by Loveday Internment Camp Committee Curator Rosemary Gower
March 5, 2023
A symposium and exhibition on GERMAN WWII INTERNEES from Persia and their Fate in Australia was held in the Barmera Soldiers Memorial Hall on Saturday and was very well attended.
The guest speakers included descendants of the German male civilians who were taken into custody in Persia during the war and brought to Australia to be detained in the Loveday and Tatura Internment Camps.
Pedram Khosronejad, an Adjunct Professor from the Western Sydney University, and former curator of the Persian Arts program at the Power House Museum, has been researching German civilian expatriates of Persia since 2019. His research enabled him to unite a group of men and women whose fathers worked for the Shah of Persia prior to the allied British and Russian invasion of Iran, and their consequent incarceration in Australia.
512 German men from Persia were brought out as internees, and many chose to stay here after the war, and later sent for their families.
Under Pedram’s direction members of the group have been able to record their parent’s stories of their historic capture and incarceration, and their eventual release, before being reunited with their wives and children. Pedram has been able to compile their documents and has a 400-piece collection made up of letters, photographs, paintings and diaries.
The symposium was first mooted between Pedram and Rosemary Gower, the chairperson of the Loveday Internment Camp committee, prior to the Covid 19 lockdown.
Since then, the Berri Barmera Council has thrown their support behind the Loveday project, and have employed Christine Webster on a part time basis to help set up a web site, seek funding for signage out at the former headquarters, and for major projects.
Peter Ison and Jacque Zagotsis from the Berri Barmera Library joined the committee and their particular skills have been very beneficial in properly recording information about the camp.
Other committee members include Councillor Rhonda Centofanti and her brother- in law Mario, whose father was an Italian internee, and Helen Hutchinson and her brother Peter Schramm, whose grandfather, Bert Whitmore, was in charge of the army engineers at the camp.
Bert also helped select the sites for the erection of Camps 9, 10 and 14.
The convenor of the symposium was Dr Krosronejad, while the key note speaker was Dr Peter Monteath who has become a knowledgeable researcher on civilian internment in South Australia. 512 German men were taken into custody.
One of the speakers was Helga Griffin (nee) Girschik whose father was a railway engineer in Persia before he was taken into custody. Her family was one of six who were offered internment in Australia with their menfolk, when she was six years old. The families were taken to the family camp in Tatura, while the other men whose families were left in Iran were transferred to the men’s camp at Loveday.
Other speakers included Doris Frank, Ingrid Stephen, and John Wulff.
John’s sister Roswitha and Anneliese Kropf addressed the audience via video. A Loveday DVD which included live footage taken at the camp by the late George Bolton in 1943 ran in the theatre throughout the symposium.
Over fifty members of the public attended the symposium to listen to the speakers and to see the exhibition which was set up. Mayor Ella Winnall officially opened the day’s proceedings after Welcome to Country by Ena Turner.
The exhibition was open to the public again on Sunday and on Monday a special information morning was conducted for local primary schools.
The Loveday Internment Camp committee was thrilled with the success of the event and I thanked the guest speakers for making the effort to come to Barmera from Sydney and Melbourne and Pedram for putting the symposium together, Flinders University Professor Peter Monteath for his input, the Berri Barmera Council for enabling the symposium to be held, and the committee and Christine Webster for their enormous effort of organising the event, setting up the venue, and hosting the guests.
One other event which the guest speakers were thrilled with was a bus tour of the former Loveday Internment Camp sites, which included a walk around the general headquarters, which is under the care and control of the Berri Barmera Council
Another event which created a great deal of interest was a viewing of the enormous wooden carved honour board roll in the foyer of the Renmark Institute, which was carved by former German internee, Max-Otto Schumermann.
John Wulff remembers Mr Schumermann well, because he was a friend of his father’s, and as a young teenager John travelled to Wentworth where Max-Otto lived after the war, for tuition in the art of wood carving.
Photographs include John Wulff and his friend Robyn, and Helga Griffin in front of the honour board.
5th March 2023