The French government responded by negotiating with Germany in August , through Spanish mediation, and the following month agreed a deal to evacuate all German prisoners from camps in North Africa to home front camps in metropolitan France, in exchange for Germany removing all French reprisal prisoners from Courland to camps in the German home front. In , the French army used German prisoners in labour companies on the battlefield at Verdun , including under shellfire.
Prisoner workers were used right at the front line, including at Fort Douaumont. Conditions for these captives were poor. In December , a dysentery epidemic broke out among German prisoners being held at a holding camp at Souilly from where they were allocated to prisoner of war labour companies.
In response to this poor treatment of German captives, the German army leadership — the third Oberste Heeresleitung OHL — decided to warn France on 5 January that it would launch reprisals if France did not withdraw its German captives to a distance of thirty kilometres behind the front line.
On 21 January, when France did not comply, Germany ordered reprisals against all newly captured, unwounded other rank French prisoners. They were to be kept near the front line, with no protection from the weather, with meagre rations and no hygienic care; and they were put to work on harsh manual labour without any restrictions, including transporting munitions and fortification work under enemy fire. The reprisal prisoners were encouraged to write home to make the French public aware of their plight.
Initially the French government planned to hold firm — it was misinformed by the Commander-in-Chief of the French army Georges Robert Nivelle , who told his government that German prisoners were not being used by France to labour under shellfire. Britain also rejected conceding to the German thirty-kilometre demand. However, by April, faced with letters from desperate reprisals prisoners, the French government had capitulated.
For the remainder of the war France did not use German prisoners of war within thirty kilometres of the front line. Overall, most Belgian combatant prisoners in prisoner of war camps within Germany were treated the same as French prisoners during the war; indeed, on prisoner of war matters, France often negotiated on behalf of both French and Belgian captives as a single group.
Spain acted as the protecting power for Belgian combatant prisoner interests in Germany, although it was not granted access to camps for Belgian prisoners of war within occupied Belgium itself. Francophone theatre, music and newspaper cultural activities flourished in some German home front camps with the support of combatant prisoners of war from both France and Belgium. The Belgian government organised a system of food parcel aid to Belgian combatant prisoners held in Germany, through the neutral Netherlands , allowing them to crucially supplement their camp rations.
While the majority of Belgian combatant prisoners of war were not segregated and were held in camps and working units alongside prisoners of other nationalities held by Germany, this was not the case for some Flemish-speaking captives. A second such propaganda camp for Belgian prisoners also appears to have operated at Giessen. Flemish activists such as August Borms and Cyriel Rousseeu visited the camp and the German professor of Theology Carl Strange was charged with organizing pro-German lectures and propaganda to the inmates.
Prisoners who became pro-Flemish activists were deprived of food parcels by the Belgian state. This promotion of Flemish nationalism — Flamenpolitik — by Germany saw only limited success among Belgian prisoners; it was hampered by a lack of coordination between Flemish activists and the German authorities, and by loyalty to the Belgian state or Germanophobia among Flemish captives. While there has been historical research on the fate of Belgian combatant prisoners of war in Germany — particularly by Karolien Cool — the war experience of the small number of German combatant prisoners captured by the Belgian army during the war remains virtually unresearched.
At the start of the war, the Belgian army planned to hold German military prisoners of war and enemy civilian aliens at Hoogstraten and Bruges, however, due to the German advance, the holding centre at Hoogstraten was rapidly evacuated to Bruges.
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Ultimately, the German conquest of most of Belgium resulted in an agreement between Belgium and France to transfer all prisoners of war captured by Belgium to the care of the French government and to camps in France. Belgium, however, reserved the right to exchange these prisoners for Belgian prisoners of war held by the Germans. By 20 November , France held fifty-one German officers and 2, soldiers, who had been captured by the Belgian army. Throughout the war, Belgium remained responsible under the Hague Convention for registering the names of those prisoners its army captured, and of notifying their identity to Germany.
After the Armistice, Belgium retained its German prisoners of war until 25 September when it began repatriation. During the war France and Germany continued to negotiate, through the aid of neutral states, with regard to prisoner of war issues. In March , limited exchanges began when the two countries swapped a small number of badly wounded prisoners who would be incapable of ever fighting again, via Switzerland. In , both states agreed to suspend the implementation of all official military sentences passed against individual prisoners of war for misdemeanours in accordance with internal military law, until after the end of the war.
Following the Armistice, France retained German prisoners who still had sentences to serve, leading to campaigns in Germany for them to be freed. In contrast, under the terms of the Armistice, Germany had to release all Allied prisoners of war immediately and without reciprocity.
On 15 March , France and Germany agreed what became known as the Berne Agreement which allowed for the repatriation home of other rank and NCO prisoners over forty-eight years of age if they had been in captivity for over eighteen months; officers meeting the same conditions could be interned in Switzerland. The agreement also stipulated that prisoners should be removed after capture to camps at least thirty kilometres behind the firing line; that they should not be put to work on war-related tasks; and that they should not be mistreated.
According to Alan Kramer , the second Berne Agreement. After the war, France retained its German combatant prisoners of war until spring Following the Armistice, it moved other rank prisoners from camps in the French interior to the devastated former northern battlefields where the prisoners were put to work clearing the former front; the decision was issued the day after the Armistice to move , German prisoners to the devastated zone; by spring , , were located there.
Living conditions were also very poor — prisoners effectively camped in small working units in the devastated landscape. The retention of these men was used as a way to force Germany to accept the Treaty of Versailles in and later was seen by the French Prime Minister, Georges Benjamin Clemenceau as a form of reparations by Germany. There were high rates of depression — and several incidents of suicide — among the German prisoners retained in France.
During there was a high-profile, and widely supported, campaign in Germany for the return of German prisoners of war, including public demonstrations in most major German cities, some of which were attended by thousands of people: protests held in the fifty-five largest towns in Wurttemberg on 16 November attracted over 50, people, according to German estimates.
The First World War saw the widespread transnational development of camp systems which were used to hold combatant prisoners of war captured on the battlefield as well as suspect or undesirable civilians — enemy aliens, deportees from occupied territories or asocials. Belgium, which at the start of the conflict had to relinquish its prisoners to France, by was asserting itself as a captor power and retaining its own prisoners of war.
However, throughout the conflict, Belgium and France worked closely together in dealing with Germany on issues of German mistreatment of their prisoners. However, its combatant prisoner of war camp systems remained under civilian state surveillance and did not become military fiefdoms as occurred in Germany. Moreover, general living conditions in French camps never deteriorated to the degree that they did for French captives in Germany due to the impact of food shortages and the blockade upon the German wartime economy.
Yet, if wartime totalisation processes are more visible in the German case, they were also present in milder forms in the French camp system, particularly with regard to civilian internees who found themselves interned without civic rights or redress. Here, the First World War would set dangerous precedents for the French Third Republic and its attitude to incarceration.
International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. DOI : Version 1. Prisoners of War Belgium and France. By Heather Jones. As well as combatant prisoners of war captured on the battlefield, France interned enemy aliens in civilian internee camps: The authorities detained not only German, Austrian, Hungarian, Turkish and Bulgarian civilians, but also Czechs, Poles, Armenians and refugees from Alsace-Lorraine in so far as they were suspected of harbouring pro-German, pro-Hapsburg or pro-Ottoman sympathies.
Around 60, people were interned at one time or another. According to Alan Kramer , the second Berne Agreement also laid down that men and NCOs had to receive rations to the value of 2, calories, plus extra food for those engaged in physical labour; in addition, the German government allowed each prisoner to receive up to two kilograms of bread per week from home. If applied, this must have represented a major improvement for French prisoners, providing perhaps twice as much food as for German civilians.
Britain, France and Germany, , Cambridge , p. One Red Cross Bulletin estimate did put the maximum number of French prisoners in Germany higher, at ,, but this is unsubstantiated by any other sources. The most likely range is between , and , British Soldiers and French Civilians, , Cambridge , p.
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Translated by: Emanuel, Susan. I am very grateful to Professor Sophie de Schaepdrijver for her help in locating this report. Humanitaire et culture de guerre, Nourrir, fournir, soigner. The Transfo is an immense decommissioned power station from the s. The huge, raw industrial spaces were excellent for the kind of work I decided to show, work that valued emotional intensity above reason and clear intention.
As I was pulling the show together, I had the chance to think about how, why and with what mental processes we go about making our work and reacting to the work of others. Most of the Zandberg artists are illiterate, but choose for rather complex reasons to work with writing. They often dictate their thoughts to the Zandberg staff, who then type them out. The artists then copy the typescript one letter at a time, but of course without being able to read the results of their efforts.
What is intention and what is meaning in a situation like this? Career-defining projects can be dangerous. They grab media attention and give you your famous fifteen minutes. After that you want to move on without constantly referring back to one highlight. Time for the long shadows of this wonderful film to fade away for good.
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So let me say a word or two here and then wish Vivian, Ewan and Peter a fond farewell. The film seems dated now, the story stiff and stilted. The acting is as good as Greenaway could make it. He has never been a director of genuine emotion, but in PB he tried and mostly failed to speak directly to the heart. I learned a great deal from the project, no denying that.
Working at top speed and under enormous pressure, I discovered inner resources that have served me well since big picture first, then the details; emotional impact first, graphic strength second; finesse and skill in the service of these. There were never second chances on the set. My first body composition had to be the money shot. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. There have been a lot of interesting and exciting projects since, often giving more artistic satisfaction than PB.
Happy anniversary Pillow Book and rest in peace! The A-List. Last week I saw a bit of all three.
The Belgian fashion genius Dries Van Noten asked me to do some social calligraphy. Not my thing, normally, but for Dries! The brief was to write the names of the guests on their plates. One hundred plates, list ready just a few hours before the dinner. The black marker raced like greased lightning over the porcelain. Mistakes — there were plenty with a list of names from half the countries in the world — could be wiped off if they were found straight away.
I worked in a swirl of lighting people, clanking silverware, catering wagons and barely sane party planners. Nothing could be more entertaining.
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To achieve the necessary naivety in the writing, I resorted to the old tricks: eyes closed, left hand, back to front, and so on. It is very satisfying to pretend to be a Chinese child barely in command of the characters; but my crude, childish scribbling still looked a bit like Zen calligraphy.
Untutored Arabic and Hebrew script came more naturally! Texts from Judaism, Christianity and Islam describing the Sacrifice of Isaac in red calligraphy on golden walls. In the foreground, glass cases with manuscripts from the three religions, open to the relevant pages. The video described in my blog of 22 January is projected onto the wall on the right. Expressive calligraphy in Hebrew, Latin and Arabic is edited together with choreography of dancers representing Abraham, Isaac, the Angel and the Devil.
Just back from Berlin, where I spent an exhilarating and exhausting week covering the walls of the Jewish Museum in calligraphy for an incredible exhibition curated by Saskia Boddeke and Peter Greenaway on the subject of Abraham and Isaac. Saskia takes a bold and controversial approach to the most troublesome story of the Old Testament, presenting it from the viewpoint of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
In each of the fifteen rooms there is a video, historical objects from the three religions and a calligraphic wall text. I spent a week at the top of ladders and scaffolds under the demanding and creative gaze of Saskia, creating compositions from scratch and without preparatory drawings. This was always my approach for Greenaway installations, since I never received the texts in advance, was always faced with last minute changes and ideas, and could not evaluate the wall surfaces from architectural plans or photos.
So I make it up as I go along, starting in the most logical position on the wall and building my composition from there, one phrase at a time. It is impossible not to be moved. Congratulations to the Jewish Museum for presenting an exhibition that challenges fundamental tenets of the Jewish faith! The team had devised a new writing table, which allowed a length of paper to be pulled past the camera while I wrote in a fixed position. Keeping the pen on screen is always the challenge, so a monitor is installed directly in front of me.
I watch the monitor, not the pen — calligraphic laparoscopy! This delicate operation went well in Latin, even better with the wonderful flowing forms of Arabic, but was a real challenge in Hebrew, which I do not read. We crawled forward letter by letter, with Saskia checking the spelling along the way. I can tell you that a day of trilingual calligraphy under hot lights and with Father Abraham looking over your shoulder is exhausting. But the results were stunning. The freedom of the book format is astonishing.
The order of the pages continues to change, bringing new combinations into being. Of course, you have to settle on a final order at some point. Or perhaps not. Books do not have to be bound. The abstract writing running horizontally across the page is based on Arabic khufic calligraphy. In recent years my work has become very large. Sheets of calligraphy are often several meters long. Not so good for books.
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But I have learned to back these huge sheets of calligraphy done on thin kozo paper with a second sheet of kozo paper and then to cut the whole thing up to make the pages of books. Page by page decisions are made about the flow of images and text. Marks, words, paintings are added to the pages, receive meanings, lose them again as their context changes, then find new meanings. Deciding when to stop is the challenge. Should I have been born into a different calligraphic culture?
For years I have used the book format to teach everything I know about text art and calligraphy. Books, I have always told my students, bring you right to the heart of the matter, allowing every form of writing including the most personal journal work , drawing, painting and just about anything else to be brought together between two covers. But how many of you have actually seen one of my books? In the last few years, I have made only one or two. The truth is, I did not practice what I preached, but have concentrated for a number of years on large collages, canvas, sculpture and media. Now, thanks to an invitation from the Triennial of Artists Books in Vilnius, I have returned to my first love: the manuscript.
But now with the stories of a lifetime to tell. What a mind-blowing experience! Suddenly everything in my sketchbooks finds a place on the page. You know the feeling: you wake up and want to get right back to work. The oilfields are producing again! It is probably best to avoid explaining the work, but I will say a thing or two about how they came about, including some technical issues. Having a big studio filled with all sorts of incompatible materials is an important part of the process.
India ink confronts house paint, Chinese collage techniques are applied to three meter long sheets of kozo paper, drawing, painting and all sorts of writing have to learn to get along in one work of art. Strolling, sweat rolling down South Congress in Austin, I passed a young lady with an old typewriter.
Pause, check it out. I love the Sir and Maaaam in Texas. Yes indeedy, go right ahead young lady. She asked three pointed questions, to which I gave three suffering artist answers, and told me to check back in ten minutes. Went off looking for a cowboy hat I had no intention of buying, and returned to her little table with Smith Corona and tin can stuffed with dollar bills. She extracted a small sheet from the machine, swiveled towards me, cleared her throat and read me her finely sharpened poem. Staying with the theme of wounded books for a moment, I present this collage called Bellerophon, made a couple of years ago.
My good friend Caroline Neve de Mevergnies, who is a book restorer, gave me a box old end papers and blank sheets culled from a number of books dating back several centuries. I marvelled at the subtle colors, ranging from beige-greens to ivory-ochres. My plan was to paste them onto a sheet of Rives BFK paper, as I so often do, to make a background for calligraphy. But as you can see, the antique papers were so beautiful without writing that I stopped pen poised, doubts crowding in and left the collage as it was.
Only one sheet bore typographic letters, the word Bellerophon, the slayer of the chimera in Greek mythology. What could be better? The monstrous chimera gave its name to phantasms that exist only in the imagination. These ancient bits of blank paper can each hold any number of texts truthful or otherwise , making this collage into an endless library of possible books. My hero Borges would surely approve.
I have made a couple of installations for the summer arts festival in Damme, near Bruges. They are not typical of my work, but probably still typical of my approach. Here are a couple of shots of one installation, a skeleton house I built with the help of my friend and rowing partner, Koen DeVaere. The garden is part of a monastic site in continuous use for years Blog 2 July , now abandoned for modern buildings nearby. I felt the need to comment on the end of this long tradition.
And I felt the very practical need to use the beams and plaster coming from my studio, which is being renovated. Always good to kill two birds with one lump of plaster. It is poignant to see the books swell and burst their spines in the rain. Standing in front of the installation when it was finished, with the smell of plaster dust and the fluttering of book pages, I can imagine the feeling in Dresden after the bombing; or in Timbuktu after the libraries were ravaged. It is not always wise to revisit the past. Thirty years ago, while studying Romanesque architecture at the Courtauld in London, I thought this church built by William the Conqueror very beautiful.
Now it seems heavy and heartless, like the man himself. Rolls of paper, clearly messages of some kind. I sneaked across the red cord and snatched one, returning quickly to a pew to read it. Prayers to the brutal Duke!!! Thanks for the healing of illnesses! Requests for help in following the true path in life! Will William generate a cult? It happened with Genghis, so anything is possible. But in the land of Voltaire? I was shocked. Living in a medieval house has its benefits.
We have 14th century wall paintings in our dining room. Every now and then people ask to see them. Today it was a group of singers rehearsing in a nearby church for a concert of early music. When time came to go, they invited Nadine and me to take a seat, and then sang for us the most exquisite early Baroque chorale, with the wall paintings as backdrop. The room exalted at the honor. I have to admit that tears came to my eyes. Here we live in the oldest house in town, and without effort these beautiful moments fall into our laps. It served both as backdrop to a concert and as the score from which the singers read as they sang.
A full eighty minutes of film with a double function. Here is a still from the film, in which my hands piece together a collage book on the theme of the Trinity. This gave me the chance to dig around in my sketchbooks, which are piled high on my desk, and show some favorite images collected over the years. A postcard from Chalons-en-Champagne on the left, an Egyptian mask superimposed on the phases of the moon, the medieval manuscript for the singers to read from. I increasingly trust my intuition in these things, not thinking through the pairings.
And yet the work, they gather meaning. For several years I have engaged in an email exchange with the young French scholar Karine Bouchy, who just completed her doctorate in Paris on the gesture in contemporary calligraphy and art. I described to her an experience I had in Samarkand.
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After visiting endless madrassas and mosques, all decorated with exquisitely patterned tiles, I went to a pre-Islamic building and suddenly saw a fresco of a human face. The shock of coming eye to eye with dead matter, of seeing a human psyche look back from a painted layer of mud, was intense. From this arose an exchange about the power of mimesis representation or imitation of the visual world in art versus abstraction and calligraphy.
It is a fascinating, but difficult topic. What price do we pay for creating ourselves in our own likeness, and is that what the Semitic law against images is all about? Can we go back to the Ur-moment when an image, scratched in dirt with a stick, first spoke to our eyes, and the first image maker was shocked by dead matter looking back at him, showing him his own face?? In this sense, abstract art and calligraphy are very advanced, images very primitive.
It could never have begun with abstraction. With the first image mankind was suddenly different to the animals. Animism could be questioned, the long road to creating gods and then god could begin. In Samarkand: acres of patterned tiles and then, suddenly, a face and a psychology. The reverse would be just as powerful. Rooms and rooms of Rubens, as at the Louvre, and then a page from a Koran.
The sharp black lines would shock and draw one in by their purity. Perhaps calligraphy and drawing can be seen as studies of the laws of nature, or at least of our visual perception of nature. Distillations of the laws of form and contrast by which we recognize things as separate from one another. I will never figure it out. Time to go back and check what Gombrich says. I forgot long ago.
Just back from Australia, where I taught one of the most talented groups of calligraphers I have ever encountered. The trip was squeezed in between projects in Belgium, so I had no time to see the country, but it was worth it nevertheless. Two classes in five days, each with surprising results. Pei in at the youthful age of 89! A building beyond belief and a collection that stunned at every moment. It was fascinating to see how closely the earliest Korans on display, older still than the monumental kufic Korans, resembled other phonetic scripts. The distance between Arabic script as we know it and Hebrew, Latin, Greek and so on, came with Islam, was created to brand the new book and give it a new look.
In Australia I set the students the task of copying a kufic text, which they did with panache. Solid, physical letters that are sculpted rather than written. Those early lessons in medieval script are still coming in handy. The timing is poignant for me. I am working on two installations for a summer arts festival in Damme, near Bruges.
The site is a medieval monastery, which continued functioning as a hospice until last month. After years they finally moved to new premises with proper plumbing. Another monastic closure. Another ancient building gasping for life. Can an arts festival really fill this gaping hole?
I like to imagine Cromwell clinging to the rails in the corridor of a new, sanitized hospice. Charlemagne founded the monastery and constructed the great Westwork as his throne room.