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Title: Reflections on the internment of persons of German origin in Australia during two world wars: context and arguments
Contributor(s): Moses, John (author)
Publication Date: 2005
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Abstract: The subject of internment of enemy aliens has attracted various authors in recent years so that we now have a number of studies, both published and in the form of dissertations. With such an emotion-charged issue, one may expect a range of conflicting interpretations. Of course, the deprivation of a subject's civil liberties where no crime is committed, but simply on grounds of suspicion that the individual is a security risk in time of war, constitutes a measure that has to be reconciled with established principles of justice. Consequently, the arrest and internment of some thousands of Germans and other enemy aliens in two world wars stretched the ability of the Australian bureaucracy and legal system to determine whether in individual cases the internment was really warranted. In the event, it probably would not have made any real difference to the outcome of the two world wars if most designated enemy aliens had been allowed to continue living and working within Australia undisturbed, but to have expected either government or society at those times to have accepted benignly the presence of high profile German or Italian communities would have been demanding an extraordinary degree of tolerance and understanding from both citizens and officialdom. As in other parts of the British Commonwealth and the United States measures were taken in war-time to intern enemy aliens and even naturalised citizens in the interests of national security. This paper seeks to draw attention to the Australian self-perception as an exposed outpost of Empire and contrast that with the self-perception of the German minority in both world wars whose loyalties were frankly divided. This is no easy task because many Germans had become so thoroughly integrated into the dominant British political host culture that their loyalty was never doubted; others, however, because of ambivalence in their attitude toward the British Empire came to the attention of the authorities and were interned and, after the war, even deported and exiled permanently.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 91(2), p. 93-106
Publisher: Royal Australian Historical Society
Place of Publication: Sydney
ISSN: 0035-8762
Field of Research (FOR): 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
Other Links:;dn=200512349;res=APAFT
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