PEACE COMES TO LIVERPOOL | Overnight, German settlers became our enemies

Imagine this scenario, if you will, and just think how you might react.

RudolphSchneider was born in Germany in 1864 and as a teenager, at 18, and with limited funds, he came to Australia.  He was among 2000 Germans who migrated that year, one of the highest levels between 1874 and 1910.

At 22, he got himself a British Certificate of Naturalisation and quickly established himself in Sydney’s society and business world.

He’s credited as being an original member of the board of TarongaParkZoo and he helped establish JenolanCaves as a tourist destination.

As a businessman, Schneider was a valued member of the North German Lloyd Shipping Company which operated in conjunction with the German New Guinea Company, providing supplies to German ships that were trading with their New Guinea colony.

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 changed the lives forever for more than 100,000 Germans living in Australia.

Literally overnight thousands were labelled “enemy aliens” and were jailed without trial or any right of appeal against their detention.

Many of the Germans interned had added invaluable support to the Australian economy. Thousands had been targeted for their skills in wine-making and agriculture and requested to immigrate. Many had racked up 30, 40 years here – and some were born here. Yet all were ‘tarred with the same brush”.

Schneider spent four years at Holdsworthy (later Holsworthy) InternmentCamp, near Liverpool. He was fortunate not to be deported back to Germany in 1919.

Why was my great-grandfather interned as an enemy alien after making such a mark in Sydney as a businessman and public figure?

ARNO GLOCKERMANN, Rudolph Schneider’s great-grandson

There were 7000 German detainees at the end of WWI, just over 300 of whom – including Schneider and fellow countryman EdmundResch – were allowed to stay in Australia.

Schneider’s great-grandson, ArnoGlockermann, is still puzzled 100 years later. He asks: “Why was my great-grandfather interned as an enemy alien after making such a mark in Sydney as a businessman and public figure – 18 years after he arrived here?”

The final public program for 2018 as part of the Peace Comes to Liverpool exhibition at LiverpoolRegionalMuseum is a free talk, “Behind the Wires”, about internment in Australia during WWI. It’s this Saturday at 10.30am, by author and researcher MikeWohltmann, of South Australia, a state known for its German settlements and massive contribution by German migrant families to the SA economy, the arts, food and winemaking.

Mike will give a profound insight into why people of German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman descent were interned in 10 camps across Australia and whether it was justified. His book on the subject, A Future Unlived (432 pages) will be available to buy at the event ($50, cash only please).

  • Details, bookings: mylibrary.liverpool.nsw.gov.au/what-on-heritage.
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