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British Internment - Isle of Man

The men’s ‘camps’ comprised groups of requisitioned hotels/boarding houses, rendered secure by barbed wire and guarded. Internees in each hotel/boarding house determined their own leaders plus rotas for e.g. cooking and cleaning, and certain areas were designated for work/recreation. Women and children were similarly billeted, but with their respective landladies. Women had to help with the chores, and established a temporary camp school.

For more detailed information see: Manx National Library and Archives accessed July 2020)

It was crowded. I shared a bed with this boy, and - and two other men. So there were two boys, me and another boy, and two adults. Two boys, two adults. Four people were in the room. I was in an office of my own. I handled all the books. We collected books. A sort of library. Basically that’s all I did! And I sat there waiting for people to come. And to bring in the books and take new books away. We had, each house, each house had a cook. And we had a cook as well. He came from Hamburg. If you wanted kosher, you could have what they called ‘a kosher house’. Normally there wasn’t any. But there was for special reasons. Special occasions. Then we had Doctor Schonfeld coming over there; Rabbi Doctor Schonfeld came over. Made sure we got all the right food for the – for the High holidays.

The Isle of Man was really very good, we were 29 people in our house. We were left in peace. There was no shortage of food, Isle of Man kippers were very good. We got sick of them because we had them every day. Smoked kippers, you know what they are? And there was nothing wrong, the sun was shining and really … if we wouldn’t have been parted from our family it was almost like a holiday camp. Well, we cooked ourselves. We got flour and eggs and so on and we had to cook ourselves. I don’t mean each person, but one was cooking for the whole household, for everybody, we had 29 people in the house, we sat together, ate together. There were no complaints whatsoever, in actual fact I think, people were taken out to pictures once in four weeks. I learnt here tailoring to make ladies coats and costumes.

The windows were painted blue & the bulbs painted red. Some boffin had worked out that blue & red would be perfect blackout so we didn’t need any curtains. During the day we were sitting in an aquarium, at night in a brothel. Within minutes people started scratching the red paint off the bulbs, so there was no blackout whatsoever. And murder outside with the Manx population, who didn’t like it at all. We were already greeted with newspaper headlines: ‘The Huns steal our landladies’ houses!’. We were neither Huns nor was it our intention to steal anybody’s houses whatsoever. But these houses had all been relatively cheap boarding houses, they prided themselves to be continental, which means you didn’t have to be married to sign in. Well-equipped kitchens. It must have been the same boffin, who worked out that 3 people can sleep very well in 2 double beds. This being Germans, the first great battle was that somebody said, ‘I was an Officer in the German army. I cannot possibly share a bed with a Private’! All the Germans kept their titles, you were Herr Professor or Herr Doktor, you were Herr Kommerzienrat, this went on & on. Everybody was wearing hats, it was incredibly formal. Up to the bitter end I don’t think anyone ever called me Klaus - I was Herr Doktor Hinrichsen. Ja!

And they took us in a place in Derby, where we stayed overnight, and then they took us to Liverpool, Liverpool Lime Street. When we emerged, angry crowds lined the street, because there were the terrible Germans coming out of the Station. And we were marched to the Docks, where they’d opened an old sailor’s home, that hadn’t been used for five years, and they kept us there overnight. And it was terrible because there was some flooding, and we had filthy dirty mattresses, and there was no food, but oh I forget, as we marched, as we were marched to this place, the local Liverpudlians were throwing stones at us, because they were ignorant, they didn’t know, they thought we were Nazis. Anyhow we got to this place, and I must say, there was a policeman there, a very kind policeman, and he went home, I’ll never forget that, and brought me a piece of apple pie that his wife had baked, he felt so sorry for me. And the next day we were put on a boat to the Isle of Man.

The police came on the 13th of May- 12th of May rather, 12th of May, 1940... and... they said, “We have to take you in for the duration of the war.” I said, “Why?” “Well, because you are a - a foreign immigrant. You are actually a member of, of, of our... opponents, the Germans and the Austrians.” I said, “Yes, but I’m a Jew so that therefore that doesn’t exist. I’m here because I’m a Jew, and because of the fact that I’m not one of them.” That wasn’t good enough. That just wasn’t good enough. He took me in. I said, “My mother and father are in Bournemouth, and I would like to phone them- what’s happening to me.” “Well you can’t.” They did not let me talk to my parents. My parents only found out what happened to me afterwards when I wasn’t communicating with them they obviously went to the hostel and found out. That all of us were interned. And that’s what they called it, ‘an internment’.

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