Sir Nicholas Stern at Dunera anniversary

September 8, 2010 by Henry Benjamin
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The man dubbed as “the rock star of climate change”, Sir Nicholas Stern, is the son of a Dunera boy…and he has attended the 70th anniversary functions of the Dunera Association.

Dunera Boys at Hay

Last weekend, surviving Dunera boys and their families visited the New South Wales country town of Hay where in 1940 2,000 Germans and Austrians, of whom more than 80% were Jewish, were interned. The Dunera Boys as they were to be called, had been rounded up in the UK to which they had fled before hostilities began in the Second World War. They had been considered to be a possible foreign threat. They boarded the ship Dunera believing they were en route for Canada. But during the voyage, a decision was made to switch the vessel’s destination to Australia.

After a nightmare journey during which they were lucky to get fresh water twice a week and saw little daylight, the men disembarked in Sydney in September 1940 and were immediately transported to the country camp.

Ernie and Sue Everett

Lutz Eichbaum is a Dunera boy. The 87-yr-old, who changed his name to Ernie Everett, is now resident in a Mt Waverley Nursing Home in Melbourne. His daughter-in-law Sue Everett is also his biographer and her book “Not Welcome” chronicles the stories of the Dunera Boys’ cruel voyage to Australia and harsh life in Hay.

She told J-Wire: “2010 marks the 70th anniversary of the Dunera arriving in Australia and the internment camps set up in Hay, NSW. The Dunera Boys have a collective history which they acknowledge at an annual event but each of them has a different experience and perspective of these disruptive, unjust and traumatic times. In my book, I wanted to capture Ernie’s own story (based on his memories and diary) in recognition of his heroic struggle to eventually become a free citizen in Australia, after years of persecution, loss of freedom and bereavement.

My chosen title “Not Welcome’ crystallises the attitudes of many towards this teenage boy leading up to and during WW2. Lutz like his compatriots had no control over his destiny or destination – no choice in where they would be dumped by the British Government.”

J-Wire asked Sue Everett to report on the weekend in Hay.

She said: “On Saturday 7th September 1940, 1,984 Dunera Boys arrived at Hay Railway Station in 48 carriages of 4 steam trains to be interned at Hay Internment camps 7 & 8. Most of these men were German & Austrian Jewish refugees from Nazi occupied Europe and had already experienced persecution in their country of origin. Many of these Dunera ‘Boys were between 16-19 years of age.

They arrived in Hay after a gruelling 8-week voyage on HMT Dunera from Britain (landing at Pyrmont Wharf in Sydney) and by a 19-hour train journey to Hay. They were subsequently interned behind barbed wire in this barren landscape (a far cry from their European environment) until they were transferred to Tatura in Victoria by May 1941. They were interned for a further 9 months before being released to join the British or Australian armies. Most joined the 8th Employment Company.

The weekend events included the following: –

· Symbolic re-enactment at Hay Railway Station.

· Symbolic march from carriage to platform to the music of Verdi’s Nabucco –March Of The Slaves.

· Unveiling of a 70th anniversary commemorative panel and a ‘free and welcome in Hay’ memento lanyard presented to each of the 9 Dunera Boys present by Hay’s Deputy Mayor.

· Visit to the internment campsite.

· Visit to Hay cemetery & camp ‘River Farm”.

· Dunera Boys play performed by students of The Hay War Memorial High School.

An estimated 140 visitors attended the weekend events from as far away as U.K, U.S.A and Canada, which were organised by The Dunera Association (Events manager – Peter Felder) and David Houston, President of the Hay Dunera Museum.

There are an estimated 60 Dunera Boys still living in Australia, all over the age of 86, many of them were not able to attend due to frail or ill health. They all have their own as well as a collective story to tell.

Brian, Richard and Sir Nicholas Stern

At the Dunera function in Sydney yesterday, Sir Nicholas Stern was accompanied by his brothers Richard and Brian. He told J-Wire: “My father would answer questions about the Dunera but he wouldn’t volunteer information…it wasn’t a subject he raised. My father died in 1992. Like many children, we wished we had asked him many more questions when he was still with us. We have not recorded or written any of the history but in the few days that we have been here, I am now much better informed. We have learned so much…much more than we would have using regular research. We will certainly be passing this down to subsequent generations. Our children knew their grandfather and now we have so much more to tell them now when we get home.”

The Sydney function was held at Jones Bay Wharf where the Dunera docked and at which there is a memorial on which each of the Boys’ names is inscribed.

Walter Travers

Walter Travers, who entertained the Hay function by singing “Du Komzt ein Valtzing Matilda mit Mir” in German, called for the British to name those responsible for the forced deportation in sub-human conditions of the Boys before the 100 years embargo is up. He wants to know now. He said: “Archie Cameron was the Speaker in the Australian Parliament at the time of our arrival. He was a Country Party redneck who did not allow the term “friendly enemy aliens” to be applied to us. He said ‘they are all from Germany and Austria – they are all enemies’. He showed his ignorance by not understanding how the Nazis had treated us.”

Travers cut across all current political parties saying that there are still those in power who send refugees into detention in isolated places. He asked: “Who knows how many of them could develop into outstanding citizens? Many of the Dunera Boys did. At Wollongong University a lecture is held to this day in memory of Berthold Halpern who gained aPhD from London University before becoming Professor of Chemistry at Wollongong.”

Sir Nicholas Stern shares a moment with Dunera Boy Michael Brent

Sir Nicholas Stern told the meeting: “My brother Richard spoke so movingly in Hay about our father…but I want to thank the Association for keeping the memory alive. We have been to the exhibition at the Library in Canberra and to the Jewish Museum in Melbourne. The weekend in Hay was a very special moment for all of us.”

Mary Elizabeth Calwell

He said that the Dunera Boys saw the deportation as “a British scandal” adding: “On behalf of some of the descendants, we thank Australia for the very warm welcome it gave the Dunera Boys.” He spoke about how the German and Austrians in Britain had been rounded up and what happened on the voyage. He said: “My father, who had been a leader of a Zionist movement in Germany. did not forget the profound injustice. But he did not dwell on it. What did he learn from it and what did he transmit to us? The right response is to fight injustice and to work to prevent it. He worked with the good in people to overcome the bad and to make the world a better place..and I have felt that spirit within the last few days from the conversations we have been priviliged to have had with the Dunera Boys.”

The Sydney meeting also heard from Mary Elizabeth Calwell, daughter of the late Arthur Calwell who was Minister for Immigration in the Australian Labour Chifley Government at the end of the war. He was responsible for facilitating Jewish immigration to Australia.

Author Sue Everett added : “At this time, the 70th anniversary I wonder whether our attitudes have changed towards refugees and asylum seekers, those that are ‘Non Us’.

Many of The Dunera Boys have become notable Australian citizens contributing in the fields of art, business, academia, medicine and law etc. They deserve our gratitude and respect.” Sue Everett, author of Not Welcome.

As Sir Nicholas, Richard and Brian Stern fly out of Australia, they will take with them a clearer picture of the experiences their late father Adelbert Stern had in Hay internment camp following the scandalous voyage on the Dunera seventy years ago.

HMT Dunera

1963 Dunera Reunion


2 Responses to “Sir Nicholas Stern at Dunera anniversary”
  1. Lisa Featherstone says:

    Hi there – I was hoping to get in touch with Sue Everett, mentioned in this article. My name is Lisa Featherstone, and I am a historian from the University of Newcastle.
    If you could pass on an email address for Sue, it would be very much appreciated.
    Best wishes Lisa

  2. H.Hirsch says:

    Regards choice of joining the Australian or Britisch Army, there was not any in 1941. before leaving Hay in 1941. The only choice of getting out of Internment was to join the British Army. After the Japanese had declared war, the Australian Government decided in 1942,that they could after all make use, of us. First
    the Dunera Volunteers,went Fruit picking and joined theArmy on.7.4.1942

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