In May 2015, our WW2 Women's Internment HAT held their first exhibition called "Friend or Foe? 1940-1941" to which over 3,000 tourists and local residents visited, including the former CEO of the British Museum, Sir David Wilson, who said the exhibition was of “outstanding quality”.
Courtesy of Betty Kelly, the team also published “The Illustrated Roll Call” on 19th May 2015, a unique collection of illustrated Christmas greetings from 70 German women internees to their landlady, Mrs Crighton, during their WWII internment on the Isle of Man.
In 2016, the HAT extended the "Friend or Foe?" exhibition, exploring the creation of the world's only married camp in WW2. Internment must have been a traumatic experience for the majority of the women detained. Most returned after the war to a ‘normal’ way of life, but there were many highly educated individuals amongst them and a number went on to have quite interesting careers, and this HAT are now experts in their knowledge about the women who were interned in the camp.
The exhibition was launched by Baroness Ruth Henig, whose parents were interned in Rushen, with a special visit from His Excellency Sir Richard Gozney and his wife.
The 2016 Internment exhibition was enhanced by a special Internment and Wagner Festival at the Erin Arts Centre, put together by Pam Crowe.
The three-day event saw special visitors travel to Rushen from Germany, including Professor Eva Rieger and her brother Chris, who were both children in the Rushen Camp, and Richard Wagner’s great grand-daughter Dagny Beidler - who all gave fascinating talks alongside a re-enactment concert produced by John Bethell and a showing of Wagner’s Lohengrin. Alongside a number of key community members such as Keith McArd, Drew Herdman, Iris Burton, Tim Watson and Nora Lewis, memories were also shared by Susan Freeman, who was born in Rushen Camp W. The events were well attended, with some visitors even travelling all the way from New York to meet our special guests!
The exhibition was developed entirely by volunteers in our WW2 Internment HAT; Chairwoman Doreen Moule, Pam Crowe, Ali Graham, Sandra Davidson, David Wertheim, Jane Saywell and Hugh Davidson. Two years ago the team knew little about Rushen Internment and describes itself as “a bunch of amateurs” but aims to achieve professional standards. They have done much original research and generated new material on WW2 Women’s Internment, previously an under-researched topic. The HAT are now focusing on their second book publication, which will be launched in September 2017.