Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Nice Story

I just watched a clip on the Australian Screen website from the movie The Dunera Boys.   It's about a thing that happened in 1940's Australia.   It turns out convicts weren't the only people deported from the United Kingdom.   During World War II, the British gathered up people living in England who had German and/or Austrian origins.  They saw them as suspect spies.   But they weren't spies.   They were just people who had the "wrong" heritage.  Many of them were Jews. Would Jews really be spying for the Nazis?   Come on!

The people went on a ship called Dunera, and headed towards Australia.  Lord Wiki says the conditions of the voyage were horrible.   Men had to share one bar of soap between twenty of them, and a towel between ten of them.  The toilets didn't work well. Because of all this, illness spread.   That's bad enough.  But on top of all that, some of the ship guard people were abusive.

Lord Wiki says that things improved when they got to Australia. That's good.

This Australian Holocaust website has a quote from one of the Dunera guys. He says:

We who arrived in Sydney on HMT Dunera on September 6th 1940 have indeed been lucky. Had we traveled in peacetime on a scheduled P&O liner, our shipboard friends, who became our extended family, would have been but acquaintances; we would have been more shallow and narrow-minded. The experience was a great leveler - we were all equal in misfortune.

I think it's nice that he looks on the bright side of things. And I think what he says is true.  Calamity can bring people together.

It's like Lost.  If the plane landed safety in Los Angeles, none of those characters would have gotten to know each other; well unless destiny pushed them together in another way. 

This migration website also has information about Dunera.   It says the Dunera people were interned in Hay and Orange New South Wales.  I've heard of Orange, but not Hay. I'll have to go look it up on Google Maps....

Hay is in west New South Wales.  It's closer to Melbourne than to Sydney. 

The migration website says there were 2036 German and Austrian Jewish refugees in the camp.    I think what's seen as special about the story is that the prisoners managed to thrive in some ways.   The website says, While awaiting release, the Dunera Boys developed a rich cultural and intellectual programme at their camp, giving concerts and establishing an unofficial university.

That's pretty inspiring.  And the happy thing is, many of the Jews fell in love with Australia. Nine hundred of them ended up staying and becoming citizens. The other good thing is Winston Churchill later admitted it was a mistake, and the Dunera people were paid some compensation.  

There's a street in Hay named Dunera Way.  I can't say it's one of the prettiest streets I've seen in Australia.

Anyway, I like this story. It shows that although humans are kind of stupid and evil, sometimes people manage to turn lemons into lemonade.  I like stories of survival, forgiveness, surprisingly happy endings, etc.