Prisoner of war

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Prisoner of war. Experienced in 1870 is a book by Theodor Fontane . It appeared from December 25, 1870 to February 26, 1871 as a preprint in the Vossische Zeitung and then as a book edition by Rudolf von Decker in the publishing house of the Royal Secret Upper Court Book Printing House .

In the autobiographical work, Fontane describes his experiences as a war correspondent who followed the German troops to France to collect material for a third war book. He was captured in Domrémy-la-Pucelle on October 5, 1870. Weapons and legitimation papers for Prussian military services are found with him. He also wears a Red Cross band on his arm without authorization. As a presumed Prussian spy, he was first passed from instance to instance before he was finally acquitted by a military court in Besançon . However, as it was feared that he could pass on useful information to Germany based on his military knowledge, he was taken to the Île d'Oléron as a prisoner . The civilian Fontane is granted the status of a higher officer (Officier supérieur) because of his appearance and probably also his good knowledge of French (Fontane comes from a Huguenot family originally located in Gascony ). Furthermore, the Archbishop of Besançon had campaigned for him. This status gives him many advantages and special treatment compared to the other German prisoners of war on the long transport as well as in captivity on the Île d´Oléron.

Upon Bismarck's intervention at the US envoy in Paris, he was released early. Then he was allowed to travel alone through France to Geneva.

Fontane describes the French neighbors with great sympathy and repeatedly emphasizes the great humanity and fairness with which not only he, but also the other German prisoners of war were treated far from hatred and cruelty, the absolute correctness of the French authorities, the prisoners too have always protected from the occasional threatening assaults of the incited street mob. Fontane is more critical of the treatment of the sick soldiers captured near Orléans. These were initially treated as normal prisoners of war, and several died from lack of care. However, Fontane also expressly mentions how the fortress commander campaigned for these sick people, even under threat of resignation, until they were finally taken to the local hospitals for care. Fontane also quotes the reports of other German soldiers about their battles and capture.

As in his other novels, the representative of realism in literature describes the locations in great detail and the characters with psychological insight and humorous sympathy.


In later editions, letters and documents related to captivity are listed in the appendix to the book. In addition to Theodor Fontane's personal correspondence with his family and friends, the letter from Bismarck to the US envoy in Paris is also listed here.

First edition

  • Theodor Fontane: Prisoner of War. Experienced in 1870 . Berlin: Rudolf von Decker 1871.

Further editions

  • Theodor Fontane: Prisoner of War. Experienced in 1870. With letters and documents. Berlin: Friedrich Fontane & Co. 1914 (popular historical edition)

Fontane's notebooks (with notes and drafts of prisoners of war )

Research literature

  • René Cheval: The good days of Besançon. In: René Cheval: impulses and repercussions. Literary encounters between France and Germany. Selected essays. Bonn: Bouvier Verlag 1990 (Studies on Modern Literature, Vol. 18), pp. 87–97.
  • Jana Kittelmann: Theodor Fontane prisoner of war. Experienced in 1870 (1871). In: Hermann Gätje and Sikander Singh (eds.): Transitions, breaks, approximations. Contributions to the history of literature in Saarland, Lorraine, Alsace, Luxembourg and Belgium. Saarbrücken: universaar 2015, pp. 103–115.
  • Gabriele Radecke and Robert Rauh: Fontane's captivity. How the poet escaped death in France. Berlin: be.bra Verlag 2020 ISBN 978-3-86124-740-1 .

Individual evidence

  1. He had "military eyes" which would not have escaped the conditions and processes in the country, the fortifications and troop movements. (P. 57, From Besançon to Lyon)
  2. the corresponding letter is attached in the 1914 edition
  3. In Orléans many soldiers were sick with typhus and could not be transported when the city was evacuated by the Bavarians.
  4. ↑ The attack of Ablis, page 125ff

Web links