As chance would have it, my father as a seaman of the German Merchant Navy happened to be in Iran during the outbreak of Second World War. Here his fate became entwined with the German civilians living there, all whom were taken prisoner as a result of the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran in August 1941.
From this event lead imprisonment, displacement, internment on the other side of the world and removal from homeland, family and friends for both groups. These elements of Second World War history for both Iran and Australia have been neglected until now. It is certainly time that after almost eighty years this story is told.
An event with a much happier outcome occurred almost exactly twelve months ago, in August 2019. An Iranian academic Dr Pedram Khosronejad, Professor of Social Anthropology at Western Sydney University who, while searching on the role of the Australian Army in Persia during the First World War found an article I had written some six years earlier about internment camps in Australia during the Second World War and my father’s connection to them and to Iran. Dr Khosronejad made contact with me and this has instigated a series of events that have led to this most wonderful and absorbing project.
Through his initial contact, I have met a group of the children of these Germans from Iran, whose fathers were only loosely connected to my father through their joint history of being captured in Iran. Sharing years of interment together formed strong bonds and many became and remained lifelong friends after release. I in turn, have been fortunate to become friends with some of the children of these internees and with Pedram.
I have learned a little of not only their but also their parent’s backgrounds. What wonderful stories they all have and are willing to share. For the last eight months documents, letters and photographs and other memorabilia of this time have been collected, collated and examined to give greater insight and understanding to these events of so long ago.
What a fascinating project to become involved in. I feel privileged to be able to work with this inspiring group of people to research, uncover and document our shared past. I have learnt much about this group of German civilians from Iran, about elements of internment in Australia during the Second World War and last but not least, about my father, his family remaining in Germany and wartime conditions in the Eastern Zone.
I’m sure that it was fate that dictated Dr Khosronejad to find and make initial contact with me twelve months ago. How grateful am I that he did. It is through his expertise that the research can be guided in such a productive manner. Pedram’s passion for and commitment to the project is nothing short of remarkable. He inspires us to follow suit.
That long neglected story will now be told.