Theophil Bock and the SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm
In 1915, the German passenger liner turned auxiliary cruiser, Kronprinz Wilhelm, interned in Philadelphia. After capturing 15 merchant ships since the outbreak of World War I, the ship was low on fuel and ravaged by sickness in its crew. While the ship was laid up in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, its crew lived in a nearby camp. However, when the United States joined the war in 1917, the United States seized the Kronprinz Wilhelm and relocated its crewmembers to Fort McPherson in Georgia as prisoners of war.
Theophil Bock was one of the German sailors, probably a stoker, brought to Fort McPherson. Bock’s collection of photographs and postcards document both his wartime service on the Kronprinz Wilhelm and the years of his internment in Georgia. While serving, Bock photographed everything from the use of airplanes during warfare to his fellow Kronprinz Wilhelm crewmembers.
Once relocated to Fort McPherson, Bock’s photographs capture how these prisoners of war entertained themselves with activities ranging from theatre productions to card games.
Although the men on the Kronprinz Wilhelm lived in the United States beginning in 1915, they remained proud of their German roots, integrating names like "Mozart" and "Bethoven" on street signs.
During his time in the United States, Bock wrote multiple postcards in English to Miss Elsie Badholzner in Philadelphia, often signing his cards “as ever yours Theophil Bock.” After the end of World War I, Bock appears to have remained in the United States, returning to Philadelphia. A postcard sent to Bock in January 1928 was addressed to “Mr. Th. Bock, 4615 Frankford Ave, Phila, Pa,” an address in northeast Philadelphia.