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le camp d'internement 1914-1919
Le camp d’internés 1914-1919

Dieser Internet-Auftritt verfolgt das Ziel, möglichst viele Informationen über das Internierungslager auf der Ile Longue zusammenzustellen, damit Historiker und Nachkommen der Internierten sich ein Bild von den Realitäten dieses bisher wenig bekannten Lagers machen können - nicht zuletzt auch, um die bedeutenden kulturellen Leistungen der Lagerinsassen zu würdigen.

Le but de ce site est de prendre contact avec les familles des prisonniers allemands, autrichiens, hongrois, ottomans, alsaciens-lorrains... qui ont été internés, pendant la Première Guerre mondiale, dans le camp de l’Ile Longue (Finistère).

Max Pretzfelder - the “camp of his desire” and his escape
Article published on 7 January 2017

by Sabine, Ursula

Max Pretzfelder is one of those artists who have influenced the cultural life on Île Longue. Documents of his activities during the time of his captivity are kept in the Archives départementales du Finistère in France. We have also found traces of his work dating from that period in other museums and archives: Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin; Deutsches Miltärmuseum/Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv, Freiburg; Deutsche Kinemathek (Estate of G. W. Pabst), Berlin; Deutsche Nationalbibliothek Leipzig; and also at Beinecke Library, University of Yale.

In the private library of poet Karl Wolfskehl, preserved by the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach, we found letters written by Max Pretzfelder as well as his Novella “Flucht” with four sketches illustrating his escape from the camp in 1919.

The following account of his stay on Île Longue is based on these documents. Despite intensive research, in some cases it has not been possible to find holders of publishing rights. If any existing publishing rights are touched, please contact us.

Vorderseite der Postkarte von Max Pretzfelder an Karl Wolfskehl aus dem Internierungslager Île Longue vom 14.05.1918
Front of a postcard written by Max Pretzfelder in the Île Longue internment camp to Karl Wolfskehl, dated May 14, 1918
Deutsches Literatur-Archiv Marbach

The “camp of his desires”

Max Pretzfelder was born in Nuremberg on March 7, 1888. His parents are Julius and Fanny née Lauder. At the age of 18 he enrolls in the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich (Akademie der Bildenden Künste), subsequently in the Academy of Fine Arts in Karlsruhe (Staaliche Kunstakademie), where he attends professor Wilhelm Trübner’s classes.

In 1908 he meets writer Karl Wolfskehl in Munich. Very soon, a close and long-standing friendship develops between those two men. Karl Wolfskehl belongs to the George Circle, an influential German literary group centered on Stefan George, which makes it possible for Max Pretzfelder to gain access to the arts and culture scene in Munich. From 1910 on, he undertakes many journeys. Documents prove the cities Florence, London, Strasbourg, Marseilles, Berlin and Hamburg feature among his destinations.

In summer 1914 he travels to Paris, the place to be for young artists. There he is surprised by the mobilization and arrested on August 6. Max Pretzfelder has to spend the first years of his internment in the camp Lanvéoc (Finistère, only a few miles away from Île Longue). Feeling more and more uncomfortable in a small camp, he applies for relocation to the camp of Île Longue. On December 4 (1917?), he writes to Karl Wolfskehl about his hopes to get transferred to the new camp soon.

... Impatiently I expect my relocation to Ile Longue and am hopeful to lead a more intensive life there, because here we are suffering greatly from the monotony of a small camp.

The files of the camp do not tell us the precise day of his arrival at Île Longue, it probably is in mid-December 1917. He gets assigned to barrack 26 (also referred to as group 26). On New Year he gives Karl Wolfskehl an account of his first impressions.

January 1, 1918

My dear Karl!

As you can see, I have finally arrived in the camp of my desires. Different dimensions, different people: different possibilities. Here are mainly sailors who were arrested on ships, coming from abroad. Taken as a group of 1,500 men they seem to form a uniform national block. In this group, however, there are islands, if only a few, worth of greater spirituality. As a man + as well as a bibliophile I enclose our camp newspaper, however bad the head may be, it still is my work. Below it you can find an article written by a former neighbour from the Schwab. Landstraße, the pastor Hommel, whose brother you might know. This Mr. Hommel is a very delicate + fine man + does not have the airs of a clergyman at all. With him and some others, I want to publish a monthly supplement to the Insel-Woche intending to establish a relationship between today’s intellectual Germany and us. I plan to publish an etching or a lithograph with each issue. For the production of this purely spiritual work I would like to ask your permission to publish some details from your letters that are of interest + if you want to you could send messages directly to me. Maybe Mr. Rilke is also open to this idea? This paper would only get into the hands of some chosen few and it could be of great importance for us here. Your help would be very much appreciated since the degradation of some people is to be feared during the long period of captivity + from a humane point of view it is absolutely necessary to support us with regard to the future. Of course, I would send you all the copies of the “lonely Press” that could be of bibliophile interest to you. My friend Weiss [1] + me, we have mounted some modern cabaret with great success. The situation of housing and food is less favourable here, but it is picturesque and quite stimulating; we get only 200 grams of bread, but what is lacking most, is tobacco + if you could get any cigarettes for me or anything useful, I would be very grateful to you. Dear Karl, I know that you also have to suffer a great deal, but doesn’t this make us closer? So please, do not take offence that I am asking your help on behalf of other people. Our complete mental degradation is imminent.

I am thinking of you very fondly – also of your family!

Yours Max

Have you already posted the Gundolf Goethe? I have arranged that all the books by George in my possession are sent to me.

On January 17, Max Pretzfelder also writes to his girlfriend Maja Bühler who lives in Karlsruhe, and tells her about the good news:

... As you can see, I have finally come to another camp + am very pleased with the change. Please write immediately how you are, I am in great fear because of the air raid in Karlsruhe. ...

In its New Year’s edition 1917/1918 the camp newspaper Die Insel-Woche announces the arrival of a “well known and highly esteemed” German artist. Its front page features a graphic of Max Pretzfelder. An ornamental border for the newspaper’s front page, designed by Max Pretzfelder, impresses the editors so much that, beginning with January 13, 1918, they will use it for several issues.

Max Pretzfelder,
Zeitungsvignette Insel-Woche Nr. 42 vom 20.01.1018
Ornamental border, Insel-Woche Nr. 42 dated January 20th, 1918
(Archives départementales du Finistère)

Obviously Max Pretzfelder starts to work with great enthusiasm immediately after his arrival. He places an advertisement in Die Insel-Woche on January 13, offering his etchings, lithographs and woodcuts, created in the camp Lanvéoc. These works of art probably also include the graphic “Explosions over a City” which he created under the impression of the air raid on Karlsruhe on June 22, 1916. (in: Art Binder, Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg).

At the time of his arrival some other artists are already working in the camp. Among them, German painter Leo Primavesi is of outstanding importance. He was arrested in Antwerp on August 5, 1914 and first brought to camp Dinan. On March 28, 1915, he was transferred to Île Longue. When Max Pretzfelder arrived, Leo Primavesi had already been working for the camp newspaper as well as for the theatre. In the course of the year 1918, three talented Hungarian artists are moved to Île Longue, a welcome stimulus for Max Pretzfelder: Paul Kovacs (February 24, 1918), Paul Beck, also called Paul Bor Beck (November 30, 1918), and Arpad of Késmárky (November 30, 1918). The local print shop produces and sells various collections of art prints, called “Blätter aus der Gefangenschaft” ("Sheets from Captivity”). [2] These graphics give evidence of the artists mutually influencing each other.

In a very short time Max Pretzfelder has developed a wide range of activities: He paints or draws portraits of his fellow internees and designs individual ex-libris, small bookplates very popular at that time, for them. He produces various lithographs. Quite often his motifs are views of the camp and the surrounding countryside – mainly because of the picturesque landscape but also because there is probably a significant demand for such images. There are also some impressive works relating to captivity and war. [3] He also writes poems and lyrics. A touching story, an illustrated art print “Das undurchdringliche Abenteuer” (“The unfathomable adventure”) also features in the collection of the art folders. He designs the frontispieces of both the brochure “Teaching in the Camp – Education” (owl) and a folder containing previous issues of Die Insel-Woche]. He illustrates articles published in Die Insel-Woche and gives lectures to the “Friends of fine arts”. He is very much interested in the camp theatre, directed by G. W. Pabst and designs programmes as for the production of “Der Tor und der Tod”, (“The Fool and Death”) and plays the role of the fool, the counterpart of death, which in turn is played by G.W. Pabst. Over time, the two men become friends – a friendship that would survive captivity.

Max Pretzfelder,
Programmheft der Tor und der Tod vom 10.03.1918
programme bill “Der Tor und der Tod”(“The Fool and Death”), March 10th, 1918
(Archives départementales du Finistère)

However, during the following months, the situation in the camp is getting increasingly difficult. The internees receive only very little mail, which is reducing their contact to the outside word even more. Their only sources of information are the magazines and newspapers available in the camp. More and more the prisoners are aware of the fact that the Central Powers won’t be able to win the war. Furthermore, there seem to be hardly any chances for exchange. By the end of April 1918, though, hopes arise. There are newspaper reports regarding an exchange contract, already signed, but not yet ratified. Immediately Max Pretzfelder informs Karl Wolfkskehl.

May 1, 1918

My dear Karl!

Today we have read in the newspaper that after all it has been decided to let the civil prisoners go home now + if I’m lucky, maybe I’ll be with you in 4 months! I’ll be back as a healthy and optimistic person, physically well, too. I mainly owe his to my work. It is true that your life outside won’t be familiar to me anymore; since 3-4 months we have hardly received any mail. This makes writing quite difficult. I enclose a small lithograph, which might get into your hands thanks to a kind censure, it is the head of our newspaper designed by me.

Max Pretzfelder,
Zeitungskopf Insel-Woche Nr. 4 vom 27.04.1018
head of newspaper, Insel-Woche Nr. 4 April 27th,1918
(Archives départementales du Finistère)

After the agreement had been ratified in early May and its text had been published in the newspapers on May 12, a notice was posted in the camp to inform the internees. From now on they expect being released, beginning with August.

Preparations are made: The internees close the library and the theatre, the stock of which is packed. They are concerned with details of their repatriation and compile a list of requests and wishes, e.g. the return of personal property and financial regulation schemes. They request transport and travel details, some of them already start packing their bags. Max Pretzfelder, too, tries to make arrangements, among other things, he writes a card to Karl Wolfskehl.

May 14, 1918 Ile Longue

Dear Karl! In a few weeks I’ll be with you. Have read about the general exchange yet? Probably I’ll come to Munich first. It is possible that letters for me are being forwarded to your address, please keep them for me, as well as your feelings!

Very much yours, Max

Best wishes to Mrs. Hanna + the grown-up daughters

The internees are hoping and waiting in vain. The execution of the contract is undermined or delayed. The first transports to Germany are supposed to take place in November. Then, with the unconditional surrender of Germany, the French no longer consider themselves bound by the contract. Moreover, the prisoners are haunted by the second wave of the Spanish flu, a pandemic (800 ill among about 2000 internees). Dejection and despair spread. Max Pretzfelder’s letter, dated November 1, 1918, illustrates the situation in the camp.

They play cat + mouse with us, the train supposed to bring me away was ready to go – ceinture [Cut!]. The people from Lanvéoc are already at home. The monumentality of our collapse is hanging like a nightmare over our lonely days + and yet, there is a kind of liberation in all of this. How will we meet again, Karl? We think that it will not be before spring.

Our barracks sway in the storm.
What will it be - renewal or death?
This is the black and white of life. ...

This is probably the last letter that Karl Wolfskehl received from the camp, at least his collections do not contain more letters from Max Pretzfelder written during that time.

Max Pretzfelder and the other internees have to face another terrible year. Early in 1919 the camps in France are reorganized or closed. Remaining prisoners are also transferred to Île Longue. Unrest, resistance and violence are increasing. A tragic incident happens in early June, a prisoner is being shot, another injured. Even after the Treaty of Versailles had been signed, the internees are not released. Morale in the camp continues to deteriorate. There is an increasing number of outbreaks and escapes.

The escape

Max Pretzfelder, too, thinks about escape. He witnessed his Austrian friend G.W. Pabst and the other non-Germans being permitted to leave the camp as early as May 1919. As the situation becomes increasingly unbearable for him he tries to attain freedom.

In the night of August 30, 1919, he escapes from the camp, together with Carl Friedrich Ahnert [4]. He plans to go to Spain where his sister Lilli is living. However, both are arrested in Hendaye near the Spanish border on September 2, 1919, and taken to the internment camp in Garaison in the Pyrenees where they have to spend 30 days in detention before being released.

Max Pretzfelder described his escape in a short novella and four sketches. He calls himself “Georg”, thus taking the name of his absent friend, G. W. Pabst.

Max Pretzfelder,
Skizze zum Text Flucht, undatiert
draft of an illustration of the text Flucht (“Escape”), undated
(Deutsches Literatur-Archiv Marbach)

Copy of the text: (8 typewritten pages, undated,) [5]:

Escape Novella by Max Pretzfelder

It was just before sunset. Over there, across the bay, the coast line was turning violet. A fresh breeze was coming up – hearken! The trumpet signal for the evening roll call wafted over. Along the entangled paths hemmed in by barbed wire, the prisoners streamed back to their barracks, discouraged, disappointed – another day had passed and had brought nothing new, no hope, no end. ... As usual, Georg was the last one to leave the sports field. Since the French had released his friend, the Austrian, returning to the dull, smelly barracks full of noise and controversy was particularly hard on him. - Yet, tonight it was possible to play poker again – he had saved some petroleum and the few remaining friends had received their monthly allowances. - And maybe, it would be possible today! Müller had told him that he and three other men would fetch coal outside the camp. They would be accompanied by two guards only. - And perhaps it would be possible for Georg, after having passed the second guard post at the drawbridge, to join that group without being noticed, just as if he’d be part of it. Though, how to advance to the second guard post, that would be Georg’s task, and his alone – probably pretty hopeless -, the guards were very sharp since the last attempt, that failed, of course – and because of that three French soldiers were demoted to the Legion. - But if it rained, the coal expedition would not take place, the guards had no intention whatsoever “de se faire mouiller pour les Boches.”

Georg draped his corner of the barrack with blankets he had borrowed. He took special care to black out the small window. He carefully lit the quite elaborate lamp, made of an inkwell serving as lower part and a bottomless aspirin glass as the cylinder, and placed it in the centre of the green blanket. Bergmann entered with the cards, feverish and happy. Poker! Light! Secrecy! Prohibition! Olbricht and Pabst came in together. Very soon all of them were gathered round the dim light, only their hands visible, holding the cards – everyone was close to the light, to be able to see and yet not to be seen.

In the gangway of the barrack the usual conversations came to an end. The frying pan had been passed around and everybody had fried their potatoes in it – Hilpert first, to be sure – Hilpert with his piece of meat, making everyone mad, then Karsten the sailor who always filled up twice, then Hönig, Levy, Rottmann and the others, - finally Pit because he used some stinking low-quality American grease. The players noticed none of this - “two pairs” - “three nine” - “straight” and now and then a “full house”, accompanied by three crude curses, that was all they heard or they wanted to hear. The cards were dealt out anew. It was Georg’s turn now, who as usual played with little luck, they all waited eagerly for a possible announcement , but Georg was lost in thoughts – suddenly he knew - it had to be today, this very night – everything had been planned and prepared in detail for a long time. The game was over. Parting, Georg stopped Bergmann for a moment. He told him about his plans and asked him to look after his few belongings and to return them after captivity. He was alone now – alone with his decision. He put on his good suit, a clean shirt, a fresh collar and donned his corduroys. He pulled a pair of wool socks over his shoes to avoid making noise. Finally he slipped into the old raincoat and pulled the sports hat over his face. He extinguished the little light and stepped cautiously out of the barrack. A fine mist seemed to favour his plan. He carefully sneaked to the corner of the canteen, where he started crawling carefully to the first barbed wire fence. He knew the exact spot where the wire was a little loose, he picked it up and slowly pushed himself forward. When reaching the path, laid out for the patrolling guard, he heard the steps of the French post. He did not dare to breathe, not even to withdraw his hand, the Frenchman nearly tramped on it with his heavy boots. ... The heavy steps were dying away, Georg had crossed the path and then painstakingly crawled forward through the second barbed wire fence. In the darkness his hand groped ahead, suddenly he pulled it back, he had touched poo, the guards used this spot to relieve themselves! A moment of disgust, - then a thought entered his mind “this surely means good luck”! ... After crossing the small triangle he encountered the other barbed wire fences. Dripping with sweat he negotiated them, too – and then, finally, he was out of the camp, in the open field. There he washed his hands in a puddle. The mist had turned into light rain now. - If the rain continued till the morning, the coal wagon - in the cover of which he had planned to pass the difficult passage near the drawbridge - would not arrive – and then- return - ? To return was impossible! Immediate arrest and severe prison, the mocking faces of comrades, the old, endless misery that would begin anew. No – he took a deep breath – he’ll cope! He will cross the Spanish border, where his sister was waiting for him!

Rain was falling more and more heavily. Avoiding the road leading to the drawbridge, he trudged through the heavy soil of the fields to arrive at the high walls, where he could hide in the bushes and await the arrival of the coal wagon. In the meantime, the rain had ceased and it was already dawning; Georg looked down at the long, straight causeway connecting the peninsula to the mainland. In the centre he could see the gatehouse and also the post, walking up and down the causeway. On both sides of the causeway huge abatis of barbed wire extended down, deep into the sea. He faced the double wall, with the drawbridge which was inhabited. At both sides the rocks fell straight down to the rocky beach. High above him was the camp with its poles and buildings. He told himself to be very careful, because he could easily be spotted either from the camp up above or by a post from down there.

Hours went by, but the coal wagon still had not yet arrived. - How precisely had he planned the way he’d jump behind the wagon, knowing that Müller would distract the two accompanying guards. His uneasiness was growing minute by minute, he had to take a decision – forward or back?

In front of him there was the drawbridge and the post on the causeway, in his back the shame of a breakaway gone awry and the agonizing life of a prisoner.

Max Pretzfelder,
Skizze zum Text Flucht, undatiert
draft of an illustration of the text Flucht (“Escape”), undated
(Deutsches Literatur-Archiv Marbach)

Heavy clouds were appearing and a sudden onset of rain made him realise that he could no longer expect the coal wagon. The rain was getting so violent that Georg was soon soaked to the skin. On the causeway, the post donned his brown hood and started to run along the causeway, past his sentry booth to the protective rocks of the peninsula. Georg immediately seized the moment – at that moment, the causeway was unguarded. He started running, then crawling, sliding - whatever was possible - to a steep wall of rock where he grabbed a root and slid down to the narrow beach. ... He was lucky, apart from a few bums and scrapes nothing had happened to him. Maybe the two pairs of socks had mitigated the impact. He pulled them off his shoes, took a breath – then walked along the beach for a short distance and climbed up to the causeway. It was still raining heavily, and Georg started to walk, trying to look unconcerned. Behind him was the guardhouse, but he did not dare to look back. - If they saw him from there -? If they called: “Halte là!”... What should he do? His back presented a splendid target for the soldiers’ guns and he had not yet covered half of the long, straight causeway! What if -in the meantime -the post had returned to the sentry booth to protect himself from the rain?

Max Pretzfelder,
Skizze zum Text Flucht, undatiert
draft of an illustration of the text Flucht (“Escape”), undated
(Deutsches Literatur-Archiv Marbach)

There was no way back, he approached the sentry booth, all the time feeling that several rifles were aimed at him. But the guard was not there. - Meanwhile, it was about eight o’clock in the morning, surely nobody would expect a prisoner escaping in broad daylight? Thus Georg arrived at the end of the causeway, covered some distance on the straight path that followed- behind the curve he would be out of sight.

Max Pretzfelder,
Skizze zum Text Flucht, undatiert
draft of an illustration of the text Flucht (“Escape”), undated
(Deutsches Literatur-Archiv Marbach)

A peasant passed him, and after having glanced at him suspiciously the Breton decided to curtly acknowledge him. Georg continued on the long, rain-slicked road leading to Morgat, where he had to cross the Bay of Douarnenez in order to gain the station. - When he felt unobserved, he stripped off his corduroys, which he had pulled over his good suit, and threw them behind a bush. He continued to walk in the rain for about 2 1/2 hours – past Fort Crozon, where he had spent the first terrible days of captivity – even past the station of the gendarmes, who were looking out of the window quite indifferently, then finally, he was approaching the small fishing village of Morgat.

Quite exhausted he entered a small bar, where he ordered a glass of wine and asked about the boat to Douarnenez. It was scheduled to depart but at four o’clock, now it was about twelve o’clock. He had noticed the local police outside. If he hung around in the village, they would most certainly demand his papers. That’s why he asked the hostess for a room where he could sleep until the boat departed. - After a good rest he came down at three o’clock. Two inebriated US soldiers were being ripped off by some girls that looked quite terrible. The electric piano was playing incessantly – a sailor was dancing with one of the whores, whose face was marked by the characteristic disease of her trade. These were the first girls Georg got to see after four years! - Then it was time board the boat along with some Breton peasants, French tourists and some elegant Parisiennes. The fare, 28 francs, was due upon arrival. It was pretty steep for Georg and he hoped for an opportunity to save the money. - This wish would come true very soon. - The small boat was rocking gently through the bay, past the Menez Homme, the highest mountain in Brittany. During his stay in the camp Georg had seen it quite often in the evening sun. Then they were approaching the port of Douarnenez and the controller started to sell the tickets. The boat was gliding slowly into the harbour, fishermen and peasants with their wives were already crowding the shore. A huge three-master, bowsprit jutting far into the air, was in front of their boat. The helmsman of Georg’s boat might reckon the short mast of his boat would pass under the bowsprit, but suddenly the top of his mast collided with the bowsprit and with a big crash the mast broke off. Georg quickly turned aside, but the poor peasant woman sitting next to him had noticed the disaster too late. She had no time to save herself and the heavy mast strokes her head; she sank to the floor, streaming with blood. Wild cries on the shore, excitement aboard. Georg sought to help the dying woman, and carried her ashore. Then he disappeared quickly, avoiding the risk of having to testify, and he had saved 28 francs to boost!

It was already getting quite dark. Georg found a small hotel where he took lodgings, pretending to be a Romanian. He went to bed soon because he wanted to take the early train to Quimper that left at about eight o’clock the following morning, from where he wanted to proceed the Spanish border. After a restless night, in the course of which he relived all his adventures, he paid and even had a shave before going to the station. For sure his flight must have been noticed in the camp - probably all the stations in this area, that were under military guard anyway, had been notified. He was horrified to see a martial gendarme standing at the ticket office carefully observing all the travellers. Georg’s intention had been to travel third class, since his resources were quite limited, but his instinct told him he would be less conspicuous if he asked for a first class ticket, especially since he was well dressed and did not look typically German. The money saved on the boat was very useful now, and indeed the gendarme let him pass without demanding to see his papers.

After a short stay in Quimper and a rather long ride, in the course of which he avoided any conservation, Georg finally arrived at Bordeaux. There he had to change to the train to Irun which would take him to the Spanish border. This was the most difficult part of his flight since he had neither passport nor any other ID papers to help him cross the border and it was necessary to manage this with skill and luck. For a long time he looked for a compartment where he might hide beneath a bench or in the toilet when the train arrived at Hendaye, the last French station. Finally he found such a compartment. Only few travellers frequented the train, and he already thought he was the sole passenger in this wagon when two elderly ladies joined him. Deep in the night the train approached Hendaye. Georg hoped that the two ladies, who were engaged in an eager conversation about a new pram they wanted to buy, would be leaving the compartment quickly, giving him the opportunity to crawl under the bench. The train stopped, the doors were flung open, and on the steps some officials were already urging the passengers to leave the train. The ladies allowed themselves time, even discussing if the pram should be black or white, when the officer outside impatiently gave order to leave the wagon immediately – it was too late! Georg had to leave the wagon. He had to follow the rest of the travelers slowly approaching the turnpike, where everybody was asked to produce their papers. Georg’s heart seemed to burst – there he was without any luggage, without papers – his destination just ahead of him – outside he saw the brightly lit turnpike across the road between France and Spain – the bridge, then the tunnel, which was already on Spanish soil – freedom ---

“Vos papiers?” the border guards asked him harshly for the third time. “All my things have been stolen – my suitcase with passport and everything – on the train to Bordeaux” ... The guard called a soldier and gave orders to take Georg to an inspector of the police who smiled and asked Georg “Monsieur, maybe you come from Ile Longue? ... As Georg kept silent in dismay, the inspector gave a sign, and two gendarmes manacled him. One of them pulled a gun and pushed Georg forward, in this manner they were walking through the night to the prison of Hendaye. The iron door slammed the stinking cell shut, and Georg fell on the hard bed crying -

This final part was added later on:
Wrapped in a greasy blanket he had found on his hard pallet Georg spent a miserable night. They had taken away his suspenders, shoelaces and his tie (so that he could not hang himself), the nasty smell emanating from the rusty bucket almost made him vomit. The next morning, when the sergeant on duty opened the door of the cell and asked him if he would like to order something for breakfast, because he had the right to cater for himself, Georg had already put up with his situation to some extent. He ordered coffee, bread and butter and a glass of cognac. He asked the gendarme if he might offer him a glass. Though the gendarme declined, albeit reluctantly, a conversation with the charming man developed. Since Georg longed to exchange the cell for the sunny guardroom, he asked for pencil and paper in order to draw the sergeant. Georg knew well how to extend the drawing session, and as the portrait turned out to be quite good, he was awarded not only the sympathy of the sergeant but a packet of tobacco, too. He was recommended to the next sergeant and portrayed him as well. This sergeant told him that they were awaiting instructions from Paris in order to know what was supposed to happen to him. So Georg spent some tolerable days until the news arrived that he was to be brought to a camp in the Hautes Pyrenées. Mr. Raoul Dupuis, the guard he had drawn first, accompanied him to the new camp and introduced him to the Director as one belonging to the “moins crapules”.

For Georg this change meant a new life, new people and an interruption of the hard years on the peninsula …

(The text ends here.)

In October 1929 – ten years after his release - Max Pretzfelder sent this text together with four sketches to Karl Wolfskehl, asking him for his advice. The two men had interrupted their intense correspondence in early 1920, and resumed contact again only in the late 1920s.

Berlin, October 28th, 29

Kurfürstendamm 76 IV care of Danziger

My dear Karl! I feel confident that we will become closer to each other again – I was so sorry that last time we almost came across each other, but still could not meet. Maybe I’ll come to Munich in December when my friend Pabst is producing a sound film there.

Dear Karl – I enclose the draft of my novella “Escape” - perhaps you can give me some advice if + how to use it. I confess straight away that it was rejected by Ullstein. I leave it to your discretion to shorten or otherwise change it whatever you deem to be necessary. Is it possible to offer it to the Münchener Illustrierte? ...

Another copy of the text (also undated, but without the last paragraph which was added later, and without the sketches) is kept in G.W. Pabst’s estate. Now the question arises when Max Pretzfelder wrote this text.

After his release, Max Pretzfelder first returned to his home town Nuremberg, then, in early December 1919, he travelled to Berlin to his sister Anna’s. In the beginning of 1920 he followed G.W. Pabst to Prague, where the latter had a one-year engagement at the German Theatre (Deutsches Theater), and offered Max Pretzfelder a job as a scenic artist. Before G.W.Pabst hired him as a costume designer for his films in 1925, Max Pretzfelder worked in Berlin as a freelancing illustrator and translator for art galleries and publishers. [6]

We may therefore very well conclude that Max Pretzfelder wrote the text “Escape” in the early 1920s, shortly after his return to Germany.