In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time
A British German Exploration of Civilian Internment in Lofthouse Park Camp and the Englanderlager Ruhleben
Contact: Dr Claudia Sternberg
Funder: Centre for Hidden Histories/Arts and Humanities Research Council
In 1914, thousands of British and German tourists, business travellers, seamen, artists, exchange students and even permanent residents who happened to be in Germany or Britain, respectively, became ‘enemy aliens’ when war was declared. If male and of fighting age, they were interned for the duration of the war in special camps for civilian detainees. Within a few weeks, the normality of pre-war everyday British-German relations transformed into physical and ideological segregation.
This project brings together academic and community-based researchers from Britain and Germany to explore the little known history of civilian internment and take this aspect of the war to a wider public. At the heart of the project are two specific sites, the camp for British civilians in Ruhleben (Berlin-Spandau, Germany) and Lofthouse Park Camp for German internees in Wakefield (near Leeds, UK). Research and activities focus on the historical detail of internment and the wider social and cultural implications for the internees and their families, the local population and those involved in camp administration and security. On the level of Centenary reflection, the project also addresses European mobility, intermarriage and expatriate communities in the early 20th and, by comparison, in the 21st century. An exhibition will be developed for display alongside other WWI exhibitions planned in Wakefield and Spandau for 2017 and 2018.
The project involves historians and members of local communities in the research as co-researchers, contributors to community sourcing activities, workshop participants and visitors of the exhibition. Pupils Pupils from Carl-Friedrich-von-Siemens-Gymnasium, a secondary school in Spandau, and young people from the Leeds-based Preservative Party are matched to engage in the research. Collaborators in Berlin are the Youth History Workshop Spandau, Spandau City Museum and Archive, colleagues at Humboldt University and family history researchers. Partners in the UK are community-based historians, genealogists and collectors, academic colleagues in Leeds, Sheffield and Leicester, and the German Saturday School Leeds.
Image: Lofthouse Park Camp during World War One (Q 56595) © IWM