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‘To Be Truly British We Must Be Anti-German’

New Zealand, Enemy Aliens and the Great War Experience, 1914-1919


Andrew Francis

This book is a study of the treatment of New Zealand’s German-speaking settlers during the course of the Great War. As with Britain’s other dominions, New Zealand’s German and Austro-Hungarian residents were subject to a raft of legislation which placed restrictions on their employment and activities, while those considered a danger to domestic security found themselves interned for the duration of the conflict. This book examines public, press and political responses to their presence, and describes how patriotic associations, trade organizations, xenophobic politicians and journalists undertook a vigorous anti-alien campaign resulting, in a number of instances, in anti-German riots.
Central to this book is an examination of the extent to which proimperial sentiment, concepts of citizenship and national identity, increasing European settlement and a progressively volatile European scene set the tone for the manner with which the dominion’s British settlers treated its enemy alien counterparts. Themes discussed include the public’s reaction to war; the government’s internment policy; the establishment of anti-German trade organizations; and the challenges facing Prime Minister William Massey, whose wish to remain fair and just towards enemy aliens often brought him into direct conflict with the more hostile anti-German elements within New Zealand society.


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Chapter Four‘Out of Harm’s Way’: Internment and the Camp Experience 113


Chapter Four ‘Out of Harm’s Way’: Internment and the Camp Experience The introduction of internment for civilians and military personnel was integral to the New Zealand government’s policy against enemy aliens. Internment was a further issue where Massey was guided by imperial instruc- tions from London. Within days of the outbreak of war, ninety German detainees were the first to make the short boat trip to Somes Island, a former quarantine station turned internment centre in Wellington Har- bour. Along with the other main internment camps on Motuihi Island and Devonport Barracks in Auckland, and, to a lesser extent, Ripapa Island, Lyttelton, Somes Island was central to the state’s plans for dealing with enemy aliens.1 Over the next four years the policy of internment envel- oped up to 500 naturalized and non-naturalized aliens, was subjected to various revisions as both events in Europe and public opinion at home inf luenced government actions, and proved more contentious than the naturalization question.2 The government hoped that incarcerating those considered dangerous to New Zealand’s security would alleviate public anxieties that a German invasion was about to take place. Instead, rather than placing them out of harm’s way, the policy of internment and the internees’ fate took centre stage 1 It should be noted that Motuihi Island is also spelt Motuihe Island. Arrests were made as early as 10 August in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. This included fifty-six reservists, some being members of a German band, and Mr Heinsea, secretary to the German...

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