Dunera exhibition opens at the National Library

February 13, 2010 by Henry Benjamin
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September this year will mark the 7oth anniversary of the arrival of the ‘Dunera Boys’ and a special exhibition to mark the event has opened at the National Library in Canberra.

1963 Dunera Reunion

In September 1940, the HMT Dunera arrived in Sydney with a passenger manifest of over  2500 Germans and Austrians who had escaped Hitler’s Nazi regime attempting to settle initially in the U.K.

But treated as potential enemy aliens, the men were interned in camps with those on the Dunera marked for detention in Australia.

Woodblock of the Hay Camp

The exhibtion focuses on the story of the Dunera Boys told through their letters, art and music most of which are drawn from the Library’s assets.

Many of the ship’s passengers were Jewish and had been interned in Britain. But as the ship began its journey from Liverpool to Sydney, plans were underway to change the internment laws in the U.K….but tall too late to prevent the ship’s departure.

The passengers found their camps in Australia a great deal more comfortable than the vessel which transported them here. The Dunera was overcrowded and sanitary conditions were poor.

Life in the camps was not unpleasant as the internees found artistic pursuits to help pass the time through music, literature, art and study. The new exhibition displays many examples of the results of the internees’ creative efforts.

Among the visitors to the exhibition on its opening day were two Dunera boys both with the family name Brent who are not related and did not know each other until yesterday.

HMT Dunera

Bern Brent told media that his memores were not very pleasant. But the 86-yr-old survivor said that that he studied in the camps and resulting in attaining a degree in teaching.

Library spokesperson Sally Hopman told J-Wire: “There has been huge interest in this exhibtion with many people from around the world seeking to track long-lost relatives. It has touched people’s hearts.”

She added that the September 70th anniversary was in its planning stages.


2 Responses to “Dunera exhibition opens at the National Library”
  1. Mark says:

    For those that are interested, there is a movie that was made called “The Dunera Boys”. While I can’t be sure of the factional information, I’m sure that it will give you some understanding of that part of our Australian history.

  2. Donna Slade says:

    Dear everyone
    I think this is very good I didn’t know about the Dunera boys.
    We need to know our history
    There was a lot of immigration and happening around the war years and in the 1950’s there is a lot of european immigrants in Albany Western Australia and seems to be a lot with jewish heriatage or they are just discovering the roots. A lot of people have amazing war stories.
    One guy was in yugoslavia and he was a young man in the army but he had to be in a German factory when the nazi took over the country.
    He use to put the detonators in the bombs. he made sure everyone didn’t work.
    that was his war effort. another one he was a british pilot and he was shot down in Germany and put in a consecration camp he was supposedly shot and was in a pit with all the Jewish people who had been shot. He waited and played dead and got out alive and his family live in Albany now.
    Anyway G-d Bless Donna

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