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Stefan Manz “Civillian Internment in Scotland during the First World War”. In ‘Totally un-English’?: Britain’s Internment of ‘Enemy Aliens’ in Two World Wars, edited by R. Dove.

This chapter takes a brief look at the German migrant community in Scotland before the First World War, before looking at how German and Austrian settlers were treated during the war, and looking at conditions in the central Scottish internment camp. Previous studies by John C. Bird and Panikos Panayi show there was anti-German hysteria in the UK around the time of the First World War, as people believed that they were spies. However these studies do not tackle anti-German hysteria in a Scottish context, which this chapter does.

The German community in Scotland was 2,362 in 1911, versus 53, 324 in England and Wales. The chapter mentions types of German professions in Scotland, such as school and university teachers, hairdressers, bakers and miners. There was a high participation in German ethnic activities, but these were dissolved by the outbreak of war in 1914 by introduction of restrictive measures against ‘enemy aliens’ brought in by the UK Government, which Scotland fell under. Before and during the war many Germans in Scotland had their shop windows smashed in anti-German riots, just like in England. Establishments like restaurants were posting notices saying they would not serve Germans or German-born Britons as British customers were unwilling to sit near them.

The Aliens Restriction Act of the 5th of August 1914 gave the British wartime government the power to deal with ‘enemy aliens’ as they saw fit. As a result, the movement of Germans or Austrians living in Britain at the time of war was tightly monitored and controlled. The chapter gives the examples of Friedrich Bernhard Wiegand and Fritz A. Schrieber, who were two migrants living in Scotland at the time. Wiegand was interned as an ‘enemy alien’ in the Knockaloe internment camp on the Isle of Man in 1915, despite having lived in Scotland since 1899, and having a Scottish-born family. Wiegand was able to return to his family in November 1918. Schreiber was not so fortunate in his experience. He resigned from his job as Managing director of Tenents Brewery in Glasgow in 1916. The board told him that there was strong feeling against the re-imposition of a foreign worker in management. Schreiber was then interned, and then repatriated to Germany, where he died shortly after.

The chapter also states that Police Scotland would show up on the doorsteps of ‘enemy aliens’ and take them to a prison cell for a couple of nights, before being handed over to the military to be interned. Once in the internment camps, visits were restricted to Saturdays and were attended by an interpreter, and all ingoing and outgoing mail was censored. The long periods of internment and isolation caused boredom and depression. Work, recreation and education were the only ways to escape boredom. Around the camps German prisoners assisted in the infirmary and the kitchen. Many prisoners engaged in road building and played football.

During the war many German and Austrian settlers in Scotland were displaced. The whole of the Scottish East Coast was declared a prohibited area for ‘enemy aliens’.

One thought on “Stefan Manz “Civillian Internment in Scotland during the First World War”. In ‘Totally un-English’?: Britain’s Internment of ‘Enemy Aliens’ in Two World Wars, edited by R. Dove.

  1. This blog post is well written and is successful in providing a range of examples of what happened to Germans in Scotland during the First World War. The smashing of their shop windows and not being served in restaurants shows that the hostility towards them was not confined to England. Additionally, the stories of Friedrich Bernhard Wiegand and Fritz A. Schrieber are heartbreaking examples of what could happen to immigrants at the time and the suffering they went through whilst also trying to cope with the war, even if many were born in Scotland. Overall, this is a very informative post and provides information that is not widely known about what happened Germans in Scotland during the First World War.

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