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German-speakers in Australia

The "Dunera"

2000 refugees from central Europe were shipped to Australia from Britain in 1940 on the Dunera. Despite the fact that they had fled persecution in the Reich it was thought that some could be agents to assist a German invasion of Britain. These 2542 men between the ages of 18 and 45 (Germans and Austrians) were on a ship whose maximum capacity was 1600 people (incl. crew). They weren't treated well by their British guards on the ship. Apart from overcrowding on the ship, the voyage was also made unpleasant by the fear of torpedo attack, the uncertainty of their destination, and by tensions onboard between genuine refugees and other German citizens (caught in England at the start of the war) with whom they were forced to share the trip.

Most of them were interned in Tatura (Victoria) or in Hay (NSW) as "enemy" aliens for the duration of the war. After the war the Australian Government gave the Dunera people the option of either staying in Australia or being taken back to England; about 1,000 stayed. Franz Stampfl, the athletics coach (best known for his work with the world's first four-minute-mile runner, Roger Bannister, and with Australia's world champion marathon runner Rob de Castella) left Austria in 1936 but arrived on the Dunera. Also on the ship was Felix Werder, who later became a leading classical music critic, composed many pieces and lectured for many years at the Council of Adult Education. Another refugee was the artist and teacher Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, who also stayed in Australia.

"Sydney Morning Herald" feature article September 7, 2000 (speech by Professor Clive Kessler marking the 60th anniversary of the Dunera's journey)

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