and their FATE
Forced Separation, Family Devastation, Being Refugees and War Internees
Background image: Magdalene Wulff and her children during the war in Düsseldorf, Germany, 1942.
It was during August 2019 that I met some of the “children” of the German expatriate colony of Persia (Iran), Australians who had been detained with their parents in Iran in 1941 after the country’s invasion by the British and Soviet Armies during the Second World War. About 500 of them (single males and six families with their children) were sent to the Australian internment camps, while the rest of the women and children were forced to return to Germany during the war. In 1947, some of the internees were deported or repatriated to Germany while many were able to stay in Australia, although they had to find employment in order to make enough money to pay for the return of their families (wives and children). It was only in 1949 that most of the women and children were able to rejoin their husbands and continue to live together in Australia.
Background image: Girschik Sibilings. left to right (sitting): Helga Girschik (R36356) and Peter Girschik (R36357). Summer family picnic, Persia (Iran), 1940. Photographer: Rudolf Girschik (R36358), Leica Camera.
More than 5,000 unpublished photographs, negatives, slides, and drawings; ten handwritten diaries; 5,000 field notes; and the entire official letters, communications and contracts relating to Persia.
More than 500 unpublished photographs; handwritten diaries; family letters; contracts relating to Persia; and archaeological objects.
More than 20 handwritten personal diaries of German internees of Persia; travelogues of their wives; family photo albums; and more than 1000 handwritten letters and communications of German internees of Persia with their family members and friends between 1941 and 1947.
VISUAL ARTS OF THE CAMP
More than 1000 handwritten letters and communications of German internees of Persia with their family members and friends between 1941 and 1947.
More than 5,000 military and governmental documents relating to the policies of captivity, detentions, interrogations, the censorship, camp life, and the release of German internees of Persia.
Background image: Girschik family portrait as war internees. Back row, left to right (standing): Helga Girschik (R36356); Rudolf Girschik (R36358). Front row left to right (standing) Peter Girschik (R36357); (sitting): Elfriede Girschik (R36355) holding baby Herbert Girschik (R36355a). Camp No.3, Tatura War Internment Camp, Australia, 10 March 1945.
Australian War Memorial 030245/04
A major part of the project concerns oral history and memory, and especially childhood memory. I am encouraging the participants to return to their very first childhood memories and write about them, and at the same time record some part of this for use in writing their own autobiographies.
The major part of our project is based on childhood memories by primarily focusing on “autobiographical remembering”, a narrative account of one’s past through oral history, family photographs and material culture; the intimate interplay between one’s self and one’s personal history for our understanding of what we usually call “autobiographical memory”. Building upon the above approaches, in our project we conceive of the “autobiographical memory” of the protagonists as an active construction embedded in a social weave of dialogues that are negotiated not only between them and their immediate social environment (parents, siblings, etc.), but also, equally importantly, between them and their larger cultural milieu (Germany, Persia, and Australia).
Recording: H. Girschik (R36356). Editing: P. Khosronejad © 2020
"I fully realised then into what a trap I had fallen. It was no use asking the Lord for help because we were no longer in God’s hands, but in the hands of the British from whom there was no escape."
Johann Friedrich Bambach (R36428), Loveday War Camp, November 19th 1941.
Background image: Helga Girschik (R36356), Qolhak, near Tehran, Persia (Iran), 1938. Photographer: Rudolf Girschik (R36358), Leica Camera.
Dr. Pedram Khosronejad | Adjunct Professor
Religion and Society Research Cluster | Western Sydney University
Fellow | Department of Anthropology | Harvard University