The existence of a library is a major reason for the particularly rich cultural life that developed in the camp. A detailed and well written article published in the internees’ weekly „Die Inselwoche“ tells its story.
“Our library offers an excellent range of titles that will appeal to everybody, whatever their education, profession, need or desire. Statistics prove this beyond any doubt. Between April 1st, 1916 , and March 31st, 1917, more than 50,000 volumes were checked out. On a daily basis this translates into 200-250 volumes; on any given day, more than 2,000 are circulating. It’s not merely the numbers that are interesting , but also the titles. “Peoples against peoples“ („Volk wider Volk“) by Walter Bloem was borrowed most, followed by the works by Clara Fiebig, Rudolf Herzog and others. Inevitably our library also contains books that have to be considered pulp fiction , but we are confident they will vanish sooner or later.“
The same article also tells us where the books come from:
“In spite of many comrades’ privately owning books, we did not succeed in establishing a public library in the course of the first years of our emprisonment. Only the soldiers’ camp did feature a small library. By the end of March 1916, however, a committee established itself that managed to make the treasure of books already existing in the camp available to everybody by establishing both a camp library and a reading room in the Adrian barrack („Adrianbaracke“), initially with 50 books. More and more comrades put their private books at the library’s disposition. The “Bücherzentrale“ in Bern, the Swiss
“Hochschulhilfswerk“ in Freiburg, the YMCAs and other beneficial organizations ministering to the intellectual needs of POWs increased our library’s stock through their generous consignments. By July 1st, 1916, the library already stocked 3,000 volumes . This number increased further when we took stock of the books of the former libraries of the camps at Uzès, Aurillac and île de Siek . After just one year, our library’s catalogue comprised more than 5,500 volumes not counting the number of magazines that are at our readers’ disposition in the reading room.“
The author of this article takes special care to express the high esteem in which he holds the men in charge of the library who succeeded in
“turning it into the nucleus of the intellectual life on our small island. Lectures, our school, seminars on subjects of sciences and our theatre – all the facilities fighting the intellectual empoverishment of our comrades and promoting their further education - have their roots in the library. This is a truly important achievement worth being recorded.“
Translation: Sabine Herrle