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Refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe in British Overseas Territories focusses on exiles and forced migrants in British colonies and dominions in Africa or Asia and in Commonwealth countries. The contributions deal with aspects such as legal status and internment, rescue and relief, identity and belonging, the Central European encounter with the colonial and post-colonial world, memories and generations or knowledge transfers and cultural representations in writing, painting, architecture, music and filmmaking. The volume covers refugee destinations and the situation on arrival, reorientation–and very often further migration after the Second World War–in Australia, Canada, India, Kenya, Palestine, Shanghai, Singapore, South Africa and New Zealand.

Contributors are: Rony Alfandary, Gerrit-Jan Berendse, Albrecht Dümling, Patrick Farges, Brigitte Mayr, Michael Omasta, Jyoti Sabharwal, Sarah Schwab, Ursula Seeber, Andrea Strutz, Monica Tempian, Jutta Vinzent, Paul Weindling, and Veronika Zwerger.
Author: Jutta Vinzent

Abstract

This article examines the British internment of German and Austrian refugees in Kenya, particularly in the central internment camp, Kabete, a camp that has not received any scholarly recognition so far. Thanks to records in the National Archives in London and Nairobi, it has been possible to trace the circumstances of the internment of civilian Germans and Austrians at Kabete and their release, bringing also to light how the Colonial Office in London and the colonial government in Kenya operated together. Being sparse, these written records have been supplemented by visual representations of the internment, namely by art works produced by the artist and curator Valentin G. Braun (1919–1998), who was interned at Kabete, and by a collection of photographs housed in the Imperial War Museum, London. Reading the sources together, they reveal that documentary photography can be as subjective as art works can be documentary. Indeed, these sources do not only provide an insight into the organisation and life in internment, but also into the strategies of British colonial power.

In: Refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe in British Overseas Territories

Abstract

Werner Baer, born in 1914 in Berlin, had originally planned a career as an opera conductor. But the assumption of power of the Nazis made it impossible for him to further his musical education and restricted his public appearances to Jewish audiences. Following the so-called ‘Kristallnacht’ of 9/10 November 1938, Baer was taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. After his release, he fled with his wife to Singapore, where he was soon to become the most prominent of the local refugee musicians. His regular municipal organ concerts at the Victoria Memorial Hall, in particular, were highly successful. This very productive period ended when, in September 1940, Werner Baer and his family were interned as ‘enemy aliens’ and deported aboard the Queen Mary to Australia. Based on Singapore press articles, this paper focuses on the organ recitals and seeks to discover the reasons for Baer’s success. Other aspects examined include how the ongoing war influenced the programmes and the reactions of the audiences; what happened to the organ after Baer’s departure; and how Baer is remembered in Singapore today.

In: Refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe in British Overseas Territories

Abstract

For the poet Karl Wolfskehl (b. 1869, Darmstadt, Germany – d. 1948, Auckland, New Zealand), the migration via Switzerland and Italy to New Zealand was a dramatic rupture in his personal life, for his health and his cultural identity. In his poetic writing, however, a remarkable constant can be observed: in New Zealand the wartime ‘enemy alien’ continued writing in a style with which he had harvested fame when active in the early phase of the so-called ‘George-Kreis’, a group of writers centred around the charismatic poet Stefan George, in Germany at the fin de siècle. In this article, I will explore the challenges the exiled German-Jewish writer experienced in New Zealand: how he was perceived by New Zealand colleagues and by fellow exiles; and how he saw himself in the New World. On “the globe’s last island reef” Wolfskehl found a safe haven, a place to edit and finalise the exile poetry he had written in Switzerland and Italy. It was, however, not the start of a new creative phase.

In: Refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe in British Overseas Territories
Author: Andrea Strutz

Abstract

In July 1940 approximately 6,750 prisoners of war, merchant seamen and civilian internees were deported as ‘enemy aliens’ from Britain to Canada; among them were approximately 2,000 refugees from Nazism and from Fascist Italy, almost all Jewish. Refugees were also interned who had arrived in Canada as aliens. This article aims to analyse more closely the fate and consistency of this special group of refugees, who initially had found refuge in Great Britain. It focuses on the socio-demographic characteristics of this motley group of males (e.g. age structure, origin, marital status) as well as the lengthy release process from internment, including the possibility of a return to Britain after the British government admitted that the deportation of refugees to Canada had been a mistake. The evaluation is based on a database analysis of an until now unexplored collection of index cards of Jewish refugees from Austria, Germany and Italy and aims to deepen our existing knowledge about interned refugees in the field of exile and memory studies.

In: Refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe in British Overseas Territories

Abstract

The article traces the path left by two pioneers of Austrian cinema during their years of exile. It concerns the film directors Jakob Julius Fleck and Luise Veltée-Kolm-Fleck, focusing upon a feature film they produced in China in 1941 that represents an extraordinary artistic document largely unknown to this day – even in the international field of exile research. Originally an actor, Jakob Fleck both shot and directed Von Stufe zu Stufe (1908), Austria’s very first feature film. Together with the Kolms, a married couple, he founded the production company Wiener Kunstfilm, where Luise Kolm also worked as a director, screenplay writer and producer of innumerable silent films. After Anton Kolm’s death, Fleck married his widow, and as of the mid-1920s they continued their directorial partnership in Berlin. In 1933, the couple was forced to return to Vienna. The last film they produced in Austria was an adaptation of Ludwig Anzengruber’s Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld. In 1938 Jakob Fleck, who was of Jewish desent, was interned in Buchenwald. At the beginning of the 1940s the couple managed to emigrate to Shanghai. Their meeting with the director Fei Mu culminated in the most unique collaboration between domestic and foreign film artists in the history of Chinese cinema: Children of the World, a melodrama made in Shanghai with a decidedly European touch.

In: Refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe in British Overseas Territories
Author: Jyoti Sabharwal

Abstract

Using sources like letters, essays, autobiography, film manuscripts and secondary literature, this article aims to reconstruct moments from Willy Haas’ years of exile in India (1939–1947) relevant to the salient research positions in the field of German exile literature. Further, through a focus on socio-political and cultural themes in a comparative framework, it attempts to gain insight into two divergent film aesthetics, theatre aesthetics, notions of time, work, mythology and the ethos of life. When Willy Haas, a Prague-born, German-speaking exile came from the Third Reich to India, it was in the midst of a mass scale freedom movement, under the leadership of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, against the British colonial regime. Haas admired Gandhi’s doctrine of non-violent passive resistance and empathised with the struggle for freedom. By describing Haas’ exile in India in terms of world historical conjunctures, his lived experience as a scriptwriter and essayist and his cultural output, this article seeks to add detail to the new geographies of exile migration, the liminal state of the exile in a colonial setting and the possibility of the specific place of exile bringing about a change in aesthetic perceptions transcending Eurocentric perceptions of the Orient.

In: Refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe in British Overseas Territories
Author: Sarah Schwab

Abstract

This essay focuses on processes of identification among German-Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany in South Africa from the 1930s onwards. Because of the unique political and social situation there, redefining their identity, both individually and as a group, presented a major challenge to them. Their precarious situation, the small size of the group of immigrants and the fact that most of them settled in Johannesburg and Cape Town initially led to the formation of a close-knit community with its own German-language synagogues and newspapers as well as various self-help organisations that provided important assistance for the immigrants who arrived with little to no financial means. While their main loyalty – a term that often features in sources – lay within this group, they soon began to develop other forms of identification, both within South Africa and with global Jewry. This article explores these different forms and objects of loyalty, ranging from the very local to the global, using a wide array of sources. Although the immigrants’ attitude towards South Africa initially oscillated between integration and alienation, in later years a narrative of integration and success became the dominant form of self-description.

In: Refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe in British Overseas Territories

Abstract

Between 1938 and 1948 around 4,000 Austrians fled to Australia. The Austrian exiles were politically and ideologically heterogeneous and mainly settled in the cities. This paper focuses on the cultural transfer between the two countries. Refugees from the field of puppet theatre and architecture are examples of how Austrian cultural traditions and professional knowledge were brought to Australia and were adapted to local traditions and structures. The paper also traces the references back to Austria.

In: Refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe in British Overseas Territories