The Dunera Scandal: Deported by mistake
Angus and Robertson, $14.95, 233 pp
‘This internment of ours is but a sideshow of the war’, says a former Dunera internee in this book. Yet this footnote to Britain’s war on the home front has acquired considerable importance for Australia.
Approximately one thousand former Dunera internees became Australian citizens after the war, many of them highly gifted, even distinguished, post-war Australians. Historically, their wartime and post-war presence enabled many Australians, including some politicians, to understand for the first time the meaning of Hitler and Nazism, and the nature of the ‘Jewish refugee’.
The story should by now be familiar. Panic and spy-phobia, not to mention appalling MI5 intelligence work, led Britain in mid-1940 to conduct a bizarre mass internment of ‘enemy aliens’, most of them convinced anti-fascists, Jewish refugees from Hitlerism. A political scandal quickly developed in Britain. Most of those wrongly classified and interned were released for war work.