The 78th reunion of members and friends of the Dunera Association was held on 13 November at the Kimberley Gardens function centre in East St.Kilda. About 60 people attended the event including Dunera Boy Henry Hirsch accompanied by his wife, Sonja Hirsch, and Dunera internee widows Sheila Rodeck, Edith Unger and Muriel Barber.
Dunera Association President Peter Felder reported on the year’s activities and welcomed the incoming committee.
Historian Seumas Spark spoke about the successful launch and sales of the book Dunera Lives, volume 1, by Ken Inglis, Jay Winter, Seumas Spark with Carol Bunyan. This publication contains the Dunera internment story along with 500 images of documents, places, people and events. The first print run was 2500 copies, and the books are selling well. Seumas spoke about a project to develop a digital library of the 500 images, along with an additional 1500 images that were collected but did not make it into the book due to space limitations.
Dunera Lives, volume 2, is in development. It will consist of “portraits”, that is, stories of the lives of 20 internees from the Dunera and Queen Mary groups. In addition, the roles of Captain Broughton and Major Layton will be described as these men were so integral to the Dunera history. The eagerly awaited release of volume 2 is expected in September 2019.
Seumas acknowledged the enormous contribution of renowned historian Ken Inglis (who died in Dec 2017) in conceiving and developing the initial portrait/ stories of prominent Dunera men. Ken’s colleague, Bill Gammage, will build on his work as a contributor to volume 2.
David Houston from the Hay Dunera Museum committee had some good news for the Dunera Association. As visitors to Hay will know, the Dunera Museum is housed in two restored railway carriages at the former Hay railway station. Years ago, a third carriage was obtained but funds have not been available to restore it. A submission has been made by the local council to the NSW Regional Cultural Fund program for $250,000 which will be used to restore the third carriage and also install solar power, underground cables, painting and timed locks on all three carriages. In addition, it is hoped to have the museum’s collection professionally catalogued and curated. Grants will be announced in January 2019.
Carol Bunyan spoke about the relatively unknown wartime internment camps at Orange in NSW and Loveday in South Australia.
About 400 Dunera internees passed through Orange, possibly during 1941 when the camps were being reorganised. Another 435 internees went to Loveday, some for a period of months before ships were available to return them to Britain.
Immediate past president of the Dunera Association, Rebecca Silk, was presented with a certificate of honorary Life Membership, by the current president Peter Felder and Secretary Ron Reichwald, as an expression of appreciation for her tremendous dedication and ongoing contributions to the Dunera Association.
The reunion is always a time when the Dunera and Queen Mary (Singapore group) descendants and friends get together, catch up on the previous year, and share stories about their internee connections. One such story was from Paul and Dean Haarburger, sons of the late Werner Haarburger. Werner was highly organised in keeping documents and memorabilia. Paul explained that, while going through some of Werner’s effects he had found Werner’s Dunera diary dated from 16 May 1940 to 2 September 1940. It was neatly written on small pieces of paper and is still in good condition after 78 years.
In memory of another Dunera Boy, the Dunera Association is supporting a campaign to provide a memorial for Kurt Kriszhaber. Kurt escaped Nazi persecution in Vienna by reaching Britain in 1939, but then was interned and sent on the Dunera to Australia. After leaving internment in Hay and Tatura, Kurt joined the Australian 8th Employment Company in 1942. Discharged from the army, Kurt lived in St Kilda and was naturalised as an Australian citizen in July 1946. Sadly, he died from an accident with a gas heater at his apartment in September 1946. All his immediate family had perished in the Holocaust, so Kurt was buried in Fawkner cemetery in an unmarked grave. A crowdfunding effort has been organised to provide a memorial on the grave. Any amount of financial support will be most appreciated.
For further details – www.gofundme.com/kurt-kriszhaber-memorial
It was a welcome sight to see all attendees enjoy catching up with old friends and making new ones, and it was notable that there was increased interest and attendance from children and grandchildren of internees. We look forward to seeing you at the next reunion.