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).

Rudolf Hoppe’s testimony
Article published on 5 February 2015
last modification on 10 January 2016

by Barbara, Roger
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“The memoirs of Rudi” - Chronicle by the sons of Rudolf Hoppe

Dieter Hoppe completes the testimony of his brother Rudi by telling the story of his father Rudolf Hoppe.

Rudolf Hoppe was immediately mobilized at the declaration of war. He was a sergeant and was hurt in September, 1914, during the battle of Marne. Taken prisoner, he was brought to a military field hospital. His knowledge of French saved his life because he was able to express himself with the doctor, to whom he categorically refused that his wounds were looked after without disinfected instruments. Having been treated by a French nurse, he was the only survivor of the wounded in his room.

"Our father arrived in the camp of war prisoners of Ile Longue near Brest. Originally this camp was created in 1914 for the civil internees who were however treated as war prisoners. Other war prisoners also arrived at the same time. Among them, from the former colony of Togo, were prisoners who the English had delivered to the French. One of them, related very well, the torments of the detention imposed by the French (to see Carl W.H. Doetsch, Kamina and the fate of the prisoners of Togo, Telefunken-Zeitung Nr. 19, in February, 1920, page 29-41).

The civil internees (400 Germans and 250 Austrian-Hungarian) came from the neutral Dutch steam liner “Nieuw-Amsterdam”,. They wanted to join Germany at the declaration of war. They had been assured, Holland being neutral, that they risked nothing aboard the ship and that they could embark without fear. The Liner was captured in the Channel by a French warship and the captain ordered the Dutch captain to surrender the passengers. The Dutch captain submitted. During the capture of the prisoners there were a great deal of wounded civilians. In 1940, in Germany, the behaviour of the Dutch captain who had not known how to preserve his neutrality must have been well remembered.

A similar event occurred one year later. An Italian liner, still a neutral nation at that time, transported Germans, Austrians and Hungarians who wanted to join their homeland via Italy. An English warship tried to stop the Italians and the English captain ordered the capture of the passengers. The Italians refused to submit and indicated to the English ship: “before capturing my passengers it will be necessary first to sink my ship.” The German and Austrian-Hungarian passengers were able to join without any problems Italy and landed in Livourne and were able to join their homelands. In 1940, his fact was also remembered in Germany.

Our father was appointed “team leader” by the prisoners and, because of this situation, he did not always have to compliment the French administration of the camp. One day he witnessed the way a French officer kicked the crutches of an invalid internee because he had not saluted as the military regulation required. This man had been so seriously wounded during the capture of the Dutch liner that it had been necessary to amputate both legs. The man hurled down the stairs. Our father sent the officer flying with a punch in the chin. Furious, the officer took out his revolver: “for this, I can kill you at once”, he shouted. Our father answered calmly: “you can do it, but in the following minutes you will be a dead man”. The prisoners had got closer to the group by taking a threatening attitude.

The man trembled. The French guards close by, stayed without reaction, resting on their rifles and chuckling. Apparently, their officer, of the patriotic and grumbling warlike type, as we find in all the armies, was also unpleasant to them. They did not move, that is, they did not even make the effort to raise their rifles to face the threat of the prisoners. These soldiers of the orderly had been made war prisoners in Germany and because of their bad health they had been exchanged by the Swiss Red Cross on condition that they do not take part any more in any war action. My father maintained good relations with them contrary to the other guards. For his anger against the brutality of the officer towards an invalid, and defenceless man, he was once again condemned to prison.

The relations which my father had with the Breton fishermen were good. He once asked them: “why are you not nasty with us as are the rest of the French?” They answered: “We are Breton and have nothing against you”. One of the fishermen would have even liked having our father as a son-in-law at the end of the war. The same fisherman approached discreetly my father several times to know if by chance he could get him a pickaxe. Our father was able to get him one without being noticed. It was a hard blow for our father when he learnt by the Red Cross that his beloved wife had died in childbirth. He asked for a vacation on word of honour which would have been completely possible according to the article 10 of the Peace conference of the Hague. The request was of course rejected. Afterwards, he escapes twice from the camp. It was more difficult than what we can imagine now. He should not try to get civilian clothes: if he had been arrested, he would have been taken for a spy and shot immediately.

He wore the uniform and managed to cross France until Jura, just before the Swiss border.

According to the Conference of the Hague of 1907 and the Geneva Convention of 1906, the war prisoners must be humanely treated and had the right to be fed, accommodated and dressed, just like the troops of the country which had taken them prisoners. They had also been given the right to join their own lines , if the possibility of escape appeared. It was specified that the prisoners should not be hindered and did not have to undergo arbitrary behaviour on behalf of anyone.

When he was taken prisoner once again, our father had his hands tied, was dragged with a rope and shown in front of the population. The protests and the remarks of our father mentioning decrees relative to Human Rights made no difference. On his return to the camp he was naturally put back into prison. The French administration of the camp did not take away his function of “team leader”, even though it applied continual, and hard “disciplinary measures” against him.

My parents settled in Warstein, the home town of my mother after their escape from East Germany in 1958. There, they actively took part in the nascent twinning with the city of Saint-Pol [editor’s note: Warstein is coupled with St-Pol-sur-Ternoise (Pas-de-Calais), since 1964]. Opinions were far from being unanimous on both sides. Twinning opponents were found in both camps.. The former leader of the Resistance of St-Pol during the war – who, I only knew under the name of Ferdinand - refused categorically the twinning. Nevertheless, he came with the French delegation to Warstein. Germans and French people found themselves there, at first shy and practically speechless. During the war, numerous Germans were soldiers and had been stationed many times in France.

The memories of certain German participants in the war surfaced: “they were war crimes (French). He and they should also have found themselves in front of a war tribunal”. (It was implied that these war crimes had not only been committed during the second, but also during first World War). My father had to be the interpreter. My heart almost stopped beating. They spoke frankly, without hatred, and without lying. They discussed the past clearly and openly, as politicians and journalists did and still do.
Nothing was forgotten. And if I remember well, we did not speak about it any more.
“Now the twinning will not happen”, I thought. But the opposite occurred. The French people approved with a nod of the head. “Yes, it was like that formerly”.

This was the beginning of celebrations and long-lasting friendships, exchanges will multiply between our family and Ferdinand. In July, 1988, a delegation coming from St-Pol attended the funeral of Dieter Hoppe. Ferdinand was also present.

Another remark. When our father was released from the prisoners camp in the middle of 1920 - the camp of Ile Longue had officially been closed in 1919 - he knew practically nothing of the state of Germany, only that the emperor had abdicated. He returned to his last place of residence, to Halle. He had not yet seen his son.

He returned to a torn country. After the defeat of the German Empire and the Austria Hungary Empire, peace was not going to return in the world. The victorious powers maintained the state of disagreement and created the conditions favourable for new fights.

The fight in Germany was going to take a great extent. It would be the legitimization of an old saying:

“Peace feeds, fight devours”.

Pure egoism reigned over the public life”.

Translated from French by Barbara and Roger

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