Dec. 18, 2015
- The HMT Dunera: When Britain Deported German Jewish Refugees to Australia – Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg
In 1940 England, with Nazi Germany just across the English Channel, only 35 km. from Dover, European and German foreigners were all seen by Britain as potential spies and enemy agents. The British government ordered all adult German subjects to be rounded up and interned, even though the majority were German Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany who were implacable enemies of the Nazis.
The majority were sent to the Isle of Man, offshore to the west of Liverpool, where they could do little harm, but heavy suspicion fell on men of military age, from 18 to 65, who were seen as highly dangerous. They were sent to Australia. The HMS Dunera had originally been designed for 1,600 troops, but now was to be filled with 2,542 refugees, 70% of them Jewish. On board the ship, the internees were all very badly treated by their British army warders, who considered the internees to be Nazi spies. They searched and looted their personal luggage, and threw much of it overboard.
When the internees arrived in Australia, the government kept their arrival secret and sent them off to a prison camp at Hay, in New South Wales, 750 km. west of Sydney. The internees gradually made a somewhat civilized life for themselves, organized talks, lectures and seminars; many were scholars and professors, and they applied to emigrate to the U.S. and countries in South America.
It was later learned that the Dunera had been followed by a Nazi submarine. The U-boat was ready to torpedo what it thought was a British troopship, but then the U-boat crew saw the considerable amount of debris that had been thrown off the boat, and picked up some to inspect it. When they saw it contained much in the way of German letters and literature, they concluded that the military boat was carrying German POWs, and the U-boat commander decided to spare the ship. The author is a senior fellow at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)