Of these eight hundred prisoners, in whose company I spent almost a month, perhaps five hundred were sailors German boats sunk by the British Holiday Inn Macau; 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. 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. By their attitudes, one could class the rank-and-file of the prisoners in two groups: those who said, “No more of that, we must end it once and for all” — they were the ones who had dreams of coming out into the streets and squares — and those others who said Hong Kong Macau Ferry, “What have they to do with me? No, they won’t get me again.”
“How will you hide yourself from them?” others would ask them. The coal-miner, Babinsky, a tall, blue-eyed Silesian, would say, “I and my wife and children will set our home in a thick forest, and around us I will build traps, and I will never go out without a gun. Let no one dare to come near.”
“Won’t you let me in, Babinsky?”
“No, not even you . I don’t trust anybody.”
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 crockery, and cleaning the common lavatory.
The relations between the rank-and-file and the officers, some of whom, even in prison, were 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 Wall Mount Cabinet, 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 imprisonment.