Telling the story of the World War One Internment Camp Ruhleben

Throughout May, June, July and August, our Library Services will seek to tell the story of what life was like for local men and boys interned at Ruhleben Camp, a Civilian Internment Camp on the outskirts of Berlin during the First World War.

Through a series of events, including talks, research workshops, theatre and exhibitions, local people, many of whom descend from those imprisoned, will be given a real understanding of what life was like in the camp and for those at home awaiting the return of their loved ones.

When the First World War started in 1914, there were many British citizens in German territory, including seamen, businessmen, musicians and actors. Many of these citizens were sent to Ruhleben camp, with men from the port of Grimsby featuring prominently amongst those interned. 

Derek O’Connell, Library Services Development Manager, Lincs Inspire said: “with the help of the National Lottery Heritage Fund we are able to explore with the local community, just what Ruhleben camp was. Men from local ports spent four and a half years imprisoned in Germany and this project, with the help of local people, hopes to tell that story and pass this knowledge on to younger generations. We are very excited to get the talks and workshops started, talking to those that had family in the camp and learning about how they made it through.”

The programme of events also includes a theatre production of the play ‘With Love From Ruhleben’, written and performed by Breakwater Theatre Company.

Andy Evans, Director and Co-Founder, Breakwater Theatre Company said: “We have chosen to focus on two (fictional) Grimsby fishermen and a fellow prisoner, interned in Germany at the outbreak of the war and their experience of life in Ruhleben Camp and hope we do justice to the men interned, who also served their country during the war despite their incarceration. We hope and expect the play to educate, inform and entertain as we demonstrate how Ruhleben changed the lives of all who experienced it.”

Events will take place at Waltham, Cleethorpes and Grimsby Libraries, as well as The Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre and Grimsby Town Hall. For the full programme of events visit our Activities and Events.