The German prisoners viewed education as extremely important. As well as broadening their minds, it was a demonstration of their loyalty towards Germany as it was a way of preparing for the future and the rebuilding of Germany after the war.

At its peak the weekly timetable included 180 hours of lectures, seminars and classes. Subjects included languages (Spanish, English, Russian, Greek, Latin, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Hebrew), Mathematics and Sciences, History and History of Art, Religion and Philosophy. The business education that took place in the camp was extremely advanced for the time, with comparable courses in the UK not appearing until the 1960s.

The camp teacher training course was recognised by the Prussian Ministry of Culture, who awarded the men with their qualifications.

The camp book inventory contained 1284 books, including 176 academic books, 23 on astronomy and 124 foreign language books. Most of the books had been brought by the prisoners from the Colsterdale camp, near Masham, where many of them were held before they came to Skipton. Other books were donated by charities including the Swedish Red Cross, and the prisoners also ordered books from a bookshop in London. Men would pay 3 pence to borrow a book and were allowed to take out one book per day.

illustration of prisoners reading newspapers

POWs gather to read the daily newspapers© Kriegsgefangen in Skipon, p.60

The prisoners were also allowed access to British newspapers for which they paid a monthly subscription. The newspaper of choice for the officers was the Manchester Guardian for its liberal point of view, but they also read a number of other national dailies, weeklies and Sunday newspapers. Groups would gather in the huts to hear news of the military situation, read to them via a translator for those who didn’t understand English.

 

German newspapers are naturally banned for the ‘Hun prisoner’. From the English newspapers he can of course detect enough to understand that glorious England is the protector of culture and of the small nations against the Huns, who could only ever defeat a world of envious enemies. Nevertheless a good number of German newspapers are smuggled through in the packages, and these are then often read openly

Kriegsgefangen in Skipton – p.63