Halbmond Camp Mosque

Wundsdorf, Germany

Demolished 1926 

The Disappointed Tourist: Halbmond Camp Mosque, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

The Halbmondlager (Half Moon Camp) was a German World War I camp for Allied Muslim prisoners of war. The camp was the brainchild of Max von Oppenheim who was hoping to convince prisoners to wage jihad against the United Kingdom and France. As part of this propaganda effort, prisoners were treated comparatively well and allowed to practice their faith under the leadership of Shaykh Sâlih al-Sharîf, a Tunisian Ottoman intelligence officer. The camp was the site of the first mosque built in Germany. It consisted of an ornate wooden structure, finished in July 1915, based on the Dome of the Rock. Up to 3,000 of the over 4,000 Muslim prisoners were eventually recruited into the German Army. In 1917 the remaining prisoners were condemned to agricultural labor in Romania.  The mosque was demolished in 1926 after falling into disrepair. The painting is based on an old uncredited photograph.

The story is so extraordinary that I feel that anyone looking at the little text will get the sense of why seeing this site in the middle of some field in Germany would have been extraordinary, so there’s probably no need for me to add more. Sina N.