Ile Longue 1914-1919
Ile Longue 1914-1919, le camp de prisonniers

Dieser Internet-Auftritt verfolgt das Ziel, möglichst viele Informationen über das Internierungslager auf der Ile Longue zusammenzustellen, damit Historiker und Nachkommen der Internierten sich ein Bild von den Realitäten dieses bisher wenig bekannten Lagers machen können - nicht zuletzt auch, um die bedeutenden kulturellen Leistungen der Lagerinsassen zu würdigen.

Le but de ce site est de prendre contact avec les familles des prisonniers allemands, autrichiens, hongrois, ottomans, alsaciens-lorrains... qui ont été internés, pendant la Première Guerre mondiale, dans le camp de l’Ile Longue (Finistère).

Julius Mitterhuber
Article published on 25 June 2016

by Gérard, Sabine
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In the course of preparing a lecture on the internment camp on Île Longue to be held in Regensburg (Bavaria) the question arose if there was an internee who, in some way or other, boasted of a special relationship with that town. The camp’s databank features but one person born in Regensburg: Julius Mitterhuber. To start with, however, there was nothing but the rather basic personal file (“fiche individuelle”) in the archives of the Département Finistère. This personal file includes details such as the internee’s DOB, his father’s first name, his mother’s first and maiden names (Rosalie Hansladen) and some more details, among them the place of arrest and the various stays during his imprisonment. According to Mitterhuber’s personal file, he used to be the managing director of the Krauss department store in Paris.

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Personalbogen Mitterhuber (vermutlich von ihm selbst ausgefüllt),
Mitterhuber’s personal file (probably filled in by himself),
Archiv des Departements Finistère

These are some pieces of information gained from this file. They are, however, certainly not sufficient to form an image of that man. Surprisingly, a second visit of the Archives of the Département Finistère yielded additional documents regarding Mitterhuber. The same goes for the city archives (Stadtarchiv) of Regensburg.

Julius Mitterhuber was born November 24th, 1870 [1] in the mental hospital of Karthaus Prüll, Regensburg, since his father, Franz Xaver Mitterhuber, served as administrator of the royal Bavarian lunatic asylum („königlich bayerische Kreisirrenanstalt“ [2]). Julius is the third of four siblings. How did this man, born and bred in Regensburg, end up as an internee on Île Longue?

Start of the war

As of 1906 Julius Mitterhuber lived in Paris. He was married to Marie-Antoinette Delmas, a Frenchwoman from Arpajon in the Cantal region. Before, he had lived in Pennsylvania (USA) for two years. Altogether he spent 10 years in foreign countries.

On August 2nd, 1914, at the outbreak of the Great War, he hastily flees Paris without his wife, “leaving all his belongings“. Upon his arrival in Germany he immediately reports to the military authorities, volunteering for the sanitary corps [3]. Some days later, he repeats this request in Munich (the Bavarian capital). However, there is a problem to be dealt with: he requires a new “certificate of citizenship“ (Heimatschein) [4] since his document, issued in 1897, has expired.

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Brief Mitterhuber an Bezirksamt Regensburg vom 31.08.1914,
Mitterhuber’s letter to the district authority of Regensburg, August 31st, 1914,
Stadtarchiv Regensburg

A letter dated September 4th, 1914, informs Mitterhuber that he has forfeited his Bavarian citizenship due to having spent ten years in foreign countries and that a new certificate cannot be readily issued. However, it is only some days later – most likely on September 8th, 1914, that it is noted on the back of the very same memorandum, that a certificate may be issued after all. To date, it remains unknown if this ever happened.

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Aktenvermerk vom 4.9.1914,
Memorandum, September 4th, 1914,
Stadtarchiv Regensburg
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Aktenvermerk vom 4.9.1914 (Rückseite),
Memorandum, September 4th, 1914 (back page),
Stadtarchiv Regensburg

Internment and first stages

It is until before December 24th, 1914, that Mitterhuber leaves a new trace. Entering France from Folkestone (GB) he is arrested in Boulogne-sur-mer. According to the files, he sought to fetch his wife! At this point, important questions arise: for one, how might a German proceed to Folkestone and from there to France during the war?

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Der Weg Mitterhubers von 1914 bis 1919
Mitterhuber’s route across France – 1914 through 1918

After having been imprisoned in Boulogne-sur-mer for almost four months, he is moved to camp La-Ferté-Macé (Normandy) in April 1915 and two months later to Aurillac (Auvergne). From thence, on November 13th, 1915, Mitterhuber is transferred to the Mediterranean, to Fort du Miradou in Collioure (Languedoc-Roussilon), where he resides until March 19, 1915. Since Theodor Hommes is interned there at the same time (from January 26th, 1915 to March 13th, 1915), it is very likely that the two men meet at this time.

By March 1916, Mitterhuber is back to Aurillac, and, after a short stay in the military prison in Clermont-Ferrand (Auvergne), beginning May 7th, 1916, he is transferred yet again – on August 19th, 1916, to Île Longue. His date of release remains unknown since the “Prisoners of the First World War“ archives of the ICRC [5] contain no file on Mitterhuber. Thus it may very well be the case that he stayed in the internment camp on Île Longue till 1919.

Afterwards he appears to have vanished into thin air – there seems to be no trace of him whatsoever.

In the camp on Île Longue

In 1918, after the Berne Convention on POWs and civilian internees [6] had been made public, the internees, expecting their imminent release, submit an account of sorts - a brochure on the camp’s education and training system. This brochure was printed by the “Inseldruckerei“ (the camp’s printing press, run by internees), and it is this brochure that reveals that Mitterhuber is in fact a trained physician who volunteers to lecture on this subject.

The system of education and training on Île Longue is both diverse and well organized. Prerequisites are excellent: on the one hand there are a large number of relatively young men eager to make the best of their imprisonment by training or some sort of further education, on the other hand competent professionals, among them scientists, technicians, craftsmen, businessmen, jurists and others, willing to share their knowledge. The classes offered are nearly overrun by eager participants. “And our school kept growing and growing, growing ever more shoots in the shape of new subjects taught, admitting an ever increasing number of students, so that, by July 1917, the number of classes had augmented to 56 and the number of students had doubled, exceeding 800. [7] Especially the language courses are in high demand – languages taught include German, English, French, Spanish, Turkish and Arab. Requirements of tests follow strict regulations in order to ensure their recognition in the internees’ respective home countries after the war.

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Ausschnitt aus der Broschüre über das Schul- und Ausbildungswesen im Lager Île Longue,
Brochure on the education and training system in the Île longue camp, detail,
Archiv des Departements Finistère

On page 43 of this brochure, we can find a list of the classes offered in 1917 and 1918. The lecture timetable, below the heading titled “Hygiene”, lists “Lectures on illnesses of the lungs, the heart, the stomach and the intestines and sexually transmitted diseases” by “Dr. Mitterhuber, physician”. This lecture is scheduled to last an hour a week for a stretch of five months. An average of 200 students attended – an indication of a huge interest in that subject.

The “52 documents” file

Research in the Archives of the Département Finistère based on unearthing more information regarding Julius Mitterhuber yielded three more files.

Four letters regarding supposedly lost documents have surfaced in the Archives of the Département Finistère, namely

  • a letter from the Home Secretary (Sureté Générale) to the Prefect of the Département Finistère, dated October 5th, 1916;
  • one from the latter sent to the Prefect of the Cantal dated October 9th, 1916;
  • one from the commander of the camp in Aurillac to the Prefect of Cantal dated October 14th, 1916;
  • one from the commander of the Île Longue camp dated February 1st, 1917, confirming the 52 documents were handed over to Mitterhuber.

It seems Mitterhuber had contacted the US embassy in Paris in the early fall of 1916 asking for help to retrieve documents that had been taken from him while he was interned in Aurillac. It is this request for retrieval (taken very serious by the French authorities) that would become the issue of a correspondence the parts of which are known. The only missing link is the first letter – namely the one Mitterhuber addressed to the US embassy.

The “no mail” file

On January 16th, 1917, Mitterhuber addresses the Prefect of the Département Finistère. He claims to have difficulties corresponding with his wife in Paris. Although his wife assures him of writing to him about four times a month, it is only once every four weeks he receives any mail from her. He also claims his letters to her reach her only irregularly – he believes she receives but a few of his letters. This in turn makes it impossible for him to communicate with her regarding the forwarding of clothes, money and all sorts of odds and ends he needs. He suffers quite a lot from this situation that has been going on for a while. He assures the Prefect the letters contain nothing more than the most trivial things – his state of health or things his wife should buy. Both of them are aware of their letters being submitted to censorship and strictly adhered to the rules.

“Mr Prefect, I am positive it is not your intention to submit me to some special treatment since my deportment most certainly does not justify such a measure and the rest of the internees are free to correspond with their families at their hearts’ desire. I for one wish to spare my wife the constant worries, for example regarding my whereabouts. Therefore, and keeping in mind the most trivial contents of my letters , I implore you, Mr Prefect , to order the administration of the camp to forward my wife’s letters to me as well and also to stop withholding my cards and letters to her.

With all due respect, Jules Mitterhuber, group 34”

On March 23rd, 1917, the Prefect asks the camp’s commander to inform the internee Mitterhuber that his complaint is completely unfounded since not a single letter to or from him has been withheld.

It is on March 28th, 1917, that Mitterhuber writes to the Prefect again. He claims the last letter he has received from his wife is dated February 17th, 1917. He has destroyed that letter, like all the others, but around that time she had let him know that the only sign of life she had received was dated December 19th, 1916. This means she had received not a single one of all the letters he had written to her since the end of December, in the course of January and till February 17th.

“My wife has always assured me she writes to me regularly, about four times a month, and unless she has been proven to lie I have complete trust in her. I’m positive, Mr Prefect, that she would most willingly answer any question of yours regarding this subject, especially since your intervention will make her hope to be able to correspond more freely with me.”

The “Cécile Hallot affair”

At first sight, the contents of the third file seem to be of a rather sensitive nature. The file consists of three letters dating to the year 1918:

  • a letter from the security service (Sureté Générale) to the Prefect of the Police of the Département Finistère, dated October 26th, 1918 and forwarded to the underprefect in Brest on November 25th, 1918;
  • the latter’s answer to the Prefect of the Département Finistère, dated November 25th, 1918;
  • a letter from the Prefect to the Home Office, dated November 1918.

According to the security service, Mitterhuber writes a letter to the Swiss embassy in the fall of 1918. He seeks information regarding Madame Cécile Hallot, whom he claims to be his wife. Both the security service and the Prefect request Mitterhuber to either submit some sort of proof or at least credibly confirm he is really married to Cécile Hallot for to their knowledge Hallot is his lover, not his wife.

The underprefect of Brest (the préfecture being in Quimper) who is in charge of the Île Longue camp takes charge and demands Mitterhuber to clarify the situation. In a letter that unfortunately has not survived, Mitterhuber quite astonishingly declares he has no idea who Cécile Hallot is and that he is married to Mrs Mitterhuber née Delmas from Arpajon (Cantal region).

Family

Mitterhuber is no common name. Even today, it is found almost exclusively in Bavaria.

In 1914, although married, Julius Mitterhuber has no offspring (according to the particulars given by himself) [8].

There are three siblings. Karolina Theresa, his elder sister, was born March 29th, 1867. On April 5th, 1904, she marries Lieutenant Rudolf Mohr from Perleburg (Prussia). His elder brother Friedrich was born March 21st, 1868. Like Julius, he trained as a doctor. His younger brother Max, born May 25th, 1882, an army officer, was found dead on April 30th, 1954. [9]

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Datenblatt Xaver Mitterhuber,
Personal file of Xaver Mitterhuber,
Stadtarchiv Regensburg

Closing remarks

We have managed to unearth a substantial amount of information on Julius Mitterhuber, but at the same time we have failed in our actual quest – namely to discover relatives of this internee in order to gain access to reliable testimonies about life in the Île Longue camp - reliable meaning uncensored. Most certainly these testimonies existed, and perhaps some of them still do today. This is one of the reasons we try to contact descendants of the internees. Our hope is to stumble upon documents that are personal, authentic and revealing.

Translation: Sabine Herrle

Notes :

[1Mitterhuber’s personal file in the Archives of the Département Finistère gives 1870 as the year of his birth. According to the file of the City Archives (Stadtarchiv) of Regensburg, however, it is 1871 (with 1870 added in small writing). Mitterhuber himself gives 1870 as the year of his birth.

[2Presently a department of the Regensburg district hospital.

[3Also see Mitterhuber’s letter sent to the Royal Bavarian district authorities on August 31st, 1914, from Munich, Arnulf street No. 10.

[4A certificate of citizenship (“Heimatschein”) is a document of probative value proving your nationality.

[5International Committee of the Red Cross, http://grandeguerre.icrc.org/

[6Agreement between the respective governments of Imperial Germany and the French Republic regarding POWs and civilians, signed April 26th, 1918

[7Brochure on the education and training system in the Île longue camp, page 11

[8Mitterhuber’s personal file, Archives of the Département Finistère

[9All these particulars date from Xaver Mitterhuber’s personal file,Regensburg City Archives.

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