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COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS 601715

Maurice L. Ettinghausen collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp papers


Records and papers relating to a German World War I internment camp for male civilians. The camp was established at the Ruhleben Trabrennbahn (horse racetrack) two miles outside of Berlin.


  • 1914 - 1937

Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public. Consult the Special Collections staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.


6.7 linear feet (16 boxes)

The Ettinghausen collection consists of 16 boxes (various sizes) of material in the following media: photographs; posters; clippings; drawings; receipts, stamps, and tickets; holographs; printed, typed, mimeographed, and jellographed items; correspondence. There is also a wooden model of a barrack, with furniture.

Contents of the collection include runs of camp newspapers and magazines; military orders and camp regulations; concert and play programs; announcements of debates, sports events, flower shows, and academic courses; song lyrics and poetry; minutes of the barracks captains' meetings; lecture notes for courses at the camp school; German souvenirs; hand-printed advertisements for commercial enterprises, such as shoemaking and tailoring.

Most of the materials date from 1914-1918. In addition, there is are several announcements of internee reunion dinners in the 1920-1930s.

The material contains a great deal of evidence concerning camp life and organization, but there are no personal letters or memoirs of the internees. Most of the material is in English, but there are also runs of camp publications in French, Italian, and German. Some camp administration papers as well as newspaper clippings are in German.

Historical/Biographical Information

Ruhleben Gefangenenlager (British Civilian Internment Camp) was established after the outbreak of the First World War at a racetrack in Spandau, a suburb of Berlin, and remained in operation until Armistice Day, 1918. At its peak, the camp held some 4,500 male civilians of military age who had been living or traveling in Germany when war was declared. Prisoners were housed in stalls originally intended for racehorses. Most internees were British, but there were also other nationalities including: French and Italians, as well as Indians, Jamaicans, West Africans, and Zanzibarees, most of whom had been crewmembers of British merchant ships docked in German ports. About 300-400 internees were Jewish.

The internees established their own camp organization, mail service, social and sports clubs, cultural and educational programs, relief programs, religious services, and hygienic measures.

Born in Paris and raised in England, Ettinghausen had been working for rare book dealer in Munich since 1905 when the war started. On November 6, 1914 he was arrested and transferred to Ruhleben. He was there for the duration of the war. As camp librarian he lead the effort to obtain books for the camps two libraries. Another effort he undertook was to collect whatever he could that documented the camp and, as he says in his memoir, Rare books and royal collectors; memoirs of an antiquarian bookseller, he "had the pleasure of seeing the whole collection smuggled out bit by bit under the noses of the German guards." He considered the collection "source material showing how a British township organized itself in a democratic way."

Physical Location

Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp papers were purchased by the Friends of the Harvard Law School Library and the Harvard Law School Society of New York City, probably in 1932, from Maurice Ettinghausen, a librarian-antiquarian of London, and former internee at Ruhleben.

Existence and Location of Copies

The Maurice L. Ettinghausen collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp papers have been digitized. The manuscript collection can be viewed here. The photographs from Series II may be found in HOLLIS Images using the keyword, "Maurice Ettinghausen."

Processing Information

Minimal processing done in 1988 by Janet Hayashi. Additional processing by Michael Austin, fall 1999-spring 2000.

Re-processed by Ed Moloy in March 2010.

Processing Note:

The material found in this collection was originally part of the Ruhleben (Concentration Camp) Records, a collection consisting of two separate acquisitions. The first was a 1932 purchase from Maurice Ettinghausen in 1932. The second, in 1974, was a donation from John Masterman. The two collections were processed in 1988 as though they were a single collection. Though the material is similar for both acquisitions, each was created by a different individual, and they should have been treated as separate and unique collections. With this in mind a decision was made in 2010 to reprocess Ruhleben and create two collections: the Maurice Ettinghausen collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp papers and the Sir John Masterman collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp papers, HOLLIS 12512521.

Maurice L. Ettinghausen collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp papers, 1914-1937: Finding Aid.
Harvard Law School Library, Cambridge, MA 02138
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections Repository

Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.

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