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The Vanished Musicians

Jewish Refugees in Australia


Albrecht Dümling

About 9,000 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany settled in Australia between 1933 and 1945, a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands who fled. Although initially greeted with a mixed reception as «enemy aliens», some of these refugees remained and made a significant impact on multicultural Australia. This book traces the difficult journey of the orchestral performers, virtuoso soloists, singers, conductors and composers who sought refuge on a distant continent. A few were famous artists who toured Australia and stayed, most notably the piano virtuoso Jascha Spivakovsky and the members of the Weintraubs Syncopators, one of the most successful jazz bands of the Weimar Republic. Drawing on extensive primary sources – including correspondence, travel documents and interviews with the refugees themselves or their descendants – the author depicts in vivid detail the lives of nearly a hundred displaced musicians. Available for the first time in English, this volume brings to light a wealth of Jewish, exilic and musical history that was hitherto unknown.
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Chapter 5 : Mixed Feelings: Australian Reactions to German Racial Politics


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Mixed Feelings: Australian Reactions to German Racial Politics

The First World War damaged German–Australian relations enormously. A large military unit, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), was sent to Europe to fight on the side of the British against Germany and Austria-Hungary and suffered heavy losses, especially at the battle of Gallipoli on the Bosphorus. In addition, Australia sent a naval force to German New Guinea, seized the harbour, Rabaul, and the powerful radio station, occupied the Pacific island of Nauru (which also belonged to the German Empire) and sank German warships. To cheer themselves up, Australian soldiers sang satirical songs about Germany, ‘Kaiser Bill’ and his army, about marching on the enemy’s capital (‘Right on to Berlin we’ll go!’) and turning Germany into ‘no man’s land’.

Hate was also directed towards Germans on the ‘home front’. Modelled on the British concentration camps1 that had been set up for South African civilians during the Boer War (1899–1902), concentration camps for German-Australian and German citizens were now established in Australia. The largest, the German Concentration Camp (GCC) in Holsworthy near Liverpool, Sydney, could hold almost 6,000 detainees, among them Australians of German heritage who had long been naturalised, including honorary consuls, pastors and senior employees of German firms. Internment changed their attitude completely and led to a total break with Australian society; many of them were convinced they could never live there again.2 This...

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