Dunera

An appeal made by internees

Just over a year after the wave of internment in England, the Jews and Nazi opponents deported to Australia spoke out at Hay with a review of their time behind the barbed wire of Camps 7 and 8. They formulated questions for British and Australian politicians and the authorities. This took place almost a year after Great Britain ended the deportations and the refugees were once again considered friends. This dramatic appeal is documented here – possibly for the first time in its unabridged wording – in German. It took a year before the last interned Jews and Nazi opponents were released from internment.

Translations, annotations and intertitles by Peter Dehn, January 2024. Emphases within the text have been modelled after the original document.

“An Appeal for JUSTICE and HUMANTY”






Victor Cazalet (1896 – 1943) became a Conservative Party politician after a military career.
Source: Imperial War Museum No. 20529195.

„No ordinary excuse, such as that there is a war on and that officials are overworked, is sufficient to explain what has happened . . . Horrible tragedies, unnecessary and undeserved, lie at the door of somebody … Frankly, I shall not feel happy, either as an Englishman or as a supporter of this government until this bespattered page of our history has been cleaned up and rewritten”. MAJOR CAZALET, in the House of Commons[1] Minutes of the House of Commons, from Aug, 22,1940, retrieved Sep 23, 2023., August 22, 1940.

In these days of May 1941, 2100 refugees from Nazi oppression, interned in Great Britain and transferred to Australia, see pathetically pass the first anniversary of their interment.

Such a day gives us the right to raise our voices and to make them heard, even if they are boung to be faint. This occasion by itself fully justifies our plea for Justice and Humanity.

What charge is brought against us and what makes us deserve months after months of life behind barbed wire, separation from wives, children, parents and friends, severe restrictions in our connections, by the repeated wreckage of our existence and stigmatization by prolonged detention?

The vast majority of us are refugees of Jewish denomination or extraction, others are veterans in the political arena of the fight against Hitlerism.

We appeal to you with the full confidence of innocent ment, beseeching you to restore to us the first right and essential of every human being:

our freedom.

oOo       oOo       oOo

When Alien Tribunals were set up in Great Britain just after the beginning of the war, we had to appear before them. Although we were expressively exempted from internment by these Tribunals, our mass-internment was ordered by the British Government in the hectic days after the invasion of the Low Countries.

Our first reaction was naturally utter bewilderment, but we did not fail to understand, that everybody had to bring sacrifices for the Common Cause. Realising that mistakes cannot be avoided in war times, and trusting that the policy of wholesale internment was bound to be reviewed at the earliest possible moment, we patiently waited for our rehabilitation. Meanwhile, France collapsed, the danger of invasion grew, so that H.M. Government, in this emergency, decided to arrange for transports overseas, in order to empty the internment camps.

Many of us volunteered for the transport which eventually brought us to Australia, on the strength of promises made by the Authorities. In some camps we were assured that we would be shipped to Canada, in others it was indicated that we would find greater freedom and employment overseas. The married men were promised that their families would follow them either in the same convoy, or immediately afterwards. The transmigrants were told that no disadvantage would arise from their evacuation. In the contrary, it was hinted, that their emigration to USA would be facilitated by the fact that they would be then already on the American continent.

However, it must be expressively stated that when our transport was arranged, the Nazi sympathisers had already been evacuated from the camps in Britain.

None of the 2100 refugees who were interned in Hay, was chosen to be transferred overseas because he was suspect.

In the days of our evacuation, the world was shaken by the treacherous activities of the t r u e 5th Column, the Quislings[2] Cf. Wikipedia about Vidkun Quisling. The name of the leader of the Norwegian Nazi Party and the puppet government during the occupation by the German Reich became synonymous with political traitors. He was sentenced to death and executed. Retrieved Sep 20, 2023., the Lavals[3] Wikipedia about Pierre Laval. The French politician was sentenced to death and executed for his collaboration in the Vichy government with the Nazis, retrieved Sep 20, 2023. and the Flandins[4] Wikipedia about Pierre-Étienne Flandin, Laval's successor as Prime Minister of the French Vichy regime, which collaborated with the Nazis, retrieved on  Sep 20, 2023.. These ambitious traitors, paid and commanded by Hitler, undermined and betrayed their own countries.

In previous wars, a person’s place of birth was the criterion for their loyalty. It is therefore not surprising that, in view of these activities, suspicion fell on anyone born in Germany or Austria. Thus, arbitrary internment was suddenly ordered. No distinction was made between the victims and the supporters of Nazi ideology. This ideology had caused this war. It is not a war of states, as others have been, but a war of ideals. A war of one system against another, democracy against dictatorship. Allies of democratic ideals are among those who were born in Hitler’s Reich. And bitter opponents can be tracked down within the borders of democracies. Entire states are divided in this struggle. The French people, for example, are divided into two camps. Free France stands courageously by its ancient traditions, while the others are surreptitiously and secretly in favour of the system of tyranny. Many Americans of German origin have recently declared it through the voice of Mr Willkie that they have nothing in common with the present Germany.

Evicted by Nazi-Germany, behind bars in Australia

Whilst we, by statutary laws, are not even anymore German citizens, but reduced to a status of minor rights, whilst we are not even allowed anymore to set foot again on German soil. We sadly see that we refugees who have been deported to Australia, are still kept behind barbed wire.

In England our loyalty to the Common Cause was soon officially recognised. It was publicly admitted that our continued, indiscriminate internment might only help Goebbels in his mendacious propaganda. It was realised that it is only logic and a matter of common sense that we, who had been tortured in Nazi concentration camps, who have been expelled from their homes, whose property was confiscated, and who had been driven out of the country of our birth would be Britain’s and the cause of freedom’s natural allies. –

On the very da when H. M. T. “DUNERA” started its illfamed voyage with 2100 interned refugees, from Liverpool, a debate took place in the House of Commons with regard to the unjust and often harsh policy of internment. On this day, July 10, 1940, Mr. Peake the (then) Undersecretary of State, stated “I should like to pay my tribute to these refugees in that they have shown themselves worthy of the confidence which we placed in them”. In the many following debates on this subject, the (then) British Minister of Home Security and Home Secretary, Sir John Anderson[5] The quote is often attributed to Winston Churchill, but according to the minutes of the House of Commons on August 22, 1940, it was made by Anderson; retrieved on Aug 17, 2023., admitted on August 23, 1940, that “Regrettable and deplorable mistakes” had happened in connection with our internment. On December 3, 1940, Mr. Herbert Morrison,Home Secretary, promised a revision of our cases “with great speed” and stated that mistakes had been made in regard to internees sent to Canda and Australia.

A White Paper, dealing with our internment, was issued, on July 31, 1940. On August 5, 1940, the internment camps in England were transferred from military to civil administration. As a consequence of this White Paper, already in the beginning of December, 1940, about 800 refugees, and since then many thousand more, were allowed to leave to British camps as free men.

Since, opinion in the United Kingdom had insisted upon a change of the policy of indiscriminate internment of the friendly refugees who had found on the British Isles the traditional asylum which since centuries had been granted there to the oppressed and innocently persecuted.

The gates of the internment camps were flung wide open in Great Britain. Thousands of our brethren joined the Pioneer Corps or the British Army, and they can be found on every battle front. We are receiving many letters from England saying that our friends are proud to be recognised as allies. Their enthusiasm, devotion and eagerness is publicly acknowledged with gratitude.

Our brethren were also fighting side by side with the British Army and the Jewish Palestinensian Forces in Greece. Just now we mournfully read the sad news (THE AGE, Melbourne, May 15, 1941) that some thousands of these soldiers, members of the Jewish Labour battalions, among them refugees from Germany, have been captured there. They are now prisoners of war in a camp near Corinth and we only know too well what fate awaits them in the hands of the Nazis.

The SYDNEY MORNING HERALD cited on October 30, 1940, a cablegram from the british Official wireless, stating that “thousands of aliens are being mobilised for technical services through the International branch of the Ministry of Labour”. Other friends or ours enlistene] in the A. R. P., A. F. S.[6] This may refer to the Air Raid Precautions and Auxiliary Fire Service divisions of the British Civil Defense., and the various branches of National Service.

Turning away from mass deportations without effect

The changed policy towards refugees in the United Kingdom thus showed in itself not only to be commensurate with justice and humanity, but also to satisfy the demands of common sense. Whilst as internees we were a burden on H.M. Government, as free men we became, within our limits, a valuable asset.

There are among us highly skilled workers, scientists, doctors, and numerous experts. Their abilities, and services were generally recognised. On August 20, 1940, Mr. Churchill stated in the House of Commons: “We may be able to do the enemy quite a lot of things that they have not thought of yet. Since the Germans drove the Jews out and lowered their technical standards, our science is definitely ahead of theirs.”

What Mr. Peake, Under-Secretary of State[7] Cf. Wikipedia about Osbert Peake (1897-1966), Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department., stated in the House of Commons on May 20, 1940 proved to be true: “No case was known, where refugees had committed hostile acts”. So, in the case of our brethren in Great Britain, Justice and Humanity prevailed.

Why is the position of these refugees transferred to Australia so different? Why are we suspected to be enemies and not recognised to be allies? Why are we still – one year after our internment – kept behind barbed wire?

The fundamental reason and true answer seem to lie in the agreement which was made between the British and Australian Government, regarding our internment. Whilst the Commonwealth Government apparently undertook to receive prisoners of war and Nazi internees or Fascist sympathisers for the duration of the hostilities whom the British Government was to have returned after the war, 2100 innocent refugees, victims of Nazi persecution, arrived here, whose mass-internment was later on admitted to be a mistake. The Australian Government, well with her rights, as far as the responsibility between the two Governments is concerned, insists now that the clauses of this unfortunate agreement are strictly upheld.

But what does a clause in an agreement matter, if the freedom of so many, innocent and allied men, imprisoned now for more than 12 months, is at stake?

The responsibility between the two Governments represents only one side of the problem. The other side lies in the obligation which a democratic country basically has to Humanity and Justice. – An obligation which imperatively demands freedom for innocent people. And this demand is so strong and so important that it can be expected to override any clauses in any agreement.

Australia’s kind reception and human treatment of refugees from Nazi oppression is an honour to her name and tradition. The Commonwealth is one of the countries who signed the Evian Convention[8] There seems to be a misunderstanding or insufficient information here. In July 1938, the Evian Conference on the treatment of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany failed. Poland and some Eastern European of the 32 participating states hoped to get rid of "their" Jews by means of an agreement; not even the USA as the inviting country wanted to increase its immigration quota. It was only agreed to negotiate with Nazi Germany. Retrieved on Sep 26, 2023., made to alleviate the predicament of these unfortunate people to give them an asylum, where they could enjoy again the fundamental rights of a human being.

May we, after one year of detention and in our great distress, appeal to the noble spirit of this Convention and even venture to state frankly that our internment is contrary not only to its spirit, but also to the wording of several of the Convention’s articles.

This historical document was signed, according to the preamble[9] „Als die Welt sich abwandte“ (When the World Turned Away), German journal Der Spiegel on July 6., 2018 about the Evian Conference, retrieved on Sep 25, 2023., by the Governments who were: “desirous that refugees shall be ensured the enjoyment of civil rights, free and ready access to the courts, security and stability as regards establishment and work, facilities in the exercise of the movement of persons, admission to schools and universities.”

Torn between quarrelling governments

To this Australia, which has signed the Evian Convention, we direct our appeal for help. Australia being at present the only country which, on the one hand is in a position to bring practical relief, and which on the other – as stated by Mr. Peake in the House of Commons on July 10, 1940, – has the power to release us.

Our internment is regulated by the Australian detention orders. These orders were issued on the strength of the British mass-internment order. As the latter, however, has in the meantime been acknowledged to have involved “deplorable and regrettable mistakes”, the Australian detention orders have lost their foundation.

The technical difficulties connected with the transports between the Continents, and the fact that among us are about 800 transmigrants, ultimately destined for the U. S. A., makes our situation so complicated, that our problem can only be solved with the co-operation and the goodwill of the Commonwealth.

Most of these intending emigrants have been surprised by the war, in Great Britain, whilst their waiting for their visas to be granted. They were interned and are now in Australia. In many cases their wives, children and parents are anxiously already waiting for them in the U. S. A. Through their evacuation they missed the opportunity which existed in 1940, to emigrate directly from the United Kingdom. After a great loss of time, due to their deportation, and after spending a lot of money to have their consular files transferred and their cases completed, they now sadly see all their efforts frustrated.

At the height of the internment in Australia[10] Cf. Wikipedia about the Camps in Australia, retrieved Dec, 20, 2023., there were 12,000 people in more than 20 camps behind barbed wire. Among the 7,000 Australian residents locked away were 1,500 “British nationals” (citizens of Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries including Australia). A further 8,000 people were deported to Australia by allies. These included the more than 2,100 German and 200 Italian internees of the Dunera and the almost 300 men, women and children of the Queen Mary group. Map: National Library of Australia.

At first the Minister for the Army informed the American Consulate General in Sydney that the interned refugees from Great Britain would not be allowed to emigrate directly from Australia, but had to return to the United Kingdom. But even after this regulation had been cancelled our departure to the U. S. A. still encounters unsurmountable difficulties. The American Authorities wish to admit only internees whose unconditional release has been granted by the Home Office and whose integrity is thus officially established. Our release here is only granted under the condition that it takes effect upon our departure from the last Australian port. This being not satisfactory for the American Authorities, our emigration would, therefore, only be possible if the Commonwealth Government consents to our unconditional release, if only for a short period, and for those who, in all other respects, comply with the requirements of the American Immigration Laws. So, mere technical difficulties prevent the children of 17 and 18 years amongst us to join their parents and many married men to be reunited with their families.

Several weeks ago, the Home Office sent a Liaison Officer, Major J. Layton [11] Major Julian Layton was a Briton with German-Jewish roots who had already been involved in the Kitchener Camp. He was sent to Australia in early 1941 as a Home Office liaison officer to recruit men for the British Pioneer Corps and to handle the internment camps., to Australia. Owing his good efforts, about 180 selected cases, mostly married men, had the opportunity to return to England.

In accordance with the British policy, which now for many months regards us refugees from Nazi oppression as allies, Major Layton invited the fit men between the age of 18 and 50 to join the Pioneer Corps of the British Army. In the neighbourhood of 500 men followed this call. This is, in view of the great number of children, old and ailing men among us, a considerable percentage.

However, what is top become of the rest of us, whose status is identical to the recruits and who are also anxious to “do their bit” for the Common Cause?

Now, the skill and capabilities of the engineers, scientists, doctors and experts in our midst, are rotting behind barbed wire. What would be more noble, in view of the shortage of manpower, also more advantageous to the Australian war effort than to usefully employ our unused potentialities to the fullest extent in the fight against our oppressors? If we were allowed to participate in the common effort, we would cease to be a burden and problem, but become an asset to Australia.

Allies – treated like Prisoners of War

In this total war no ounce of energy ought to be wasted and men should not ne judged solely according to their place of birth. Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures!

Is it not paradoxical that we, on the one hand, are invited to join the British Forces, and are, on the other, still regarded and interned here as “enemy aliens”, and even subjected to the same Camp Rules as Prisoners of War?

These Camp Rules issued by the Group Commandant of our Internment Camps, on March 1st 1941, state i. a.:

(1a) The holding of political meeting or meetings at which any political propaganda is used, or Nazi or Fascist principles recommended, advanced or urged, is strictly forbidden. The Nazi and Fascist salutes will not be permitted, but Internees or Prisoners of War will be called to, or will stand at attention at all times when being addressed by an Officer or N. C. O. of the Australian Military Forces, or when an inspection or
Roll Call is being held.
(5) The exhibition of Nazi or Fascist emblems, signs or engravings within any compound is prohibited.
(15) The victimisation of any Internee or Prisoner of War holding anti-Nazi or anti-Fascist views, or for any other reason, is prohibited.

It is deeply depressing for us refugees to be surrounded after one year of internment and after fully being rehabilitated in Great Britain, by such an atmosphere of distrust.

In addition to the above mentioned Camp Rules “Army Field Censorship Regulations” are applied to us. Whilst we do not believe that this is due to a deliberate political gesture, we are at a loss to understand the reason thereof.

The “Army Field Censorship Regulations” hamper our efforts towards the solution of our problems. Cables may not be despatched at all and airmail letters, which constitute the only practical means of remaining in contact with, and of advising our families, only under exceptional circumstances and with special permission. – In Camp No. 3, Tatura, letters written by the Section Leader to the American Consulate General, Sydney, dealing with vital subjects as to our emigration have been kept back and were returned only after 3 to 4 months. Communications from the Australian Jewish Welfare Society, Sydney, did also not pass the local censorship and were delivered only after a few weeks. There, letters were even rejected, when the local censorship or Camp No. 3 thought their contents not to be appropriate or expedient. The “Army Field Censorship Regulations” stipulate furthermore that we are not allowed to write on behalf of other internees. This also applies to questions in regard to our release and emigration and naturally proves to be very disadvantageous. Our communications have to pass two censorships: not only the “District Censor” but in addition the local censorship.

One of the „… most discreditable incidents in the whole history …“

Is it not astonishing that we – in Great Britain recognised as allies – and after one year of internment, feel humiliated and are deeply depressed by the continuous misunderstanding of our true position?

On August 6, 1940, Lord Cecil said in the House of Lords: “I feel most strongly that the history of what has taken place with regard to these unhappy aliens, I sone of the most discreditable incidents in the whole history of this country”.

Whilst we know that fundamentally, Australia is not responsible for the difficulties with regard to our unfortunate position, we wish to be allowed to express the hope that the Commonwealth will release our true status as allies. And as a free country – irrespective of regulations applied to, but not made for us – refrain from withholding freedom from us, victims of Nazi oppression.

We have borne the hard fate of mistrust with calm dignity for one complete year. Our undeserved sufferings caused by the separation from our families, the repeated wreckage of our existence are too evident to be stressed.

We know that the right is on our side, and that in a free Commonwealth of Nations, fighting against barbarism , the right is ultimately bound to be victorious. Our problem is a British problem – a problem of Justice.

We confidently trust that we will not remain to be singled out from the benefit of Justice and Humanity.

With the confidence of the innocent, we appeal to you not to deprive us any longer of the first right of human beings:

our freedom.

our freedom











George Bell (1883 -1953) was Bishop of Chichester from 1929. Photo: US Library of Congress, LCN 2014695579

“I have no doubt whatever that the first step towards maintaining the morale of refugees from Germany and Austria, refugees from nazi oppression, is not to speak to the world in general terms about the ideals of freedom, but to convince them that you will do justice: that the upholders of freedom, as we are so proud to be, the fighters against evil things, brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression, and persecution, are doing justice to the men and women who have already suffered bitterly from these things in Germany, and have fled from them to us”. BISHOP OF CHICHESTER, in the House of Lords[12] Cf. House of Lords, minute from Aug 6, 1940, retrieved Sep 20, 2023., August 6, 1940.

Footnotes

show
  • [1]Minutes of the House of Commons, from Aug, 22,1940, retrieved Sep 23, 2023.
  • [2]Cf. Wikipedia about Vidkun Quisling. The name of the leader of the Norwegian Nazi Party and the puppet government during the occupation by the German Reich became synonymous with political traitors. He was sentenced to death and executed. Retrieved Sep 20, 2023.
  • [3]Wikipedia about Pierre Laval. The French politician was sentenced to death and executed for his collaboration in the Vichy government with the Nazis, retrieved Sep 20, 2023.
  • [4]Wikipedia about Pierre-Étienne Flandin, Laval's successor as Prime Minister of the French Vichy regime, which collaborated with the Nazis, retrieved on  Sep 20, 2023.
  • [5]The quote is often attributed to Winston Churchill, but according to the minutes of the House of Commons on August 22, 1940, it was made by Anderson; retrieved on Aug 17, 2023.
  • [6]This may refer to the Air Raid Precautions and Auxiliary Fire Service divisions of the British Civil Defense.
  • [7]Cf. Wikipedia about Osbert Peake (1897-1966), Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department.
  • [8]There seems to be a misunderstanding or insufficient information here. In July 1938, the Evian Conference on the treatment of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany failed. Poland and some Eastern European of the 32 participating states hoped to get rid of "their" Jews by means of an agreement; not even the USA as the inviting country wanted to increase its immigration quota. It was only agreed to negotiate with Nazi Germany. Retrieved on Sep 26, 2023.
  • [9]„Als die Welt sich abwandte“ (When the World Turned Away), German journal Der Spiegel on July 6., 2018 about the Evian Conference, retrieved on Sep 25, 2023.
  • [10]Cf. Wikipedia about the Camps in Australia, retrieved Dec, 20, 2023.
  • [11]Major Julian Layton was a Briton with German-Jewish roots who had already been involved in the Kitchener Camp. He was sent to Australia in early 1941 as a Home Office liaison officer to recruit men for the British Pioneer Corps and to handle the internment camps.
  • [12]Cf. House of Lords, minute from Aug 6, 1940, retrieved Sep 20, 2023.

Danke für Ihr Interesse an dunera.de. Leider können aus rechtlichen Gründen keine Bilder oder Grafiken heruntergeladen werden. Bitte kontaktieren Sie uns bei Fragen zu Bildern/Grafiken!

Thank you for your interest in dunera.de. Unfortunately, images or graphics cannot be downloaded for legal reasons. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding images/graphics!

Table of contents
Scroll to Top

Impressum | Datenschutz | Haftungsausschluss