ORGANISING THE COMMUNAL CITY OF RUHLEBEN
When I reached the internment camp it was in a wildly chaotic condition. Every semblance of management was conspicuous by its absence, while the German authorities never lifted a finger or uttered a single word towards straightening things out. Some of the enlightened spirits among us maintained that the Germans would not assist us, but it is my firm impression that they could not: it was a problem beyond their capacities. Such a state of affairs seems remarkable when one recalls how persistently the Teuton flaunts his vaunted skill in organisation, scientific management and method before the world at large. As a matter of fact it is only when one secures a position behind the scenes in Germany, to come into close contact with the Hun as he really is, when he has been stripped of the mask and veneer which he assumes for parade and to impress his visitors, that the hollowness of the Teuton pretensions is laid bare in all its ghastly nakedness.
The result in Ruhleben camp was terrible. It was every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost. If one, in desperation, approached the authorities for a word of suggestion to improve this or that, officialdom merely shrugged its shoulders and candidly admitted impotence to recommend a remedy. So we had to depend essentially upon our own exertions and initiative.
Each barrack elected a captain, whose position was somewhat analogous to that of the Governor of a State, while over the camp as a whole reigned a super-captain. Seeing that there were several thousand prisoners at the time of my arrival on November 12, 1914, accommodated in twelve barracks, which presented a ghastly exhibition of congestion, and that neither law nor order, except as interpreted and maintained by the rifle and the bayonet of the unscrupulous German sentries, prevailed, the necessity to turn the colony inside out and to inaugurate some form of systematic control and operation was only too obvious.
In the early days we were entirely dependent upon the authorities for our food supplies, and they were invariably inadequate, while still more often the victuals were disgustingly deficient in appetising qualities. There were no facilities whatever for supplementing the official rations by purchases from a canteen such as we had enjoyed for a time at Sennelager. At last a German frau, animated by desire to improve the shining hour at the expense