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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 EightThe Aftermath of War 251


Chapter Eight The Aftermath of War The signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918 did not bring about an end to hostilities for New Zealand’s enemy alien residents. Somes and Motuihi internees assumed that the end of the fighting would signal their immediate release from incarceration and would leave them free to re- establish themselves in post-war society. In reality the end of war heralded a new period of public, press and political debate on the future of enemy aliens in New Zealand, which had been slowly cultivated almost since the outbreak of war fifty-one months earlier. The dismantling of European empires, the changing of territorial borders and the establishment of independent nation states had an impact on New Zealand’s Dalmatian residents. Despite King Peter’s October 1918 proclamation of the new kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the New Zealand government continued to treat them as Austrian – and therefore enemy alien – subjects until peace was of ficially declared. As such, they were still liable for Home Service, one of their wartime obligations, a technical- ity with which many failed to agree. John Cullen, former Commissioner of Police and, from 1917, Commissioner of Aliens within the Defence Department, stuck adamantly to this, claiming that ‘all Jugoslavs must remain subject to the conditions of the Alien Service Regulations until such time as the Regulations have been revoked, which will not be for some time.’1 In response, Dalmatian workers, angered by such intransigence, simply failed to show up for work. It has...

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