During the Second World War Australia operated a system of internment camps where 'enemy aliens' as well as anyone assumed to pose a security threat could be imprisoned without trial. The arbitrariness of internment was one of its key features: while there were around 45,000 people in Australia who had been born in 'enemy' countries, there were only around 12,000 civilian internees at the peak of the internment process (1942). Naturalisation as a British subject was no protection to internment under the National Security Act 1939; your ethnic heritage, political convictions, where you lived in Australia, the local authorities' interpretation of the regulations under the Act, personal jealousies, professional rivalries all played a part in the search for the 'enemy within'. Here are a few examples of that process, as it was applied to Lithuanian immigrants.
The Braz (Brazauskas) family, Engadine, NSW - neighbourly suspicions
Kazys Brazauskas and his family arrived in Australia in 1927 and settled in a rural area near Sydney (see earlier post here). The National Archives of Australia website shows the results of the investigation of the Braz family by Military Police Intelligence in late 1940/early 1941 following a complaint by an unidentified local informant.
|Kazys and Jadvyga Braz (Brazauskas)|
In brief, the informant had claimed that:
- Kazys Braz was a Prussian;
- many cars visit his farm, particularly at night;
- on one occasion three Germans from Brisbane, members of the disbanded German club there, had visited the family and passed on a large amount of cash while speaking in German; and
- one of the visitors had filled the heads of the Braz children with Nazi ideas.
- both Kazys and his wife Jadvyga were born in Kaunas, Lithuania, and became naturalised British subjects in 1933;
- Braz was the President of the Australian Lithuanian Association, and often held community-related social events at his home;
- in October 1940 three Lithuanians had visited him at the farm where one of them, a visitor from Brisbane, had made a financial donation to the Association;
- no evidence was uncovered to demonstrate any disloyalty to Britain.
David Karl Pallaks (Paliokas), Brisbane and Bundaberg, QLD - born in the wrong place
Unfortunately for David, the town he had been born in had been part of Prussia until the end of World War One. It became part of independent Lithuania only in the early 1920s. He was also Lutheran. Perhaps worst, he had seen service in the German navy in 1917-18. It did not matter at the time whether he had been conscripted into service or volunteered; he was arrested in September 1940 in Bundaberg. Despite lodging an objection, he was interned in Queensland and then at Tatura, Victoria, until April 1944.