Table Of Content
- Title Page
- Copyright Page
- Dedication Page
- Contributors and Editors
- About the editors
- About the book
- Citability of the eBook
- List of Illustrations
- List of Tables
- ‘Aboriginal People Served Australia Well’1
- Australia – ‘a British Outpost’ – and War with Japan
- ‘Our Earth Shook’: New Guinean Histories of the Pacific War
- In Search of an Independent Indonesia
- The Japanese Invasion of Malaya in World War II
- Memories of World War II: Oral Histories from Brunei Darussalam
- France and Japan in Tianjin, 1937–1940
- Japanese Ultra-Nationalism and Its ‘Holy’ War: A Brief Intellectual History
- Introducing the Memorial Site for Asia-Pacific War Forced Labourers in Hokkaido – Background, Constraints, and Opportunities in Teaching Practise
- Cinema of Change: Evolving Responses to World War II
- The Second World War and Nepal
- From the Imperial Venture to the Poles’ Haven: World War II and Iran, 1939–1945
- Amidst Abyss and Paradise – Germany’s War in East Asia
- The Establishment of Bulgarian-Japanese Diplomatic Relations
- Italian-Japanese Relations during the Crisis of Fascist Italy, 1943–1945
- The Second World War and Africa – New Considerations within Colonial Context
- Brazil’s Participation in World War II
- Terror Remembered, Terror Forgotten: Stalinist, Nazi, and Nationalist Atrocities in Ukrainian ‘National Memory
- Memories of the War-Time Nationalist Movement during the Orange Revolution (2004) and the Euromaidan (2014): Similarities, Differences, and Purposes of the Use of the Past in the Turbulent Times of the Present
- The Storm Gathers in the North. Finland and the Soviet Union in 1938 and 1939
- What Shall We Do with the Finnish Sailors?
- Hitler’s Satellites?
- Authorship during Fascism, National-Socialism and War Conservative Conspiracy
- Cinematic Representation of World War II
- British Security Agencies
- A Village Tale – the Impact of War Office Ownership of Salisbury Plain Upon the Village of Imber during World War II
- The Flawed Vision of World Peace. Yalta
- Horrible Decade 1938–1947
- Comparative Analysis of Post-Second World War Urban Environments in Western and Central Europe and Southeast Asia
- The Second World War in the New Millennium: National Memory Cultures and Universalist Narratives in Europe – Contrary or Complementary?
Raimond Selke and Masahiro Saito,
Jan Asmussen,←27 | 28→
Per Anders Rudling,
Surendra K. C. and Ratna M. Nepal,
Jarosław Suchoples, Stephanie James & Barbara Törnquist-Plewa
The Second World War, which broke out ‘officially’ on 1 September 1939 and was ‘officially’ terminated on 2 September 1945, could be symbolized by pictures of two warships. The first is a picture of a rather obsolete German battleship Schleswig-Holstein, a typical First World War warship, its best years over long before 1939, firing the first salvos of World War II on Westerplatte, a small Polish outpost in the harbour of Danzig. The second image is that of the then ultra-modern American battleship, the USS Missouri anchored in the Bay of Tokyo during the ceremony when the instrument of Japan’s surrender was signed. However, these pictures symbolize not merely the beginning and the end of World War Two, but rather the changes which occurred during this 6-year-long orgy of killing and destruction. If we only compare the weapons used at the beginning of the war and at its end, the difference is almost as big as that between the Schleswig-Holstein and the USS Missouri. However, this observation, although true, is rather superficial. The more important fact was that the war, which began as a relatively local conflict in Europe (very similar to the World War One scenario), evolved, and after slightly more than two years became a real global conflict (probably the first global experience in modern times). This conflict which witnessed not only German, Czechoslovakian or Australian troops fighting in Africa, not only Soviet tanks rolling in Pyongyang, but also Brazilian or Nepalese Ghurkha soldiers fighting in Italy, or pilots from South Africa and New Zealand supporting the 1944 Polish Uprising in Warsaw. Finally, the end of the Second World War, marked by nuclear explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, opened a new chapter in history, both in the field of technology and in politics. Europe, we risk saying, a true loser in this war, was deprived of its earlier significance, and the newly emerged super powers (the Soviet Union and the United States) quickly overshadowed all those other countries which had previously pretended to be members of an exclusive club of the international arena’s main players. For colonial empires like Great Britain and France, but also the Netherlands, the Second World War marked the definitive end of their imperial glory. On the other hand, Europe, although divided and devastated, was able to produce, as it were, the idea of institutional integration understood as a remedy against bloody military conflicts. After the end of the Cold War, the European integration, probably a never-ending process, also managed to embrace the countries, which, for almost five post-war decades, were prevented from participating in it, their exclusion was also a result of this war. We think, of course, about Central Eastern Europe, cut off by the iron curtain from the more fortunate western part of the continent.
In Asia, the end of the war marked the beginning of the era of national emancipation from colonial oppression, or the end of humiliating dependency on old ←31 | 32→great powers. These changes were also connected with decades of internal turmoil. During the following years and decades, India, China, Burma, Cambodia, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaya, not always peacefully, and not immediately, but ultimately successfully, reached and stabilised their independence. Although almost all of them were immediately caught up in the international rivalry between the super powers, or this superpower rivalry influenced them domestically in addition to the impact of the international situation, but, importantly, their sovereignty became an indisputable fact.
Germany and Japan, totally broken and demoralized in 1945 not only by their military defeat, but even more by the magnitude of their war crimes and the genocide (not only the Holocaust, but also atrocities committed against other nations and millions of Prisoners of War) committed in the name of their nations, showed that they were able to re-consolidate, and draw conclusions from the horrible wartime experience of failed expansion supported by the totalitarian and toxic ideologies of Nazism, Fascism and militarism. Therefore, although they lost the war, these nations were able to win the peace, and become not only economic giants, but – probably, we should say ‘but first of all’ – reliable and respected members of the international community.
The end of World War II did not mean the beginning of a peaceful era in the history of the mankind. On the contrary. As early as March 1946, Winston Churchill declared that Europe was divided by the iron curtain, and the Cold War became the world’s reality for almost the next 45 years. In these decades the people all over the world lived in constant fear of total nuclear destruction. In innumerable local armed conflicts, on all continents, millions of people perished. There was no month without messages about cruel war crimes and acts of genocide relentlessly disseminated around the globe by the increasingly efficient media. News about the horrible results of smaller and bigger wars made people aware that new global conflict is possible. We are not sure if far reaching pessimism concerning the future of all of us is justified, but it would be a kind of blindness – especially remembering the wartime experience of our grandparents and parents, as well as those unfulfilled hopes for a truly durable peace voiced universally in 1918, at the end and following World War I – to neglect these possibilities. It is important to hear and respect opinions such as that expressed quite recently by the Polish film maker Agnieszka Holland, someone involved in many projects concerning the presentation of various aspects of World War II, who maintained that ‘the war sleeps, but it will wake up again.’1←32 | 33→
Memories of World War Two became an important mental landmark for all post-war generations. Films, books (including dozens of remarkable scholarly studies), thousands of well-known iconic pictures, tales of relatives who shared their own, often tragic and horrible war experience with their younger relatives, made World War II unforgettable in both individual and social dimensions. However, one could ask whether memories and history – the branch of science trying to explain and interpret the meaning of past events – taught anybody anything? In other words, one might wonder whether memories possess any deeper social value, and the efforts of historians any sense if, during the 74 years after World War II, this orgy of killing and destruction, it was made absolutely sure that the new genocide, the extermination of 1 or 2 million people, for example in Indonesia in 1965–1966, Rwanda in 1994, or the mass executions of civilians in Srebrenica in 1995, could just happen overnight. Moreover, the ignition of new wars sparing nobody is easier than at any earlier time (Vietnam, Iraq-Iran, Syria, Ukraine to mention only few). In his newest book, The Road to Unfreedom. Russia, Europe, America, American historian, Timothy Snyder gives an absolutely direct negative answer to this question: ‘The twentieth century was well and truly over, its lessons unlearned.’2 He is writing in 2018 about the twentieth century in the context of his remarks concerning the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, Brexit, as well as Donald Trump’s election as the 45th President of the United States: nobody learns anything from history. And this opinion can be supplemented by our own remark that people love to forget, complain and renounce their social responsibilities (they forget and neglect unpleasant facts from the past, complain that in the past, even if that past was full of traumatic events, their life was objectively better than their present existence, and many of them think only about securing their privileges and rights, seeing no need to execute duties strengthening their communities, which leads to the atomization of societies, and prepares fertile soil for all kind of populists, who promise the restoration of ‘old, good times’). Nevertheless, Snyder also wrote that ‘if we wish to have a better account of good and evil, we will have to resuscitate history.’3 If so, studying and writing about history, for example about World War Two, is not a senseless effort, but is a part of the never ending process aimed at the awakening of the social awareness of dangers similar to those which destroyed peace eighty years ago.
A group of authors from around the world who contributed articles to this volume understand this well. They are convinced that the results of their research presented here are not fairy tales about a gruesome and increasingly remote past (something like fairy tales of Grimm brothers only not fictitious, but true), but a reminder of some, often neglected or forgotten aspects of World War Two. They explored a variety of topics, which show that war from variety of perspectives. ←33 | 34→We started with Australia and Oceania and then, moved towards the north and west as perceived just from the Australian perspective. We begin with the chapter of Geoffrey Gray ‘“Aboriginal people served Australia well”: Auxiliary Indigenous labour in northern Australia, 1939–1946,’ which examines the ways that Indigenous Australians resident in northern Australia contributed to the war effort of the Allies. It highlights official attitudes towards these Australians who were not yet perceived as citizens, and examines the longer-term impact of their wartime employment.
The next chapter by Stephanie James describes and analyses some Australian newspaper responses to the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbour and Darwin. James argues that the perceived threat to Australia’s national security in 1941–1942 found strong links in much earlier fears of Asia embodied in ‘the Yellow Peril’ motif, alongside a powerful sense of isolation from Britain.
The Readers obtain another insight in the consequences of the Pacific War thanks to Christine Winter. She utilised the rare documents written by some senior New Guinean men either during or in the immediate aftermath of the war when, in addition to the occupying Japanese on the Huon Peninsula, there were also pressures from remaining German missionaries, and behind the line Australians. Such a localised history enables a powerful revision of the war’s impact on this region of New Guinea.
The focus of Frank Dohnt’s chapter, ‘In search of an independent Indonesia: Japanese Occupation Policies for Asia versus Indonesian Nationalist Aspirations during World War Two,’ is the fate of the former Dutch East Indies colony at the turn of the war and peace, when the defeat of the Japanese Empire became an obvious matter. He interrogates the wartime roles played by Japan and Indonesian Nationalists in the declaration of Indonesian independence in August 1945.
The chapter, ‘The Japanese Invasion of Malaya in World War Two Anti-Japanese Resistance and the Malay Nationalist Movement,’ written by Abdul Rahman Embong and Zaharul Abdullach, enables close reflection on the immediate impact of the war on differently motivated anti-colonial movements, and provides insights into the longer term process of demands for independence in Malaya.
The contribution by Frank Dhont, Janet E. Marles and Maslin Bin Haji Jukim/Jukin is centred on an oral history project involving video interviews with local people who experienced Japan’s military occupation of Brunei Darussalam. Augmenting and extending the preexisting historical narrative, the joint authors of ‘Memories of World War Two: Oral Histories from Brunei Darussalam (December 1941-June 1945),’ explain how they have, with the help of graduate students, created an archival data base of interviews as an important and accessible resource.
In his chapter, ‘France and Japan in Tianjin, 1937–1940,’ Mathieu Gotteland discusses the complexities shaping French-Japanese relations in Tianjin, the Chinese city whose port traffic and geographic location midway between Beijing and the sea, ensured its importance to imperial nations. The slowly vanishing ←34 | 35→neutrality of the French happened alongside the disappearance of its status as a concession as Japanese policy moved further towards explicit aggression.
Fumitaka Furuoka’s chapter, ‘Japanese ultranationalism and its “holy” war: A brief intellectual history,’ presents a survey of the main features of anti-western sentiment among Japanese ultranationalists, emphasising four central elements of their critique. Thus, he discusses the uniqueness of Japanese culture, the decay and imminent decline of the West, Western interference in domestic issues, and Western hypocrisy.
The chapter ‘Introducing the Memorial Site for Asia-Pacific War Forced Labourers in Hokkaido – Background, Constraints, and Opportunities in a Foreign Language Classroom,’ explores the important question of increasing awareness of memorial sites in Japan. The authors, Raimond Selke and Masahiro Saito urge greater utilisation of these sites in order that all facets of the country’s past are understood in order that forgetfulness is never allowed to occur.
In another very different perspective on World War Two, Paul Cornelius and Douglas Rhein explore the world of filmic representations of the war in ‘Cinema of Change: Evolving Responses to World War Two in Japan and the United States.’ They argue that war films reflect attitudes and prejudice, especially those made in close proximity to the war, but show that the punitive response to the German film industry was not replicated in Japan. And, via a detailed study of individual Japanese and American films up to the early years of this century, they highlight the process of evolution in both countries.
The next chapter is intent on discussing the war from the specific perspective of a small country, Nepal. In ‘The Second World War and Nepal: A Discussion of Involvement and Experience,’ Surendra K. C. and Ratna M. Nepal explain that Nepal only became involved because of its close relationship with Britain, and that when the Nepalese troops fought overseas, their bravery distinguished them, and their tiny country provided extraordinary support for the war. Returning home, these men were carriers of new ideas and experiences, and contributed to changing ideas about government and politics.
Esmaeil Zeiny’s chapter, ‘From the Imperial Venture to the Poles’ Haven: World War Two and Iran, 1939–1945,’ explores the reasons for the Allies relatively easy invasion of Iran in August 1941, and the reasons for its continuing wartime importance. In addition, Zeiny relates the saga of many thousands of Poles who were, firstly, deported to Siberia from the eastern half of Poland occupied in 1939 by the Soviet Union and later, after Germany attacked the Soviets in 1941, they were released from the Siberian exile and transported to safety in Iran. He also explores their experience of life in wartime Iran.
The chapter by Jan Asmussen, ‘Amidst Abyss and Paradise – Germany’s War in East Asia,’ examines the strategic rationale for Germany’s East Asian military operations. Against this backdrop, the social lives of German navy personnel in Asian locations produced surprising challenges to their notions of racial prejudice and superiority, as at least some seamen developed growing respect for Asian culture.←35 | 36→
The intention of Aleka Strzova in ‘The Establishment of Bulgarian-Japanese Diplomatic Relations and the First Bulgarian Diplomatic Representatives in Tokyo (1942–1945),’ has been to highlight the nature of the early bilateral connections of these two countries which remained wartime allies. Her chapter also charts the story of the forgotten Bulgarian diplomats, who served in Tokyo during World War Two.
Alessandro Salvador’s discussion of ‘Italian-Japanese relations during the crisis of Fascist Italy, 1943–1945,’ while it illuminates surprising aspects of Japanese hero worship of Mussolini, also reveals some basic weaknesses of the alliance. He argues the relationship was more ideological than military or political, and that this aspect of the Tripartite Pact deserves closer attention.
Tuomo Melasuo’s contribution to this book, ‘The Second World War and Africa – New Perspectives within Colonial Contexts,’ highlights the impact of the war on colonial relationships, while at the same time, demonstrating the ways the African continent formed an important theatre of war. His approach looks backwards to World War One and the inter-war period, identifies the various phases of the global conflict in Africa, and finally shows how the intense international hostility produced a new world order in which the colonial legacy was subverted, and new kinds of political profiles emerged on the continent.
‘Brazil’s Participation in World War Two’ analysed the origins of Brazil’s alliance with America by means of the development of a Brazilian Expeditionary Force (FEB) which then saw action on the Italian war front. Alfredo O. Salun incorporated oral history sources to examine the FEB, his approach highlighted racism and culture clashes, as well as daily life at the front.
In ‘Terror Remembered, Terror Forgotten: Stalinist, Nazi, and Nationalist atrocities in Ukrainian National Memory’ Per A. Rudling focusses on the Ukraine, and the challenges of memory. His discussion incorporates the horrific political violence of the 1930s and 1940s coming from Soviet and German authorities – the death of millions later unmentionable under the double yoke of one party rule and the Cold War – and the ethnic cleansing of Poles and Jews by the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists, also a closed subject. He concludes that the ‘mutually exclusive narratives’ emanating from both the Soviets and the Ukrainian diaspora are significant for the post-Soviet Ukraine to integrate in ‘coming to terms with a difficult past.’
Yuliya Yurchuk also writes about the Ukraine. Her paper – ‘Memories of the war-time nationalist movement during the Orange Revolution (2004) and the Euromaidan (2014): similarities, differences, and purposes of the use of the past in the turbulent times of the present’ – reveals the ways historical evidence of past actions can be distorted by neglect, being ignored, and incompletely presented.
Jarosław Suchoples’ discussion focusses on the less known 1938–1939 politico-diplomatic crisis which enveloped Northern Europe. His chapter, ‘The Storm Gathers in the North, Finland and the Soviet Union in 1938 and 1939 – From the Soviet April proposals to the Outbreak of the Winter War’ provides a fine-grained account of insistent Soviet pressure towards ensuring the bolstering of the ←36 | 37→Baltic Sea region against anticipated German aggression, and consistent Finnish reluctance about accepting all their demands. The duplicitous behaviour of the Soviets, the Scandinavian refusal to support Finland, and Western power passivity all contributed to the Winter War; the Finns asked for peace because their resources were exhausted, not because of a decisive defeat.
The paper from Helene P. Evans presents a somehow neglected aspect of the maritime history of World War II. She concentrated on the fate of the Finnish Merchant Navy and their ships. Specifically she looked at the ships seized as prize, and the sailors who were either interned or who sailed on behalf of the British and the Commonwealth contributing to the war effort of the allies.
In his ‘Hitler’s Satellites? Finland and Romania in Nazi Foreign Policy and War Strategy, 1940/1941–1944,’ Michael Jonas compares two smaller nations of Finland and Romania, which became attached to the early 1940s Nazi German orbit, but later managed to detach themselves. He discusses the range of reasons and events which differentiated the attitude of Germany to these countries, commenting that in many ways Romania was more compatible with the Third Reich, and yet it fared much worse than Finland which was always a special case.
In his examination of ‘Authorship during National-Socialism and War – Conservative Conspiracy. Dangers and Despair of ‘the Inner Exile’ – Rudolf Borchardt and Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen,’ Alexander Mionskowski shows how these monarchist and right-wing conservative writers assembled historic comparisons as their platform against contemporary Germany in the 1930s. Although he judges their criticisms as valid, nevertheless their elitist framework limited their ability to precipitate meaningful action from the population or dissident groups.
The paper by Thorsten Schaar, Annika Gilgen and Chang Shi Wen, ‘Cinematic Representation of World War Two in Scandinavia in Contemporary European Movies (2010–2015)’ convincingly argues that the visual media have become the most important medium for public understanding of history. To support this claim, ten recent films set in Scandinavian countries are dissected by the authors. They discuss which aspects of the war are shown, and how both critics and audiences have viewed these narratives – the emphasis here is on plot and historical content rather than ‘cinematic aesthetics and value.’
The focus of the next chapter authored by Mika Suonpää – ‘British Security Agencies and Suspected German Espionage Couriers during the “Phoney War,”’ focuses on the examination of the ways the British ‘secret state’ operated, evolved and organised itself on a daily basis. It also highlights the paranoid ‘phoney war’ atmosphere, and discusses modern warfare’s increasing appetite for different types of information for its successful conduct.
Stuart Wakefield in his chapter, ‘A Village Tale: The Impact of War Office ownership of Salisbury Plain upon the village of Imber during World War Two,’ charts the gradual official military takeover of this agriculturally based hamlet. Initiated in 1897, it culminated with the eviction of all remaining villagers in 1943; despite post-war struggles to return attracting support, War Office decisions proved unchallengeable.←37 | 38→
In ‘The Flawed Vision of World Peace. Yalta,’ Marek Kornat argues that ‘countless myths and simplifications’ have accompanied the voluminous discussion about whether peace could have been achieved on more just terms. And he concludes that Western appeasement of the Soviet Union could never have been effective because Moscow always interpreted concessions as weakness, and then sought further opportunities for expansion.
The chapter titled ‘Horrible Decade 1938–1947. Europe during and directly after World War Two: Some Selected Problems,’ focusses attention on some horrific consequences of the war. Jan M. Piskorski links the post-war desire for retaliation, especially against Germany, but also, horrifically, against the Jews, to the corrupting consequences of ‘long-lasting violence.’ He urges that critical examination of post-war decisions must be evaluated in their context, because we are the ‘guardians of memory.’
Marek Kozłowski’s ‘Comparative Analysis of Post-Second World War Urban Environments in Western and Central Europe and Southeast Asia,’ highlights the diverse impacts of war in these very different locations, and views warfare through a totally different perspective. Providing examples of the immense destruction caused to European cities – and emphasising their urban population ratios in contrast to those in Southeast Asia where most fighting and impact was in rural areas – Kozłowski demonstrates why the path of post-war rebuilding developed differently in these two regions.
Arnd Bauerkämper, the author of the final chapter, ‘The Second World War in the New Millennium: National memory Cultures and Universalist Narratives in Europe – Contrary or Complementary?’ argues that despite the end of the Cold War, there is no common memory culture. The years of mass violence remain as contested and fractured memories both within and between nation-states. He views the more recent movement towards more sophisticated, or perhaps universalistic, recollections of the mass atrocities associated with World War Two as having reframed rather than replaced European national memory cultures.
Obviously, our limited project could not cover all topics connected with the history of World War Two, and the selection of papers which suited our project was a difficult and, sometimes, painful process. Nevertheless, making our decisions we tried to answer the question of what could be interesting for Readers. And we came to the conclusion that it would be good if we suggested papers presenting unknown or forgotten aspects of the global conflict from 1939–1945. We humbly admit that many other books about World War Two will be published in the years to come (for example, in twenty years, when the world will be ‘celebrating’ the 100th anniversary of 1939, many studies concerning this global conflict and its events will certainly appear) and our project is not any ‘ultimate’ voice in historians’ discussions about the conflict, which devastated vast territories of Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania, and in which more than sixty states participated. At the same time, we want to stress that we have not perceived any aspect of World War Two – and generally, any aspect of history – as ‘better’ or ‘worse.’ All of them are equal to others. History is a specific branch of knowledge, because everything possesses its ←38 | 39→own past. In this sense, it is mercilessly objective, as objective as the elapse of time. Something happened in the past and cannot be changed, regardless of whether it was a love story, an object or a great war. It can be recalled, described, evaluated, interpreted or even manipulated, but not changed.
Constructing this volume we remembered about this and our sole ambition was to fulfil our professional duty described so well by T. Snyder with his already mentioned words on history understood as a tool for the better understanding of a distinction between good and evil. It was not an easy task to ‘collect’ under the umbrella of one project so many historians from so many countries. However, as a result, we were able to include in our book papers ‘representing’ all continents. In the same way as in the case of our earlier successfully finished project concerning World War One, we used a geographical key as a central element of the volume’s structure.4 We are fully aware of course that it would be possible to construct this book according to other criteria also providing it its internal order. Nevertheless, we wanted to avoid any personal preferences and remain impartial in this regard.
As professional historians, regardless of plenty of pessimistic opinions concerning the future of mankind unable to learn lessons of history, we are still convinced that history is the socially useful branch of science which teaches people – at least these who want to read or listen – something about themselves, about both the light and dark sides of human nature. We offer this book to the Readers remaining with this, as we dare to believe, not too bold to hope concerning the usefulness of history and the necessity of careful studying of the past. We would be more than grateful if they, after reading this volume, rate authors’ efforts, undertaken in good faith, positively.←39 | 40→←40 | 41→
1 Dominik Jedliński, ‘Gareth Jones’: Wojna śpi, ale się obudzi. Agnieszka Holland kręci film o Wielkim Głodzie na Ukrainie, in “Onet Kultura” posted on April 7, 2018, https://kultura.onet.pl/wywiady-i-artykuly/gareth-jones-wojna-spi-ale-sie-obudzi-agnieszka-holland-kreci-film-o-wielkim-glodzie/6t0nt4g (retrieved on April 24, 2018).
2 Timothy Snyder, The Road to Unfreedom. Russia, Europe, America (London: The Bodley Head, 2018), 6.
3 Ibid., 13.
4 Jarosław Suchoples, Stephanie James (eds.), Re-visiting World War I. Interpretations and Perspectives of the Great Conflict (Frankfurt am Main – Bern – Bruxelles – New York, NY – Oxford – Warszawa – Wien: Peter Lang, 2016).
The School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry University of Queensland, Saint Lucia, Australia
Auxiliary Indigenous Labour in Northern Australia, 1939–1945
Abstract: Australian Indigenous people were not citizens, but were ultimately drawn, willingly and unwillingly, into the general war effort in a variety of ways. This chapter considers the work that was auxiliary to the main defense forces: the attitudes of government officials; the conditions under which Indigenous labourers were employed; and the impact this wartime labour had on the wider conditions of employment for Indigenous workers.
Keywords: Australian Indigenous labour; World War II; northern Australia; industrial action; struggle for equal rights
During the wartime crisis of 1941–1942, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were not only drawn into service in the Australian defence forces and specialist units created to defend the north of the continent against Japanese attack, they were also employed for a range of auxiliary work supporting the national war effort and economy in the north.2 This occurred despite initial concern among government officials that Indigenous Australians, especially those in remote areas beyond tight government control, might be potentially subversive and disloyal to the Australian war effort. These fears proved to be groundless, despite the many reasons that Indigenous Australians had to be disaffected.3 Indigenous people were not citizens and were granted citizenship only in rare cases.4 Ultimately Indigenous people ←41 | 42→were drawn, willingly and unwillingly, into the general war effort in a variety of ways. This chapter considers the work that was auxiliary to the main defence forces: the changing attitudes of government officials; the conditions under which Indigenous labourers were employed; and the impact this wartime labour had on the wider conditions of employment for Indigenous workers. It asks how the Second World War served as a catalyst for change and the associated politicization of Indigenous labour. In addressing these questions, this chapter relies to a considerable degree on the observations, not of Indigenous Australians whose voice was often muted, not recorded or ignored during these war years, but on those non-Indigenous experts who observed and worked with them. Anthropology was an emerging discipline within Australia, and the close knowledge of Indigenous societies that anthropologists had acquired in the inter-war years was acknowledged by the Australian government to be a valuable source of advice and information about peoples who were only then seen to be a resource of value to Australia.5
Issues of Loyalty
In the racially structured society of Australia where Indigenous Australians were subject to systemic discrimination and disadvantage, the problem of loyalty to the nation was bound to be complicated. They were politically and economically disempowered, they were not citizens and could not vote; most were poorly educated, dependent on mission stations for their education. Most lived on the outskirts of townships or on traditional country, with little contact with white Australia or government services. Yet, despite these facts, many in the military services, government circles and print media suspected that some Indigenous people might favor a Japanese victory. These concerns were linked to the assumed anti-British sentiments of German missionaries. As enemy aliens, they were seen as a security threat and able to exercise a negative influence over Aboriginal residents on their missions. Hence, in October 1940 German-born missionaries at Beagle Bay were interned and the mission itself was taken over in December 1941 by Army intelligence.6 Australian army chaplains were posted to Beagle Bay for the duration of the war. Later, in April 1942, George Schwarz, the superintendent of the Lutheran Cape Bedford (Hope Vale) mission in northern Queensland, was interned after accusations that he was anti-British, and had been in touch with the Japanese. Once Schwarz was removed, the Aboriginal residents on the mission were forcibly evacuated to the Woorabinda reserve. This was among the most disastrous examples of Indigenous relocation. Within ←42 | 43→months of their arrival at Woorabinda, almost a quarter of the community had died of disease, exposure to cold weather, and malnutrition.7 Many of the men did heavy roadwork in gangs, while some of the women picked peanuts at Kingaroy. The survivors were not allowed to return to the new Hope Vale mission until several years after the war.8
The insistence on Indigenous loyalty, and the concomitant fear that Indigenous people might be disloyal, was a specific colonial preoccupation. It differed from that expected from non-Indigenous Australians who were loyal to the nation and the British Empire. Indigenous loyalty, however, was a sign of successful colonial relations and governance. As the anthropologist Kenneth E. Read later commented in relation to Australia’s colonial subjects in New Guinea (the Army’s Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs sent him to the Markham Valley in New Guinea to investigate the possible dissemination of anti-British propaganda), the concept of loyalty was inappropriate. The demand that New Guineans be loyal to Australia was, in his view, a ‘longing for the implementation of our form of government’ as well as a justification for colonial rule.9
The concern that Indigenous people might be disloyal became more acute when the Japanese seemingly threatened Australia with invasion in early 1942. In January 1942, when the Japanese had already captured one of the strategic islands to Australia’s north, New Britain, one Townsville observer advised the military authorities that Indigenous people could ‘convey information by signalling in native fashion by fire, smoke and other means’ to the Japanese.10 At the highest levels of government, too, there was anxiety about the reliability of Indigenous Australians in regions under aerial attack from the Japanese. Prime Minister John Curtin wrote to Frank Forde, Minister for the Army, on 24 July 1942, noting that:
‘Investigations disclose that natives and half-castes in [the north west of Western Australia] are definitely sympathetic to the enemy. If there was an invasion, it is considered that they would be prepared to help the enemy. It has been common talk among the natives that when the Japs come they would be boss.’11←43 | 44→
Curtin sought accurate information regarding ‘the real attitude of the aborigines’ from officers responsible for the ‘protection and control of aborigines.’ A Queensland security report of July 1942, entitled ‘Japanese Activities Among the Aborigines,’ meanwhile stated that
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2019 (April)
- Wartime Europe Wartime Asia Wartime Australia Americas and war Africa and war 1939-1945
- Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 696 pp., 43 fig. b/w, 3 tables