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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 Seven ‘When the Empire is in Danger’: Enemy Aliens and the Great War in Canada and New Zealand 215


Chapter Seven ‘When the Empire is in Danger’: Enemy Aliens and the Great War in Canada and New Zealand It is instructive to examine New Zealand’s response to aliens in wartime with that of another country. It would test the distinctiveness, or other- wise, of New Zealand’s policies and practices, and allow a greater meas- ure of understanding. Thus far, allusion has been made to a wider British World context: New Zealanders saw themselves as going patriotically to war on behalf of the mater imperium, and this was ref lected in the zeal of the colonists answering Britain’s call to arms. To an extent, Australian responses have also been alluded to, since Australia and New Zealand were more intimately connected than any other two settler colonies in the Brit- ish World; but what of other parts of Britain’s dominion territories? An obvious comparison is with Canada, the one colony that most resembled New Zealand in terms of the make-up of its British-born population and its culture of loyalism. For a number of reasons Canada provides a useful framework within which comparisons with New Zealand can ef fectively be drawn. Despite its geographical proximity to the United States, Canadians, especially those who viewed Britain as their homeland, were not essentially North American in their outlook. As with many British settlers in New Zealand, British-Canadians thought of Britain as ‘Home’ though this did not nec- essarily diminish their love and patriotic feelings for Canada.1 In terms of the demographic composition of British...

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