A short documentary titled Maitia nun zira? (Where are you, darling?) has just been presented by the Euskal Kultur Erakundea (Basque Cultural Institute) and Mondragon University (MU). Made by two MU students, Elena Canas and Ainara Menoyo, the documentary is based on original recordings, made during World War I , of Basque prisoners of war from Iparralde being held by German forces.
The recordings were made between 1915 and 1918 by the Royal Prussian Phonographic Commission, a special body established by Kaiser Wilhelm II to record the different voices–and, indeed, languages–of prisoners of war being held by the German forces. The Royal Prussian Phonographic Commission visited more than 70 camps between 1915 and 1918, recording more than 250 languages and dialects as they attempted to draw an oral map of Europe.
In 2014, recordings of soldiers speaking and even singing in Basque were passed on by the Ethnological Museum of Berlin and Humboldt University in Berlin to the Basque Cultural Institute in Iparralde. This amazing fragment of an important part of Basque history is available online and we encourage you all to take a look. Even if you don’t know any Basque, it’s still an incredibly moving testament. The documentary includes both the original recordings themselves as well as a number of well-known Basque figures reading out transcripts of the soldiers’ thoughts and wishes, and reflecting on what they have read.