Internees in Australia

27 June, 2010

Tatura, Australia. 4 December 1943. Family groups among German internees from overseas and now interned at No. 1A Camp, Tatura. Back row, left to right: Burkhard Drude; Gertrud Drude; Heinrich Dannenberg; Jula Muller; Lotte Muller. Front row: Michael Drude; Gabriele Drude; Maria Dannenberg; Helga Girschik; Peter Girschik; Walter Muller.
Tatura, Australia. 4 December 1943. Family groups among German internees from overseas and now interned at No. 1A Camp, Tatura. Back row, left to right: Burkhard Drude; Gertrud Drude; Heinrich Dannenberg; Jula Muller; Lotte Muller. Front row: Michael Drude; Gabriele Drude; Maria Dannenberg; Helga Girschik; Peter Girschik; Walter Muller.
Image: Geoffrey McInnes
Source: Australian War Memorial

Question: My father, mother and their parents were of German descent but their families had migrated to Palestine the late 19th century. During WW2 they were declared enemies by the British, who oversaw the area at the time. They were sent an internment camp at Tatura in Victoria. When released they stayed in Australia, eventually becoming naturalised and establishing themselves in Melbourne. Where can I find further information about the internees sent to Australia?

Answer: Internment camps were set up in Australia at the beginning of World War 2 to house those designated ‘enemy aliens’ under the National Security Regulations, developed as a response to fear of invasion to protect the country’s security. Those designated enemy aliens were often from or descended from those who came from enemy countries, including Germany, Italy and Japan.

Camps specifically designed for internees were set up Australia-wide in both city and country and included  Tatura at Rushworth in Victoria; Cowra in New South Wales; Loveday in South Australia; Rottnest Island in Western Australia; and Enoggera in suburban Brisbane.

Over 7000 Australian residents, mainly men but also women and children, were detained for part or all of the war. Australian residents declared enemy aliens included recently-arrived immigrants; naturalised Australians born in an enemy country; second-generation Australians of foreign descent; refugees from Europe, including Jewish refugees; and even Australians of British descent who were classed as a threat.

In addition, about 8000 enemy aliens were detained in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and then sent to Australia for internment. The internees also were of mixed background. Some were enemy soldiers captured by the allied forces; some were refugees who had already fled Europe; and yet others were British citizens who were immigrants from countries now considered the enemy. Overseas internees included men, women and children, including many family groups.

Much has been written on the internment camps of World War 2 and some interesting links and stories of individual Australians interred during the war can be found at right. Numerous photographs were also taken of internees in the camps, including family groups where individuals are named. These images are now held in a number of institutions, including Museum Victoria and the Australian War Memorial.

The National Archives of Australia (NAA) holds many records concerning internees including investigation files; lists of property seized; internee case files; classified correspondence; rolls of internees; and general correspondence and files. Much of this can be accessed through the NAA Record Search, although some documents are still restricted even today, and researchers can examine digitised records of individual internees, as well as general information.

Comments (16)

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Giuseppe Biviano 3 October, 2013 20:20
Can you please tell me when the next bus tour of the Internment Camps around Tatura is.
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Discovery Centre 5 October, 2013 11:37
Hi Guiseppe, Bus tours of the Internment Camps are organised by arrangement with the Tatura Museum. You can find their contact details to organise a bus tour here.
Christine Piper 12 March, 2012 17:30
I'm researching the experience of Japanese civilians interned in Australia during World War II. If anyone has a personal story about this subject they would like to share, or if you would like to know more about this subject, please visit my website: http://lovedayproject.com
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Discovery Centre 6 December, 2011 11:49

Hi Eloise,

Sorry for our late reply. We do not stock Wall of Wire by Joyce Hammond at the Immigration Museum book store. We recommend that you search online book stores.

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Catherine Gosling 4 December, 2011 16:10
There are many descendants of those interned at Tatura living in Victoria. Please contact the Association of German Teachers of Victoria Inc. and we can put you in contact with some of them. Visit: www.agtv.vic.edi.au
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Tony Piccolo 26 August, 2011 00:04
I am currently researching the lives of internees and their families for a parliamentary debate in the South Australian Parliament. I am interested in hearing the stories of internees (in Australia) and how they and their families experienced internment.
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Chris Parks 12 June, 2011 20:22
I have amongst a lot of correspondence from my German grandparents a postcard sent to them from the internment camp at Holsworthy so I was aware that the internment had occurred. My own Grandparents and their family were not interred while Resch the brewer who my Grandfather worked for was. I guess if you had a high profile you were a target for the internment to prevent you having any influence. Interesting also that he had only just become naturalised before the war started and his wife and children arrived about the time he became naturalised being among the last to arrive before the war started. You would think they would have been prime targets for internment.
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Carol Emmi 12 June, 2011 15:24
My grandfather's name was Gregorio Emmi. I know that he was interned in Australia during the war, but the family has no other information about his war involvement and internation. Is there somewhere I can search his name to find information?
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eloise 10 May, 2011 17:21
do you know where I can get a copy of. Walls of wire by Joyce hammond ? Thank you, Eloise Mitchell
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Gabrielle Edwards 29 March, 2011 13:54
this site was remarably unhelpful while I was looking for info for an assignment.
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Discovery Centre 3 March, 2011 15:57
Hi Julie. We had a look at our copy of Walls of wire and your grandfather is not mentioned. We did however come across some of his records on the NAA site as mentioned in the above article. Go to the Name Search form, type in his surname, then select World War II records in the 'Category of Records' drop down. They probably have other records relating to him and his time in Tatura but not all are digitised or indexed. You should contact them through their Making Australia Home project to see what further information they have. They also have many images and you can search these for your grandfather's name or general Tatura images.
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Julie Rosenbaum 2 March, 2011 05:42
My grandfather Baron Wilhelm A. von Keudell arrived in Australia with his wife Anna(38),daughter Angela(3),and son Hans Joachim(2)on the Pierre Lotti november 10th, 1938. My grandmother was Jewish and my grandfather German Protestant,but not pro nazi in any way. He was put in Tatura Internment camp. I am trying to find out if he is mentioned in joyce hammond book "walls of Wire" as I live in the states and cant find the book.I know he was in the Australian service at some time but I cant see actual documents on line. I wish i could visit your museum and research..Can you direct me in any way? Thank you.
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Bruce Baker 22 January, 2011 19:50
Excellent book "Walls of Wire" (Joyce Hammond 190 pages) from your library goes into great detail on each of the 7 camps in the Tatura area and names many of the internees/pows. There is also a beautifully maintained cemetry and musuem at Tatura dedicated to the camps. My mother now 89 and still living in Tatura was a driver during the war years making daily deliveries to the camps. Nothing to see there at the sites now but the book has a great selection of photos from the time.
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Irmela Drude - Vernardou 21 January, 2011 20:26
Hello,my daughter found this site and I was very touched to see this photo of my family (Drude),my parents,brother and sister. There exists an other one with me (baby Irmela) because I was borne in Tatura (Waranga Military hospital 27th May 1943)in the winter 1948 we returned to Germany. My father was teaching in the Internees Camp and was also a member of the theatre. Now for many years I'm living in Greece. I'd like very much to be in contact with other Internees! Your's sincerely I.Drude-Vernardou
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Discovery Centre 15 July, 2010 12:20

Hi Carole. As mentioned in the last paragraph of the article, records of internees can be found at the National Archives of Australia (NAA). If you click on the link at righ you can search for these records, as well as immigration records prior to 1923. If you are looking for immigration frecords earlier than 1923, you will need to contact the archives of the state in which they arrived. See our this link for further information on researching your family history.

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CAROLE SNOWDON 14 July, 2010 10:50
Hi,my gr grandfather was Johann Traugott Hubner.(Fathers name may have been Gottfried Hubner). He married Emily Elizabeth Lawrence on 28/2/1878 aged 27.Thier daughter Harriet Alvina was born 9/9/1884.I know that at least one family member was an internee at Tatura.Dont know how to find out any more could you suggest what to do next? Thanks Carole
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