German Historical Institute London

17 Bloomsbury Square
London WC1A 2NJ
United Kingdom

Phone: Tel. +44-(0)20-7309 2050



Special event


Behind the Wire

Internment during the First World War. The Global German Experience


Currently on show

Organizers: Professor Stefan Manz (Aston University Birmingham) and Professor Matthew Stibbe (Sheffield Hallam University)
Venue: German Historical Institute London


During the First World War, German civilians were interned as ‘enemy aliens’ in British Empire locations around the world. The biggest internment camp was Knockaloe on the Isle of Man, holding 22,000 prisoners. British citizens, white and non-white, were interned in Ruhleben camp near Berlin as a retaliatory measure, bringing the global experience of internment back to the German home front as well. For civilian internees across the world, long periods of isolation caused mental health problems in the form of the ‘barbed wire disease’. Humanitarian support came from the Spanish and the Swiss governments, as well as the Red Cross. The exhibition focuses on these global themes, opening up new perspectives and formats for presenting the history of wartime internment. Alongside eighteen panels, a Virtual Reality Experience will give viewers an immersive experience of Fort Napier Camp in South Africa.

Launch event: 26 April (5–8pm) 

The exhibition is open Monday–Friday, 9.30am-5pm