Re: FW: Amherst Internment Camp (World War I)

Never heard that in History class.

--- In > Steven,
> The following is copied from 'Cumberland Roots', the Cumberland
County Genealogical Society's newsletter.
> Larry
> ...Amherst almost changed the course of world history. Apparently,
Trotsky was living in exile in New York sometime during WW I and
decided in 1917 he wanted to return to Russia. His return ship
temporarily docked in the Halifax Harbour where Trotsky was detained
at the Citadel, and shortly thereafter was brought to the POW camp
in Amherst. Here he stayed for a period of time until his eventual
release. From what I've read, however, Trotsky associated with Lenin
from around 1900 until Lenin's death in 1924. He had previously been
a union organizer, and used his considerable skills to rouse some of
the German prisoners to protest conditions in the Amherst prison,
much to the annoyance of his British captors. Trotsky reached Russia
on May 17, 1917 and played a key role in organizing the October
Revolution that year against the Provisional Government, putting the
Bolsheviks under Lenin in power--and creating the Soviet Union. So
Amherst's place in world history is assured.'"
> This prompted a visit to the library, and the following selected
quotes are from Leon Trotsky's autobiography My Life.
> "On April 3, 1917, British officers...came aboard the
Christianiafjord and demanded, in the name of the local admiral,
that I, my family and five other passengers leave the boat.
> The police left my wife and children in Halifax; the rest of us
were taken by train to Amherst, Nova Scotia, a camp for German
> The Amherst concentration camp was located in an old and very
dilapidated iron foundry that had been confiscated from its German
owner. The sleeping bunks were arranged in three tiers, two deep, on
each side of the hall. About eight hundred of us lived in these
conditions. The air in this improvised dormitory at night can be
imagined. Men hopelessly dogged the passages, elbowed their way
through, lay down or got up, played cards or chess. Many of them
practised crafts, some with extraordinary skill. I still have,
stored in Moscow, some things made by Amherst prisoners. And yet, in
spite of the heroic efforts of the prisoners to keep themselves
physically and morally fit, five of them had gone insane. We had to
eat and sleep in the same room with these madmen. Of these eight
hundred prisoners, in whose company I spent almost a month, perhaps
five hundred were sailors from German boats sunk by the British;
about two hundred were workers caught by the war in Canada, and a
hundred more were officers and civilian prisoners of the bourgeois
class. Our relations with the German prisoners became clearly
defined according to their reaction to the fact that we had been
arrested as revolutionary socialists. The officers and petty
officers, whose quarters were behind a wooden partition, immediately
set us down as enemies; the rank-and-file, on the other hand,
surrounded us with an ever increasing friendliness.
> The whole month I was there was like one continuous mass meeting.
I told the prisoners about the Russian revolution, about Liebknecht,
about Lenin, and about the causes of the collapse of the old
International, and the intervention of the United States in the war.
Besides these speeches, we had constant group discussions. Our
friendship grew warmer every day....The sailors did everything they
could to make my life easier, and it was only by constant protests
that I kept my right to stand in line for dinner and to do my share
of the compulsory work of sweeping floors, peeling potatoes, washing
dishes, and cleaning the common lavatory.
> The relations between the rank-and-file and the officers, some of
whom, even in prison, were still keeping a sort of conduct-book for
their men, were hostile. The officers ended by complaining to the
camp commander, Colonel Morris, about my anti-patriotic propaganda.
The British Colonel instantly sided with the Hohenzollern patriots
and forbade me to make any more public speeches. But this did not
happen until the last few days of our stay at the camp, and served
only to cement my friendship with the sailors and workers, who
responded to the Colonel's order by a written protest bearing five
hundred and thirty signatures. A plebiscite like this, carried out
in the very face of Sergeant Olsen's heavy-handed supervision, was
more than ample compensation for all the hardships of the Amherst
> Selections from chapter 23, "In a Concentration Camp" My Life, by
Leon Trotsky, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1930.
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]