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.