Conscientious Objectors in Prison - Page 6

Peter Friesen continues his story.

“Soon we arrived at Headingly. We were let out first, and my partner was anxious to get inside. After going through the two barred doors, we went into a fairly large room…. After we were uncoupled, we were told to take all our clothes off. A prisoner registered every article…. I was handed a two piece underwear suit, and a shirt that was not big enough. The pants I could not close in front and the belt was barely long enough. The shoes were also too small. I was then told to follow the guard. I was not very comfortable in the whole outfit.”

 

“I was led into a dormitory where there were twenty bunk beds. The lower bunks are occupied first and the prisoners that come in last take the uppers. There was only one prisoner in the dormitory at that time. I was supplied with a mattress, blanket, and pillow. They gave me instructions on how to handle my bedding, which had to be rolled up with the blanket and pillow on the inside, and left that way all day. You were also supplied with a stool to sit on and a little desk with one shelf on which to put your personal belongings."

“While this was taking place the other prisoners came in. The guard left, and left the door open. There were two wash basins and two toilets in each dormitory. These other prisoners then went and washed themselves as facilities became available. They were barely finished when the call for supper came. In the meantime I had found that some of the prisoners were talking low German. I introduced myself to one of them who then introduced me to the other Mennonite fellows who were there. In this dormitory there were: A. Friesen, P. Dyck, A. Derksen, P. Friesen, also a Klassen, a Harder, and a Schroeder. I also found out that John Pauls from Purves was in the kitchen. Except for Pauls, the rest all worked in the different barns.”

“We then went for supper. The dining room was large, with three long tables which could hold up to 250 men. There was room to set up more tables. The two outside tables were full, but the middle one was only about one quarter full. This same room was used for church services or entertainment. The meal consisted of a cup of coffee, a small amount of potatoes, and bologna. The coffee was made in the kitchen with the prescribed amount of sugar and milk allowed for this purpose already added to it. You didn't have to drink it. There was a can of water on the table and you could drink water if you preferred to do so. There were no second helpings. If you needed more you ate bread. There were always two guards there at meal time, one at each end of the room. The one at the front end of the room sat on a high stool and kept an eye on the tables. They allowed you 20 minutes for eating. You could stay longer only with permission. This was because no ordinary prisoner was allowed to be in the dining room unless a guard was with him.”

“After the meal every prisoner proceeded to his dormitory or cell. There were guards on all floors. The doors were left open. One could go to the library and ask for a book, or visit with prisoners from other dormitories. Soon after that the doors were locked and except for the guard making his round every so often, there was no communication of any kind other than with your fellow prisoners in your dormitory. You were now allowed to unroll your mattress, and prepare yourself for bed. At nine o'clock the loudspeakers and lights went out.” [TTbP, 71-78]

Because Friesen was a businessman, the guards assigned him to the library to keep track of the books. Later, he was transferred to the bakery. When labour became scarce, he spent some time working on the prison farm. In all, Friesen spent 8 months in jail.