29
Aug
11

Exhibition: ‘The Enemy at Home: German internees in World War 1 Australia’ at The Museum of Sydney

Exhibition dates: 7th May – 11th September 2011

 

Many thankx to Arianne Martin for her help and to The Museum of Sydney for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969) 'Cinema at Holsworthy, showing American comedy One Thousand Dollars' Nd

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969)
Cinema at Holsworthy, showing American comedy One Thousand Dollars

Nd
© Dubotzki Collection, Germany

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969) 'Barracks in which the internees lived' Nd

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969)
Barracks in which the internees lived

Nd
© Dubotzki Collection, Germany

 

A ‘view from tower’ reveals the long rows of huts at Holsworthy internment camp, where Germans were interned during the First World War.

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969) 'Max Herz, third from left, directs the German classic Minna von Barnhelm by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, at the Trial Bay theatre' 1917

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969)
Max Herz, third from left, directs the German classic Minna von Barnhelm by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, at the Trial Bay theatre

1917
© Dubotzki Collection, Germany

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969) 'Paul Dubotzki and Fellow Inmates Look Out From a Make-shift Hut on Torrens Island' 1914-15

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969)
Paul Dubotzki and Fellow Inmates Look Out From a Make-shift Hut on Torrens Island

1914-15
© Dubotzki Collection, Germany

 

 

The Torrens Island Internment Camp was a World War I concentration camp, located on Torrens Island which is near Adelaide in South Australia, and is a sad facet of South Australia’s history.

The camp opened on 9 October 1914 and held up to 400 men of German or Austro-Hungarian background, or crew members of enemy ships who had been caught in Australian ports at the beginning of the war. And they were held without trial under the provisions of the “War Precautions Act 1914”.

The South Australian population which included a reasonable number of German descent, saw a wave of anti-German feeling at the outbreak of the First World War. At official level, the War Precautions Act permitted sweeping powers of search, seizure of property and arrest. Lutheran churches and schools were closed and German language newspapers were banned.

In August 1914, soldiers were sent out under the authority of the Act to round up about 300 of what were called “Germans”. The internees included some German and Austro-Hungarian citizens and some Australian born, a mixture of farmers, intellectuals, and Lutheran pastors. They were only a small fraction of the people of German descent in South Australia, and with them the army had rounded up some citizens of Sweden, the Netherlands, and one from the USA – all neutral countries.

The camp was quietly closed in August 1915, after an American who was interned, wrote to the US consulate about the camp and the conditions which saw many of the internees released, while others were transferred to a more humanely-run camp at Holsworthy in New South Wales.

The official records of the Torrens Island camp were destroyed, and today virtually all that is known about the incident comes from the only wartime records that survive, principally the typescript and evidence from the Court of Enquiry.

Extract from Alona Tester. “Torrens Island: South Australia’s World War 1 Internment Camp,” on the Gould Genealogy & History website Feb 23, 2017 [Online] Cited 01/03/2020

 

Heinrich Jacobsen. 'Boxer Frank Bungardy, third from left, who established a boxing and self-defence school at Holsworthy' (c) Dubotzki Collection, Germany

 

Heinrich Jacobsen
Boxer Frank Bungardy, third from left, who established a boxing and self-defence school at Holsworthy

Nd
© Dubotzki Collection, Germany

 

 

Recently discovered photographs of Australia’s little known internment camps operating during WWI, reveal how the internees created an extraordinary life behind the barbed wire. The photographs, of remarkable artistic quality, show groups of civilian detainees whose only crime was to be of German or Austrian descent.

Taken by interned photographer Paul Dubotzki between 1915 and 1919, the photographs reveal how the 7,000 internees built for themselves a thriving working economy and cultural life that included all sorts of businesses and trades including newspapers, cafes, clubs, sporting events and elaborate theatre productions.

Dubotzki’s stunning photographs feature in a new book and an exhibition opening 7 May at the Museum of Sydney, shedding new light on this fascinating era in Australia’s war time history. The Enemy at Home explores life inside the three internment camps at Holsworthy in Sydney’s south west, Berrima in the Southern Highlands and Trial Bay on the NSW mid-north coast.

These so-called “German concentration camps” led to the destruction of the German Australian community, the largest non-British ethnic community in Australia before the war. The unlikely prisoners of war came from all walks of life and many had lived in Australia for decades, including beer baron Edmund Resch and acclaimed orthopaedic surgeon Dr Max Herz. Many were transformed by internment, such as businessman Kurt Wiese who developed his passion for drawing and later became famous in the USA as book illustrator including the original Bambi book and the children’s classic The Story About Ping.

Nadine Helmi has pieced together Dubotzki’s story after a chance discovery led her to Germany and the discovery of his entire photography collection. Helmi has collaborated with the Migration Heritage Centre and Gerhard Fischer, UNSW Associate Professor of German Studies who has published widely on Australian migration history.

The Enemy at Home is a timely reminder of an almost forgotten chapter in Australia’s history, raising questions about the past and about how we view and portray multicultural Australia today.”

Press release from The Museum of Sydney

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969) 'A camp kitchen garden' Nd

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969)
A camp kitchen garden

Nd
© Berrima District Historical Society and Family History Society

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969) 'Deserted Trial Bay Gaol barracks after the sudden departure of internees' 1915

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969)
Deserted Trial Bay Gaol barracks after the sudden departure of internees

1915
© Dubotzki Collection, Germany

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969) 'Internees perform a breathtaking acrobatic number in the Holsworthy gym' c. 1918

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969)
Internees perform a breathtaking acrobatic number in the Holsworthy gym

c. 1918
© Dubotzki collection, Germany

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969) 'Prisoners airing their bedding at the Torrens Island camp in South Australia' 1915

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969)
Prisoners airing their bedding at the Torrens Island camp in South Australia
1915
© Dubotzki collection, Germany

 

 

Bavarian internee Paul Dubotski was arrested in Adelaide in 1915 as an “enemy alien”. A skilled photographer by trade, he was permitted to produce photographs and run his own studio inside the camp.

Paul Dubotzki was born in 1891 in Ingolstadt, Bavaria. He grew up in an expanding German Empire as an apprentice photographer in Passau and Seeshaupt. At 22 he joined an expedition to China and Sumatra as official photographer.

Dubotzki travelled through Malaysia, Burma and Singapore documenting the places as expedition artists had done a century before. As fate dictates he was in German New Guinea at the outbreak of the World War One. His photographs show indigenous policemen gathering with German reservists in the jungle of New Guinea to repulse the anticipated Australian invasion.

Dubotzki was not among the prisoners transported to Australia after the surrender of German New Guinea. But he did manage to make his way to Adelaide where in 1915 he was arrested as an ‘enemy alien’ and interned in the South Australian internment camp at Torrens Island.

After his arrest Dubotzki recorded his life in internment. His photographs show in beautiful detail the diverse camp community and culture that developed around him. With his equipment he was able to earn a basic income from photography making postcards and mementos.

Dubotzki’s first pictures of Torrens Island camp captured the camp’s appalling conditions and the abuse committed by Australian guards. His photographs were submitted as evidence in official protests and a Defence Department inquiry.

Dubotzki was transferred to the main German Concentration Camp at Holsworthy near Liverpool in New South Wales on 19 August 1915 and a few months later transferred to the Trial Bay camp, the privileged camp on the New South Wales north coast. His time at Trial Bay was one of intense creativity where he not only worked at his photography, but also discovered a talent and interest for art and acting.

Dubotzki left Trial Bay when it was closed in 1918 and spent the remainder of the war at Holsworthy. He was repatriated to Germany in 1919.

When Dubotzki returned home he found a Germany broken by its imperialistic ambitions with record unemployment, inflation, social unrest and poverty. In the six years that he had been away, the Germany that he knew had ceased to exist with millions of lives lost; the Kaiser overthrown, its proud naval fleet destroyed and its extensive colonial territories confiscated.

Despite this Dubotzki, like many, succeeded in building a new life for himself. Back in Dorfen he opened a photographic business, got married, fathered three children and started a second career as a painter. He combined commercial photography with more artistic work. His images of the Bavarian landscape and Bavarian villagers survive as postcards.

World War One disrupted Dubotzki’s life with an adventurous segue, but World War Two devastated his family taking his only son. Again after another world war he resumed his work as a photographer and painter, now selling his Bavarian landscape paintings to American soldiers occupying the Southwest of Germany.

He died in 1962, a well-known member of the local business community and respected as a photographer and painter. His old studio in Dorfen next to his surviving daughter’s house, still contains the hundreds of photos and many oil paintings that are his artistic legacy, while his grandchildren care for his cameras that testify to a life devoted to photography.

Anonymous. “Paul Dubotzki: The forgotten collection: The Enemy at Home – German internees in World War 1 Australia” on the Migration Heritage Centre website of the New South Wales government (archived) 2011 [Online] Cited 01/03/2020 http://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au/exhibition/enemyathome/paul-dubotzki-forgotten-collection/

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969) 'Paul Dubotzki, standing centre, with a group of young Germans interned in Australia during the First World War' 1915

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969)
Paul Dubotzki, standing centre, with a group of young Germans interned in Australia during the First World War
1915
Historic Houses Trust
© Dubotzki collection, Germany

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969) 'Interned 'butchers' pose proudly with their authentic German sausages at Holsworthy internment camp' Nd

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969)
Interned ‘butchers’ pose proudly with their authentic German sausages at Holsworthy internment camp
Nd
Historic Houses Trust
© Dubotzki collection, Germany

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969) 'Two WWI German internees at Trial Bay get into their petticoats to ready for a dramatic performance' Nd

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969)
Two WWI German internees at Trial Bay get into their petticoats to ready for a dramatic performance
Nd
Historic Houses Trust
© Dubotzki collection, Germany

 

Photographer unknown. 'A young internee strikes a tableau vivant warrior pose' c. 1915 - 1919

 

Photographer unknown
A young internee strikes a tableau vivant warrior pose
c. 1915 – 1919
© Dubotzki Collection, Germany

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969) 'Walter Himmelmann as the leading lady in Der Weg zur Holle ('The path to hell'). The theatre society founded by the Trial Bay internees' c. 1918

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969)
Walter Himmelmann as the leading lady in Der Weg zur Holle (‘The path to hell’). The theatre society founded by the Trial Bay internees

c. 1918
© Dubotzki Collection, Germany

 

 

After the war

In total, 6890 persons were interned in Australia during the war, including 67 women and 84 children. Despite the official designation “prisoners of war” given to them by the Commonwealth authorities, the internees were mostly civilian Australian residents. They included approximately 700 “naturalised British subjects” and some 70 “native-born British subjects” who were Australian by birth, sometimes second- or even third-generation Australians of German ancestry.

At the end of the war, a total of 6150 persons were “repatriated” – that is, summarily shipped to Germany: a mass deportation unparalleled in Australian history. Of these, 5414 had been interned, the others were family members or non-interned “ex-enemy aliens” who either accepted the government’s offer to be repatriated or were ordered to leave the country.

Six hundred and ninety-nine people were compulsorily deported. The internees who had been brought to Australia from British dominions overseas were not allowed to return to their previous places of residence. They were all summarily deported.

Most of the internees consented to leave Australia voluntarily. They were convinced that there was no future for them in a country that had robbed them of their rights and freedom. A few protested and appealed to stay, only to be rejected by the Aliens Tribunal that had been set up by the Department of Defence.

The tribunal, consisting of a single magistrate, rubber-stamped the applications according to the guidelines issued by the government. As a rule, businessmen and importers were to be deported, while farmers – who were said to “have shown themselves of less potential danger than the German businessman” – were allowed to stay, unless there were unspecified “special reasons”.

Extract from Gerhard Fischer. “German experience in Australia during WW1 damaged road to multiculturalism,” on The Conversation website April 22, 2015 [Online] Cited 01/03/2020

 

'Wooden box containing glass plates' c. 1915 - 1918

 

Wooden box containing glass plates
c. 1915 – 1918
© Dubotzki Collection, Germany

 

'Wooden box containing glass plates' c. 1915 - 1918

 

Wooden box containing glass plates
c. 1915 – 1918
© Dubotzki Collection, Germany

 

 

National Library of Australia collection photographs

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969) 'Prisoner athletes, Torrens Island, South Australia' c. 1914

 

Paul Dubotzki (German, 1891-1969)
Prisoner athletes, Torrens Island, South Australia
c. 1914
National Library of Australia
Public domain

 

 

The Museum of Sydney
Cnr Bridge and Phillip Streets, Sydney
Phone: 02 9251 5988

Open daily 10 am – 5 pm

The Museum of Sydney website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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