ON the way to the australian camps
Oct.14th – Nov.19th 1941
© 2020-2023 Designed by P. KHOSRONEJAD
After a few weeks of interrogations in the Basra camp, on October 14th the German prisoners from Persia (civilian and non-civilian) were first shipped to Bombay on the “Rohna”, and subsequently on October 22nd they were sent to Adelaide in South Australia on the “Rangitiki”, a New Zealand troop ship.
"At 10.00 o’clock the day of departure was settled for 14 October. On 13 October the luggage was loaded and we are supposed to depart early tomorrow. I hope that Elfriede and the children will then see us again. We have been separated since 26 September and I have only received one letter from her since then. Life in camp was no longer bearable and among one’s own countrymen are a few who are unbearable and who are only recognizable as one’s own people by their language."
"For a long time we had already been carefully studying the maps of India and had tried to pick out places which might be used for internment camps. Oh yes, we already saw ourselves accommodated in bungalows, surrounded by luscious greenery, watched by inquisitive monkeys hopping around on the trees with the intention of stealing something, or going on a cobra hunt. However, the Indian dream was brought to a sudden end by the news that we were to be transferred to a steamer twice the size of the Rohna and taken to Australia. Well, to the end of the world and much further from home - those were my thoughts. The hope that I could perhaps be released because of my age was now completely abandoned."
"That on the sea journey to a secret destination [Australia] -- travelled six men, six women and 4 children as families together with 478 unaccompanied men from Iran – all of them, it seems, without history sheets or personal dossiers, suggests that the internment had been speedy and that all Germans still in Iran in the path of the British invasion were rounded up without much scrutiny. Among them was my future uncle from Berlin who had come to work in Iran to avoid persecution as a Jewish German. We sailed to our destination in a formidable convoy of four war ships, a potential target for German naval attack."
They arrived in Australia on November 19th 1941.
"Land is in sight. The huge, beautiful, but also greedy, albatrosses with their elegant flight which we have been watching for days still accompany us. We pass Kangaroo Island and then approach the mainland with its steep, bare banks against which the waves crash. We approach Port Adelaide and can already make out red painted corrugated iron sheds. Nothing of the town itself can as yet be seen because it lies further inland. We tie up at 1pm. On land there are a few Australian soldiers, a woman in uniform and a couple who look inquisitively across to the ship. At 5pm we receive our last supper on the ship."
While they were in the transit camp at Basra, eighteen of the male German internees were separated from the main group and sent to the British Army interrogation units situated in Palestine, before being transported to the Suez Canal in Egypt. They were then transported on the “Queen Mary” to Ceylon and from there transferred to the “Queen Elizabeth” for the journey to Australia. They arrived in Sydney on December 16th 1941 and were taken by train to the “Loveday” camps.
Rangitiki’s route from Singapore to Adelaide (Australia) between 1.11.1941 and 19.1.1941. Hand drawing by H. E. Wulff (R36838) on toilet paper while on board as a war internee. Wulff Collection. © P. Khosronejad.
October 13th 1941, from the personal diary of Rudolf Girschik (1910-1989), detained on August 30th 1941 in Karind, Kermanshah, Iran. (R36358)
October 19th 1941, from the personal diary of Johann Friedrich Bambach (1883-1962), detained on August 16th 1941 in Isfahan, Iran. (R36428)
Helga Girschik (R36356), detained as a child of six years old with her family on August 30th 1941 in Karind, Kermanshah, Iran. From a book chapter "At Home in Exile: Ambiguities of War-time Patriotism”.
Recording: H. Girschik (R36356). Editing: P. Khosronejad © 2020
October 20th 1941, from the personal diary of Johann Friedrich Bambach (1883-1962), detained on August 16th 1941 in Isfahan, Iran. (R36428)
Dr. Pedram Khosronejad | Adjunct Professor
Religion and Society Research Cluster | Western Sydney University
Fellow | Department of Anthropology | Harvard University