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Research Guides

Safe Haven: Records of the Jewish Experience in Australia

5. Enemy Aliens and Internees

By any criterion, the progress of Jews in Australia must be seen as a 'success story', particularly in the context of the 20th century Jewish experience internationally. As W D Rubinstein has observed of the postwar period specifically, Jewish life 'has continued to flourish and develop in this remote and isolated continent, in a way that many from the larger Jewish communities would not credit'.47

This is not to say, however, that the progress has been consistently smooth. As noted earlier, the assimilation dilemma which afflicted the community in the late 19th century, and which reached crisis point by the 1920s, was precipitated (at least in part) by fears of antisemitism. While usually peripheral and confined mostly to the fringes of the political spectrum, a minor vein of antisemitism has always been a factor with which Australian Jews have had to contend.

As 'foreigners', 'aliens' and 'newcomers', migrant Jews have also borne the brunt of heightened nationalism and xenophobia during periods of international conflict. Many migrant Jews found themselves objects of official concern or suspicion during World War I and World War II (as former citizens or residents of hostile nations) and frequently found themselves classified as 'enemy aliens', subject even to incarceration.

Similarly, after the Russian Revolution in 1917, the prominence of individual Jews in global revolutionary movements reinforced myths that Jews were intent on world domination, and coloured public perceptions of Jewish loyalty. In the wake of 1945, and with the emergence of the Cold War, the seemingly disproportionate involvement of individual Jews in left-wing politics or radical organisations elicited official concern at a nexus between Jewish migrants and communism. This is discussed in more detail in Chapter 6.

This chapter focuses on government records dealing with the definition and classification of Jews as aliens and enemy aliens during wartime. It includes sources regarding the internment process and the Dunera affair.


Chapter notes | All notes

47 A listing of identified Jews, extracted from the W.A. forms by Beverley Davis, is available as "Alien Registrations in Western Australia during World War One", AJHSJ 14(3), 1998.


Chapter 5
Enemy Aliens and Internees