The internment of friendly enemy aliens

MS Dunera, Troop Ship To School ShipThe Dunera Boys’ views of their own treatment separated very broadly into two camps which also had something of a geographic dimension. Some regarded their treatment – by a sadistic captain on board the Dunera and his not much better deputy – as a scandal and their incarceration as foolish xenophobia. Certainly they could be expected to be hostile to the Third Reich which had remorselessly demonised them to the point of rounding them up and removing them from Western Europe. The foolishness of it all was nicely captured in their delightfully oxymoronic classification as “Friendly enemy aliens”. This view of the Dunera saga was more typical of the Melbourne Dunera Boys.

The Sydney group – which my father would have identified himself though not in any self-conscious way – tended to see it all in a wider, more forgiving context. There was a war on and when their rounding up was announced (just before Churchill got to the “we will fight them on the beaches” peroration of his address to the House of Commons and the British people) in the wake of the evacuation of Dunkirk. It was a pretty tough and desperate time. And they weren’t too fond of playing the victim given their family ties to the real victims of the holocaust. They were indeed amazingly lucky in the circumstances.

In any event, I’ve just come across this piece by Dunera Boy Bern Brent of Canberra and thought I’d reproduce it here for the historical record as it were.

Dear Dunera News Readers,

As a Dunera Boy in Canberra I have attended Dunera reunions in Melbourne and Sydney irrregularly. But when I do, I am irritated by some sentiments that should not be allowed to become established unchallenged. One of them is the view that our internment was uncalled for, a disgrace, and a blot on British justice. Invariably Churchill is the chief villain of the piece.

Such sentiments ignore the historical setting of the time – May-June-July 1940. For Britain and France it had been a “Phoney War”. France was defeated decisively, very quickly, and so was the bulk of the British Army. Most of the British soldiers escaped at Dunkirk but they left all their equipment behind and the dismal defeat could not be denied.

The British press looked for a culprit. That the German army had shown itself to be superior – after all the Nazis had prepared for war for years – was not particularly palatable. The Fascists in Spain had won their war and had boasted about their “Fifth Column”. There had been four columns advancing on Madrid with a fifth column inside the city.

There were tens of thousands of Germans and Austrians in Britain, those who had received a B and C classification from tribunals at the beginning of the war. Most of them were Jewish refugees – many of them in the country for less than 18 months – but not all. There were political refugees. There were homosexuals. There were others who claimed to be sympathetic to the Allied cause. Some had lived in Britain for decades.

All these people were on the loose in a Britain suddenly threatened with invasion. It was not an empty threat. Had not the RAF defeated the Luftwaffe in the months to come – and it was a very close thing – it would have happened.

Chamberlain abdicated and Churchill became prime minister. Today Churchill is acknowledged as Britain’s saviour but Churchill’s hold on the prime ministership in May-June was precarious. The king had preferred Halifax, the Foreign Secretary.

In April, Germany had successfully invaded Norway. The Phoney War was well and truly over when Germany also invaded and occupied Holland, Denmark and Belgium and attacked France. After three days of desperate political manoeuvring and turmoil against the background of the military catastrophe, Churchill became P.M. It was then that he addressed Parliament: “I have nothing to offer but blood, tears and sweat”.

By the end of that month, May, Churchill had decided to intern not only Sir Oswald Mosley and 33 other fascists and fascist sympathisers, but also M. Ramsay, a Conservative M.P. since 1931, and not a member of the Fascist Party.

These people were not foreign nationals like us – some of them were members of the British establishment. It required real political courage to do what Churchill did.

The following month, the French surrendered and before the Dunera sailed, Churchill had seen to it that a major part of the French navy was destroyed in North Africa to prevent it falling into German hands. In a ten-minute attack by air and sea over 1000 French sailors lost their lives. Would the French Fleet have fallen into German hands? We will never know. But Churchill was not prepared to take any chances.

So, personally, I cannot get all upset about Churchill advocating, among all the many vital matters he had to face day by day, ‘intern the lot’. The intention had always been to sort us out in the fullness of time. Had I been in his shoes, I would have advocated the same. Who could be sure that Hitler had not sent a hundred determined agents to Britain in the guise of refugees, Jewish or otherwise?

Yes, the sorting out took too long and, yes, dispatching us to the Dominions was a mistake. But these were unusual times when everything was done on the gallop. There would have been no submissions to cabinet to be discussed and debated. No inter-departmental meetings to consider the issue. Senior officers would have had more important things to do and the actual execution of internment and transportation overseas would have been undertaken by relatively junior officers with lots of other matters to attend to.

When the Dunera was at sea, the Battle of Britain was in full swing. On 7 September, when we disembarked in Sydney Harbour, 300 German bombers accompanied by more than twice as many fighters appeared over London. German pilots reported the city a sea of flames. Many English people were bombed out, among them the chairman of the committee that had organised and financed the refugee hostel that looked after me as a sixteen and seventeen old boy. He and his family perished when a bomb hit their house.

I am a Churchill fan and this D.N. contribution will hopefully curtail the denigration that appears to be inevitable whenever his name crops up at Dunera reunions.

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I am and will always be Not Trampis
I am and will always be Not Trampis
6 years ago

Only problem with Churchill is he lumped all German as Nazis.

Really peeved Bonhoeffer off. It meant those wanting a change of government in Germany had no friends as I outlined in my review of a book on Bonhoeffer

I am and will always be Not Trampis
I am and will always be Not Trampis
6 years ago

Just one little point.

I made a comment similar to above only providing a link. The comment went to the Ether.

derrida derider
derrida derider
6 years ago

Not Trampis –

True, but Churchill rightly feared a dolchstosslegende. If he helped an army coup then it would not be too long before some future Hitler declared “we were winning and had victory snatched away from us by a few plotters in the pay of the enemy” – because that is exactly what the actual Hitler said about the “November criminals” of 1918. To crush Nazism beyond hope of resurrection there was no alternative to crushing Germany.

And yes, in the circumstances of 1940 rounding up ALL enemy aliens was certainly necessary. Which does not of course excuse their treatment once they were rounded up, but then again you must forgive the fears and passions of a desperate war.

Jaben Maheno
Jaben Maheno
6 years ago

‘Only problem with Churchill is he lumped all German as Nazis.’

The only problem. He was a genocidal lunatic.

I am and will always be Not Trampis
I am and will always be Not Trampis
6 years ago

DD,

That was only a minor part. The major part that led the Nazis to power was the implementation by Bruening of classical economics. Before this they were a blimp on the electoral stage.

Jaben Maheno
Jaben Maheno
6 years ago

They got to wear they were because of magnificent financial backing. Not anything to do with classical economics. As well the local communists …. that is to say Jews …. were instructed by their masters to swing their support behind them.

I am and will always be Not Trampis
I am and will always be Not Trampis
6 years ago

Hayek for one would disagree as he realised his advice to Bruening was wrong.

The rise of Unemployment was only matched by the rise in the Nazi vote.

Jaben Maheno
Jaben Maheno
6 years ago

I think you must be putting words in Hayeks mouth. How could he construe that Weimar’s post-inflation policies were anything but a success. Despite a vicious international climate, it was Germany that came out of the Depression earlier than the other major countries. The classical policies of Weimar were the reason for the economic dynamism of Hitlers early years. I will believe this Hayek story when I see it. Australia also came up better with the application of classical policies. Keynesian idiocy looks good on the GDP figures, but it always throws people out of work. Always. No matter where and when it is practiced.

I am and will always be Not Trampis
I am and will always be Not Trampis
6 years ago

You are on drugs.

We are not talking about hyper-inflation. The policies of Bruening made the Depression worse not better. That is why even Hayek recanted. Germany recovered when Schliecher introduced mildy expansionary policies .
the Nazis merely boosted them a bit. Germany was the ONLY country to get to full employment

Jaben Maheno
Jaben Maheno
6 years ago

‘The rise of Unemployment was only matched by the rise in the Nazi vote.’

High School history. The nazis and communists had more election resources than anyone else, and at the last minute the communist vote was turned over to the nazis. Thus setting the stage for genocide, posing as war.

I am and will always be Not Trampis
I am and will always be Not Trampis
6 years ago
Reply to  Jaben Maheno

High School history before Unemployment rose dramatically thanks to Bruening the Nazi vote was an asterisk.

Jaben Maheno
Jaben Maheno
6 years ago

Correlation is not causation. They got the banker backing and they were obviously going to kick ass.

Jaben Maheno
Jaben Maheno
6 years ago

‘We are not talking about hyper-inflation. The policies of Bruening made the Depression worse not better.’

Worse than where. They got out of the depression earlier.

‘That is why even Hayek recanted.’

You are putting words in his mouth.

I am and will always be Not Trampis
I am and will always be Not Trampis
6 years ago
Reply to  Jaben Maheno

If Bruening’s policies worked he would not have been replaced.

They only got out of the Depression by expansionary policies!

I have read no-one who has supported your position.
The only argument is whether the rise in government [expenditure was mainly armaments or it wasn’t!

Jaben Maheno
Jaben Maheno
6 years ago

Completely illogical and ridiculous argument. Go find the tables. Retrenchment always expands employment. Just as it did for Australia. Just as it did for Hardings America. Just as it did for Weimar Germany. Always works. Retrenchment slams GDP and profits, but expands employment.

Jaben Maheno
Jaben Maheno
6 years ago

So you have retrenchment in one quarter, or half year, next time period, employment will be recovering, business profits will be lower, GDP will be lower. The important thing is employment. Slashing government spending puts people back in work, and subsequently GDP and profits will rise. But to me that is not important. What is important is getting people back to work and providing resources for private sector recovery.

Jaben Maheno
Jaben Maheno
6 years ago

Is it your claim that policies always work in realtime. That there is no delay factor. Obviously the Weimar retrenchment was a stunning success. Done under reparations pressure and after massive inflation the subsequent expansion has to be seen as miraculous.

I am and will always be Not Trampis
I am and will always be Not Trampis
6 years ago

Harding/Coolidge America had three recessions in 7 years. Australia had NEGATIVE GDP after retrenchment. It lowest Unemployment rate was 8%. That is recession level.
good night!

Jaben Maheno
Jaben Maheno
6 years ago

Looks like I am going to have to repeat myself.

Lets go over it again;

‘So you have retrenchment in one quarter, or half year, next time period, employment will be recovering, business profits will be lower, GDP will be lower. The important thing is employment. Slashing government spending puts people back in work, and subsequently GDP and profits will rise. But to me that is not important. What is important is getting people back to work and providing resources for private sector recovery.’

GDP is the wrong thing to look at if you want to look at a recovery. Once Harding retrenched, profits and GDP fell, employment rose.

Jaben Maheno
Jaben Maheno
6 years ago

‘It lowest Unemployment rate was 8%’

You are going to have to accept that you are not that bright. 8 per cent unemployment during the Great Depression is a stunning result. Particularly as their monetary policy was controlled elsewhere. Being part of the pound sterling set of nations.

Jaben Maheno
Jaben Maheno
6 years ago

Like the Australians, Harding did not control monetary policy. So there was simply no way he could affect a recovery in nominal GDP without monetary expansion. This is just impossible. But his policies were very effective at getting people back to work even as those who controlled the Federal Reserve were doing what such people usually do.

derrida derider
derrida derider
6 years ago

Yawn. Of course the deflation of the early 1930s were what finally brought Hitler to power. You should argue the source and effects of that deflation in some other place (though FWIW I reckon the Austrian view here is every bit as mendacious a rewrite of history as Hitler’s claim that the Germany army never lost WW1 but was stabbed in the back by a cabal of financiers).

But once in power Hitler justified his repressive domestic and adventurist foreign policies by this rewriting of WW1 history; a rewrite, BTW, that had already in the 1920s become conventional wisdom in much of Germany because it flattered the self-esteem of army veterans (the equivalent of the RSL was very powerful then in Germany).

Jaben Maheno
Jaben Maheno
6 years ago

No don’t be an idiot. It wasn’t deflation, because doesn’t pick winners. CAPICHE. Do you get that. Deflation doesn’t discriminate and say; YOU GET THE VOTES. Banker and communist …. that is to say Jewish …. backing does. Because that gives you the funds to win. Then at the third to last minute the meme goes around saying that Germany will either become communist of fascist, and everyone jumps on the fascist bandwagon.

So you ought to stop these ahistorical lies. And this dirty practice of supporting false flag experts and mass murderers like Winston Churchill. A mad killer and one of the reasons for the extraordinary gentile holocaust. That evil fat bastard murdered Australians for no reason at all. They practice genocide and call it war. Anyone would know that if you are pinned down on the beaches, its time to reinforce and withdraw. On the other side of that gentile slaughter was a blue-eyed crypto-Jew pretending to be a Turkish nationalist. And fresh from the mass murder of Armenians. So we all know why you guys are flying the Churchill flag even after so many decades. Perhaps you are hoping to inspire Tony in his adventures killing Muslim kids.

Jaben Maheno
Jaben Maheno
6 years ago

‘rewrite of history as Hitler’s claim that the Germany army never lost WW1 but was stabbed in the back by a cabal of financiers).’

You going to disprove this. Go to it Mordecai.