Photo album, Halfmoon Camp, Wünsdorf

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Description

The album contains around 40 vintage print photographs taken by Hans Schmidt in the Halfmoon Camp in 1917. They depict daily life in the propaganda camp, such as class hours, craftmen in the workshop, readers in their shanties, and prisoners in the sickbay. The photographs also show the cover and the typewritten table of contents of Hans Schmidt's photograph album.

Context

The photographs were taken in 1917 in the camp designated for Muslim POWs in Wünsdorf, near Berlin. Here the German anthropologist Leo Frobenius collected folklore from North Africa. How and when Schmidt's photographs came to be included in Frobenius' huge image collection is unknown. Contact between the two of them may have been established in 1915. Wünsdorf was one of several 'propaganda camps' to exist all over the Reich. In Wünsdorf, the Halbmondlager (Half-moon camp) was established for Muslim prisoners of war from North Africa and prisoners of many denominations from India. It was mainly Muslim prisoners from Central Asia who were detained in the Weinberglager in Zossen. Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, and others were imprisoned in special camps in order to encourage them to defect and fight for the liberation of their homelands, against the British, the Russians, or the French. These propaganda camps were part of Germany's strategy to 'revolutionise' the Orient. Colonial prisoners of war tended to receive better treatment than others, in order to convince them that they were better off as allies of the Germans than as subjects of the Entente states. This privileged treatment included being housed in heated shanties, food that was in line with a prisoner's religious beliefs, leisure activities, and, often but not always, a reduction in their work.