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The Molonglo Mystery

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Omar al Hashim View Drop Down
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    Posted: 16 Feb 2011 at 08:29

In 1917, China declared war on Germany. As a result, China proceeded with the custom of the day and rounded up all the Germans and Austrians in China, about 3000 people mostly missionaries. Not wanting to keep the prisoner themselves, they asked the British to take care of them.

The British, not sure what to do with the prisoners, asked Australia to take care of them, and Australia agreed. Australia already had a number of concentration camps holding Germans from around Asia-Pacific. The Australian federal government, that had recently come into possesstion of the sparsely habited Federal Capital Territory (modern Australian Capital Territory). Instead of asking the state governments to build a new camp, it figured it could utilise it's own land and build the camp there.

In secrecy, 1200 men started construction of an internment camp for 3000 people on the present site of Fyshwick, ACT. All paid for by the British Government. Although the purpose of the camp was not revealed, the people in the neighbouring towns of Queanbeyan and Ginninderra were obviously aware of the construction, and the newspaper dubbed the construction "the Molonglo Mystery".

Just when the camp was finished and ready to accept the prisoners, Switzerland complained on the Germans behalf and said it was inhumane to send the prisoners to Australia. The 3000 Germans from China never arrived. Instead, 250 Fijian Germans who were interred at Burke - a fairly run down concentration camp - were transferred to the Molonglo camp where they spent the remainer of the war. After the end of hosilities the Fijian Germans were deported to Germany - a country most of them had never been to!

So Germans from China handed over to the British to be held in Australia failed to arrive because of Swiss intervention, and instead Germans from Fiji being held in Burke were transferred to Molonglo before being deported to Germany.

For the next ten years the camp remained and provided accomodation for construction workers involved in the building of Canberra.

Molonglo Camp


Edited by Omar al Hashim - 16 Feb 2011 at 08:32
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pinguin View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Feb 2011 at 10:06
Interesting. British were really pioneers in the art of concentrate peoples in camps.Australia itself was nothing more that an early huge concentration camp... Confused


Edited by pinguin - 16 Feb 2011 at 10:06
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Omar al Hashim View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Feb 2011 at 11:36

As you say, Australia has a long history of concentration camps, especially during the two world wars when enemies of the Empire - be they Germans, Italians, Austrians or Japanese were interred. Often they were interred for no other reason than they spoke German, but some were legitimate prisioners of war.

One of my favourite quotes, that is very telling of Australian policy is from Queensland's Chief Protector of Aborigines in 1916. When reporting about Palm Island he found it to to be 'the ideal place for a delightful holiday' and that its remoteness also made it suitable for use as a penitentiary' for 'individuals we desire to punish'. (paraphrased from wiki)
In other words "This place is tropical paradise! We should make it a prision."
This is even funnier when considered in the context of the time, when only 10 years ago one of the primary criteria for selecting the site of the capital city (Canberra) was that it was in a cold area (as apparently cold produces better people - a bit of nothern european bias in that thought concept perhaps but it was so dominant in Aus 100 years ago it was never questioned)

Security at most of the war time camps was fairly relaxed. While there was plenty of places to run, there's no where to hide. Only Japanese POWs bothered trying to escape. Many WW2 prisioners decided they liked it so much they never left. At Molonglo they Fijian-Germans were allowed to walk into Queanbeyan (the nearest town) everyday to shop, and security was fairly relaxed.

The memiours of one Jewish Australian - a man who fled Germany in 1939 to England, only to be arrested by England for being German and transported to Australia - state that he liked the camp so much he decided to stay forever. After he landed at Sydney he was marched inland to whereever his camp was, along the way, one of the soliders guarding him handed him his rifle and said "hold this for a second I've got to go take a leak". He ducked behind a tree, did his buisness, and came back to collect his rifle and continue the march.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Feb 2011 at 10:31
The idea of using prisoners to populate and develop remote areas is likely as old as humanity itself. Certainly, the Inca practiced such, as did the Vietnamese. It likely accompanied another ancient institution, that of using the military to pacify remote areas, and then encouraging the veterans of those campaigns to settle in the area permanently.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote opuslola Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Feb 2011 at 09:21
Lirelou, just why did you attack me?  Have I ever done you harm?
 
I know that this might not be the best place to make this post, but did I deserve your poison or at least "disrespect"?
 
Regards,
Ron


Edited by opuslola - 27 Feb 2011 at 09:22
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Seko- Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Feb 2011 at 09:56
Welcome to the forum Opuslola. I have a question. Who were you talking to just now? Did he mention you previously?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote opuslola Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Feb 2011 at 11:06
Actually, she did so on another thread, and I apologize for misplacing my response here.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Feb 2011 at 12:46
Opus, please do me the courtesy of posting your reference on my 'attack' upon you on the right thread, so I may scroll up and see what this 'attack' consisted of.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote opuslola Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Feb 2011 at 13:45
My dear Lirelou, pardon me!  I quickly reacted to a post that it seems was made by the personage of gcle-2003 that I mistakenly thought was from you!  I am embarassed that I did not check the source more thoroughly!
 
My sincere apology!
 
Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 May 2012 at 07:43
I had never though about this...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Styrbiorn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 May 2012 at 23:29
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

Interesting. British were really pioneers in the art of concentrate peoples in camps.Australia itself was nothing more that an early huge concentration camp... Confused

They were pioneers in doing it in a humane way. How you fail to realize prisoner camps have "always" been existing is just another evidence of your prejudice. I guess you would have thought it more proper to do it the Latino way: enslave  them and ship them to work in some mine or quarry.  

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 May 2012 at 05:02
Pinguin does not understand the difference between internment camps, POW camps, concentration camps, and death camps. Her apparently conflates them all, viewing the adjectives as mere synonyms.

To illustrate with an example of the old USSR, when Kim Il-sung and his surviving band of guerrillas from the Northeast Asia Anti-Japanese Army (A PLA organized resistance in Manchukuo)  fled across the Manchukuo-USSR border in early 1941, they were tossed into an internment camp in Khabarovsk, which held Jurchen, ethnic Korean, and Chinese, most of whom were NEAJ Army survivors. This was in March 1941 while the USSR was working on a Non-Aggression Pact with the Japanese, which they signed in April 1941. The Soviets already had a Non-Aggfression Pact with the Germans.  Then on 22 June 1941 came the German invasion, and Stalin needed someone to keep an eye on Japanese activities in Manchukuo (the Manchurian Puppet State). So they reviewed the bona-fides of the internees, and those who could be vouched for became officers in the 88th Independent Infantry Brigade, which despite the name appears to have been a cross-border strategic reconnaissance unit. The remainder became its rank and file. So, one day, Kim Il-sung was just another internee, and the next he was a Captain in the Soviet Army commanding a battalion within the 88th "Snipers" (an honorific given the unit in North Korean histories), working for his old Chinese boss from the AJUA, who was now the 88th Bde's deputy commander.

Had the conditions of the Khavarovsk Internment Camp been anything similar to a concentration camp, it is hard to imagine its inmates volunteering for the Soviet Armed Forces. 


Edited by lirelou - 06 May 2012 at 05:05
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jun 2012 at 19:44
I agree lirelou, but I believe there is one thing failed to be mentioned. In 1945, Manchukuo was invaded by soviet forces, which I believe broke the Non-Agression Act. That day, Amakasu Masahiko was planned to be captured by the Soviet forces and sent to a POW camp, or also a war criminals camp. But He drank cyanide. Kangde, Pu Jie, Hiro Saga, Wanrong, the 2 princesses of Hiro Saga and Pu Jie, and many others, including myself, were sent to the prisons by the Soviet Red Army in what I believe to be called Khabarovsk after being taken to a sanatorium. I personally did not enjoy the arrangements at the prison. We were mistreated, other than Kangde because of his "importance", and they yelled at us in a language we could not understand without there being a translator. The main problem was that we knew what was happening to Wanrong. Without her opium, she was not able to live. Wanrong died a few months later, I was sent back to Zhenggong a year later, where I spent 3 more years as a mail carrier before coming to America, Xianyu (Eastern Jewel) was executed shortly after Wanrong's death, and after more than 15 years of seperation, Pu Jie, Hiro Saga, the princesses, and Kangde were reunited.

Edited by Lao Tse - 27 Jun 2012 at 21:00
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Omar al Hashim View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jun 2012 at 19:58
Wow. You just got trumped Lirelou.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jun 2012 at 20:24
The british people in power can certainly rightfully be accused of much. Then we non- british should not forget to look at our own countries - and, no, danish authorities and even ordinary people are not always "goodies" (who are?). In particular people from countries with a very recent history of Concentration camps, like Chile(!) should remeber that.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jun 2012 at 21:03
Like China? They had work camps for "war criminals", where Kangde, and Pu Jie went in 1950-1961, while I was living in San Francisco. That is where Kangde was reduced to being a gardener.

Edited by Lao Tse - 27 Jun 2012 at 21:04
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jun 2012 at 21:35
There were plenty of interned Germans in Australia anyway. Australian brutality towards her own German population included the usage of the cat o' nine tails, a barbaric relic of the convict era which somehow seemed just deserts for an ethnic minority who contributed a disproportionate amount of economic skills, fought loyally under the Union Jack and Souther Cross, and never lifted a finger against their countrymen (unlike a couple of stoned Turkmens at Broken Hill).

There were even records of Swedes thrown into Australia's concentration camps simply because the ignorant and nationalistic Aussies could not tell the difference.

I'm spending next ANZAC Day in Hahndorf.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jun 2012 at 03:59
Omar, not sure how I got 'trumped', as Lao Tse is talking about Imperial Manchus being sent to concentration camps after July 1945, and my post is reference to a Soviet internment camp for Chinese, Koreans, Jurchens, and other anti-Japanese forces who were being driven across the Manchukuo-USSR border in 1940-41 when the USSR was not yet at war. I would be willing to bet that conditions for those 'interned' in 1940-41 were far different from those considered enemy nationals by the USSR in 1945. Manchukuo was the independent Manchurian state that the Japanese helped set up, and it was 'allied' with Japan, not China. 

I didn't "fail to mention it", rather it didn't fit the reply to Penguin's post that was my own. 

But, yes, Lao Tse does bring much to the table here in his historical knowledge, apparently related to Imperial China and Manchuria. I'm very happy to see him on board.


Edited by lirelou - 28 Jun 2012 at 04:02
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote toyomotor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jul 2014 at 02:26
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

There were plenty of interned Germans in Australia anyway. Australian brutality towards her own German population included the usage of the cat o' nine tails, a barbaric relic of the convict era which somehow seemed just deserts for an ethnic minority who contributed a disproportionate amount of economic skills, fought loyally under the Union Jack and Souther Cross, and never lifted a finger against their countrymen (unlike a couple of stoned Turkmens at Broken Hill).

There were even records of Swedes thrown into Australia's concentration camps simply because the ignorant and nationalistic Aussies could not tell the difference.

I'm spending next ANZAC Day in Hahndorf.
 
1. I'd like to see your information source about the cat being used on WW2 POW's;
 
2. I'd also like to see you balance your post with the stories of the POW's who worked on Australian farms, were treated like family and really didn't want to be returned to Germany;
 
3. I'd also like to see your stories tell about the Foreign Nationals who were interned during the two wars. They weren't POW's, they were Internees who were released at the end of hostilities.
 
In many cases, Enemy Aliens as they were called, who had lived in Australia for generations, were not interred at all.
 
 And instead of spending next Anzac Day in Hahndorf, why not try Auschwitz or Belsen Belsen.
 
 


Edited by toyomotor - 05 Jul 2014 at 02:28
“The biggest surprise in a man’s life is old age.”
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