Camp Interpreters (Appeal for Information)

The camp’s interpreters were an essential link between the British guards and the imprisoned German soldiers, but were not universally liked:

“Langsam schreiten unsere Kerkermeister die Reihen hinunter. Voran geht der Dolmetscher, der die Namen der Prisonöre mit mehr oder weniger Lautrichtigkeit vorliest. Heute ist dieser Herold ein kräftig ausgewachsenes Menschenexemplar mit einem wahren Kindergesicht. Mit vorsichtig kleinen Schritten trippelt er daher, und doch ist man fortgesetzt erstaunt, daß er nicht über seine eigenen Füße fällt. Schüchtern und verlegen schauen die ängstlichen Kinderaugen in die Reihen der gefährlichen ,Huns’ , der ehemaligen ,baby-killers’. Begegnet sein Blick einem festen Männerauge, so macht er ein bestürztes Gesicht und scheint fast seine Unschuld an unserer Gefangenschaft zu beteuern und eine Entschuldigung für sein Dasein reumütig vorzubringen. Diesen harmlosen Jungen, der später unter Tränen das Lager verließ, nennt der Drahthumor: Pepi oder Tante Frieda.” (p. 59)

Slowly our captors make their way down the rows. At the fore is the interpreter who reads out the names of the prisoners with more or less correct pronunciation. Today this harbinger is a hefty figure of a man with a real baby-face. With careful little steps he scurries about, and we are continually surprised that he doesn’t trip up over his own feet. Shyly and awkwardly, his nervous child-like eyes inspect the rows of the dangerous ‘Huns’ – the former ‘baby-killers’. Should his gaze encounter a firm manly stare, his face adopts a startled expression, which almost seems to declare his innocence with regard to our imprisonment and remorsefully offer an apology for his presence. This harmless young man, who would later leave the camp in tears, was given the nickname Pepi or Aunt Frieda. (AB)

APPEAL FOR INFORMATION: at the ‘In Search of Raikeswood Camp’ evening on Tuesday 12th July, we were able to speak to a gentleman who said that a relative of his had been a camp interpreter in Skipton. We weren’t able to take his contact details but would very much like to get in touch, so please do email us (c.summers@leeds.ac.uk) if it was you, or if you know who it might have been. Thank you!