Internment Camp Papers Digitized

The Harvard Law School Library is pleased to announce the digitization of the Maurice Ettinghausen collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp papers, 1914-1937. This unique collection, commonly referred to as “Ruhleben,” provides a fascinating insight into the daily life of prisoners at a German World War I camp.

Internees around a small building named “La Bohéme.” Grohs, A., 1914-1918. VIA record number olvwork426167.

The Ruhleben civilian internment camp was established by the German government at a horse racetrack outside of Berlin to incarcerate male foreign civilians, thereby preventing them from entering the armed forces of its adversaries. Most of the nearly 4,500 internees were British, but there were also a few dozen French and Italians, as well as Indians, Jamaicans, and West Africans.

The internees were not idle, and during the course of the war they developed a distinct society that included the establishment of their own camp mail system, social and sports clubs, cultural and education programs, and religious and medical services. All of these activities are well documented by the collection’s assorted photographs, publications, drawings, receipts, stamps and tickets, and various other documents. Most of the material in the collection was produced by the internees, but it also includes newspaper clippings and publications from outside the camp.

Ruhleben Camp News, February 15, 1915. PDS Sequence number 6718.

The collection was created by an internee, Maurice Ettinghausen, who served as the camp’s librarian. It was purchased by the library in 1932. The collection should be useful to researchers interested in history, the social sciences and political science.

The entire collection has been digitized: the printed material can be accessed through Harvard’s Page Delivery Service, and the visual materials Harvard’s VIA catalog by searching the keyword “Ruhleben.”

The digital collection is now open to use and an online exhibit is planned for the near future.

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

Post by:
Ed Moloy
Curator of Modern Manuscripts and Archives

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