World War One: Troubling times for Germans in Sunderland

TARGET: The pork butchers run by British-born J.C. Kaufmann.
TARGET: The pork butchers run by British-born J.C. Kaufmann.
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WORLD War One was a tough time for people of German descent in Sunderland.

Imprisonment and mistreatment were rife – whether deserved or not.

Some were persecuted just because they had German-sounding names. Here are some of their stories:

Captured ships and jailed sailors

•German steamer The Comet was seized by police after arriving in Seaham just one day after war was declared in 1914. Her 17-strong crew were arrested and detained.

•Two German sailors aboard the steamer Rossmore were arrested and detained pending further enquiries on arrival at Sunderland port on September 24, 1914.

•A member of the crew of the SS Mecklenberg was jailed for three months in 1915 after allegedly signalling an enemy submarine by torch while docked in Sunderland.

Spy executed

•German spy Carl Frederick Muller stayed in Sunderland “with friends” in January 1915 – just months before he was executed at the Tower of London in June.

Butchers attacked

•British-born pork butcher J.C. Kaufman offered a £1,000 reward if anyone could prove he wasn’t British – following repeated attacks on his Bridge Street shop.

•A woman was arrested after smashing the window of Eugene F. Lang’s pork butchers in The Terrace, Southwick, on September 8, 1914, in an anti-German attack.

•Pork butcher Heller was arrested as a German reservist on September 9, 1914. His shop at North Bridge Street had been attacked in anti-German riots on September 7.

Police officer deported

Detective Sergeant George Royal, of Sunderland’s River Wear Watch – also known as Gustav Rohl – was jailed then deported for failing to register as an alien in WWI.

Danish worker arrested

Engine fitter Harold Hansen, a Dane, was charged with failing to register as an alien at Shotton Colliery on September 16, 1914.

‘Alien prisoners’ sent to concentration camp

A group of 25 alien prisoners, arrested in Sunderland during the autumn of 1914, were sent to a concentration camp at Lancaster on October 24, 1914.