Henry Charles Mahoney.

Interned in Germany online

. (page 1 of 18)
Online LibraryHenry Charles MahoneyInterned in Germany → online text (page 1 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Columbia ^nibersitp








C O r

V- (/) rt


i^ '^


U § bo
• - > .=

'^5 ^

~ •' be



— A ^








Robert M. McBride ^ Company


Copyright 1918





MAR 2 2 1929




I. The

OF THE British

Element ....

II. The Home of the "K.G.'s"

III. The Citizens of Ruhleben

IV. The Foundation of the Church
V. The Medical Administration .

VI. Sanitatioi^ and Hygiene .

VII. The Establishment of Communal

VIII. Benefits of the Commune

IX. Life Under the Commune

X. Outdoor Recreation

XI. Indoor Entertainments

XII. Bids for Freedom

XIII. The Split in the Camp

XIV. Trading in Ruhleben
XV. The Trading Boom .

XVI. Christmas in Ruhleben

XVII. When THE Pinch Was Felt

XVIII. Freedom at Last!













German Officers of Ruhleben Camp. Read-
ing FROM Left to Right: The Chief;
Chief Censor, Who Was a Favorite
Amongst the Prisoners Owing to His
Love of Fair Flay; Baron von Taube, in
Charge of Affairs (Known as "Baron
VON Two Face") ; the Remaining Two
Being Members of the Censor Depart-
ment ..... Frontispiece


Barrack 5 Lined Up at Kitchen Waiting

FOR Their Cabbage Soup ... 62

An "Advertisement" from the Ruhleben

Camp Magazine . . . . .110

Outside Barrack 5. Showing the Efforts
OF THE Prisoners to Improve the Appear-
ance of Their Dismal Quarters . .158

An Old Advertisement in a New Setting.
One of the Cartoons from the Ruhle-
ben Camp Magazine, Christmas, 1916 206



The Latest Achievement in Ruiileben.
The Boys Worked Long and Hard to
Cultivate Gardens to Make Their
Crude Horse. Boxes Look More Homely.
The Windows Above Show the Lofts,
THE Height from Floor to Roof Where
We Slept Being 3 Ft. 6 In. . . . 256

Cover Design of the Christmas, 1916, Num-
ber of the "Ruhleben Camp Magazine" 304

Ruhleben British Concentration Camp.
Financial Statement to ioth April

1915 352



npHERE was published a year ago "Six-
-'■ teen Months in Four German Prisons"
to which this volume is a sequel, being an
account of the months spent by the author
in the Ruhleben Internment Camp. Mr.
Mahoney was passing through Germany on
his way to Russia, when war broke out. He
was arrested and with others sent to Wesel
Prison, where he was tried secretly as a
spy and though not found guilty he was
never acquitted, but sent first to one prison
camp and then another, becoming acquainted
with Sennelager, Klingelputz, and finally
Ruhleben, where he spent the last twelve
months of his imprisonment, and whence
he finally made good his escape.

One of the points of especial interest of
which little has been heard in this country
is an account of a violent split among the


English prisoners, there being a group of
several hundred who were pro-German in
their sympathies. The details are scarcely
believable to us — even now when one is
called on every day to believe the incredible.
The conditions in German camps are now
of vital interest to the American people.
Very little accurate information has hereto-
fore been obtainable. Mr. Mahoney's book
is an unusual contribution to this informa-
tion and to the literatu**e of the war.



I was kicking my heels disconsolately in
the city of Cologne, an alien "on pass" in an
enemy country. Alarmed at the serious con-
dition of my health, which had been under-
mined by privation and confinement, the
German government had released me from
the internment camp at Sennelager after an
enforced stay of several weeks. The author-
ities had offered me freedom within the
country on parole, but as I emphatically
declined — preferring the possibility of escape
to England — they gave me merely a permit,
good within the Cathedral city beside the
Rhine, and its suburbs.

I sought employment without success ; the
Britisher was at a serious discount in the
labor market at that time. Had it not been
for the practical sympathy of a compatriot


and friend, Walter K , whom I had first

met in Sennelager, I really think I should
have petitioned the Teuton authorities for
my return to prison, and if they had refused,
should have committed some penal offense
to obtain the protection, such as it v^as, of a
German civil prison.

K was one of those true friends whom

one finds when in trouble. He had lived in
Cologne for many years and was well estab-
lished in commercial circles, hence he had
suffered only a brief detention at Sennelager.
Upon his release he returned to his old busi-
ness, and the day we parted at the Senne-
lager camp gates, he told me if I should ever
be in his city to look him up and spend a
few days with him. I took advantage of this
invitation and visited him at his country
home in a tiny, picturesque village overlook-
ing the Rhine.

My first anxiety on regaining restricted
freedom was for my wife at home. I had
left her, three months before, in a delicate
state of health, and during the period of my
imprisonment had not heard a word about
her, nor had she heard from or about me.


One circumstance worried me especially. I
had been told that a German newspaper had
narrated my death, ''shot as a spy/' after my
military trial at Wesel of which I have al-
ready written in my book, "Sixteen Months
in Four German Prisons." I hoped against
hope that this ghastly report had not reached

I made several attempts to get a letter
through, telling her of my whereabouts and
experiences, but the German authorities put
their foot down firmly upon the interchange
of correspondence. I resorted to various
subterfuges, but as I subsequently learned,
none of these attempts was successful;
either the letters went astray or, as is more
probable, were officially intercepted and

During this period, my friend and I were
greatly perturbed by the attitude of the
German newspapers, which advocated the
rounding-up of all British subjects in Ger-
many. All of them called vehemently for
drastic action, pointing out that the intern-
ment camp established at Ruhleben was the
very place for those of us who were "on


pass." The press went on to describe the
amenities of the camp, dwelling at length,
upon the conveniences, comforts and amuse-
ments provided for its inmates. Evidently
the bright colors were laid too thickly upon
the picture painted, for a volume of corre-
spondence poured forth from irate patriots
protesting against the pampering of enemy
aliens and suggesting that we all be put to
some useful work and made to realize that
we were prisoners, not guests, of the Ger-
man nation.

The outlook was certainly forbidding.
Both K and myself confidently antici-
pated arrest at any moment. The climax
came one evening. Two other compatriots,

also released ''on pass," visited K at his

home, although their permit was only for
Cologne. In the village there was an impor-
tant factory managed by three Englishmen,
and the fact that seven Englishmen planted
themselves in this tiny, remote village
prompted the burgomeister, who knew K —
intimately, to inquire half jestingly if he
were contemplating the foundation of an
English colony on the spot.


Upon the evening in question, these two
friends came over. I had tickets for the
opera, and accordingly left my three com-
patriots playing cards and exchanging ex-
periences. Coming out of the theatre at the
end of the performance, my attention w^as
caught by a nevv^spaper placard announcing
the intention of the authorities to intern all
Britons at once.

When I reached K 's house I greeted

them gaily with "Cheer up, boys! We're
all going to be clinked to-morrow !"

Animated discussion followed my account
of the placard announcement. The two
guests were in a quandary. According to
regulations they were compelled to report
themselves every day to the authorities in
Cologne, because their passes confined them
to that city. They were out of bounds at

K 's home. The hour was late and they

were afraid of being caught beyond the
limits of their permit, in which event, need-
less to say. Teuton system would have ex-
acted punishment. But it was impossible for
them to get back to the city that evening, so
they spent the night with us.


They left us at an early hour next morning
and went directly to the authorities to con-
form with the regulation. The official in
charge curtly ordered them to return home,
pack their belongings and report again in half
an hour. They seized this brief respite to
telephone a warning to us.

K at once bustled off to the city to

wind up his business and then returned to
await the inevitable. During the morning
I packed my few belongings, not forgetting
the voluminous notes relating to my experi-
ences in previous German prisons prepared
during my leisure, and which I highly treas-

The blow fell that afternoon. Two de-
tectives from Cologne were announced.
They stated that we were both under arrest.

From the tenor of the conversation, K

concluded that the round-up was merely a
matter of form, and that we should be re-
leased as soon as we conformed with some
new regulation or other which had been
promulgated. I admired his optimism, but
inwardly held a contrary opinion. I had
occasion to view Teuton methods in a vastly


different light, and did not regard the out-
look with any degree of confidence.

Our arrest had a light side that contrasted
strangely with steel-bound German method

and system. Both detectives knew K

very well, and suggested — after a drink —
that we should proceed to police headquar-
ters as unobtrusively as possible. It was
first necessary to report to the local burgo-
meister, and the detectives expressed their
readiness to meet us there by appointment,
they in the meantirnje changing from their
conspicuous official uniforms into mufti.

The appointment was fixed for 6 :30. K —
and I, our bags packed with eatables, pre-
sented ourselves well before time, to find
that the three Britishers employed in the
local factory had been corralled and similarly
treated. The local formalities completed, we
trooped merrily off to the city, captors and
captives joking as if the best of friends. We
stopped at a restaurant for a farewell dinner,
and the detectives obligingly slipped to an-
other table so as to disarm all suspicion.
After dinner we resumed our journey, a fes-
tive party until we turned the corner leading


to the prison whither we were bound. Di-
rectly the building loomed in sight our de-
tectives resumed their mask of officialdom,
and with rough tongues and brusque manner
bustled us into the presence of Teuton au-

We were at once passed on to the cells,
where we were told we should have to make
ourselves content until our papers came
through from the military authorities. We
continued to make light of the experience,

and K stoutly maintained that in a few

hours we should be free to roam Cologne
again. But his optimism proved without
foundation. We did not regain our permits
for restricted freedom, but instead an un-
solicited and unappreciated "pass" to Ruh-

Although German method and organiza-
tion have been paraded before the world ad
nauseum, and for the most part have been
proved as empty as the proverbial wind-bag,
yet there are one or two characteristics of
Prussianism which cannot fail to command
attention. The German Government never
does things by halves, does not waste its time



in idle threats, and although it frequently
makes mistakes, the errors always work to
the advantage of authority. When Teuton
officialdom says a thing is to be done, it is
done, and without the slightest delay. The
celerity and completeness with which the
British element, resident in, and travelling
through, the country, was rounded up after
the fiat went forth, bore this out very con-

Within twelve hours of the publication of
the decree every Britisher — except one — was
safely placed under lock and key.

It was the comprehensiveness of the
round-up which created the greatest meas-
ure of astonishment. The authorities were
as indiscriminate as they were thorough.
The tourist was taken with the man who had
been settled in the country for ten, twenty,
forty years; the millionaire was taken with
the pauper; the bank manager with the com-
mercial traveler; the magnate of business
with his junior clerk. The governing prin-
ciple was "Arrest them all; sort them out

The round-up was marked by several pa-


thetic incidents. Many men, established in
business, upon reading the notice to report
themselves on November 6th, anticipated be-
ing granted permission to proceed to their
offices as usual. ' But they were disappointed.
Directly they had been identified and
docketed they were clapped into prison.
They were not even given half an hour's
grace to bid farewell to their families ; were
not permitted to communicate with their
homes by letter or telephone; and possessed
nothing beyond what they had with them.
The distress created by this merciless
method of arrest was far-reaching. Wives
and children suddenly lost husband or father,
and did not learn the truth for several days.

When we reached the prison we found, in
a pitiable state of distress, one man who had
been arrested in this unceremonious man-
ner. He had rushed away from a sick wife
to comply with the order, only to be put
under lock and key. He pleaded hard for
permission to return and say good-bye, but
his appeal fell upon deaf ears.

Another Englishman who answered the
call was imprisoned in the same hasty way,



and had not a penny in his pocket. One fel-
low was particularly down-hearted. He had
been established in Germany for many years,
and had a prosperous business into which
he had put all of his savings. His partner
was a German; the authorities had dragged
him off for military service, imprisoned the
Englishman and commandeered the entire
stock in the business.

Even more pathetic was the case of an-
other Englishman, a widower, who promptly
answered the summons to report. He was
condemned to the cells the minute his iden-
tity was established. With tears in his eyes
he explained that he had come in haste, leav-
ing his two young children alone at home.
Like everyone else, he had expected to be
able to return home after complying with
the regulation. He pleaded for permission
to complete arrangements for his children's
guardianship, but the authorities would not
listen to him. He was not even allowed to
communicate with his home. His mental
condition can be better imagined than de-

Upon our transf errence to prison, our orig-



inal party managed to keep together, K ,

the three British managers from the factory,
and myself. While we were in Klingelputz,
which was temporarily overcrowded, I was
able to take stock of the permanent residents
of this penitentiary, and they were the worst
set of ruffians I have ever laid eyes upon, a
large number of them serving long terms of
penal servitude.

One prisoner, as he walked the exercise
yard, which our cells overlooked, aroused my
special attention. He was garbed in the uni-
form of the Red Cross, and for some time I
puzzled my brains as to his inclusion among
the ^'lifers" in such a dress. The gaolers
told us that he was colloquially known as
"Old Fingers." What crime had he com-
mitted? Oh, he had been caught on the bat-
tlefield, not succoring the wounded as his
duty ordained, but robbing the dead and dy-
ing. He had a penchant for rings, and in his
greedy haste was unable to purloin them in a
reasonably humane manner, but cut off the
fingers instead. He was caught in the act,
and his pockets found filled with dismem-
bered fingers covered with rings. He was



sentenced to fifteen years penal servitude,
and compelled to parade the exercise ground
in the Red Cross uniform that he had so
abused, as a terrifying example.

This wholesale round-up of Britishers
speedily provoked complaint from affected
German interests. The German v^ho ov^ned
the factory managed by my friends, went to
the authorities and declared that he would
have to close his establishment unless his
three British employees were released. My
three compatriots were highly amused at his
discomfiture, personally caring little whether
he had to close down or not. He continued
to appeal pleadingly for their release; and
finally, as the three men concerned concluded
that the pure air of the outer wold was pre-
ferable to the oppressive atmosphere of our
cell, their release was discussed. But they

would not go out alone; K was just as

respected a citizen of Cologne as themselves,

and K in turn declared that I would have

to come, too, and offered to be responsible
for my good behavior.

This wholesale request rather staggered
the authorities, but there was no other way



out, and things began to look brighter for
us. Finally we were called and informed
that we were to be allowed our freedom "on
pass" as before. Two officers stepped for-
ward to escort us to the Polizie Prasidium,
the local equivalent of Scotland Yard, where
we were to receive our papers.

It was an exciting trip from one building
to the other. We had to walk through the
crowded market-place, and as soon as we
were seen, the cry went up, ''Schweine-hund
Englander" and we were greeted with hisses
and catcalls. Our guardians closed around
and kept the yelping crowd at bay. Balked
in their efforts, the mob opened a lively fusil-
lade with a variety of missiles. Potatoes,
rotten apples and other vegetable refuse
rained upon our heads. If we had not been
under escort, we should certainly have been
roughly handled.

When we reached the Prasidium another
delay arose. Our papers had come from
Coblentz, the administrative military center,
by a route which was not in accordance with
official regulations, and we were put into
cells to wait until they had been redispatched



and received through the correct military
channel. As it would be several days before
they could be received, v^e realized that our
case was hopeless. We could not escape in-
ternment. Within a couple of hours the
prison van drove up, and we were taken back
to Kingelputz, to await transf errence to Ruh-

At half past four the next morning we
were aroused and told to dress quickly — no
easy matter, as our cell was lighted only by
a single oil lamp. We were paraded, counted
and recounted, until our heads began to
whirl. Then, no man missing, we were lined
up with what belongings we had, and under
a strong armed escort, marched to the sta-
tion. Although it was early in the morning,
crowds had turned out to gaze upon the un-
usual spectacle of several hundred British
civilian prisoners being marched off in cus-
tody. It was a listless crowd; the people
looked at us sullenly but made no manifesta-
tion of hostility. We turned into the station
about eight o'clock, and were bundled
straightway into the train, to make our-
selves as comfortable as we could, a rather



difficult task as the carriages were devoid of
all heating apparatus, although it was a
typical raw, depressing November morning.
After an hour's wait the train started on its
long pull to Ruhleben, via Hanover, and I do
not think that trip will ever be forgotten by
any of the luckless Britishers who were

As was always the case when prisoners
were forced to make a railway journey, no
food or even water was provided en route.
German organization does not take the com-
missariat into consideration under such con-
ditions. Those of us who observed the pre-
caution to stock our bags and pockets with
provender fared well enough; but there were
many who had no reserves at all. The wise
shared their stocks with the foolish as far as
possible, but there was scarcely sufficient to
go round. One or two of our guards, out of
sympathy, also divided their humble supplies
with the prisoners, but for the most part our
escort ignored us. When we stopped at a
station, those who had money and were pre-
pared to patronize the restaurant, found that
no food was sold to prisoners.



It is not surprising that one or two of the
party fainted from hunger and the stifling
atmosphere of the crowded carriages, but
they received no attention. At one station
a man in distress persuaded his guard to
make some purchase for him. As the guard
was returning he was accosted by an oflicer,
who on learning the destination of the
edibles, promptly threw them, on the ground
and kicked them hither and thither.

Before we reached Hanover one of the
party collapsed. The train drew up at the
station platform, and seeing a party of Ger-
man women wearing the uniform of the Red
Cross we approached them and offered a
mark — one shilling — for a basin of water
with which to revive our comrade. When
these young women learned that the water
was only required for a ^^Schweine-hund
Englander/' they emptied the basin on to the
platform, spat in the man's face and turned
on their heels. But they kept the money,
doubtless as a contribution to the German
Red Cross Fund.

At nine-thirty the train resumed its tedi-
ous journey. About six o'clock the next


morning wc reached the much vaunted Camp
of Promise. It was damp, cold and dark.
Our arrival had evidently been expected, for
as we approached the internment camp we
observed a large crowd of the prisoners al-
ready in occupation gathered around the
entrance. They gave a lusty cheer when
they caught sight of us and pressed forward
eagerly. Half a dozen bayonets flashed an-
grily and beat them back.

As we filed into the camp, the inquiry went

''Hello, boys ! Where are you from?**

*'Klingelputz," we called in reply.

"How long were you there?"

"Only a few days! Who are you?**

"The 'K. G.*s* **

The answer came in a unanimous roar ut-
tered with such vehemence as to startle our

"The 'K. G.*s?**' we repeated puzzled.
"What's that?'*

"The Kaiser's Guests ! Come along. You'll
soon understand.*'

In extending their vociferous welcome to
us each raised his tin bowl over his head, and



as we drew closer we saw inscribed on the
side of each bowl, according to official in-
structions, the two letters "K. G." I never
fathomed their true significance, but the
prisoners solved the problem to their own
satisfaction. Every man in Ruhleben was
facetiously identified as the ''Kaiser's Guest."


On that raw, marrow-chilling November
morning, our new home did not appear es-
pecially inviting, nor did the day seem a
happy augury for our future welfare. We
stamped our feet in the slush, and swung
our arms vigorously in desperate efforts to
beat some warmth into our quivering bodies.
Then an Englishman, the Captain of the
Camp, strode up and piloted us to the quar-
ters that were to be our hom'e for so many
dreary months.

And what quarters ! It is difficult to give
a convincing picture of the camp site, but one
might compare the racecourse at Epsom
with that at Ruhleben. The latter is every
whit as exposed and certainly quite as
dreary. Upon the occasion of a big race
meeting, when the vcourse was flanked with
throngs of gaily attired fashionables, and



the weather was warm and sunny, it did, no
doubt, present an animated and inviting as-
pect. But in the dawn of that drab Novem-
ber morning it was about as attractive as a
muck heap.

The internment camp was not spread over
the entire course. At that time the British
prisoners were penned into a small corner —

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryHenry Charles MahoneyInterned in Germany → online text (page 1 of 18)