Deportations and internments in Germany

In the départements occupied by the German army, French people who were old enough to be conscripted were considered as dangerous. The Germans saw potential soldiers in them. In the first months of the war, numerous German commanders organized the deportation of nearly 10,000 men to camps in the occupied part of France or in Germany. They were gradually set free during 1915 and 1916.

In 1916 and 1918, to pressurize France during negotiations about the exchange of prisoners, the German authorities sent notables as hostages to internment camps in Germany, then to Lithuania: 200 civilians were concerned in November 1916 and nearly 1,000 in January 1918.

In Germany, internments first took place in a rush, as the influx of prisoners had not been anticipated. Gradually, the situation improved. Civilians were gathered in specific camps and had the benefit of some kind of freedom of movement.

The experience of the hostages in 1918 was even tougher, given that daily life in Germany felt the harsh impact of supply shortages.

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  • Civilian prison camps on the French and German sides, © Agence Point de Fuite

  • The civilian prisoners in Holzminden camp, first quarter of the 20th century, photo, private collection, copyright

    Not only men were deported to Germany, women and children were also sent to camps as hostages, including that of Holzminden south of Hannover (Lower Saxony).

  • Women arriving in Holzminden camp, first quarter of the 20th century, crayon on paper, coll. Historial de la Grande Guerre, Péronne © Y. Medmoun

civilian prison camps on the French and German sidesCivilian prisoners in Holzminden campprisonnières françaises. Lager Holzminden