German History in South Australia

Written by Dr. Ian Harmstorf

Dr Ian Harmstorf OAM BVK, former President of the South Australian German Association, is the state’s foremost authority of the German contribution to South Australia. With his forebears coming from Hamburg in the 1880s, Harmstorf experienced as a child the demonisation of all things German during World War II. This led him to his research on the Germans in South Australia, a quest which has taken him to Germany as well as all over South Australia.

Harmstorf who lectured for many years at the University of Adelaide has a Doctorate of Philosophy in History, a Masters Degree and has for many years in all aspects of the media promoted the German contribution to the History and Heritage of South Australia.

As Harmstorf has pointed out there may be some overlap in some of the articles for they were written over many years for a variety of purposes. This has the advantage, however, of making each article complete in itself and students and others will find the subject matter complete within each topic.

Germans have comprised a significant part of the population of South Australia almost since the State’s foundation. This has been variously estimated at between 7% and 10% until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. The first British setters arrived in South Australia in 1836. Some years earlier in 1817 in Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm III had made the first moves to unite all the Protestants in his Kingdom in a Union Church by the introduction of a common official liturgy. This was not entirely successful and many congregations continued to use the old Lutheran form of worship. In 1830 Friedrich Wilhelm ordered that all congregations should use the church order. Pastors who did not conform were sent to prison and their goods confiscated. Parishioners who followed the old liturgy found it impossible to hold services or have their children baptised and confirmed.

Early Migration

By 1836 in the village of Klemzig (now Klepsk in Poland) in the province of Brandenburg near the corner of Silesia and Posen, the Pastor, August Kavel, after earlier vacillation had joined the old Lutherans. Seeing no end to the religious persecution he decided to emigrate with his congregation. After toying with the idea of emigrating to Russia or the United States, Kavel went instead to England, where through his Hamburg contacts he met George Fife Angas, a director of the South Australian Company. Through Angas, Kavel was able to arrange for finance to pay the fares of his congregation to Australia. Angas, himself a Baptist and dissenter, was also a philanthropist and was willing to assist those who like himself had difficulties with the established church. However, Angas also had a keen eye for business and saw that a sizeable number of German peasants in the new colony would both contain the price of food and form a ready supply of farm labourers, enabling the cost of hired help to be stabilised. He was to be proved right on both counts.

The majority of Germans who came to South Australia until migration stopped in 1914, came from Protestant eastern and central Germany, probably because of the anti-Catholic attitude of Angas and the chain migration set up by the first arrivals. An insignificant number of Germans from the Catholic south and west also migrated to South Australia but most from these areas went to the Americas.

The first group of four ships arrived in South Australia during November and December 1838, only two years after the proclamation of South Australia as a British Colony. In any assessment of the Germans in South Australia their early arrival in strength is of the utmost importance for the Germans saw themselves, and were seen also by British-Australians, as pioneers. The first group of 517 settlers was soon joined by others. Not all who came, even immediately after the first arrivals, were deeply religious, but the Lutheran Church set the tone for the Germans in the country areas that was to last until the present day.

As befitted their peasant origins the first Germans took up rural pursuits, first in a village named Klemzig in the Torrens Valley some 8 kilometres from the Capital Adelaide, and later in 1839, in the Adelaide Hills at Hahndorf, named after their ship’s captain, Hahn. The market gardening pursuits of the Germans in these two areas were for the first few years to be Adelaide’s only supply of fresh vegetables as the British settlers pursued the more immediately lucrative pastime of land speculation. By 1842 some of the original German settlers, as well as later arrivals, had moved into the Barossa Valley, 60 kilometres north of Adelaide.

About 50% of the Germans who arrived in South Australia before 1850 came in closed congregational groups, but after the death of Friedrich Wilhelm III in 1840 and the cessation of persecution, it can no longer be said that the migrating Lutherans were fleeing from religious persecution. However, until 1847 there was some fear of the return of persecution and this fear continued to be a spur to migration. During the 1850s other factors that had been present even among the first religious refugees, gradually became the prime motive for migration. These were the generally depressed economic conditions in eastern Germany and land hunger, the desire of the peasant farmers to own their own block of land.


In Hahndorf the setters laid out the town in a farmlet village form (Hufendorf) but within a few years this was transformed into a street village (Strassendorf). The fact that the Germans had arrived so early in South Australia meant that they moved into virgin territory as far as the white man was concerned and were therefore able to lay out villages according to their own plans. The town plan of many of these villages including Bethany – the first settlement in the Barossa Valley – were in the Hufendorf form, and this form has endured to the present day. Their unique form in the Australian environment has ensured their attraction for tourists. At Hahndorf and nearby Paechtown many houses were built in the traditional German half-timbered style (Fachwerk). This was possible because of the abundance of redgum in the generally well timbered Adelaide Hills area. For sheds built in the half-timbered style the in-fill area between the timbers was pug – mud and straw – while for the more affluent houses the in-fill was brick. But from the earliest times even in Hahndorf most houses were built of limestone rocks as this building material was readily available whilst timber very soon became difficult to obtain.

In the Barossa the shortage of suitable trees meant that from their arrival the Germans built houses of stone, and later, brick, although some barns were built of timber split into rough slabs. The roof covering was initially thatch, although very quickly galvanised iron gained popularity as a status symbol. Barns generally remained covered with thatch. The type of house built reflected the styles of eastern Germany. The simpler versions had a hall-kitchen (Flur Kuchenhaus) while the more expensive houses boasted a Black Kitchen built entirely of brick. These brick kitchens followed strictly the fire ordinances of nineteenth century Prussia. The kitchen had to be of brick because so many farm houses had burnt down. By 1845 more than 1,200 Germans had arrived in South Australia and further towns had been settled: Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills some 50 kilometres from Adelaide, Tanunda and other smaller hamlets throughout the Barossa Valley. In the early 1860s groups of Germans from South Australia left for Victoria and New South Wales in search of land on easier credit.

However in 1869 with the passing of Strangways Act, South Australia was able to offer land on terms competitive with the other colonies. German wheat farmers quickly spread to the mid north, the Murray flats and Yorke Peninsula, and finally by the turn of the century Eyre Peninsula. Although the Germans were always in the forefront of the wheat frontier they tended to be conservative in their approach to new land and very few Germans were ever found in the pastoral areas of South Australia during this period.

Economic Life

Under the Wakefield scheme, the land settlement scheme that formed the basis for the settlement of South Australia, land was initially sold for one pound sterling an acre to the wealthy in ‘special surveys’ of around 20,000 acres. Land workers, including the Germans, were brought in initially to work the estates of the English middle class who had bought these large tracts of land and who had formed themselves into a colonial aristocracy. The carrot to persuade land workers to come to South Australia was, that by hard work and frugality they would one day be able to buy their own property. Frugality was certainly demanded. The Germans at Bethany and Hahndorf not only had to pay back their fares for the journey to South Australia but also had to borrow the capital to buy land that was generally sold to them at ten pounds an acre at rates of interest up to 20%. However, in this sense they were perfect settlers. They did not default on any of their debts and had within a few years paid off all they had borrowed and were paying for relatives to come to Australia. Generally it was possible by living extremely carefully, if one had full time work, to pay back the cost of the journey out within two years.

Chain migration played a particularly important role in German emigration to South Australia. Compared with the United States, South Australia was far distant and land relatively expensive as it was not received as a grant but had to be purchased.

Also, compared with the Germans who went to Victoria for the gold rushes in the 1850s, there was no immediate pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There was, therefore, on arrival, a real need to be met by someone and to be looked after. The dedication of the earlier German immigrants, who were delighted by the possibility of having two crops a year, is perhaps best illustrated during the period of the gold rushes. Angas claimed that he had lost no German workmen due to the rushes and generally German farmers allowed only one member of the family to go to the rushes while the rest remained at home and worked the farm. The attitude of the German farmers can best be summarised by one who wrote ‘We make gold with the plough’.

German farmers took to wheat farming in the new province as their main source of income. At no stage even to the present day were they to become dependent on one crop, remaining at heart subsistence farmers, always having enough in bad times to see them through from produce grown on their own farms. In this they formed a marked contrast to British farmers who as early as the 1860s had gone over to monoculture farming and as a result suffered severely when the price of their staple fell. One result of this was that British farms had a high turnover of owners. German farms tended to remain in the same family for generations for they were not forced to sell in bad seasons or when a glut forced down the price of the staple crop.

But not all the Germans who emigrated to South Australia were farmers. Some 80% of the migrants came through Hamburg. Hamburg emigration statistics and naturalisation figures in South Australia suggest that 33% had farming backgrounds, 37% were artisans, 9% were from commerce, 1% were professionals, (this last figure includes all pastors and missionaries), 12% were labourers and 8% other callings. As a result the Germans were able to set up completely self contained villages and even small towns (in which nearly all essential services were supplied by Germans.

The church filled a most important role in the lives of the early German farmers. Opening up the new land was not an easy task. The Germans had no experience of the Australian heat or the droughts or floods that periodically ravaged the land. But, unlike the British settlers they were strangers in a strange land often cut off from the main-stream of society by language and customs. However, they were strengthened in their determination to continue by two beliefs, first the land was given to them in trust from God and was theirs to use only in so far as it was nurtured and loved and passed down from father to son. The feudal concept of stewardship of the land was very much part of their thinking and as a result they were, within the limitations of their knowledge, conservationists from the moment of arrival. Second they believed that, like the children of Israel, they had been led to the promised land of South Australia by God. In the new land they had freedom of worship.

This freedom brought with it two responsibilities: because God had ensured their deliverance they had a duty to keep the Lutheran faith pure, and the sovereign who had offered them this freedom was owed their complete loyalty. The Lutheran pastor served as a linchpin in keeping these ideas alive, usually through the medium of the German language. The pastor was not only the spiritual leader of each community, but in many cases often served as a part time school master as well as being an adviser and counsellor to all. The Pastors in the country areas were the custodians of German culture, which was interpreted by them to be Lutheran culture. Except for church music the more secular aspects of German culture were ignored, being of little consequence when compared with matters of the faith. Lutheran pastors, having been forced into emigration through the interference of the State in the affairs of the church, were extremely happy with the doctrine of the separation of Church and State that prevailed in South Australian for most of the nineteenth century. They took little interest in the affairs of state except where they directly impinged on their interests. The Germans who took an active interest in politics were either non-practising or came from St Stephen’s, Adelaide, which was not affiliated with either of the major synods.

Social Structure and Organisation

St. Stephen’s was frequented primarily by Adelaide Lutheran businessmen who considered both major synods too illiberal for their tastes. The Adelaide Germans were divided not so much on religious as on class lines. The class differences were as clearly defined as in Germany and constant calls for German unity through the middle class columns of the Australische Zeitung clearly fell on deaf ears. Class differences were also cultural differences and this is best illustrated by the German Club and the German Association, the former concerned with German classical music and literature, high culture, while the latter had as its focus social evenings and folk culture. Class differences were also reflected in the places of residence. The poorer Germans initially lived in Stepney and in the side streets of the south eastern comer of the city of Adelaide. Wealthier Germans tended to live in Walkerville or in the more prestigious streets within the city. In the country, class differences were initially not obvious as there was little difference in income between the struggling farmers and the artisans who made their living in the country towns. But by the turn of the century German professionals and successful businessmen in the Barossa Valley often married women of British descent and were no longer Lutherans. They formed a class clearly separate from the farmers and artisans and made themselves the subject of some hostility from this group, which considered itself, looked down upon as peasantry.

As a numerical group the Germans on the land with their strong attachment to the Lutheran faith, always remained greater in numbers than the Germans in Adelaide, if Lutheran figures are taken as a guide. Of the 26,000 odd Lutherans in South Australia in 1901 only just over 20% lived in Adelaide. Although some of the Adelaide Germans rose to political and civic prominence, in a colony devoted primarily to agriculture, the wealth created by the country Germans meant that in financial and political terms they were always more influential than those in Adelaide. The influence of the German politicians was due to the electoral support of the German rural community.

Today the Germans on the land and those in the towns that serve German rural areas remain the sole custodians of the early culture that came to South Australia in the nineteenth century. This is still primarily due to the traditions laid down by the Lutheran Church. For reasons of faith Lutherans tended to inter-marry, usually to members of the same synod, and the emphasis laid by Luther on the family meant that within the German community there were extremely strong and lasting family ties.

However in Adelaide the situation was somewhat different for in 1854 a group of middle class Germans lamenting the lack of secular, high German culture (Kultur), in the city, formed the Deutsche (German) Club. Its stated objectives were the up-keep of the German language and customs. The club was the home of upper middle class Germans in Adelaide and at the height of Deutschtum (German language and culture) in Adelaide in the 1880s, had some 150 members. During this period they were able to build a most impressive club house at 89 Pirie Street Adelaide. However the 1880s also saw the rise of another group of Germans in Adelaide that was to help spell the end of the Deutsche Club. During the 1870s a new type of German migrant had begun to arrive. This new migrant was neither middle class, artisan or farm worker, but rather a city worker usually semi-skilled nor having a skill no longer required in Germany owing to the rapid industrialisation of that country. By 1886 this group were strong enough to form its own association, the South Australian German Association (Südaustralischer Allgemeiner Deutscher Verein) The word general – allgemeiner – gives a clue to the origins of the Association. It was formed out of four smaller associations operating in Adelaide, each of which continued to operate semi-independently under the umbrella of the General Association. This has proved to be one of the great strengths of the Association which is still in existence. One of the expressed aims of the Association was the promotion of reforms hat will in any way tend to increase the happiness and welfare of the human family’.

The Association sought to do this through secular means, the church through spiritual. As a result there was little love lost between the Association and the two largest Synods of the Lutheran Church. The Association was seen as a hotbed of socialism and against everything for which the Lutheran Church stood. However Lutheranism was never strong in the city of Adelaide and the focal point of German social life tended to be the Association. At the turn of the century the Association was branded as ‘communistic and anarchistic’ by the more well-to-do members of the Adelaide German community who considered the Association anathema to everything their German middle class values represented. However the demise of the Deutsche Club in 1907 paved the way for some of its members to join the Association.

The demise of the Club was probably due to two main factors. It was extremely exclusive both in its selection of members and in its fees. Thus it cut itself off from most of the Germans who arrived after 1880, dooming itself to an ageing membership. This financial and social exclusiveness also meant that it appealed only to the most successful Germans in Adelaide. The success of these Germans was usually because their businesses were based on both German and English contacts. They were inexorably drawn into the wider world of the British-Australians where the real power in the community lay. Many of these Germans joined the exclusive Adelaide Club rather than limit themselves to the narrower social and financial opportunities offered by the Deutsche Club. Indeed the very existence of the Association was virtually ignored by M. P. F. Basedow, owner of the German language newspaper the Australische Zeitung and a member of the Deutsche Club. It was only after the Club had collapsed and the membership of the Association had climbed to 600 in 1911 that regular reports appeared on the activities of the Association.

The Association tended to be run by the latest arrivals from Germany. Second generation Germans who were not as fluent in German and others who had at least partly integrated into the British-Australian society did not feel the need or compulsion to participate in German social/cultural events, or keep up the language. Many Germans in Adelaide, unlike the majority of their fellow countrymen on the land, were extremely poor, having arrived with few saleable skills and no knowledge of the English language. Although this situation was not as bad in the 1880s as it was in the 1850s, these early arrivals with little or no intellectual German culture from their own class background to sustain them, quickly became assimilated. Although the Association had been looked upon as being socialist-internationalist, one of the stronger groups within the Association was the German nationalists. These men had arrived in South Australia after the unification of Germany. They were intensely proud of the new resurgent Germany and tended to be very loud in its praises despite the considerable trade competition growing between England and Germany. The few remaining German liberals of the dissolved old Club tempered their pride in the new Germany with the warning that they were South Australians, many by birth, all by adoption, and that their first loyalty lay with South Australia. But the German nationalist, because of their more recent arrival tended to be extremely vocal, relishing their new found freedom of speech in the more democratic British-Australian society. This was to have unfortunate consequences with the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

One other aspect of club life in Adelaide was also to have repercussions in 1914. Although class differences ensured that for many years there were two major German clubs in Adelaide, the demise of the Deutsche Club did not mean either the end of these differences or the unification of all the Germans in the city. The constant demands for unification were not met. Little is known of the other clubs, although Club Teutonia, 1889-1938, although without real influence, seems to have been more conservative than even the Deutsche Club, while the Progress Association – Fortschrittsverein – had more intellectual pretensions. The Concordia branch of the Masonic Lodge, which ran German language meetings from 1882 to 1901, was particularly irksome to the Lutheran Church. With the outbreak of war the lack of unity within the secular German community as well as the differences between this community and the Lutheran Church, meant that no united front was able to be mounted against the infringement of civil liberties suffered by Germans and their descendants during World War I.

Culture, Tradition and Education

In the country areas the cultural traditions of the Germans were closely tied to the Lutheran Church. By means of Church schools in particular, the Lutheran Synods tried to perpetuate the language and the faith. By the turn of the century there were 48 Lutheran Church schools in South Australia. However, the percentage of Lutheran children actually attending such schools was only about half the number of Lutheran children of school age in the colony. Although the Sunday school system of the Lutheran Church also introduced many children to German, the prime influence in their lives came from the Australian state-run schools that they attended and which gave them English as their first language. By the turn of the century the vast majority of those who had been born in Australia had either English as their first language, or were completely bi-lingual. The only exceptions to this were the most isolated farmhouses where German was still used exclusively. However despite the fears of the pastors, both the liturgies and many festivities and customs survived the translation to English. Among these were the harvest festival and the celebration of the vintage. Weddings also continued to be celebrated in the traditional grand German manner while German food not only survived but was to influence the South Australian palate to the present day, particularly in the range of German sausages and rye breads available at every corner delicatessen store. In Adelaide a Schützenfest – shooting festival – had been celebrated as early as 1854. This tradition was also kept alive in various country towns, the most popular being in Hahndorf. The first run by the German Association was held in Walkerville in 1889. The idea was taken up again in 1964 to become an annual event at Hahndorf until 1994 when it shifted to Adelaide.

The Adelaider Liedertafel, male singing group, was founded in 1858 and still exists, while the German Turnverein or Gymnastics Association founded by Adolph Leschern was said to be the foundation for gymnastics in the State. Tanunda still has its own Liedertafel founded in 1861 and a ninepin skittle alley for relaxation.

One tradition common to both country and city Germans and regularly remarked upon by the British settlers was the tradition of painstaking hard work. This attribute was noted among German settlers wherever they settled, whether it was in the New World or the antipodes. Although perhaps given to excess in festive times, their general record of reliability, thoroughness and thrift ensured that they were sought after as workers wherever they went throughout the colony.

Not all the traditions brought to South Australia were folk or religious. By 1901 there were 5,500 Germans living in Adelaide, just over 3% of the population of the city at that time, and among these were a sprinkling of ‘forty-eighters’. The ‘forty-eighters’ did not have the same influence in South Australia as they did in the United States because they were relatively few in number or perhaps more importantly, did not have such a large group of immigrant Germans behind them relative to the total population. These men had fled from Germany after having participated in the ill-fated revolution of 1848. Most went to the United States and hoped to return to Germany when the situation became less repressive to liberal thought. However some made the more dramatic decision to come to Australia. On 7 August 1849 the Princess I.ouise arrived at Port Adelaide with a group of ‘forty eighters’. On board were the brothers Richard and Otto Schomburgk. Richard became the director of the South Australian Botanic Gardens from 1861 to 1891 and although not its first director, is generally regarded as its real founder. Also on board was perhaps the most talented German and one of the most learned men ever to come to South Australia prior to World War I, Dr Carl Muecke. Muecke was vitally interested in all aspects of education both scientific and literary, and for many years was also involved in the production of German newspapers in South Australia, primarily the Australische Zeitung, with his son-in-law M. P. F. Basedow.

The first German newspaper had been published in South Australia in 1848 by Karl Kornhardt. Until the 1870s several German newspapers started but went bankrupt. Rival papers of different political persuasions fought for subscribers to remain financially viable, often waging literary war against each other. In 1863 M. P. F. Basedow jointly launched the Tanunda Deutsche Zeitung. By 1875 having changed its name it had become the leading South Australian German newspaper, the Australische Zeitung. The tone of the newspaper was initially liberal but with the increasing power of the Labor Party towards the end of the century the Australische Zeitung became more conservative in approach. The Australische Zeitung, which was forced to cease publication in 1917 during World War I, was proud of the new resurgent Germany but remained firmly loyal to the British crown. However its columns were often filled with the complaint that the German language and customs were not being retained by the Germans in Adelaide.

In country areas the influence of the German press was limited because, by 1900, the second generation farmers considered that the events in Germany which tended to fill much of the newspaper had little relevance to their lives, and the reports of the South Australian Parliament in Adelaide, except when it affected them financially, were equally remote. Many subscribed instead to The Chronicle, a weekly newspaper filled with articles for the farmer. The Chronicle seemed well aware of its German readership for its pages had regular extensive coverage on events in predominantly German districts and towns. The Lutheran Church newspapers were another alternative for those who could afford them. The Kirchen- und Missions-Zeitung was published by the United Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Kirchenbote by the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Both papers tended to be concerned primarily with church matters although the use of the German language and the position Germany should hold in the minds of the faithful were matters that impinged upon political interests.


Because of its unfortunate association with the state in Prussia the Lutheran Church generally remained firmly apolitical. The German Consul General from Sydney on a fact finding tour in 1913, considered that the German language was dead by the third generation and even in country areas the language was dying because of the lack of teachers who were really fluent in the German language. Even when the teacher was fluent, by 1900 in the Evangelical Lutheran Church schools English was the preferred language.

The German Consul also considered that in any coming conflict with Germany those Adelaide Germans who could have acted as leaders had so identified with the British that they were of no political use to Germany. Moreover in the country areas, he wrote, the Lutheran pastors totally lacked any form of political consciousness. The Adelaide Germans were content to be big fish in the small pond of South Australia rather than working for the good of the Fatherland. The older leaders of the German community in Adelaide saw the matter from a different perspective. They constantly stated that South Australia was their new homeland and that they were determined to bring the best of the old and transplant it to the new. However they also looked after the interests of their electors, German farmers.

The first German-born elected member of the South Australian Legislature was elected expressly for this purpose. F. E. H. W. Krichauff was elected to the South Australian legislature in the first parliament of the colony in 1857 with the express purpose of helping to pass the Real Property Act. Although this act is commonly known as the Torrens Title Act, the idea of a simple transfer document for property came from the German Hansa towns and Sir Robert Torrens’ close adviser throughout the passage of the bill was Ulrich Hübbe, who afterwards was awarded a parliamentary pension for his services. After the passing of the Real Property Act Krichauff resigned, but was re-elected in 1870.

Krichauff, who had worked in the Kiel Botanic Gardens in Germany, was interested in re-afforestation based on models laid down by Frederick the Great of Prussia. He was also responsible for the introduction of Arbor Day into South Australian Schools.

Basedow was elected a member of the lower house in 1876 and, like his famous forefather, was interested in education, constantly badgering Parliament for a more progressive, viz. liberal, education. Basedow was also the prime mover in the setting up of the Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1879. For a short period in 1881 he was Minister of Education.

Of the other German parliamentarians the most notable prior to the outbreak of World War I were Robert Homburg, who after serving as Attorney General from 1890 to 1895, was elected a justice of the Supreme court of South Australia in 1905, the first non-British born person to be elected to such a position in any Australian state. Theo Scherk, elected to the Parliament in 1886, was the son of a Chancellor of Kiel University. He represented the city electorate of East Adelaide which contained many working class Germans. Of all the elected German members he was the only one who could be called in his time left of centre. He had a strong interest in technical education. The influence of the Germans in the political field in South Australia is difficult to assess for on many occasions their interests coincided with the interests of other members. It can be asserted however that German members tirelessly represented the interests of their German electorates on the one hand and on the other, constantly brought before Parliament ideas received from their German countrymen, both in Europe and in the United States. It was one of the ideals of South Australia in the nineteenth century to be seen as ‘progressive’, and the Germans did their best to help promote this image.

Intergroup Relations

The acceptance of Germans in South Australia was unquestioned until the outbreak of the Boer War. In the early days of the colony an idealism prevailed which looked to a future where there would be no Englishmen, no Scots, no Germans, no Welsh, only South Australians. This ideal was never to be realised. Germans however were still looked upon as excellent settlers and as ‘our German cousins’. This was doubtless due to some extent to the influence of Queen Victoria and her husband the German Prince Albert. The rush for colonies in the 1870s and the unification of Germany in 1871 did not appear to materially alter the relations between British and German Australians. German bands continued to play at most Adelaide festive occasions and German concerts both vocal and instrumental continued to entertain all citizens of the capital, not only the Germans. German businesses flourished and although some professionals may have dealt with numbers of German clients, neither in business nor in the professions was there a German exclusiveness. The Germans were an integrated part of the Adelaide scene.

However, with the outbreak of the Boer War and the pro-Boer stance taken by the Australische Zeitung the situation appears to have changed. Germans complained that they were not accepted as equals. Their criticism of the war implied that they were traitors and not loyal South Australians, while British-Australians escaped such criticism. Other Germans complained that they had been always looked upon as second class citizens and the war merely brought such ideas into the open. The period from 1900 to 1914 was fraught with several naval crises between England and Germany. Leaders of the German community in Adelaide were strong in their defence of German culture and equally adamant that Germany had the right to keep a strong navy. While maintaining such an attitude they also emphasised their loyalty to the British crown. A strict separation of cultural and political loyalties was maintained by the Germans but pro-German political views were generally put forward by people who had been born in Germany. These pro-German views were seen by Anglo-Australians to be views representative of all Germans. It has been suggested that for the second-generation Australian born for all classes pro-German political views were irrelevant. These German-Australians saw themselves as members of the British Empire. In the country areas the Lutheran Church continued in its apolitical role and guarded its cultural identity. Unfortunately with the outbreak of the war in 1914 and the introduction of total war, such luxuries as a separate cultural existence could not be tolerated and the German contribution to South Australia during the first 80 years of its existence as a white settlement was buried beneath a sea of prejudice.


(1) Borrie, W. D. Italians and Germans in Australia. Melbourne 1954/Adelaide 1946.
(2) Brauer, A. Under the Southern Cross. Adelaide 1956.
(3) Harmstorf, I. ‘Some Common Misconceptions about South Australian Germans’ in Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia. No. 1/1975.
(4) Harmstorf, I. The Germans in Australia. Melbourne 1985.
(5) Cigler, M., and T. Hebart. The United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Australia. Adelaide 1946.
(6) Iwan, W. Um des Glaubens Willen nach Australien. Breslau 1931.
(7) Lehmann, H. ‘South Australian German Lutherans in the second half of the nineteenth century: A case study of rejected assimilation’ in Journal of Intercultural Studies. Vol. 2, No. 2/1981.
(8) Lodewyckx, A. Die Deutschen in Australien. Stuttgart 1932.
(9) Price, C. A. ‘German Settlers in South Australia 1838—1900’ in Historical Studies in Australia and New Zealand. May 1957, Vol. 7, No. 28.
(10) Schubert, D. Kavel’s People. Adelaide 1985.
(11) Triebel, L. A. ‘The early South Australian German Settlers’ in Journal of the Tasmanian Research Association. May 1959.
(12) Walker, R. ‘German language Press and People in South Australia 1848—1900’ in Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society. Vol. 58, June 1972.
(13) Walker, R. ‘Some Social and Political Aspects of German Settlement in Australia to 1914’ in Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society. Vol. 61, March 1975.
(14) Young, G., I. Harmstorf et. al. Barossa Survey. Adelaide 1977.
(15) Young, G., I. Harmstorf et. al. Hahndorf Survey. Adelaide 1981.

By the year 1855 Germans and their children already constituted over 8% of the population of South Australia. The early German settlers who had emigrated to South Australia as early as 1838, only two years after the foundation of the province, were followed by many others. The first German settlers had come because they were suffering religious persecution in their homeland. Later settlers came to enjoy the freedom, the sun and the economic prosperity of the new colony. Many came because they had friends or relatives already in the province.

The year 1855 was a politically important year for the German settlers. They were established as farmers throughout the Barossa Valley and the Adelaide Hills. The towns of Hahndorf, Lobethal, Bethany and Tanunda were all flourishing. Lutheran schools had been started in several areas where there were German settlers, and German churches, with their distinctive continental architecture, dotted the country landscape. Two German newspapers had been launched, Die Deutsche Post (The German Post) and Deutsche Zeitung für Südaustralien, (German Newspaper for South Australia) and a German Hospital had been opened. Der Deutsche Club (German Club) had been started the year before and was to flourish as a centre of German culture and learning until 1907. German miners from the Harz Mountains were active in the colony’s copper fields, while German smelters brought their skills of how to smelt with timber to the Burra mine. But the German influence was not only felt in the country districts of the colony. In the years surrounding 1855 numerous German silver and goldsmiths arrived in the colony to settle in Adelaide. Most of the German artisans who had arrived on South Australia’s shores, however, were builders or carpenters, many of whom settled on the land. Of course, the greatest percentage of German settlers were peasant farmers who had previously leased land but whose great desire was to gain their own piece of land in the new country.

A handful of middle class Germans who had participated in the abortive European revolutions of 1848 had elected, not like most of their contemporaries, to go to the United States but had chosen South Australia instead. Because of their background and education these men gave a new sense of focus and leadership to the German community, particularly in Adelaide. In the country the Lutheran church leaders, the pastors, were still the focal point of the German communities, but the increasing number of Germans in the colony, together with their new found wealth and perhaps most importantly, the realisation that they were becoming South Australians and that their children were South Australians, led to a desire to have some political say in the future of the colony of which by now, 1855, they clearly saw themselves as a part.

Dr Ulrich Hübbe was already advising the government on the land laws of the Hansa towns of Germany and this advice was to be incorporated in the famous Torrens Real Property Act of 1857. Land tenure and legal safeguards in the buying and selling of land were of vital interest to the German settlers, the great majority of whom had settled on the land and were already becoming the backbone of the colony’s wheat growing industry. The reliability of the Germans and their devotion to the soil, which they considered was not something to be exploited, but husbanded and conserved to be passed on from one generation to the other, had already been proved during the Victorian gold rushes of the early l850s. During this period a great many settlers of English origin had dropped everything and gone to the diggings. But the Germans stuck to the land; at the most one son had been sent to the goldfields to be allowed to try his luck, and his luck was to be on behalf of the whole family. If he struck pay-dirt then more land was bought for the family. Land was something which, although you might own, was also thought to be held in trust from God and therefore not to be left or given up lightly. Other reasons may have also entered into it. With so many people leaving the land there was a shortage of food in many areas. As one German put it, “I made gold with the plough”.

But in 1855 the Germans felt they had not been fully accepted. Although naturalised they did not have all the rights of British born South Australians. For example their naturalisation was not even accepted in the neighbouring colony of Victoria and although they could vote, a naturalised German could not be a member of the Legislative Council, as the Upper House was then called. The right of the Germans to sit on the legislating body was seen by them as essential if naturalisation was to be meaningful. German rights, as the leading Adelaide newspaper, The Register wrote on 3 September 1855, were a major constitutional issue of the day and a hot political potato. But many Englishmen felt the Germans should be grateful that they were even allowed to come to South Australia and stop demanding equal political rights with Englishmen. The Register on the other hand considered that “in regard to the great question of political privilege, we are firmly convinced that both justice and policy debate the necessity of abolishing in this colony all political distinctions resulting from class or race, and of uniting under the common privileges of one and the same constitution every bone fide settler on this soil”. The Register also went on to say “let us make from the [people] of all countries one new political Confederation of South Australians”.

But not all South Australians agreed. A gentleman signing himself “a sexagenarian Briton”, wrote in the same month to another Adelaide newspaper, The Adelaide Advertiser, saying ‘our Teutonic friends have very good reason to be thankful for the refuge South Australia has afforded them … and they ought to gratefully acknowledge and quietly enjoy their freedom. I would naturalise no more Germans until they made the English language a professed object in their education … To have the rights of Anglo-Saxons they must cease to be Germans’. On the 27 August 1855 the Adelaide Times reported that the German colonists of Adelaide met at the Europa Hotel (Germans following the custom of their homeland usually met in a hotel for any occasion, both official and unofficial), to protest at the exclusion of Germans from the Legislature-that is the Parliament of that time-in the colony. The meeting was somewhat disorganised according to the report but finally a petition was drawn up to be presented to the Governor. The report of the deputation bearing this petition appeared in The Adelaide Observer on 27 September 1855, under the heading, “German Rights”. The deputation numbered among its members several British born South Australians who were of the opinion that British justice was not being done to the Germans by excluding them from becoming politicians. The Governor said that recently he had had the pleasure of ‘traversing several districts of the colony cultivated principally by Germans, and he had with pleasure remarked the rapid conversion, effected by their energy, of a recent wilderness to a civilised country, studded with thriving homesteads and apparently paying a rich return to those who had spent their time and labour in its cultivation’. Further, the Governor promised that when South Australia achieved responsible government ‘those aliens who sought the privilege of sharing the honours of legislation should; … and that these conditions would therefore form portions of the proposed bill’.

When South Australia elected its first responsible Government in 1857 it numbered among its members, F. E. W. Krichauff, who had been born in Schleswig, Germany, in 1824. He had stood for parliament with the express purpose of seeing that the Real Property Act was passed. Germans had been accepted as full citizens of South Australia at last. During the following years many more people both German born and those of German descent were to enter the South Australian Parliament, taking a vital interest in education which they considered essential for the well being of the colony, as well as land legislation and the conservation of our natural forests.

The German members of Parliament strove both to forward the interests of the colony as a whole and also to look after the members of their own electorates, most of whom were on the land or connected with it.

For the women in particular, life could be lonely in a strange land. Working on farms there was little opportunity for them to learn English, so they tended to cling to their German friends. The farmers’ wives, for a great deal of the time isolated on their farms, tended to live with their memories. From just outside Lyndoch one German woman wrote,

‘Most of the time I am with you all in the homeland. Despite the fact that this land is so beautiful, one still doesn’t feel at home, at least I don’t. I have been here for over ten years and I feel just as strange and foreign as if I had just arrived. After my sister left a great gap appeared in my life. With her I could talk about you, my dear ones at home, and I could endure the crippling loneliness. In my mind now I often wander with you around the house and see you doing your different tasks. When I tell you that my thoughts wander about the old home, I don’t mean just the house but the whole village. In my mind I wonder through the church, the school and over the mountains and the paths. I see everything just as I knew it, just as left it’.

To such women the Lutheran Church was not only a centre of spiritual comfort but also one of the few places for social interaction. The church and memories helped to make life bearable in the days when in the German areas all travel was done either by foot or oxen-cart, that is if the oxen were not being used to pull ploughs.

For the Germans in South Australia 1855 was a good year. They had proved themselves ideal settlers, hard working, sober, thrifty and devout; they were all the founding fathers of South Australia expected from new settlers. Perhaps their greatest virtue was seen to be their self reliance. They did not look to the state for favours, but rather tried to solve their problems from their own resources. In a colony where “self-help” was regarded as the supreme virtue by the Baptists and Congregationalists who were then the leaders of the society, the self reliance of the Germans was seen as a shining example for others to follow. The success of the Germans at becoming South Australians was their acceptance as full political equals, a considerable achievement when one considers the chauvinistic attitudes of most Englishmen of that time.


(1) The Register.
(2) The Adelaide Times.
(3) The Adelaide Observer.
(4) Australische Auswandererbriefe. Deutsches Auslandsinstitut, Stuttgart 1934.
(5) Pike, D.: Paradise of Dissent. Adelaide 1957.
(6) Hodder, E.: George Fife Angas, London 1891.
(7) Harmstorf, I.: Germans in South Australian Parliament 1857—1901. B.A. Dissertation. Adelaide 1959.
(8) Harmstorf, I.: German migration, with particular reference to Hamburg, to South Australia 1851—1884. M.A. Thesis. Adelaide 1971.


Although South Australians with non-British backgrounds now enjoy full constitutional and political rights, do they enjoy the same social and economic rights as those of British descent or birth? Is it perhaps easier to legislate for equal political rights than it is to legislate for equal social or economic rights?

While many early German settlers suffered from physical loneliness, settlers today of a non-English speaking background often feel lonely but for different reasons.

The early German settlers found it difficult to gain acceptance even though they had many attitudes which were similar to the English. What becomes of migrants whose attitudes are different? Many early Germans said they were made to feel socially inferior to the English. Has this situation changed for people of non-English speaking backgrounds? What leads to acceptance?

Reprinted from South Australia 1855, Constitutional Museum, Adelaide 1981.

By the year 1850 Germans and their children already constituted some 10% of the population of South Australia. Today I should like to look at two particular aspects of German immigration into Adelaide: the rights of Germans as citizens and secondly, to try and illustrate how the German community was in every sense, disunited. Unlike it was perceived by many British-Australians, it was anything but monolithic.

The 1850s were politically important years for the German settlers. Two German newspapers had been launched, Die Deutsche Post (The German Post) and Deutsche Zeitung für Südaustralien, (German Newspaper for South Australia) and a German Hospital had been opened. The Liedertafel started as did the famous Brunswick Brass Band. Der Deutsche Club (German Club) began in 1854 and was to flourish as a centre of German culture and learning until 1907. German miners from the Harz Mountains were active in the colony’s copper fields while German smelters brought their skills of how to smelt with timber to the Glen Osmond and the Burra mines. In the 1850s numerous German silver and goldsmiths arrived in the colony to settle in Adelaide, as did cabinet and piano makers.

A handful of middle class Germans who had participated in the abortive European revolutions of 1848 had elected to go to South Australia rather than like most of their contemporaries, the United States. Because of their background and education, these Germans gave a new sense of focus and leadership to the German community, particularly in Adelaide.

However it was difficult for the Germans to feel fully accepted in South Australia. Although naturalised they did not have all the rights of British born South Australians. For example their naturalisation was not even accepted in the neighbouring colony of Victoria and although they could vote, a naturalised German could not be a member of the Legislative Council. The right of the Germans to sit on the legislating body was seen by them as essential if naturalisation was to be meaningful. German rights, as the leading Adelaide newspaper, The Register wrote on 3 September 1855, were a major constitutional issue of the day and a hot political potato. The liberal Register editorialised, ‘Let us make from the native of all countries a new political confederation of South Australians. The necessity of abolishing in this colony all political distinctions resulting from class or race, and uniting under the common privileges of one and the same constitution every bone fide settler on this soil’. [1]

But not all South Australians agreed. Many Englishmen felt the Germans should be grateful that they were even allowed to come to South Australia and should refrain from demanding equal political rights with Englishmen A gentleman signing himself a sexagenarian Briton, wrote in the same month to another Adelaide newspaper, The Advertiser, advising that ‘our Teutonic friends have very good reason to be thankful for the refuge South Australia has afforded them … and they ought to gratefully acknowledge and quietly enjoy their freedom. I would naturalise no more Germans until they made the English language a professed object in their education … To have the rights of Anglo-Saxons they must cease to be Germans’. [2]

On the 27 August 1855 to protest at the exclusion of Germans from the Legislature a petition was drawn up by some members of the community and a report of this petition appearing in The Adelaide Observer on 27 September 1855, under the heading, ‘German Rights’. The deputation numbered among its members several British born South Australians who were of the opinion that British justice was not being done to the Germans by excluding them from becoming politicians. The Governor said that recently he had had the pleasure of ‘traversing several districts of the colony cultivated principally by Germans, and he had with pleasure remarked on the rapid conversion, effected by their energy, of a recent wilderness to a civilised country, studded with thriving homesteads and apparently paying a rich return to those who had spent their time and labour in its cultivation.’ [3]

Further, the Governor promised that when South Australia achieved responsible Government ‘those aliens who sought the privilege of sharing the honours of legislation should… and that these conditions would therefore form portions of the proposed bill’. [4]

Therefore when South Australia elected its first responsible Government in 1857 it numbered among its members, F. E. W. H. Krichauff, who had been born in Schleswig, Germany, in 1824. He had stood for parliament with the express purpose of seeing the Real Property Act passed. Mention must be made here of Dr Ulrich Hübbe who advised the government on the land laws of the Hansa towns of Germany. This advice was to be incorporated in this Act of 1857. However also in 1857 came the first recorded statement of Germans defending themselves against claims that they were going to set up a state within a state (imperium in imperio) to use the language of the day, ‘And here I would forestall any possible imputation of seeking to foster a spirit of isolated nationality amongst any of my fellow countrymen.’ [5]

Although defended by the Adelaide Times, ‘We have no fear that our nationality will depart from us or that John Bull will bid adieu to South Australia because a few of his German cousins may arrive on a permanent visit. The colony is, and ever will be, essentially a British land.’ [6]

Their cause was not helped by the fact that Germans in 1854 started to form their own cultural groups, in this case the influential German Club, ‘while they rejoiced at living in a free country it was devilishly boring. Theatre, plays, concerts and the like were of such a standard that one begrudged even the shilling that one had to pay. From this conversation sprang the idea to form a German Club and to amuse and entertain themselves in a traditional German manner.’ [7]

Other Germans clearly never wanted to see their homeland again, ‘We like it here and I’m not returning to your stupid Germany, not for 10,000 Thaler. That cursed land. Now I have really learnt the difference between a really free land and Germany. What I earn here belongs to me. There is no title here, not a penny, not even direct taxation. All our special taxes are unknown here… here one can do as one likes and no one cares. Despite that everything is orderly and lawlessness is not tolerated, rather strictly punished… here one doesn’t give one’s children to the military to be killed, because an army does not exist here. Never the less we live here in a situation of safety.’ [8]

For the women in particular however, life could be lonely in a strange land, ‘Most of the time I am with you all in the homeland. Despite the fact that this land is so beautiful, one still doesn’t feel at home, at least I don’t. I have been here for over ten years and I feel just as strange and foreign as if I had just arrived. After my sister left a great gap appeared in my life. With her I could talk about you, my dear ones at home, and I could endure the crippling loneliness. In my mind now I often wander with you around the house and see you doing your different tasks. When I tell you that my thoughts wander about the old home, I don’t mean just the house but the whole village. In my mind I wonder through the church, the school and over the mountains and the paths. I see everything just as I knew it, just as left it.’ [9]

For the Germans perhaps their greatest virtue was seen to be their self reliance. They did not look to the state for favours, but rather tried to solve their problems from their own resources. In a colony where “self-help” was regarded as the supreme virtue by the Baptists and Congregationalists who were then the leaders of the society, the self reliance of the Germans was seen as a shining example for others to follow.

But there is another side to the story of the Germans in South Australia at this time. In 1853 Heising, one of the earliest collectors of information on Australia, had reported that the lot of some of the Germans in Adelaide was far from a happy one and he attributed this at least in part to the fact that, ‘many of those who have recently arrived from Germany have the type of work that was to be found in large cities but not in a city such as Adelaide which was simply too new and had only just started to acquire the social life and facilities of the older European cities.’ [10]

He continued, ‘Painters, sculptors, lithographers were forced to take manual labour while Prussian officers, even the sons of Generals, were forced to become salesmen. [11] In a colony whose economic life centred around the plough and the mine only the beginnings of an analogy with the social life of the old world could be made.’ [12]

Heising claimed that a ‘not inconsiderable number of Germans in the city of Adelaide had reached the depths of moral depravity and could not even face returning to Germany. This moral debasement was easy enough in a colony where “Profit” seemed to be the solution to everything and how such a profit was arrived at rested only with the imagination of the person or persons concerned. In this atmosphere the Germans in particular showed a total lack of trust towards others.’ [13]

In the German ‘poor quarter’ near Angas street the Germans had given to their houses such names as, Much Distress, Little Distress, German Distress, Rose Distress and High Misery. [14] Heising wrote that ‘the immigrant town dwellers had given the Germans in Adelaide a bad name, off set only by the excellent name of those Germans living on the land’. [15]

He suggested that one of the more particular reasons for the bad reputation of the Adelaide Germans was their political-radical-democratic passion. The desire by some Adelaide Germans, wrote Heising, to be independent of England was looked upon as little less than blasphemy and calculated to arouse deep disgust [16] as well as antagonising those Germans contented with their situation on the land.

Heising complained that in general at this time the German newspapers in the colony had failed to give any moral leadership and indeed had failed to really reflect the interests of the South Australian German population although this may have been difficult given the diverse interests of the community

Heising quoted a newspaper article which suggested that despite their numbers the Germans were still not exercising the full potential of their political power and to the writer the reasons were clear, ‘as due to their numerous divisions the Germans, rarely if ever, were able to command a united front’. [17] The article stated that the Germans’ most serious and holy duty was to cease being divided and torn apart. For the moment, wrote Heising, all one had seen from the Germans was hate, animosity and hostility towards each other. Unless there was a united German element in South Australia, then German influence would remain a chimera. [18]

While such internecine strife weakened the Germans as a political force in retrospect it is entirely understandable. For Germans who came to Australia before the unification of Germany in 1871 their first loyalty was either to their religion and/or the town, village or region from which they came. Their German tradition was cultural, not national-political, and they behaved in the manner they had learnt from their parents or had experienced as youths. Parochial loyalties for many were paramount.

The memories of C. S. D. Schondorf would be representative of how nearly all German autobiographies of the period began. ‘I was born 6 September at Schwerin, Mecklenburg.’ There is no mention of either Prussia or Germany or indeed his date of birth which would have been early nineteenth century. [19]

However even if religion was the prime loyalty, and for most Germans in the country who arrived prior to 1879 this was the case, then which synod of the Lutheran Church one belonged to was of even greater importance. Adelaide reflected the divisions within the Lutheran Church although perhaps not with quite the vitriol shown in the country districts. In Adelaide too there was another dimension of diversity. The large middle class affluent group of Germans in Adelaide generally had decidedly liberal views and therefore felt estranged from the more didactic views of the two main synods. This group formed their own congregation, St Stephen’s which effectively separated them from the more working and artisan class congregations who attended the churches of the two main Lutheran synods. Another group from the German middle class further alienated themselves by not attending church at all or by attending a non-Lutheran Church, or by centering their efforts on the German Club. It was the old German split between Club Germans and Church Germans. As the German Club was decidedly upper middle class this further exacerbated the difference between the classes. These often deep antagonisms – and we have not in this paper touched on city-country differences – were to serve the Germans badly when the First World War broke out in 1914.

One other factor stands out also in the reports of the activities of the various societies and clubs at this period. Women are hardly mentioned. In the 50 year celebrations of the Club women are congratulated for running stalls to raise money [20] but they seem publicly to have no other function.

Martin Basedow, German newspaper proprietor, prominent member of the German Club and former Minister of Education in the South Australian Government, expressed his views in the debate on votes for women,

I am entirely opposed to women’s suffrage… There are sufficiently disturbing elements in the Parliamentary machinery now without introducing any more… It would be necessary for women, if they were given the suffrage, to read the newspapers carefully and watch keenly what was going on in the political world. How could they do all those things and attend to the house properly… If women took a lively interest in politics her (sic) sublime destiny – to marry, to study the happiness of her husband, to become a mother and the centre of a happy family would to a great extent be frustrated. [21]

Another member of the German Club, R. Homburg echoed, these sentiments and stated ‘that German women trusted their husbands to govern properly and did not wish to meddle in politics’. [22]

German confidence grew throughout the 1860s and having gained the vote and with increasing affluence and in 1871 Germans were boosted by the unification of their country, its previous dismemberment always a source of embarrassment.

An economic depression was to follow this unification which led to the repression of the unions which in turn led many city Germans to flee their homeland. This group tended to settle in larger towns, including Adelaide. Many were socialists, others nationalists. This caused enormous tensions not only between the older conservative Germans but also between all those Germans who had arrived before 1871 and who had no emotional attachment to the new Germany at all, despite their intellectual admiration for the new country.

By the end of the 1870s with political divisions, class divisions and religious divisions the stage was set for the tragedy that was to befall the German community in the First World War. Unable to present a united front their weakness were exploited by those who had resented a non-English speaking group in the society threatening, as they saw it, the British way of life of the colony. [23]


[1] Register, 3 December 1855.
[2] Adelaide Observer, 8 September 1855.
[3] Adelaide Observer, 27 September 1855.
[4] Adelaide Observer, 27 September 1855.
[5] Adelaide Observer, 18 April 1857.
[6] Adelaide Times, 8 June 1857.
[7] Heising, A. Die Deutschen in Australien. Berlin 1853, p. 44.
[8] Öffentliche Anzeigen für den Harz, 5 November 1851, quoted in Harmstorf, I. ‘Guests or Fellow countrymen’, Ph.D. Thesis, Flinders University 1987, p. 67.
[9] Harz Berg Kalender. 1963, p. 68. Reprint of a letter sent from South Australia in 1863 by Marie Degenhardt in Harmstorf, I. ‘Guests or Fellow countrymen’, p. 67.
[10] Heising, A. Die Deutschen, p. 29.
[11] Ibid., p. 36.
[12] Ibid., p. 29.
[13] Ibid., pp. 36—37.
[14] Ibid., p. 37.
[15] Ibid., p. 37.
[16] Ibid., p. 37.
[17] Ibid., p. 44.
[18] Ibid., p. 44.
[19] Schondorf, C. S. D. South Australian Archives Memories.
[20] Australische Zeitung, 27 July 1904.
[21] South Australian Parliamentary Debates (SAPD) 1894, p. 53.
[22] SAPD 1894, pp. 701—702.
[23] Adelaide Observer, 8 September 1855, in Harmstorf, I. ‘Guests…’, Chapter 6 inter alia.

Witchcraft: A European phenomenon of Medieval times? No, it flourished in South Australia only last century, and may still persist today. In this article on our German settlers, Adelaide historian, Dr Ian Harmstorf, discusses some of the beliefs, both sacred and profane, of the superstitious country folk who came here from Prussia.

Along with their cakes, carts, culture and religion, the Germans brought to South Australia a little-publicised aspect of their European heritage-witchcraft!

Exactly when witchcraft came to the new colony is impossible to determine, but the knowledge necessary to practise the black art is believed to have been brought here by at least 1842.

As Dr Harmstorf points out, the early German settlers were rural folk with a literal belief in the power of good and evil. The first group of Lutherans who arrived with Pastor Kavel in 1838 were of a strong pietistic bent, rejecting the world and worldly ways in favour of the life hereafter. They had a strong belief in the supernatural’, says Dr Harmstorf. ‘They placed great importance on visions and frequently acted on them.’

He recounts a popular story concerning a vision experienced by a member of Pastor Kavel’s congregation.

Someone had a vision that the Devil would descend on the Kaiserstuhl [the largest hill on the edge of the Barossa Valley] at midnight on a certain date. They thought it their duty to catch the Devil and lock him up so he could no longer cause trouble in the world. Led by Kavel, the parishioners went up the Kaiserstuhl with chains. They were going to bind the Devil and put him in gaol in Tanunda. ‘How long they waited in vain for Mephistopheles is not known but it is assumed he did not appear. Recorded evidence does exist for an even more apocalyptic vision and its deflating aftermath.’

A German traveller, Friedrich Gerstaecker, writing in the 1850s, describes the night when Pastor Kavel led his flock to a place outside Tanunda to await the end of the world. Kavel had seen the end of the world in a vision and wanted to be received into Heaven surrounded by nature and not among the debauchery and licentiousness which he believed existed in Tanunda. The nearest this pious party of Lutheran got to the end of the world was a violent downpour, which Gerstaecker says dampened their ardour somewhat for Kavel’s visions.

In Germany, the Old Testament of the Bible used to be known as ‘The Five Books of Moses’. But there was also another more sinister tract, with a similar name, called the ‘Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses’, this was the witch’s Bible – an encyclopaedia of spells, charms, curses, herbal cures and witchcraft, which included a conversation with the Devil. Copies of this book were believed to have been brought to S.A. by Silesian migrants as early as 1842. Although the early Lutheran Church directed that copies of the witchcraft manual be surrendered to be burnt, a number remained in circulation, often hidden in a niche of an Adelaide Hills or Barossa Valley farmhouse. Copies were handed from generation to generation and a number are retained by local German families. It was often believed the owner of such a witchcraft book would not be able to die unless the volume was passed to someone else for safe keeping.

Most instances of witchcraft unearthed among the early German community were confined to farms and farm produce-hens not laying, cows running dry and mysterious fires. One of the most spectacular, described by an elderly resident in the German community, concerns a farmer who had a row with his wife one morning. The angry wife put a hex (spell) on the farmer. This is the elderly resident’s account of the incident: ‘He was ploughing. She went to town with a few vegies, whatever she was selling. He stood at the plough with both hands on the plough handle, and he was still there when she came home at night. ‘She must have been able to use some powers. Her husband stood there all day until she came home at night’. Another old resident remembers: A lot of people used to wear red ribbons around their necks so that they couldn’t be bewitched by the next person. Or wear their clothes inside out. ‘Whether this has any effect or not I don’t know, but they said it did.’ Witchcraft also was used to forecast weather – a vitally important service for the farming community of those days.

As is common with witchcraft and the practice of techniques which have since gained less sinister reputations, the beginnings are shrouded in secrecy and ignorance. A particular piece of evidence Dr Harmstorf finds intriguing is, ‘The Sanctuary at the foot of the Kaiserstuhl. It is a rectangular grove of trees with an arrangement of stones at one end that could be an altar’, he says. Visions are immediately conjured of the superstitious German peasant folk holding black masses and witchcraft ceremonies at night in this secluded spot. However nothing definite is known as to the real use of The Sanctuary and is remains one of S.A.’s mysteries.

If speculation on The Sanctuary sometimes exceeds the bounds of probability, that on the activities of the ‘exorcist’, Krummnow, who came from Hamburg in 1838, does not range far enough. “Krummnow’s favourite spiritual activity was driving evil spirits out of young girls, who clearly fascinated him, and whom it appears from contemporary accounts, were also clearly fascinated by him”, says Dr Harmstorf. ‘This proved too much for the dwellers of Hahndorf and Lobethal. His popularity waned and as South Australia no longer seemed a paradise for his particular kind of dissent he sought virgin fields in Hamilton, Victoria’.

But before he left Krummnow, a tailor, had set up rival Lutheran parishes in the Adelaide Hills, based on communism. As he was naturalised Krummnow was able to buy land from the Government and this he did for 18 families who arrived with Pastor Fritzsche aboard the Skiold in 1841. It was not until some time later that the unfortunate new arrivals found that they were part of SA’s first commune at Lobethal, run by Krummnow. It took nine years of legal battles before the last of the land was returned to its rightful owners. Although the ‘Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses’ were banned by the Lutheran Church, both here and in Germany, copies were printed in the United States in German and then exported to the homeland and to German communities around the world. Whether witchcraft has entirely died out is open to speculation. One incident was reported by an elderly resident as recently as two years ago, and another expressed the fear to researchers that witchcraft was still being practised.

Reprinted from the Sunday Mail, 9 October 1977.

‘True Germans … are always highly patriotic South Australians’ [1] said C. Krichauff in the Australische Zeitung (Australian Newspaper) in 1896. Like most Germans – the term Germans is used in the most general sense to include all those of German birth or ethnic affiliation – he considered that a clear distinction could be made between a cultural German and a political South Australian. Three years later the Boer War suggested that this assumption was untrue. World War I confirmed it. This paper attempts to trace the history of the relationship in South Australia between German-Australians and British-Australians.

Under the leadership of Pastor August Kavel, German-Lutherans had initially settled near Adelaide at a place they named Klemzig (after a village situated in the then Prussian province of Brandenburg). A great deal is made of the fact that the German-Lutherans under Pastor Kavel were refugees from religious persecution. However, under a Prussian Cabinet Order of 1834, the possible gaoling and confiscation of the goods of dissident pastors who insisted on using the ‘Old Liturgy’ had ceased, after only four years in force. [2] Nonetheless, the ban on the use of the ‘Old Liturgy’ still existed and as such it could not be used in churches because Lutheranism was a state religion whose pastors were in effect civil servants. As a result the ‘Old Lutherans’ who wanted to use the ‘Old Liturgy’ or ‘Old Agenda’ were forced to meet in private. A place to worship in peace was sought. Inquiries were made through Hamburg concerning the possibilities of emigration to Russia to join the Germans on the Volga, or the United States of America. Finally the choice fell on the new province of South Australia. The choice was no doubt expedited by the fact that a loan at an appropriate rate of interest was forthcoming for this purpose from the dissident English philanthropist George Fife Angas.

King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia died in 1840 and an end came to the compulsory use of the new Agenda that he had insisted upon. But the migration of Germans to South Australia was not to stop even though at this stage only some 300 had made South Australia their home. For several years after the cessation of the ban on their chosen liturgy, ‘Old Lutherans’ continued to emigrate, fearing a return of the ban and possible persecution. This led to a subsequent blurring of the distinction between those who had migrated to South Australia because of the persecution and those emigrants who had [at some stage] been in Germany at the time of the persecution. However, after the initial religious migration, reasons other than the fear of religious persecution emerged to account for the continuing emigration to South Australia. The newly arrived migrants, like migrants anywhere, sent the ‘letter home’, in this case telling of the good life in the new land. This was to produce a chain migration from the eastern provinces of Germany that is Brandenburg, Mecklenburg and Silesia, to South Australia. This migration was to continue in fits and starts – primarily according to the economic conditions in both countries – until the out break of the First World War.

As a result, almost by accident – the right man being available with money at the right time, a substantial group of non-British people was introduced into a province that was planned as a replica of eighteenth century England. A place where the upper middle classes of the British Isles, unable to afford or socially aspire to the great estates and titles of England, could buy large tracts of land in a colony free from the taint of convicts. What better labourers could the new colonial gentry ask for than landless peasants imported from Germany who were grateful for the chance of work and, under the Wakefield Scheme of land settlement operating in South Australia at that time, be given the opportunity of eventually owning their own piece of land?

The worth of workers and their value to the colony in the nineteenth century was based not on the language spoken but on the fact that they worked hard and knew their place in society. Workers did not try and usurp their place in the God-given order of things by getting above their station in life and demanding better housing, wages or conditions. There was no universal franchise and the colonial gentry’s upper middle class pseudo-aristocratic values had no more in common with a German peasant than they did with British working class values. The German peasants were commented favourably upon by their social superiors for they – that is, the social superiors – were recognised as such by the German peasant farmers. ‘The male peasant raises his hat as he passes you … our labouring fellow countrymen … may well learn one or two valuable lessons’, [3] commented the Southern Australian newspaper when writing of Germans in 1839.

The available evidence suggests that the early Germans-Lutheran peasant farmers and artisans were not assailed by thoughts of nationality. Their sense of identity was related to their Lutheranism, and any other loyalties they might have had were of a parochial-geographical nature. Political loyalties were of no real interest to them. The peasant nature of the German community in South Australia continued until the late 1840s when, as a result of the revolutions and uncertain times in Germany, a very small group of middle class migrants left for Australia. While these ‘forty-eighters’ did not have the impact in Australia they had in the United States, there were enough of them in Adelaide to lament the lack of cultural life in the colonial society. They commented that ‘while they rejoiced at living in a free country, it was devilishly boring. Theatre, plays, concerts and the like were of such a standard that one begrudged even the shilling that one had to pay’. [4] This perceived lack of culture was to result in the foundation of the German Club in 1854.

A further new dimension was brought by this influx of middle class migrants to the German presence in South Australia. These middle class emigrants with middle class values and aspirations, who settled predominantly in Adelaide, had a higher profile in the community than the German peasant farmers that impacted directly on the British ruling class. The aspirations of middle class Germans caused some anxiety amongst the British that was reflected in the pages of the leading newspaper of the day, the Register. In reply to German demands that they be allowed to participate in the planned 1857 responsible government to Sexagenarian Briton wrote, ‘Our German friends … (ought) to be grateful and enjoy the liberty they possess quietly’ [5] To which C. von Bertouch replied that having left their homeland for political reasons, they could hardly be expected not to fight for their rights in their new home. [6] The Register wrote, ‘We aspire to be a nation. But we cannot invite the world to join us and remain a nation of ‘Britons’ … Let us make from the natives of all countries a new political confederation of South Australians. (There is) … the necessity of abolishing in this colony all political distinctions resulting from class or race’. [7]

The German middle class echoed such sentiments. Again in the same year, 1855, at Lobethal, it was said, ‘There should be no Englishmen, Irishmen, nor Germans, but all South Australians’. [8] This in turn repeated a sentiment expressed as early as 1839 by Johannes Menge, the geologist of the South Australian Company, who had said, ‘we shall all become Australians’. [9]

While the notion that all would become South Australians was especially appealing to the Germans, it was somewhat utopian as it flew in the face of the colonial gentry’s concept of transplanted Englishmen living in a ‘New Britannia’.

In the year responsible government was introduced into South Australia we find the first recorded evidence of a fear that was to plague middle class British-South Australians until the start of the First World War. In 1857 Rudolph Reimer, a German newspaper editor, wrote at length in the Adelaide Observer to convince the British readers of the paper that the Germans had no intention of setting up a state within a state, an ‘imperium in imperio’, to use the parlance of the day. He said, ‘and here I would forestall any possible imputation of seeking to foster a spirit of isolated nationality amongst my fellow countrymen’. [10]

A little later in the same year, the Adelaide Times considered it necessary to reassure its readers. ‘We have no fear that our nationality will depart from us or that John Bull will bid adieu to South Australia because a few of his German cousins may have arrived on a permanent visit … The colony is and ever will be essentially a British land’. [11]

At that time British-Australians saw the Germans as being absorbed into British-Australian life. There were no thoughts of cultural pluralism, let alone multi-culturalism. In 1857, the Adelaide Times saw, ‘the immutable laws of nature are working to achieve this amalgamation and time … will see … (two nations) blend as one people’. [12]

But however immutable the laws of nature might be, it was considered wise to remind the readers of the Adelaide English-language newspapers that the Germans were good settlers for reasons other than their obvious hard work and pious industry. In 1858, the Adelaide Observer wrote, ‘the great argument used in favour of the Germans is that they are South Australians: they do not seek to establish an ‘imperium in imperio’ but to conform to the institutions and usages of the colony in which they live’. [13]

Three years later the Germans supported these arguments in their own newspaper. The Siid Australische Zeitung of 1861 wrote, ‘There was absolutely no basis for the frequently voiced fear that the introduction … of Germans … could be damaging to English settlers or even introduce political changes which could be dangerous to the colony’. [14]

One assumes that ‘damaging to the English settlers’ meant to their economic or commercial success. From the very first days of the colony there had been criticism of the Germans because they had worked their own small plots of land and had not been content to be just day-labourers for the English landlords, the specific reason for which they had been invited to South Australia. Perhaps more importantly, the latter half of the statement suggesting the possibility of political changes points to the fear that the cultural impact of the middle class Germans could change the British way of life. We also see in the above statement the dilemma of the Germans. While not accused of setting up an ‘imperium in imperio’ they were accused, by amalgamating with the British, of introducing changes to the British way of life, a serious charge in nineteenth century British eyes. The Germans were thus caught in an impossible dilemma; damned if they did, damned if they didn’t.

The irony of this fear that the British way of life would be changed for the worse by the middle class Germans is that even while it was being expressed by some factions in society, other factions were positively embracing German ideas. In 1857 Ulrich Hübbe had been the motivating intellectual force behind the South Australian Torrens Title (Real Property) Act that was based on a similar system in force in the Hansa cities of Europe. It was later copied by the other Australian colonies. German input into the colony through parliament was to continue for the next 60 years. One has only to mention Friedrich Krichauff’s first forestry department in the Australian colonies, Carl Linger’s ‘Song of Australia’, Richard Schomburgk in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, or Martin Basedow as the prime mover in the foundation of Roseworthy Agricultural College, as more obvious examples that the fears that society would be changed for the worse by non-British migrants were seriously misplaced.

It should be emphasised that the changes that were taking place in people’s perceptions of the world for the most part did not impinge on the German-Lutherans in the country. Modem nationalism that started to develop in a recognisable form in the second half of the nineteenth century passed them by. They had no previous experience of it in their homeland and their isolation from the British community in South Australia (both intellectually and physically) ensured that they were untouched by the changing ideas in society. As an illustration of this, it is worth noting that prior to 1914, only 14.7% of Lutherans in South Australia married outside their faith. [15] In comparison, in 1900 some 20% of Lutherans in the very German state of Wisconsin in the United States had married outside their faith. [16] In the eyes of middle class British-Australians in Adelaide, the virtue that the German-Lutherans in the country areas possessed was that of patriotism. Carl Krichauff said in the latter half of the nineteenth century, ‘True Germans … are always highly patriotic South Australians’, a statement which would appear to be highly contradictory until it is realised that a part of the Christian doctrine taught to the working classes of the day stated that ‘ complacency is specifically praised. The best Christian is the best patriot and patriotism appears to mean supporting and preserving the status quo. [17]

In this preservation of the status quo the German-Lutherans in the country areas had no difficulty. They were clearly and specifically taught by their pastors to accept their lot in life. They were grateful for their blessings and asked for nothing except God’s grace.

However the Lutheran farmers and artisans in the country had little in common with the middle class Germans in Adelaide except for the language. This factionalism was to increase further in the 1880s with the arrival of working class urban Germans with ideas of socialism.

Relations between working and middle class Germans in Adelaide reached boiling point towards the end of the 1880s when a German Association was set up in 1886 in opposition to the long-standing middle class German Club. The German Association was formed by working men from the cities of Germany, many of whom had been forced to leave that country when trade unions were banned for several years during the eighties. The feeling between the two clubs was vitriolic. The older more-established members of the German Club saw the socialist leanings of the German Association destroying the good name of the Germans that they had built up in Adelaide. They considered the German Association as a den of communism. [18]

In South Australia prior to the 1914—1918 war social class was the ultimate determining factor for acceptability and respectability, whether one was of German or British extraction was for most South Australians of little or no consequence in such an assessment. Indeed, as Smolicz has pointed out a tolerant open society leads to social and cultural monism; that is, to a conformity with the dominant group. [19] Smolicz considers that the effect of such tolerance ‘would be to encourage the cultural engulfing the members of the minority group’. [20]

This is certainly the case of the middle class Adelaide Germans whose ethnic identity and need for structural support was so diminished by 1907 that the German Club had ceased to exist. Many of its members had become so anglicised that they had joined the elitist Adelaide Club while others had disappeared into the general mainstream of British-Australian life. While some of the ex-German Club members may have possessed an ‘internal cultural pluralism’ for a time, this was certainly lost to their children who became Anglo-conformist without difficulty or guilt.

However, two groups in the German community clung as best they could to their German traditions and, as a result to were caught up in the events of 1900—1914. The first group consisted of the working class men of Adelaide belonging to the German Association. They tended to sing folk songs, dance and keep social traditions that were non-threatening to the British. The second and more significant group from the point of ethnic relations were those of the educated, articulate, middle class who, although having done well financially in the Anglo-Australian community, still tried to keep German language, literature and intellectual customs alive. It was these people who were the leaders of the German community and the German proprietor of the Australische Zeitung, was the most important of this group. None were members of the working class German Association. All saw themselves as politically loyal South Australians.

The Boer War raised questions of citizenship that had previously lain dormant. The Australische Zeitung was particularly vehement that Australians of British descent could criticise the war with impunity while if German born Australians did the same thing, they were accused of being traitors. Basedow, the editor owner, lamented in the columns of his newspaper ‘because we, although citizens, with equal rights, are Germans (helots?) and therefore must ‘down boy’ (as to a dog)’. [21]

The paper proclaimed that German-Australians were not foreigners but were born in South Australia or were naturalised and fully identified with their new home. The bitterness felt by the Germans at this time was to be a precursor of what was to happen in the First World War. For German-Australians had an unmatched and unparalleled faith in British justice and were sure that this would triumph. [22] Their disillusionment was to be deep and lasting. However, the Boer War and the increasing antagonism between England and Germany did give rise to many articles in the Australische Zeitung with such tides as ‘On Being a German-Australian’. [23] The Germans complained that they were not accepted as equals by their British counterparts. Often, as in the United States, this feeling of rejection led to an intense feeling of identity with the old homeland, and in the case of the new, powerful and rich Germany, this identification gave a boost to the immigrants’ self esteem. Added to that was the universal belief at the time, ‘that being British subjects does not hinder us in anyway to remain bound to our German fatherland in our hearts and feelings’. [24] Consul Muecke summarised this in 1909 when he said, ‘To remain strong genuine Germans, that means to treasure the richness of the German language, the language of poets and thinkers, as well as German customs and good habits, but at the same time to remain faithful to the English king’. [25] In other words, to be culturally German but politically British.

In the increasing antagonism between Germany and England, the articulate middle class Germans in South Australia tried desperately to sit on the fence. They were convinced that the personal relations between the two monarchs would save the day. As we know, it did not, although the Australische Zeitung was perceptive enough in 1909 to point out that if there was a war, it would have nothing to do with the growing German fleet but with the growing German percentage of world trade. [26]

It would take too long here to detail the injustices suffered by the German community during World War I, but a comment by McKernan in his book The Australian People in the Great War is appropriate. ‘The German-Australians became the scapegoats from Australia’s fanatical, innocent embrace of the war’. [27]

It would be tedious to talk about imprisonment without trial or the lack of the right of appeal, of arrest by unsubstantiated statement and loss of franchise, but a few observations are in order. The Germans added to their own troubles during the war in two ways. The first was their lack of unity. They were never able to present a united front. Both the German workers and the middle classes found the War Precautions Act a convenient means of settling old scores while a mere world war did nothing to convince the two Lutheran Churches to settle their doctrinal differences. More seriously, the city Germans in particular clung to their belief in English justice and fair play in spite of their experiences during the Boer War. Just before 1914, Consul Muecke said ‘Every German who comes to Australia enjoys the same freedom and rights as an English citizen’. [28]

Immediately after the outbreak of the First World War, the Chairman of the District Council of Tanunda, Adolph Schulz, proudly stated, ‘Although England was at war with Germany, they still had a perfect right to speak the German language. Those were some of the freedoms granted to them under the great and glorious British flag which stood for freedom and liberty which all so highly appreciated’. [29] In conclusion, he asked them to remain calm as under the British flag they would be protected. To transpose the words of the will known American writer, Kathleen Conzen, about the Germans in the United States to South Australia, ‘The Germans were an essential part of South Australia and they knew it’. [30] They knew how much they had contributed both economically and socially to the colony and state since their arrival. The Lutheran Church expressed the view of most Germans in stating that ‘above all, the maintenance of the German language and culture … had nothing to do with the political goals of Imperial Germany’. [31]

This calculation, the separation of culture and polities, was to prove the German Achilles heel because it was exactly this cultural inheritance of which the Germans were so proud, that was said to be the cause of the so-called German, atrocities which were so carefully manufactured and marketed by the British Ministry of War. The very thing that was supposed to protect the Germans, namely their emphasis on German culture rather than politics, proved to be their worst enemy. Protest was useless. The British world was convinced the only good German was a dead German.

In the interim, a determined effort was made to remove German culture from South Australia. Sixty-nine German place names were changed and hundreds of people, some voluntarily, some involuntarily if they were in the public service, changed their names to one sounding more British. In some cases the German side of the family was never spoken of again, which has caused some difficulties for genealogists trying to trace family trees as well as personal traumas.

The fear of the Germans in South Australia was probably as great as anywhere in the Commonwealth owing to the large percentage of Germans in the state, some 10% as opposed to 3—4% in other states. This fear, that German-Australians might prove loyal to Germany, is ironic in the face of two reports sent to Germany from South Australia by the consul general in Sydney, Richard Kiliani, in 1913, the year before the outbreak of the war. After his fact-finding tour of South Australia he wrote that the German working man was under great pressure from the Australian community to drop his German customs and language. [32] However, the amount of pressure necessary for the German language and customs to be dropped is arguable. Prior to the out-break of the Boer War in 1899, The Australische Zeitung had lamented the fact that Germans felt ‘that it was their mission in life to get rid of everything German’ [33] an accusation that had been raised as early as 1854. A similar attitude was to be found in the United States. [34] The newspaper lamented the fact that Germans felt it necessary to forget their German in order to learn English It was even said that the German consul in South Australia, H. C. E. Muecke, only spoke English at home. [35]

Kiliani also maintained that middle class Germans had usually lost most traces of their Germanness by the second generation, a situation again mirrored in the United States, [36] and that in the country areas the Lutheran Church was practically in a state of collapse as there were strong pressures everywhere to use the English language. These statements suggest that the British perception of German-Australians clinging strongly to everything German was quite different from how the Germans perceived the situation.

The rise of Hitler in Germany did not alienate those of British descent in the South Australian community from those of German descent, just the opposite. Even a cursory examination of the Adelaide Advertiser prior to World War II leaves no doubt as to the newspaper’s strong sympathy for the regime in Germany. For example, in 1933 just after Hitler had come to power, the Adelaide Advertiser considered Hitler good for law and order and the violence just part of a revolutionary fervour rather than an instrument of government. [37] Two years later, the paper saw Hitler as democratic and the violence due to inexperience. [38] In 1938, the Advertiser still saw the Hitler regime’s treatment of the Jews as an ‘administrative oversight’. [39] Less we be too hard on the Advertiser, let us not forget that in 1938, Robert Gordon Menzies a later long serving Australian Prime minister, praised young Germans for their unselfish service to their state. [40]

The out-break of World War II did not produce the same hatred as World War I. Those of German descent were another generation removed from the land of their forefathers and there had been practically no new German blood introduced to Australia between the wars. Equally important there was a definite distinction made between German and Nazis. Injustices were again perpetrated by a paranoid bureaucracy but not on the same scale as during the previous war. Australian-Germans were patently not interested in Hitler. German records indicate that in 1935 there were only 77 members of the Nazi Party in Australia and only 24 of those were from South Australia. [41]

The period after World War II produced another great influx of Germans and it cannot be said that they had an easy time of it particularly their children in the schools. No sooner had these new immigrants become established than the various television series about the war began with their interminable re-runs, Germans always appeared as idiots or barbarians.

A different attitude began to appear with the publication of the Galbally Report in 1978, although it would be wrong to think that there had been no acceptance of German-Australians prior to this. The Schützenfest for example, which had enjoyed a great popularity in many South Australian towns prior to 1914, had been re-established in Hahndorf in 1964. But Galbally did give an intellectual, social and moral justification to the possibility, indeed advisability, of having an admixture of cultures in our society. In this, the Germans were able to play a leading part. As an ethnic group, they had been here the longest, their clubs and ethnic schools were the oldest in the state, and in terms of descendants they were the most numerous. One could also add they had suffered the most and survived as loyal, if somewhat disillusioned, Australians. From the German perspective, the road to acceptance has not always been easy, but with German the most popular foreign language in South Australian schools, the German areas of the state being prime tourist attractions and the restoration of many German place names that had been altered in 1918, it can perhaps be said that Germans and their descendants have finally regained the respectability and place they once had in the wider South Australian community.


[1] Australische Zeitung, 24 June 1896.
[2] Krummweide, H. W.: Geschichte des Christentums III – 17.—20. Jahrhundert, Union und Bekenntnis in Preußen, Reihe: Theologische Wissenschaft Neuzeit. Stuttgart u. a. 1977, p. 122.
[3] Southern Australian, 1 May 1839.
[4] Australische Zeitung, 27 July 1904.
[5] Adelaide Observer, 8 September 1855.
[6] Adelaide Observer, 8 September 1855.
[7] Register, 3 September 1855.
[8] Adelaide Observer, 15 September 1855. Spoken by Mr Kramer at a meeting in Lobethal.
[9] South Australian Archives, PRG 174/1/1390—1393.
[10] Adelaide Observer, 18 April 1857.
[11] Adelaide Times, 8 June 1857.
[12] Adelaide Times, 8 June 1857.
[13] Adelaide Observer, 15 August 1857.
[14] Süd-Australische Zeitung, 6 February 1861.
[15] Harmstorf, I.: ‘Guests or Fellow-countrymen’, Ph.D. thesis (unpublished), Flinders University of SA, 1987, p. 106.
[16] Nesbitt, R.: The History of Wisconsin, Vol. III. Wisconsin 1985, p. 264.
[17] Hart, J.: ‘Religion and Social Control in the Mid-nineteenth Century’, in Donajtgrodzki, A. P.: Social Control in Nineteenth Century Britain, London 1977, p. 125.
[18] Australische Zeitung, 22 September 1897.
[19] Smolicz, J. J.: ‘Meanings and Values in Cross Cultural Contacts’, in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, January 1983, p. 42.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Australische Zeitung, 29 November 1899.
[22] Australische Zeitung, 10 January 1900.
[23] Australische Zeitung, 29 November 1899.
[24] Australische Zeitung, 27 July 1904.
[25] Australische Zeitung, 1 September 1909.
[26] Australische Zeitung, 26 May 1909.
[27] McKernan, M.: The Australian People in the Great War, Melbourne 1980.
[28] Australische Zeitung, 8 March 1911.
[29] Chronicle, 22 August 1914.
[30] Conzen, K.: Immigrant Milwaukee 1836—1880, ‘Accommodation and Community in a Frontier City’, Harvard 1976, p. 225.
[31] Luebke, F.: Bonds of Loyalty, Dekalb Illinois 1974, p. 41.
[32] German Foreign Affairs, 9 April 1913, pp. 17—18.
[33] Australische Zeitung, 9 January 1895.
[34] Conzen, K.: Amerika und die Deutschen, Bestandsaufnahme einer 300-jährigen Geschichte, Sonderdruck, Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1986.
[35] German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, file material 1887—1944 in Australia, 1 February 1913, p. 177.
[36] Conzen, K: Amerika und die Deutschen, a.a.O.
[37] Advertiser, 19 July 1933, in Ms Regan: ‘Australian Perceptions of Nazism. A study of some press and parliamentary reactions to Hitler 1933—1938’. BA thesis (unpublished), Flinders University of SA, 1971.
[38] Advertiser, 27 February 1935.
[39] Advertiser, 21 June 1938.
[40] Com. Parl. Deb., 1 September 1938 (156/120).
[41] German Foreign Office Files, Micro Film Tin 391.

Reprinted from the Proceedings of the Third Biennial Conference of the Australian Association of Von Humboldt Fellows, Flinders University, 1989.

German influence in South Australia reached a high point in the 1890s. In the census of 1891 Lutherans numbered over 7% of the South Australian population and it is estimated that German born and their descendants constituted approximately 10% of the total population of the State.

Germans were well respected in the State Parliament, holding seats with large German-Australian populations, a great many of whom were farmers. Martin Basedow, Robert Homburg, Friedrich Krichauff and Theo Scherk were all members of Parliament at some stage during the 1890s and all had a reputation for integrity and hard work. Robert Homburg was the most important member of the German community, owning a law firm and being Attorney General in two ministries from 1890—1892 and 1892—1893.

The election of 1893 raised no great issues for the German community, the vast majority of whom were connected with the land and fairly conservative in their views. The election based on the themes of ‘rest and quiet’ and ‘peace progress and prosperity’, promised little change.

The German Club, which was the centre for German literature and culture, had been founded in 1854. In the late 1880s the Club had built an imposing new building, the facade of which still stands at 89 Pirie Street, Adelaide. The more informal German Association, founded in 1886, was also flourishing. New German settlers continued to arrive in the colony throughout the 1890s, strengthening the German community.

There were Germans in all the major professions and shops with German names did excellent trade in all types of business along Rundle Street. German food shops and tobacconists were prominent. One still eats Ditter’s nuts, berliners and fritz and various types of German bread.

The German farmers who had struggled in the 1850s and 1860s to keep alive had established themselves with the good harvests of the 1870s and early 1880s, and because they had never relied on one crop but had always grown a diversity of products – following the subsistence agriculture of their European background – they were better able to survive the bad seasons of the late 1880s and 1890s.

The Germans were a respected and often admired group in the community. Their religious demeanour and frugal habits were thought to set a good example for all South Australians. The Lutheran Church ran a school system in all Lutheran areas of the State and children were taught to be both fluent in English and German. In most Lutheran schools the literary subjects tended to be taught in German while maths and science were in English. For most people of German descent who lived in the country areas of South Australia the church was the centre of both their spiritual and social lives. The shadow of the Boer War, when the Germans tended to side with the Boers, was not to intrude on this harmonious relationship between South Australians of British and German descent until the very end of the 1890s.

The Germans took a very active interest in the affairs of the colony, and the Australische Zeitung, ‘Australian Newspaper’, brought the day-to-day affairs of the colony as well as overseas news to all those who could read only German. The German community did not wish to make South Australia another Germany but they were determined that the best ideas from Germany should be introduced into the colony for the benefit of all. Among the ideas put forward in Parliament during the 1890s by ‘German’ parliamentarians was Homburg’s suggestion for the adoption of a more humane philosophy for the poor which lay behind the German poor law, while Basedow considered compulsory military training as in Prussia, took larrikins off the streets and made boys into men. Basedow also considered that the concepts behind the labour colonies of Germany could be incorporated into the village settlement schemes and German ideas of workmen’s compensation usefully studied. All the German members in the Parliament in 1890 supported payment of members because that was the practice in the German Reichstag (Parliament).

The peasant origins of the German farmers strongly influenced their representatives in Parliament. Unlike many of the wealthy pastoralists, the German farmers had come to South Australia with nothing and had made good by their own efforts. They considered people who wanted the State to help with welfare handouts were not pulling their weight. The German parliamentarians, who represented country districts with large numbers of Australian-German farmers, were against the Labor Party, which they considered would not only raise taxes, – perhaps by a dreaded land tax, – but also take away the moral fibre of the community. They believed success was due to hard work. The only German parliamentarian who was an exception to this was Theo Scherk, who represented the electorate of East Adelaide, an area where the working class Germans in Adelaide tended to live. He believed not all poor people were poor because of their own fault. On the other hand even the most conservative Germans wanted humanitarian legislation for the old and sick on compassionate grounds, and because it would keep the working class happy and contented.

Agriculture was important to the South Australian economy in the 1890s and the German elected members of Parliament took good care that the interests of the man on the land – including many German farmers – were properly represented. The question of land ownership was often an area of conflict between the German representatives and many other members of Parliament. The Germans in the country areas were bona fide or genuine farmers, not speculators or absentee landlords. They worked the land they owned. Many British parliamentarians speculated in land or were city businessmen with no real interest in the land except to make money. In 1898 Homburg initiated an Agricultural Holdings Bill to try and break up some of the big land companies, but it was defeated by the absentee land-lords in parliament and others who considered it interfered with ‘free enterprise’.

The Germans consistently tried to obtain advantages for the genuine farmer as opposed to the ‘capitalist land owner’. Their attitude to the soil was that it was a gift from God, something to be nurtured and kept and passed on to one’s sons. It was not to be exploited. The Germans tried to conserve the soil, not wrest as much as they could from the land and then move on to new areas. They wanted to tax absentee land-owners heavily so these people and the land companies would be forced to sell their land to genuine farmers who worked their own land. Germans had been intimately concerned with the setting up of Roseworthy Agricultural College and the Agricultural Bureau. In 1896 Theo Scherk advocated the teaching of agricultural science at the School of Mines (the present University of South Australia) a truly revolutionary suggestion because most people at that time believed that the only way to learn to be a farmer was to be a farmer. One of the over-riding interests of all Germans was education. As we have seen the Lutheran Church ran its own system of schools in order to preserve the Lutheran religion and German language. The latter was considered most important as Luther had written in German and it was considered that a true understanding of Lutheranism and Christianity could be reached only through an understanding of that language.

However, education was also considered important in a non-religious sense for Germans and their descendants for they were above all South Australians. They had left their homeland and given up their nationality to become South Australians and they strongly supported Federation as a means of gaining both security through the strength and greatness for Australia. They were not transplanted Englishmen who viewed this land as second best. It was to be their home, for their children and their children’s children, and they wanted the best for it, and one of the ways they saw of doing this was through a good educational system. Prussia had had a national system of education since the latter half of the nineteenth century and one of the reasons for the strength of the new Germany was seen in the 1890s to lie in her education system. So when the Germans in the South Australian Parliament spoke about this system they were listened to with great interest.

The Germans were delighted in 1891 when free education was introduced because they considered education not only the right of every citizen but necessary for the well-being of the State. In one of the issues of the 1893 election the Germans were against the return of religious instruction into school hours because they considered this would bring out denominational differences. Moral instruction had been included since 1891 and this they considered was enough to keep a sense of decency in the community, not the pushing of denominational differences.

South Australia’s Germans saw the future of South Australia in its educational system and by 1893 the Germans were well pleased with what they saw, and resisted any change. The Germans were also unanimous on another great issue of the 1890s – the position of women. At that time most German husbands took a very patriarchal view of their families. Their attitude to women having the vote can best be summed up in their own words. On 7 September 1893, Theo Scherk told Parliament in a debate on the Adult Suffrage Bill, that he was in favour of women having the vote because ‘women would only seek to exercise their franchise and never seek a seat in Parliament’.

However, his attitude was quite radical compared with that of some of his fellow countrymen.

On 13 June 1894, in the Legislative Council, Martin Basedow, who had been Minister of Education in 1881, said ‘I am entirely opposed to women’s suffrage’. And further:

There were sufficiently disturbing elements in Parliament now without introducing any more … It would be necessary for women, if they were given the suffrage, to read the newspapers carefully and watch keenly what was going on in the political world. How could they do all those things and attend to the house properly.

One month later he proclaimed ‘If women took an interest in politics her sublime destiny-to marry, to study the happiness of her husband, to become a mother and the centre of a happy family-would to a great extent be frustrated’.

In 1898 Basedow was worried that women were teaching boys in schools and repeated his belief that the place of women was in the home.

The Germans also feared ‘do-gooders’ and moralists who wanted to make them ‘better people’, particularly those who wanted to take away the pleasure of their ‘continental Sunday’ with its drinking and gaiety. Basedow told Parliament in 1896:

They could not make people sober and good by acts of Parliament. By over-legislation they only caused more offences and contributed to the demoralisation of society. How long would it be before they had an act to tell people what time they should get up in the morning, what time they should have breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or at what time they should go to bed.

Yet despite their conservative views about women, in the election year of 1893, the German star shone brightly in South Australia. Important economically, culturally and politically, many of their ideas were widely accepted and their influence can still be seen today.


Many families of German descent have within the last ten years celebrated the centenary of their arrival in Australia. Some families have over 2,000 descendants. Are any members of the class related to or do they know about a family? Most families have published centenary books. If possible study one of these looking for reasons for migration and the type of work undertaken by the early settlers. German migrants were accepted into the very highest positions of government in the nineteenth century. Are non-British settlers accepted as readily today? Think of some other foods that a delicatessen – German for specialty foods – sells that are German in origin. What would you consider some of the most important contributions of the nineteenth century German settlers to South Australia?

Reprinted from South Australia in the 1890s, Constitutional Museum, Adelaide 1983.

‘They Did More Than Give us Cakes and Carts’

In this article on the early Germans Adelaide historian, Dr Ian Harmstorf, states his case for correcting the neglect of South Australia’s founding settlers.

Dr Harmstorf says the bitterness of two world wars has been allowed to obscure the major contributions the Germans made to the State. Following his explosion last week of the myth that SA’s German settlers were all fleeing from religious persecution in their homeland, Dr Harmstorf goes on to expose the unwarranted persecution of World War I.
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Along with the Aboriginal, South Australia’s Germans have been subjected to a continuous campaign of ‘cultural genocide’ which is still discernible today. The choice of words is mine, not Ian Harmstorf’s, but I believe it to be a fair summation after viewing the treatment of SA’s German community over the past 130years and the present neglect of this vital part of our heritage.

Far from contributing merely colourful folk customs and institutions to the State-‘cake, carts and wine festivals’, as Dr Harmstorf puts it – the Germans, he maintains, were the first Australian nationalists and our first conservationists. ‘The Germans were speaking of themselves as Australians about 40 years before anyone else,’ he says. ‘This was clearly brought out in World War I, when the Germans in SA did not see that Britain having a war with the Kaiser had anything to do with them as Australians.’ ‘The Germans spoke of themselves as Australians when everyone else was describing themselves as members of the British Empire.’

It was forgotten in the jingoistic, witch-hunting fever of World War I, that many of the later German settlers came here to escape the increasingly oppressive Prussianisation of their homeland, with its compulsory military service. ‘Most had no reason to love their old homeland,’ says Dr Harmstorf. ‘Because the Germans remained loyal to their original culture or liked the German way of life and traditions, people thought they liked the politics of the new, militaristic Germany.’ Other South Australians took culture and politics to be synonymous, which they weren’t, he says. In fact, the Germans managed to keep a kind of dual nationality until World War I, when the whole of their cultural traditions came under attack.

The first German migrants were hard-working, self-sufficient people who were welcomed by the British as model settlers but were otherwise ignored. ‘The State of South Australia did absolutely nothing to help assimilation. It just ignored the Germans,’ says Dr Harmstorf.

About the only concession the Government made was to pay Adelaide’s German newspaper, ‘Süd Australische Zeitung’, a pound a week to print public notices in the German language.

Dr Harmstorf points out that this was the age of voluntaryism, when anybody worth their salt did things for themselves, and the Germans were commended in Parliament for their self-sufficiency.

He maintains the Germans were our first conservationists because of their unique attitude towards the land they had bought for themselves in the new colony. ‘The English saw farming as a way to make a living rather than as a way of life. The majority of British migrants had a city background and saw farming as a commercial enterprise’, he says. ‘The Germans, most of whom came from a non-industrial society, regarded their stewardship of the land as being held in trust from God to be passed on to their descendants.’ ‘The tenure of German farms is longer than that of the British farmers. Many of the German farms established in the 1850s are still owned by the same families today.’ Unlike the British, who usually grew just one type of crop, the German farms were self-sufficient, growing a bit of everything-vegetables, fruit trees, wheat and pasture, as well as supporting livestock. Thus they were able to survive crop failures and bad weather much more easily than the mono-culture farms of their British counterparts.

Rudolph Henning recorded the German attitude for posterity when he told the SA Parliament in 1884: The desire in every man’s heart is for his own homestead, for himself and his children after him.’ Many people today are unaware of just how strong the German influence in Adelaide was before 1900. Until World War I, it was not even necessary for a German to speak English in SA.

In Adelaide there were German hotels-the King of Hanover (formerly in Rundle Place) and the Hamburg Hotel (south east corner of Gawler Place and Rundle street) and German coffee shops were a unique feature of the infant city. There was Kindermann’s cafe in Rundle Street, where the German men folk would sit downstairs smoking cigars while their women took coffee upstairs. It was possible to buy everything in a shop kept by a German. Hardware could be obtained at H. L. Vosz in Rundle Street; wines from Henry Noltenius in King William Street; saddlery at Bechtel’s; and tobacco from Armbruster and Uhlmann, in Rundle street.

There was Ehmke’s timber yard; Tidemann, the auctioneer, D. Schmidt for engraving, F. A. Kleemann’s for carving and gilding work and, for the sick, the surgeries of Doctors Beyer and Mueller. Herr Lachmann used to make a type of rocking chair that bore his name; there was a Bismark lamp to read by and German books were available everywhere.

More important were the prominent Germans of the day who contributed so much to the growing colony but whose work and achievements remain unsung. Dr Harmstorf believes there has been a 50-year aftermath, following the anti-German feelings engendered by World War I, during which the anniversaries of prominent German settlers have been ignored. As a result, the names and achievements of people like Menge, Hübbe, Basedow and Krichauff have failed to be perpetuated in monuments, public buildings and city streets and parks.

Virtually overnight, with the declaration of war with Germany in 1914, South Australia’s praiseworthy Germans became ‘the enemy’. The incredible bitterness that was whipped up against them often for political or private ends, has to be read in the newspapers of the time to be believed. German schools were closed, prominent Germans placed under house arrest and, at the height of war hysteria, 69 South Australian place names of German origin were changed to English or Aboriginal. Klemzig became Gaza, Hahndorf-Ambleside, Lobethal-Tweedvale; Hergott Springs changed to Marree; Petersburg-Peterborough; Blumberg-Birdwood; Kaiserstuhl-Mount Kitchener, to name a few.

Speaking at a recruiting rally at Wallaroo in 1915, the Labor Premier of the day, John Verran, said he was opposed to any Germans being employed, even if they had been naturalised, and stated that he would not naturalise any more, and that the time had come for the Education Department not to employ as teachers persons of German origin or German name. Many people with Germanic names Anglicised them, either voluntarily or under pressure ‘I know of two families of Schubert, one of whom has become Seaton and the other Stewart’, says Dr Harmstorf. ‘The women always wear their Stewart tartans to prove how terribly British they are!’

‘The names of people in South Australia are often quite misleading as to the number of people of German descent in the State. And if one looks at the gravestones at Tanunda and other German towns one can see that the Australian Germans were prepared to die fighting for Australia in a war, where, in Australia, only volunteers were taken,’ he says. Some of the place names have since been changed back, but the majority have not and Dr Harmstorf is adamant that a great deal of the heritage of the State has been lost by this omission. ‘The ones with a strong German link should be changed back’ ‘These include Marree, which was originally named after Herrgott, a German botanist who was a prominent figure in early South Australia’.

‘The Germans in South Australia’s history have been forgotten and often deliberately buried because of two wars. ‘It is time that the history of the Germans in South Australian became more than the mass of ill-formulated facts which is part of the tourist’s junket’.

Extract from the Sunday Mail, 2 October 1977.

A Dark Chapter in South Australia’s History

Atrocities during wartime are always committed by the ‘other side’, or so we are led to believe. But in World War I, Torrens Island, in the Port River, was the site of a concentration camp which earned a notorious reputation for brutality. The story of that camp has been suppressed by the authorities for many years. Now the chance discovery by Adelaide historian Dr Ian Harmstorf of documents in the Barr-Smith Library has revealed the shocking truth about Torrens Island. Much of the detail for this article comes from papers left to the library by the former principal of Adelaide Teachers College, Dr. A. B. Schulz, who died in the 1950s.
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Torrens Island is an inhospitable place at the best of times. In autumn and winter cold winds whip in off the sea and fogs drift across its bleak, flat landscape. That this lonely mangrove island is a landmark is due only to the chimneys of the massive power station which pumps life-giving electricity into Adelaide’s veins. There is nothing there now to tell us or succeeding generations of the notorious concentration camp which once stood on Torrens Island. Within its barbed wire fences was written one of the most shameful chapters in Australian history.

The camp on Torrens Island flourished for about 10 months – between October 1914 and August 1915 – when about 300 Germans were interned following the outbreak of World War I. Most of the imprisoned men were civilians, not prisoners of war taken in battle, and they included many who were born on Australian soil in traditional areas of German settlement such as the Barossa Valley. They were arrested, often at gunpoint in their homes or at work, and imprisoned without trial and without knowing what offence they were supposed to have committed under regulation 56A of the War Precautions Regulations.

Under a headline ‘Torrid Tales of Torrens Island’, a newspaper report of 1919 described it as ‘the camp which has the worst reputation in this country among those who are qualified to know’.

The report, from the Adelaide weekly newspaper Truth of 31 May, listed atrocities committed against internees, including flogging, shooting and bayoneting by guards. Truth long ago received fairly substantial reports about what had taken place at Torrens Island, but we were not allowed to publish them at the time, owing to the censorship’, says the article.

‘Things became so bad in the internment camp at Torrens Island that, in the end, the prisoners had to be moved to New South Wales on 17 August, 1915.’

Truth described an incident in which two internees were flogged with the cat-of-nine-tails for half an hour for attempting to escape. The flogging was ordered by Capt. Hawkes, an officer who became notorious for his brutality against the prisoners and whom, Truth reported, was subsequently reduced to the ranks.

The two men – a German and a Swede – were stripped and tied to a tree outside the compound for the flogging.

‘Their piteous cries could be heard from the camp’, Truth reported. ‘They were brought back bleeding profusely. One man was beaten so badly he could not walk for four days.’

Photographs were taken of the men’s injuries and copies were smuggled out of the camp, with details of the atrocities. The information reached Germany and led to the German Government threatening reprisals against Australian prisoners of war unless conditions on Torrens Island were improved. The prisoners made their own protest at the inhuman treatment in an open letter to the camp commandant, a Major Logan. The letter was printed in a primitive newspaper, Der Kamerad, which the internees somehow managed to publish weekly in the camp. It read:

‘Two prisoners were publicly and thoroughly whipped naked. We maintain this punishment is illegal and undignified. We appeal to the Major’s sense of justice, and request an inquiry.

That edition of Der Kamerad, dated 26 June 1915, was the third and last newspaper the internees published. The guards confiscated and destroyed all copies they could find. However, an internee, Mr. O. Burth, saved copies, and after the war presented them to the State Archives, along with photographs taken in the camp.

According to Truth, the internees at Torrens Island were treated well until Major Hawkes came there at the beginning of 1915. The guards used their bayonets freely on the internees, and a favourite punishment for offenders was to force-march them around the camp perimeter. Those who did not move fast enough for the guard were prodded with a bayonet.

Truth reported that more than 25 of the prisoners had bayonet wounds, including one man who had seven wounds and another who had a bayonet thrust right through his leg by an over-zealous guard. In one incident a group of prisoners who had annoyed their captors by making a noise were driven at bayonet point over barbed wire by the guards. Many suffered badly lacerated legs and a number received bayonet wounds.

Even worse was the punishment for 36 prisoners who had been caught taking firewood without permission. They were herded into a small barbed wire compound for two weeks. There was no shelter from the cold, windy weather and not enough room for them all to lie down to sleep at once. They were given one hot meal every three days.

The Truth report of 1919 also cites Captain Hawkes as having drawn his revolver and fired at random into the compound after an internee had called out to him for a cigarette. The bullet hit a prisoner in the leg and the man spent three weeks in hospital recovering from his injury. The internees had to endure a further two months of ill-treatment after the brutal flogging incident until the Defence Department closed Torrens Island and moved prisoners by train to camps at Liverpool and Berrima, in New South Wales.

Although conditions in the N.S.W. camps were considered generally better than the tent hell of Torrens Island, the ordeal of South Australia’s interned Germans was to continue for another four years.

Letters and descriptions written by S.A. and Queensland internees of German descent make heart-breaking reading. The internees at Liverpool camp formed the Association of Interned Australian-born Subjects and in November 1916, a petition was sent by them to the Defence Minister, protesting at the injustice of their internment without trial and denying that they had committed acts or spoken words of disloyalty. The petition demanded that definite charges be laid against them, as was their right as British subjects. It is significant that they claimed their internment was the result of personal animus or business jealousy.

Examples of this personal animosity and business jealousy can be read in the Tanunda Police Station correspondence book for 1916/1917. It is full of letters alleging disloyal conduct by German-speaking members of the community, written by local busy-bodies whose gossip in peacetime would normally have been ignored.

A typical case is that of a German school teacher named Witt, who was named by an informant for sabotaging the war effort by failing to distribute a sufficient number of tickets for a Red Cross concert. Witt distributed three dozen tickets for the concert, but another nine dozen were found in his home. His explanation was that he had been too busy to distribute them. The official conclusion drawn was that he was a saboteur.

The Tummel family of Greenock suffered greatly from local amateur ‘spies’. Although two of their relatives were serving in the British Army, one as a lieutenant, information laid against them led to three male members of the family being interned in Australia.

A letter from the interned at Liverpool to the Defence Minister, reveals the personal agony and frustration of the men put behind wire because of gossip and war hysteria: ‘We, who are mostly from the States of South Australia and Queensland, are denied the privilege of seeing our families owing to distance and expenditure, and our allowance for correspondence is so scanty that an unscaleable wall of separation divides us from those who are dear to us…’

In his reply, the Acting Secretary at the Defence Department, Mr T. Trumble, described their letter as ‘purporting to be written by Australian-born subjects’, and curtly informed them that ‘your internment is in accordance with the law.’ On 31 October 1917, Trumble said the Cabinet had reviewed the question of Australian-born internees and had decided that they should remain interned. It is not expedient in the public interest to reveal the evidence against you, he told them.

A ‘flutter of hope’ came to the internees from Prime Minister Billy Hughes in October 1917, when he said in a speech at Maldon, Victoria:

‘There is only one hope for the community-that there should be justice to all men, irrespective of their situation. But it was not until January 1918 that the Australian-born internees were acknowledged as being Australian citizens by the Secretary of Home and Territories, Mr Atlee Hunt.

The dependants of those internees whose businesses were closed were forced to throw themselves on the authorities – for support. Wives like Ottilie Goers of Tanunda, who wrote to the General Staff officer at Keswick Barracks:

‘Will you please give me a weekly allowance of ten shillings for my daughter and me, since by husband was sent to Liverpool in 22 May 1916. We have tried to continue in our home, as my husband’s wages were stopped once he was taken away from us. I am nearly 50 years of age and cannot earn anything.’

‘Please, sir, give me back my dear husband and my daughter’s father. He will work for himself and for us and we need no help.’

Among the papers of the late Dr Schulz is this testimony from an anonymous internee at Liverpool who wrote of the imprisoned Germans:

‘With complete disregard for their personal, family or business interests, they have been literally torn from their homes and families, escorted by guards with fixed bayonets through public streets, imprisoned in police cells and in military clinks intermingled with drunken soldiers, exposed to the jeers and taunts of unthinking crowds.’

‘Some of their fathers and grandfathers were expressly invited by the agents of the different Australian Governments to make their homes in Australia and they did so in full confidence, never dreaming that their children would be treated in such a fashion.’

By August 1918, internees of the Naturalised British Subjects Association at Holsworthy Camp, N.S.W., were in a state of utter despair, as the following letter to the Minister of Defence illustrated:

‘The mental torture and resulting frailty of physical health is so pronounced in the case of those who are unfortunate enough to have been interned for any lengthy period, that the time has arrived when an urgent appeal on the grounds of humanity must be made for the consideration of our cases with some sense of fair play and justice. All we ask is a civil trial.’

Of all the letters, documents, cuttings and papers in the late Dr Schulz’s possession, the following statement by an internee contains the saddest and most devastating comment on Torrens Island and the N.S.W. camps…

‘That such occurrences are possible in the twentieth century in such an advanced democracy as that of Australia seems hardly credible. But it is so, and there is being registered in Australian history a chapter which all real Australians will some day heartily wish could be expunged.’

The tragic irony about this statement is that until the discovery of these papers in the Barr-Smith Library officialdom had almost managed to expunge this shameful chapter from our history. At the end of the war, all material relating to Torrens Island was called in by the military authorities to Melbourne. In 1992 more information was discovered in the Mitchell Library in Sydney which verified the reports which appeared in the article above. The information in the above article was based primarily on data found in the Barr-Smith Library of the University of Adelaide.

The Mitchell Library papers consist of a series of photos of both the Liverpool N.S.W. camp and the Torrens Island camp in South Australia. As well as numerous letters from inmates of both camps complaining about the conditions perhaps the most interesting discovery was of a diary kept by prisoner, Bungardy. Bungardy describes how on Torrens Island prisoners who collected wood for fires were shot at like rabbits for the amusement of the guards. The shooting was not meant to kill, just be very close and frighten the prisoners or drive them in a particularly direction. The shootings would be a complete surprise. The whippings are also described again in detail. It is interesting to note that one of those whipped was Swedish, although how he came to be in Torrens Island is not explained.

The contrast between the unforgiving attitude of the military-civil authorities and the more tolerant attitude of ordinary Australians is also brought out in Bungardy’s diary. Having escaped from the Liverpool camp he made his way to Sydney where he met with a soldier who was absent without leave, A. W. L. He may even have deserted. Bungardy took the soldier’s uniform and the soldier Bungardy’s clothes. Dressed as an Australian soldier Bungardy then enjoyed several months of freedom until by sheer chance he was recognised by a policeman in a post office while he was posting a letter to his mother in another part of Australia. The policeman had known him in Broken Hill before the war and reluctantly had to arrest Bungardy.

Reprinted from the Sunday Mail, 2 July 1979 (with Additions).

List of 69 Placenames of German Origin changed by the Nomenclature Act of 1917
(South Australian Government Gazette: 10 January 1918)

Bartsch’s Creek to Yedlakoo Creek
Basedow, Hundred of to Hundred of French
Bauer, Cape to Cape Wondoma
Berlin Rock to Panpandie Rock
Bethanien to Bethany
Bismarck to Weeroopa
Blumberg to Birdwood
Blumenthal to Lakkari
Buch(s)felde to Loos
Carlsruhe to Kunden
Ehrenbreitstein to Mt. Yerila
Ferdinand Creek to Ernabella Creek
Mt. Ferdinand to Mt. Warrabillinna
Friedrichstadt to Tangari
Friedrichswalde to Tarnma
Gebhardt’s Hill to Polygon Ridge
German Creek to Benare Creek
German Pass to Tappa Pass
Germantown Hill to Vimy Ridge
Gottlieb’s Well to Parnggi Well
Grunberg to Karalta
Grunthal to Verdun
Hahndorf to Ambleside
Hasse’s Mound to Larelar Mound
Heidelberg to Kobandilla
Hergott Springs to Marree
Hildesheim to Punthari
Hoffnungsthal to Kara Wirira
Homburg, Hundred of to Hundred of Haig
Jaenschtown to Kerkanya
Kaiserstuhl to Mt. Kitchener
Klaebes to Kilto
Klemzig to Gaza
Krawe Rock to Marti Rock
Krichauff, Hundred of to Hundred of Beatty
Krichauff to Beatty
Kronsdorf to Kabminye
Langdorf to Kaldukee
Langmeil to Bilyara
Lobethal to Tweedvale
Meyer, Mt. to Mt. Kauto
Muller’s Hill to Yandina Hill
Neudorf to Namburdi
Neukirch to Dimchurch
New Hamburg to Willyargoo
New Mecklenburg to Gomersal
Oliventhal to Olivedale
Paech to Hundred of Canna
WIGRA Petersburg to Petersborough
Pflaum to Hundred of Geegeela
Rhine Park to Kongolia
Rhine Hill to Mons
Rhine River N. to The Somme
Rhine River S. to The Marne
Rhine (North), Hundred of to Hundred of Jellicoe
Rhine (South), Hundred of to Hundred of Jutland
Rhine Villa to Cambrai
Rosenthal to Rosedale
Scherk, Hundred of to Hundred of Sturdee
Schoenthal to Boonoala
Schomburgk, Hundred of to Hundred of Maude
Seppelts to Dorrien
Schreiberhau to Warre
Siegersdorf to Bultawilta
Steinfeld to Stonefield
Summerfeldt to Summerfield
Vogelsang’s Corner to Teerkoore
Von Doussa, Hundred of to Hundred of Allenby
Wusser’s Nob to Karun Nob

Nomenclature Committees Report On Enemy Place Names
Ordered by the House or Assembly to be printed. November 7th, 1916.
(Estimated cost or printing (570), £3 4s. 8d. S.G.D. 5894/16)

[The 1916 Parliamentary Paper on which the Act was based.]

Enemy Place Names Committee’s Recommendations.

The Nomenclature Committee appointed by the Government on August 11th have the honor to report as follows:

We were asked to report on the question of giving effect to the following resolution carried in the House or Assembly on August 2nd, 1916.

That in the opinion or this House the time has now arrived when the names of all the towns and districts in South Australia which indicate foreign enemy origin should be altered, and that such places shall be designated by names either of British origin or South Australian native origin.

The duty of suggesting new names to replace those or enemy origin was also allotted to the committee.

We find, from a careful examination of the official records, that there are on the map or South Australia at least 67 geographical place names of enemy origin, ranging from an important centre like Petersburg to trigonometrical stations and obscure hills in the remote interior. There may be a few not officially recorded which have escaped our notice.

[The Act was gazetted on 10 January 1918 and became law therefore on that day. Many of the names gazetted were not the same as appeared in the Parliamentary Papers as it was said that being aboriginal they were too difficult to spell or say. The names as gazetted would have been changed by the Governor in Cabinet.]

The experience of South Australia’s Germans during World War II, although un­pleasant, was in most cases not as traumatic as during the Great War of 1914—1918. The reason for this was twofold. First, those of German descent, and these constitute the vast majority in the catch-all phrase ‘South Australia’s Germans’, were another generation removed from the land of their forefathers. This together with the disruption suffered to South Australian German cultural and linguistic traditions during the First World War had severely weakened ties to the old homeland. Perhaps the immediate threat to the British-Australians also appeared less. German-born in South Australia had dropped from 2% of the population in 1911 to 0.4% in 1933. Numerically from almost 5,000 to just over 2,000 and one can safely assume, given the lack of German migration between the wars, considerably aged. The number of Lutherans had remained virtually constant at 26,000—27,000, but as a percentage of the total South Australian population had dropped from 6.8% in 1911 to 4.5% in 1933, although it is improbable that the actual number of German descendants, as opposed to Lutherans, would have shown such a dramatic decline as the Lutheran figures suggest.

Second, the press in particular had long made it a practice of distinguishing between the Nazi administration of Germany and the German people. As a result slogans popular in the First World War such as ‘the only good German is a dead German’, or images of the ‘dreaded Hun’, dripping the blood of innocent children from his salivating heavy jowls, were not in vogue.

Present day historical writings suggest that by the end of World War I in 1918 the vitriolic hatred of all things German in Australia had burnt itself out in most quarters. [1] The rehabilitation of the Germans in South Australia had advanced by 1935 – in preparation for the state centenary in 1936 – to the stage where the names of Ambleside, Gaza and Tweedvale were returned to their old names of Hahndorf, Klemzig and Lobethal, although the name changes had been mooted as early as 1928. [2] But even these few name changes, 3 out of the 69 changed in 1918, were not achieved without some opposition, as the correspondence columns of contemporary newspapers clearly show. [3]

In a 1971 Flinders University thesis M. S. Regan looked at ‘Australian Perceptions of Nazism 1933—1939’ examining the attitudes towards Nazism by various Australian newspapers, including the Advertiser. The point is made very clearly that Australians, including South Australians, had a most distorted view of Nazism. Nazism was examined by observers who were philosophically liberal and saw everything from that perspective. The Advertiser in 1933 considered Hitler as good for law and order [4] and the violence of the regime was seen as being part of a revolutionary fervour rather than an instrument of government. [5] Two years later, in 1935, the Advertiser saw Hitler as operating within a democratic framework, although the violence was then attributed to inexperience. [6] Yet in apparent contradiction to the above the Advertiser as early as 1933 differentiated between the German Government and the German people. [7] Although the Advertiser viewed the annexation of Austria as immoral, [8] the newspaper failed to understand that war was an instrument of Nazi policy. It was firmly believed that if the German people knew all the facts then Hitler would be forced to change his policies. [9] In the same year, 1938, the Advertiser was still excusing the German Government’s treatment of the Jews as an ‘administrative oversight’. [10]

Similarly, at government level there was much praise of Germany. One need only mention the well-known statement by Robert Gordon Menzies in the Australian Parliament when in a laudatory address on Germany, he commented

‘There is a good deal of really spiritual quality in the willingness of young Germans to devote themselves to the service and well-being of the state.’ [11]

Thus the years of Fascism in Germany had no adverse ramifications for the Germans in South Australia. Until virtually the eve of the war Hitler was perceived as a reasonable personality who aired just grievances on behalf of his nation. [12] The Advertiser even explained away his more obvious excesses with the argument that at times he was manipulated by others. [13] South Australians of German descent were able to bask in the knowledge as well as reflected glory that in the new Germany under Hitler, law and order had been restored and communist insurgents crushed. Germany had once again become ‘respectable’, at least in the eyes of conservative western governments.

The declaration of war against Germany produced in the Adelaide papers neither tirades against Germany nor warnings about rhe dangers of Germans in our, that is South Australia’s, midst. On 4 September 1939 the Advertiser stated in its editorial that ‘each democratic nation must decide for itself how it will meet the Nazi challenge’. [14] On 13 September 1939 the Advertiser editorial stated ‘the enemies of the threatened world plague of Hitlerism must press on to victory’. [15] Two days later the newspaper wrote about the evils that were being perpetrated in the name of the German people by the Hitler administration. [16] Clearly a difference was made between the German people and the Nazi administration. Generally in South Australia in World War II, unlike World War I, to have a German name did not immediately make one’ s patriotism suspect or brand one as a potential traitor.

Perhaps the best illustration of this is the number of South Australians with German names who anglicised their names. In World War I, according to a survey undertaken by Andrew Peake and published in the South Australia Genealogist, [17] 179 people changed their name by deed pole from German to Anglo-Celtic. Included are forbears of the present (1987) State Governor who changed their name from Kollosche to Dunstan. [18] Added to these were others whose names do not appear in any lists, particularly those who just dropped one letter of the alphabet, n, from the double n in mann. Two instances must suffice, Wallman and Homan, but many more can be found on a perusal of the Adelaide telephone directory. A search of the South Australian Government Gazette reveals that only three people changed their German surnames in South Australia in World War II: one in 1941, another in 1943 and the last in 1945, although another dropped an ‘n’ from the name Hartmann. [19]

In contrast to the years of World War I those of German descent in South Australia rate barely a mention in the Stat Parliament. Early in I940 Herbert Michael, the Member for Light, in the Address in Reply debate had depreciated statements in the press which reflected on the loyalty of the descendants of Germans who had come to South Australia in the last century. He particularly defended the Lutheran Church against what he considered the unfair charges that had been made against it. [20] Again in the Address in Reply the member for Gawler, Duncan, praised the contribution of those of German descent:

‘In the Boer War we had examples of pro-German attitudes, in the Great War we had sporadic outbursts of national pride in the Fatherland, but today I see a vast difference and a complete change… The outlook is precisely that of over a century ago. Lovers of Luther cannot and will not subscribe to a shattering of those truths such has been embarked upon by Hitler and his satellites.’ [21]

There were no further statements about South Australians of German descent for over a year until 8 October 1941, when the member for Prospect, Mr Whittle, introduced the second reading of the Nomenclature Bill into the House to change the name of Klemzig back to Gaza. [22] It was a private member’s Bill and Whittle intimated during his speech that as such and without government support it was almost certainly doomed to failure. However he considered it his duty to introduce the Bill on behalf of 40 petitioners in his electorate. His plea to members to consider changing the name Klemzig to Gaza was less than convincing in that he spent much of his time praising the pioneering efforts of the early German settlers.

‘There is no suggestion in my remarks or any desire on the part of the people of Klemzig to do other than honour to the German people who have played such a remarkable part in the development of South Australia. I have already commended them as an inspiration to many another settlers.’ [23]

Whittle had prefaced these remarks earlier by giving a short history of Klemzig in which he said of the early settlers:

‘Their industry and perseverance were an inspiration to others. Within a very short period they were supplying Adelaide with much needed and appreciated vegetables, milk and butter.’ [24]

A remarkable testimonial from a man who ostensibly wanted the name, Klemzig, a name commemorating the early German settlers, removed from the map. There were no other speakers. The Bill lapsed. The difference in tone and attitude when contrasted with the vitriolic debate during the Nomenclature Bill of 1917 is therefore dramatic. Another difference was that no Lutheran churches were burnt down in South Australia and Lutheran Schools were not closed as in World War I.

But if the State Government of South Australia had learned to live with those of German descent as part of the community in a time of war then the Federal Government had not. On 9 September 1939 the National Security Bill became law. This Act was substantially the same as the War Precautions Act of World War I which gave the Government of the day practically unlimited executive powers. As John Curtin pointed out in the debate on the Bill it ‘asks Parliament to transfer to the Executive the whole of the law making authority over its activities while the war is on’. [25]

The dangers inherent in the Act were clearly understood. [26] Menzies spoke of its dangers when administered by the ‘rigid official mind’ [27] and Rosevear warned of the excesses which had happened under the War Precautions Act of 1914—1918. [28] However Menzies assured the nation that there would be ‘as little interference with individual rights as is consistent with national safety.’ [29]

Despite these fine words the miscarriages of justice, although perhaps not as many as in the previous war, were just as hurtful and damaging to the individuals concerned, and again demonstrates, as in World War I, the lack of civil rights and concepts of common justice which seem to operate in Australia in times of perceived crisis.

People who were thought to have offended under one of the multiple regulations that had been promulgated under the National Security Act had no redress through normal legal channels. Until 1941 there was not even the right of appeal. The accused were taken before a tribunal and interrogated. The nature of these interrogations is well illustrated by a verbatim report of one such interrogation that appeared in the Commonwealth Parliamentary debates in 1946 and was explained by Dr H. V. Evatt. The accused asked,

‘I should like to know what the case is against me’, to which me Chairman replied, ‘I am not allowed to say what it is’.

Evatt concluded ‘Reading the documents one has a feeling of utter despair at the lack of not only humanity but also common sense’. [30]

At their best the tribunals had an Alice in Wonderland quality about them; at their worst they could have come straight from Kafka. As Archie Cameron pointed out in the Commonwealth Parliament in the same year, Australian born citizens had been held for four to five years without any charge being brought against them. [31]

There is no disputing the fact that genuine Nazi sympathisers were interned during the war, [32] and that there were such people is not surprising given the generally favourable political climate towards Nazism prior to the war. But the way in which the Act was enforced, was, as in the First World War, most arbitrary. Generally there was no proper investigation and frequently ‘suspects’ were brought to the notice of the military or police by anonymous letters. As in the previous war this proved an ideal method in which to settle old scores. Most accusations brought against an accused were therefore on hearsay and the burden of proving his or her innocence lay on the shoulders of the accused, again quite contrary to normal notions of British justice, doubly so when in most cases the nature of the accusation was unknown.

A few examples must suffice. Because of their prominent position and relative wealth in the South Australian society, as well as their leading position in the South Australian German community, the Homburg family was a target of much jealousy. Seemingly because of his connections Fritz Homburg at least was allowed to know the nature of the charges brought against him. [33] He was also accused of making disloyal statements in a Tanunda hotel on a certain date. He was able to show that he was in Adelaide on that date. He was accused of inviting the German adventurer Count Felix von Luckner to Tanunda and wining and dining him at the council’s expense. Incredibly he was able to argue that he had been asked to invite von Luckner by one of the members of the tribunal sitting in front of him and that he, Homburg, had refused the latter’s request that the Tanunda Council bear the expenses. [34] He was acquitted, but we do gain some indication of the almost unbelievable lack of preparation and the questionable quality of the tribunals.

Fritz’s relative, Hermann Homburg was not so lucky. Speaking to him in 1959 I had the strong impression that even then he did not know who had brought the accusations of disloyalty against him. Information that has become available since indicates that the accusations were levelled by a distant female relative with a grudge who had reported on conversations held at family gatherings. [35] The nature of his crime was that he had made statements such as ‘Not everything is bad in Germany’. The real nature of his crime however was that he was arguably the leading South Australian of German descent. Homburg assured me that the interrogating military officer was most polite and that they virtually had played word games with each other until the officer finally had said, ‘Well, Mr Homburg with a man in your position we have to do something about you’. [36]

After being put under house arrest in Victoria for some 18 months-at his own expense-he was allowed to return to South Australia. [37]

The case of South Australian born J. F. W. Schulz also bears examining. His case has been examined in some detail in a thesis called fittingly ‘Guilty till Proven Innocent’ by Elizabeth Schulz at the Salisbury campus of the South Australian College of Advanced Education. She indicates that Schulz was guilty by association. He knew Dr Johannes Becker socially and Becker was one of the leading Nazis in Australia. Schulz also was involved in the arrangements with von Luckner, whom Australian security considered was sent here as a subversive element. Specific charges were never brought against Schulz. Nor could he clear his name after the war. [38]

Also of interest is the case of Pastor Riedel. A fervent anti-mason, he had written books against masonry in the 1930s. Again no charges were brought against him and he found himself in Loveday Internment Camp without really knowing why. [39] The consensus of opinion both then and now is that he had in the provincial Adelaide of the time offended too many people with his anti-masonic crusade and the war gave the injured parties a chance to settle old scores, especially when among those who considered themselves insulted and attacked was a high ranking army officer. [40]

Many other South Australians of German descent had their houses searched by the military looking for incriminating evidence. [41] The pattern was invariably similar. The army would arrive unexpectedly having been given a ‘tip-off’ and the house was searched from top to bottom with little care paid to the contents. The late Dr Max Lohe, one-time President of the Lutheran Church of Australia, told me that he did not know whether to laugh or cry when the military arrived at his family home. His father’s library was examined but only by looking at the wording on the spines of the books. Such was the ignorance of the army officers conducting the search that translations of books by Goethe were confiscated as being seditious literature, while books not unfavourable to Germany in the 1930s were ignored because of their innocuous titles. [42]

However it cannot be concluded that all those in the transit camps at Keswick, and Wayville or interned in Tatura, Victoria, or Loveday near Barmera in South Australia, were innocent. Of the just under 100 South Australians interned in Tatura in 1940—1941 several were known Nazis including names well known to the South Australian public today in media, political and medical circles. [43] It is perhaps best to leave this chapter closed as the sins of the fathers should not be visited upon the sons. Kaukas indicates that most Australians of German descent were interned in either Loveday or Tatura. He writes that at the height of the war in November 1942 there were 4,814 people interned at Loveday of which 678 were German and of these 196 were what he terms local Germans-born in Australia. At Tatura there were at the same date 3,246 internees of which 1,916 were Germans, 839 being local. [44]

The extent of the Nazi influence in South Australia prior to Price writing in German Settlers in South Australia just after the war suggest that the efforts to subvert South Australian Germans to the Nazism were extensive and that over one thousand fell prey to the Nazi cause. [45] However he recognises that his numbers are but estimates based on Lutheran figures. In the light of our present day knowledge of multi-culturalism we are able to make a clearer distinction, which he could not, between cultural and political loyalties, which in tum suggests that Price’s figures might be inflated.

But the Nazi policy of Kulturpolitik – cultural politics – did try to blur the distinctions between culture and politics. By 1936—1937 the leadership of the South Australian German Association had been taken over by Nazis, although this cannot be taken to mean that every member of the Association was a Nazi. Nevertheless the political views held by the Association were so obvious that many members failed to renew their membership. [46] Total membership of the Association was about 400. [47] The S.A. German Historical Society (which set about but never succeeded in writing a book on the contribution made by those of German descent in South Australia) and the German Australian Centenary Committee (which was responsible for the Carl Linger memorial in the West Terrace Cemetery and the memorial at the Klemzig Cemetery), also had active Nazis among their members, but neither could be classified as either Nazi or a Nazi front organisations. [48]

German Foreign Office records show that in 1934 there was in Tanunda a Hitlerbund, a Hitler Club, which had as its goal ‘togetherness’ with Germany. [49] The Bund des Deutschtums in Australien (The Group for German language and customs in Australia), in 1935 had as its aim the furthering among German descendants of German customs, manners, language and culture. [50] The South Australian German Association was associated with this group, which could best be described as a front organisation. [51] There was also a society for further study which had 35 members in South Australia. [52] In 1935 the last year for which figures from German Foreign Office files are available there were 77 members of the Nazi Party in the whole of Australia, [53] 0 of which 12 were in Tanunda which was designated as a Stützpunkt – support point – and a further 12 in Adelaide. [54] The well known Dr Johannes Becker was the leader at this time for the whole of Australia as well as for Adelaide. By 1938 the leadership of the groups had been taken over by the consuls. [55] If official members of the Nazi Party are taken as a guide then the threat to South Australia from within does not appear to have been significant.

In conclusion it is possible to say that although those arrested were not subjected to brutality or mistreatment, the negation of common justice possible under the regulations of the National Security Act ensured that miscarriages of justice occurred that should not have occurred in a democratic society. Despite the fact that there was no sweeping condemnation of Germans or their descendants the long held fear in South Australia of an ‘imperium in imperio’, a state within a state, [56] helped foster a denial of natural justice. In World War II South Australians of German descent again perceived themselves to be betrayed by the very concepts of British justice which in the nineteenth century had been a reason for their migration and with which they had been so proud to be associated at that time. [57]


[1] Brian Lewis, Our War, Melbourne, 1980, pp 311, 312. M. McKernan, The Australian People and the Great War, Melbourne, 1980, p. 9.
[2] Lutheran Vertical File. Germans in Australia Archives, German Place Names No. 2.
[3] Idem.
[4] Advertiser, 19 July 1933, in M. S. Regan, ‘Australian Perceptions of Nazism: a study of some press and parliamentary reactions to Hitler 1933-1939’. Unpublished B.A (Hons) thesis Flinders University, 1971. p 13.
[5] Advertiser, 19 July 1933 in Regan, Australian Perceptions’, p. 21.
[6] Advertiser, 27 February 1935, in Idem, p. 50.
[7] Advertiser, 28 June 1933, in Idem, p. 58.
[8] Advertiser, 13 March 1937, in Idem, p. 24.
[9] Advertiser, 28 June 1938, in Idem, p. 58.
[10] Advertiser, 21 June 1938, in Idem, p. 29.
[11] CPD, 1 September 1938, 156/120, in Idem, p. 34.
[12] Advertiser, 21 June 1938, in dem, p. 29.
[13] Regan, ‘Australian Perceptions’, p. 51.
[14] Advertiser, 4 September 1939.
[15] Advertiser, 13 September 1939.
[16] Advertiser, 15 September 1939.
[17] A. G. Peake, ‘Deed Poll Name Changes in South Australia’ in The South Australian Genealogist, Vol. 13, No. 4, October 1986, pp 167-172.
[18] Idem, p. 168.
[19] SAGG, 6 February 1941.
[20] SAPD 1940, pp 122, 123.
[21] Idem, p. 210.
[22] Idem, 1941, p. 910.
[23] Idem, p. 911.
[24] Idem, p. 920.
[25] CAD, 1939, p. 167.
[26] Idem, pp 173-175.
[27] Idem, p. 176.
[28] Idem, p. 173.
[29] Advertiser, 11 September 1939.
[30] CAD, 1946, p. 391.
[31] Idem, p. 334.
[32] Riedel Memoirs (private possession).
[33] Pastor P. Scherer Adelaide interview, 7 September 1987.
[34] Idem.
[35] Homburg papers.
[36] H. Homburg Adelaide interview, June 1959.
[37] Idem. Homburg put many of his thoughts into print after the war in a booklet entitled South Australian Germans and War Time Rumours Adelaide 1947.
[38] E. Schulz, ‘Guilty Till proven Innocent’ B. Ed. thesis, SACAE. Salisbury 1987.
[39] Riedel memoirs.
[40] Scherer Interview.
[41] Ron Praite Adelaide interview, 9 September 1987, Pastor J. Lohe, Adelaide Interview, May 1974.
[42] Prison lists in the possession of Mr Ron Praite, Unley Sth. Aust.
[43] Lohe Interview.
[44] A. Kaukas, ‘The Internment of German nationals living in Australia, in Particular Those Living in South Australia’, unpublished B.A. Hons thesis, University of Adelaide, 1983, p .3.
[45] C. A. Price, ‘German Settlers in South Australia’, Melbourne 1946, pp 74, 76.
[46] Praite Interview.
[47] I. Harmstorf, ‘A Short History of the German Association’, in One Hundred Years SAADV, Adelaide, 1984.
[48] German Settlers in South Australia 1776-1964, ‘Special Collection Barr Smith Library’. University of Adelaide. Contents compiled by I. A. Harmstorf.
[49] NLA German Foreign Office files Microfilm Tin 386.
[50] Idem 391.
[51] Idem.
[52] Idem.
[53] Idem.
[54] Idem.
[55] Idem, 386.
[56] I. Harmstorf, ‘Guests or Fellow Countrymen’, Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Flinders University, 1987, p. 64 inter alia.
[57] Idem, pp 325, 344 inter alia.

Paper delivered at a Symposium on World War II,
Constitutional Museum, Adelaide, 1987.

Let me begin by quoting a statement made in 1975 by the then Premier of South Australia, Mr Don Dunstan. He said, speaking of minority groups in South Australia, that South Australia’s largest minority group, the Germans, had been here for so long that few of them spoke German. The question arises when do you cease to be a German and when do you become an Australian? The people of this large minority group had, in 1975, been here for 137 years, so it is one of the dilemmas of the South Australian German that if you are a Lutheran, or more particularly, have an obvious German name, you may still be looked on as not really Australian. Hence, because of a certain characteristic, for example your name, some individuals are persuaded by the attitude of society to look upon themselves as German, even though they may not see themselves as such, and of course this can cause an identity crisis.

The Germans who arrived here in 1838 came because they were being persecuted for their religion in their home-land in East Germany. This homeland was so far east that it is now in Poland, and it became very stylish during World War II to call yourself a Pole if you had a name for example like Leditschke, as many east German names can sound some-what Polish. In Germany in 1838, but dating from an earlier period, there was a liturgy – that is a form of church service – designated by the King to be used in Churches throughout the country for he wanted a united church within his realm. It was considered at that time that one nation should have one church. The ‘Old Lutherans’ objected to the form of service prescribed by the King. They had three possibilities to escape the King’s ruling. They could go to the USA, they could go to Russia, or they could go to South Australia, a possibility that popped up very late in the piece as the third alternative.

We all know about the millions of Germans who went to the United States and some of the so called ‘Old Lutherans’ went there also. However, through connections in Hamburg, George Fife Angus, one of the founding fathers of South Australia, and himself a Baptist and dissenter, came to know of these dissenters in Germany and money was found for some ‘Old Lutherans’ to migrate to South Australia. That began a chain migration to South Australia. But one of the little known aspects of the German migration to this state is that of the 18,000 Germans who came to South Australia until 1900, only 517 left Germany during the time of persecution and a further 200 came because they had already sold all their chattels and really had no option but to come to South Australia. So about 700—800 of the 18,000 left Germany therefore because of religious persecution. The myth today is that all Germans came to South Australia because of persecution.

The Germans took this myth unto themselves, as they saw the freedom of worship and economic freedom that was to hand in Australia, and to some extent the political freedom, as part of what they had gained in coming to Australia. I don’t think the early Germans on the whole were greatly traumatised when they left their home-land because although they were economically destitute, life to them had become intolerable. Old Lutheran pastors were put in gaol; soldiers on horses rode up and down inside the churches and life was seen as a gross injustice. God was to lead them to the new Promised Land.

But the persecution stopped in 1840 but those who came after, mainly for economic reasons, didn’t particularly like Germany either. The country hadn’t treated them as they thought it should have and as a result there was a political distancing from Germany. But because of the religious context of the first migration there remained a strong cultural connection with Germany. Two letters from the 1850s make clear this difference of opinion between the political and cultural. It is important to remember that until about 10 years ago Australians didn’t understand the difference between a cultural loyalty and a political loyalty. Probably all of you have heard it said ‘They speak Italian-they can’t really be Australians’, or ‘They don’t want to become real Australians’, or ‘They don’t love this country’, or ‘Why the hell can’t they be like everybody else’. Most Australians have seen cultural loyalty to an old lifestyle as political disloyalty.

A letter from a woman in Lyndoch in 1863 (in Australia 14 years at this stage) gives a good illustration of cultural attachment.

‘Most of the time I am with you all in the homeland. Despite the fact that this land is so beautiful one still doesn’t fed at home, at least I don’t. I’ve been here for over 10 years and I feel just as strange and foreign as the day I arrived. After my sister left a great gap appeared in my life. With her I could talk about you my dear ones at home and I could endure the crippling loneliness. In my mind now I often wander with you around the house and see you doing your different tasks. Please send me photographs of the dear ones at home, so that I am able to picture you all more clearly in my mind, then I can let my thoughts wander about the old home. I don’t mean just the house but the whole village. In my mind I wander through the church, the school, over the mountains and the paths. I see everything just as I knew it, just as I left it.’

In another letter a man says:

‘We like it here and I wouldn’t come back to your stupid Germany, not for 10000 Thaler. It’s a cursed country. In Australia all the money I earn belongs to me and one can do as one likes. Yet despite this everything is orderly, law-abiding and fair. Not the least of the advantages is that there is no compulsory military training and one doesn’t feed one’s children to the military and one is not constantly harassed by me authorities. Yet despite this we live in freedom and security.’

These then are two aspects of migration, one clinging to the cultural remembrance of Germany and having no interest in the political, the other politically rejecting Germany. The first attitude is the one of the vast majority of early German immigrants to South Australia.

What type of Germans came to Australia? There is a strong historical argument about the type of migrant that first came to South Australia. Dr D. van Abbe tried to prove in an article in Historical Studies that there were vast numbers of German intellectuals who came to South Australia, the equivalent of the American 48ers. Further research has shown that one ship did come to SA with about 50 such people on board. Of course there were notable Germans in South Australia such as Schomburgk in the Botanic Gardens, Muecke, who did a great deal of work in various scientific fields, or Basedow in education. But there was no massive impact upon this country in a political sense as there was in the United States, although in the cultural world and in music in particular what the Germans have given to this country and to South Australia particularly, has yet to be properly documented. But most of the people who came to South Australia were in the lower socio-economic groupings: farming was 33% (of the men, women were a separate group). tradesmen 37%, commerce 9%, professional 2%, and labourers 12%. For most of the working and farming class South Australia became the land of wool and honey. The Germans waxed fairly well in South Australia. Most lived in closed communities. Few came as strangers from Germany, the vast majority knew somebody and were picked up at Port Adelaide and lodged in a German hotel in Adelaide, then taken, not only to the Barossa Valley but to German settlements in Eyre’s Peninsula, Yorke Peninsula or the Murray Flats and the Mallee.

A thesis by two Americans, Park & Burgess in 1921, suggests that when a migrant group arrives in a pattern is adhered to. They maintain there are five stages: contact, competition, conflict, accommodation and possibly at the end, assimilation. Now the contact between the English and the German group initially was extremely friendly. The Germans were not seen as a threat, far from it, George Fife Angus had rightly seen that to bring German peasants here would keep the price of labour down because you could flood the labour market. They also produced vegetables which would similarly flooded the market and so keep the price of food down. I’m not demeaning Angas’ philanthropic attitude in bringing the Germans here because they were persecuted dissenters, but there is also another side of the story. Not only did he make a tidy profit, but he also made sure that there were plenty of workers for the gentry who came to South Australia under the Wakefield Scheme.

The second part, competition, initially really didn’t happen in South Australia because there was plenty of land and the Germans didn’t generally set up in business except in their own areas. However at the turn of the century two things happened. First the Boer War, when the Germans quite clearly tended to side with the Boers, the other was that land was tending to run out. At this time the first conflict situation started to arise between the English and German settlers. Before I move on to the war of 1914—1918 it is necessary to add that the Germans have a very close family groups and they tended to speak German with the family. This lasted until the 1930s. There were also strong personal ties. Those of you who have read German family histories will remember that it is not unusual for two people who arrived in 1840 to have some 150 years later 1,000 and many have some 2,000 relatives. It has been said that if you have a German name in South Australia and live in the country, you can more or less assume that you practically are related to every other German in South Australia. This intermarriage has been brought about, not I think because people wanted to marry other people of German descent, but because they were farmers, and the women understood what a farmer’s life was like. However perhaps most importantly of all, the Lutheran church kept people together.

With Germans there is of course the work ethic. There were Germans in Adelaide in 1850 about whom it was written that they sat around smoking cigars while the women did all the work. These were clearly Germans who had migrated from cities and until recently little historical research has been done on them. The church does not acknowledge their existence because they didn’t go to church, and for many years it was assumed that most of them in the 1850s went to the gold rushes in Victoria and never returned.

The German work ethic of the clean farmers and hard work is often in marked contrast to the many people who came from England and worked on the land but had no experience of it.

The German farmers had been peasant farmers in Germany and so they tended to survive the ups and downs of the economic rise and falls in South Australia better and their experience on the land often contrasted with inexperienced English farmers. Unlike the English they did not believe in monoculture, growing only one crop. They had a little bit of wheat and a little bit of grape growing; they had their own pigs and vegetables. By 1860 most of the Australian-English farmers had gone over to a mono-culture, either growing wheat or barley, but the Germans always had a diversified crop upon which they could call, and if everything collapsed they could just feed their animals and fall back on their own vegetables. The upshot of this is that the Germans were not forced in bad times to sell up their property and move on. They remained on the same piece of land; the closed community continued to remain a closed community, not because they wanted to keep other people out, but just because they had been there so long.

In World War I, so many of the things that the Germans held dear were shattered in one blow. The whole mentality of the Germans in South Australia was radically affected by this. The most obvious change was the 69 names that were changed in South Australia. The most famous of course is Peterborough, formerly Petersburg. One missed was Adelaide, the German wife of King William IV. Eleven have been changed back including Kaiserstuhl.

Robert Homburg was born in South Australia and at the time of the First World War was attorney-general. Despite this, the police went into his office in Parliament House with the Army and tried to put him under arrest. To the German people who had come here and believed in British justice, believed in a democracy, the trauma of this was very great. The Army confiscated all Homburg’s books that they thought might be subversive. Homburg was a Liberal Member of Parliament. The Labor party having been absolutely against the war initially became in time absolutely for the war. Nobody except the Germans said ‘I am an Australian’. Indeed to say ‘I’m an Australian’ was almost treasonable, almost like saying ‘I hate Britain’. After all Britain was the mother country – one fought for God, England and Empire, so by calling themselves Australians, (the Germans were surely Australia’s first nationalists) they were seen as traitors to Australia. They were 50 years ahead of their time.

Because the Germans remained loyal to their original culture and liked the German way of life and traditions, people thought they also liked the politics of the new militaristic Germany. John Verran, probably the most uneducated and illiterate Premier we have ever had in South Australia, said he was opposed to any Germans being employed, even if they had been naturalised, and further stated that he would not naturalise any more and that the time had come for the Education Department not to employ people with German names or teach the German language. There was tremendous pressure put on one if one had a German name to change it. A Schubert changed to Stewart and started to wear the kilt to prove that she had become a true blue British subject. Sauerwurst was to become Aberfoyle. What often happened was a name like Wallmann simply became Wallman.

Perhaps the most tragic part of the First World War was Torrens Island and the War Precautions Act Under this Act people, because of the say-so of another person, were literally taken away. You were plucked out of the field or the paddock where you were ploughing, often not even allowed to go and say goodbye to your wife, and often she was not informed officially that you had even been taken. This happened to people who were born in Australia. That only two generations before the Germans had come to South Australia to find religious freedom and to get away from the oppressive Prussian political military machine makes for supreme irony.

At Torrens Island in 1915 two men, a German and a Swede, were stripped naked and tied to a tree outside the compound for flogging. The guards also used their bayonets freely on the internees and their favourite punishment for offenders was to force-march them around the camp perimeter. Those who did not move fast enough for the guards were prodded with the bayonets. This was even before the slaughter on the Somme had started. More than 25 prisoners at Torrens Island had bayonet wounds, including one man who had seven wounds and another who had a bayonet thrust right through his leg by an over zealous guard. Another group was made to run over barbed wire and was prodded with bayonets by the guards. One case came to me recently where a woman said she couldn’t prove her grandfather had been killed trying to escape from Torrens Island. The Authorities had hushed the matter up and so he’s just disappeared. Now they can’t get the title to their house unless they can actually prove he’s dead. Their German heritage is constantly brought home to them by the injustice which was done by the Australian Government. It was not until January 1918 that Australian-born internees were acknowledged as being Australian citizens.

In World War I, if you had a German name, even if born in Australia, you were looked upon as German. A letter sent by a woman to the Minister of Defence at that time stated: ‘Please sir give me back my dear husband and my daughter’s father, he will work for himself and for us and we need no help’. The Government wouldn’t pay social security benefits if a husband was arrested as a saboteur. Such people were denied all civil rights. Dr. Schulz, who was the principal of the Adelaide Teachers College once wrote: ‘That such an occurrence was possible in the 20th century in such an advanced democracy as that of Australia hardly seems credible, but it is so and it has been registered in Australian history as a chapter which all real Australians will some day heartily wish had been expunged’. And indeed the records of the Torrens Island camp and the Tanunda Police Station have been burnt simply because they reflected badly on Australian history.

Another case: A German schoolteacher named Witt was named by an informant for sabotaging the war effort by failing to distribute a sufficient number of tickets for a Red Cross concert. Witt had distributed about three dozen tickets for the concert but another nine dozen were found in his home. His explanation was that he had been too busy to distribute them. The official conclusion was that he was a saboteur. He was sent to Torrens Island. That was the extent of the breakdown of democracy. In this State of South Australia it was the Germans who suffered during this breakdown as they did again in World War II.

The war trauma was also at an institutional level. German-Lutheran schools were shut down in 1917 and one wasn’t allowed to speak German. German was virtually forbidden – certainly in government schools. It remained so until the mid 1920s and yet the ethnic tradition of German culture has remained in South Australia. On the one hand, the German tradition of the Schützenfest and the Barossa Valley Vintage Festival are the outward signs of tradition; and, the inner signs can be found in the homes, towns and schools of those of German descent despite two world wars and official government attempts to wipe out Germans German culture, even though the language in many cases unfortunately has been forgotten.

Are Germans accepted today? Many of the post-Second World War German migrants have gone overboard to assimilate into the Australian way of life and to try to take on all surface appearances of being good Australians. But to be a modern South Australian German or a person of German descent is to experience the attitudes with which people view Germans, and because these attitudes are conflicting, the people suffer an identity problem. South Australians think of Nazis and Germans and become somewhat confused on this issue, not knowing whether South Australian Germans were Nazi sympathisers. On the other hand, Germans are seen as hard-working and honest. Finally there is modern Germany with its much admired modern technology and an excellent educational system.

That is the story of the rejection, acceptance/semi-acceptance of the Germans in South Australia. As Dunstan said, ‘The largest minority can’t speak their language’. The question for people of German descent in South Australia is: when do they cease being a minority and when do they become Australians? And what is, in the final analysis, given our history, acceptance as ‘an Australian’.

Reprinted from History Forum 1981, from a talk originally given to the German Teachers Association

Author’s Note 2003

In the twenty odd years since this talk the acceptance of Germans has changed radically and they are now a celebrated group within South Australia. Sadly the suspicion of new migrant groups has now fallen on others who are in their turn experiencing injustices.

The Germans in South Australia have a long and proud history. A few individual Germans had arrived even before the foundation of South Australia as a British colony in 1836, but the first organised group landed two years after the proclamation of the province. The letters they and other early arrivals sent home set in motion a chain of migration that was to bring German migrants to the shores of South Australia until the present day. From the early 1840s until 1920 Germans and their descendants constituted some 10% of the population of South Australia. This large group of non-British settlers, almost twice the percentage of any other Australian colony, was to have a marked impact on the folklore of South Australia.

The Germans who first came to South Australia were ‘Old Lutherans’ – that is those who held to the Old liturgy of the Lutheran Church and were overwhelmingly peasant farmers and artisans from Prussia. They had been forbidden to use the liturgy of their choice in their East-German homeland, an area now lying in Poland, which bordered on the nineteenth century boundaries of the provinces of Brandenburg, Silesia and Posen. Although the restrictions on worship were lifted in 1840, for the next ten years the memory of the time of repression and the fear of its return led many ‘Old Lutherans’ to migrate to South Australia. This large group formed the nucleus of the South Australian German traditions and it is their traditions and customs that are still most in evidence today.

However two other groups also have had an effect on German folklore in South Australia, a middle class group that settled primarily in Adelaide and those Germans who arrived after 1945 as post Second World War migrants. This latter group has revived and enhanced many of the old customs whilst introducing others.

Perhaps the most popular pastime of the early German migrants was singing. They not only sang in church but formed Liedertafel, male singing groups, the first of which was founded by the composer of the ‘Song of Australia’, Carl Linger, in Adelaide in 1858, followed by another in Tanunda in 1862. Both groups sang a wide range of religious and secular songs. Both Liedertafel still exist today with a strong following. The Adelaide Liedertafel now operates under the umbrella of the German Association. The German love of music also led to the founding of the Adelaide School of Music that in 1898 was to become part of the Elder Conservatorium of Music of the University of Adelaide.

During the last 30 years, prompted by post second world war migrants, music and dancing groups have proliferated within the German Association. This association was founded in 1886 specifically to encourage the pastimes of working people. Today within the association there are Bavarian groups, mixed choirs, children’s choirs and dancing groups, none of which had been encouraged under the rather austere Prussian Lutheranism of the nineteenth century. Although for many years prior to World War I the association was thought to be tinged with socialism and thus shunned by both the Lutheran Church and middle class Germans, it nevertheless kept alive the customs, traditions and beliefs of the working class Germans in Adelaide.

In country areas, often in very small communities, German music lovers developed brass bands for their own enjoyment By the turn of the century the German communities had adopted the English custom of brass band competitions which are still a feature of country life in South Australia.

The arrival of the post-1945 German immigrants also gave the German love of festivals a great boost. These migrants did much to revive traditions and folklore that in many areas were foundering. Two world wars fought against Germany, with a resulting distaste for all things German, had taken a severe toll on the beliefs and traditions of the descendants of the original German settlers. The arrival of the new migrants, many refugees from a homeland that was not far distant from those of the original settlers, invigorated and made public again a folklore that had been driven underground. Because of the wars German folklore had been practised and mentioned only in the privacy of the home or celebrated quietly in the German areas of the state.

In the 1880s and the 1890s for example Schützenfests, or shooting carnivals, had been held in Adelaide, Hahndorf and Lobethal to name the most important venues, but these had ceased with the first world war. The new migrants started again the Schützenfest, initially at Hahndorf, later in Adelaide, enlarged it into a folk festival and made it a tourist attraction far beyond local or state borders, and gave yet another German word to South Australian English.

Similarly on entering the Barossa Valley one is encouraged by large signs to enjoy the Gemütlichkeit, a message repeated in practically every restaurant in the region. There is no translation for it is expected that the word will be automatically understood as a feeling of well-being brought about by pleasant surroundings and good company. The reaching out of German festivals into the wider community has been a particularly evident in recent years in the Barossa. Again this has been greatly influenced by post-1945 migrants and these events are now enjoyed as part of the South Australian entertainment scene. An Oompah Festival takes place on the Australia Day holiday weekend which, with its Bavarian flavour, would have had no appeal to the early, more serious minded Prussians. The Tanunda Band holds a Melodie Nacht {Melody Night), the Liedertafel a Kaffee Abend (coffee evening) and the Tanunda Show an Essen Fest (Food Festival). But the greatest folk festival is the bi-annual Vintage Festival. This grew out of the church Harvest Festival. Originally a one-day affair that started in 1947, this event has continued to grow until today it is a week of festivities of both a festive and cultural nature. The high point for lovers of German food and drink being three dinners each of four courses with at least 1,300 people attending each sitting. Over 4,000 meals are served in 72 hours. The theme is Gemütlichkeit, translated by the Adelaide Advertiser, 27 March 1991, during a week long series of articles on the Festival, as ‘Let’s get together and have fun’.

One pastime that was and still is uniquely German is the Kegel Club, the Bowling Club with its alley in Tanunda. Played with nine pins, as in the original German game, it is the forerunner of today’s ten pin bowling. In the nineteenth century when the Germans in New York, created such a noise carousing at their Kegel Clubs, bowling with specifically nine pins was banned. Another pin was promptly added to give birth to today’s ten pin bowling.

The spiritual leanings of most of the early Germans gave rise to belief about the supernatural both within and without the Lutheran church. In the Barossa Valley in particular there have been in quite recent times cases of white magic exercised by people, generally women, with strange powers. The magic is usually directed against animals, although people have been involved. There is also a belief that in the nineteenth century black masses were held in the hills surrounding the Barossa Valley although despite circumstantial evidence still in existence they cannot be authenticated.

For most Germans arriving in Australia, however, the Lutheran church provided spiritual succour in the new land, as well as the companionship of like-minded friends and a familiar language. Lutheran churches of the nineteenth century with their unique design still dot the South Australian countryside and indeed, in places like the Barossa Valley dominate it. Other evidence of the building traditions the Germans brought with them is still clearly apparent in these German areas. The Germans came to South Australia so early in its settlement by the white man that they were able to plan and build towns in virgin lands to their own design. The towns were planned either on a Hufendorf (farmlet village) model or a Strassendorf (street village) model. The former still can be seen in Bethany in the Barossa Valley while the latter is evident in the layout of Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills. Other Hufendorf towns such as Langmeil, have had their original form absorbed by larger towns-in this case Tanunda.

The house design used in German villages and on German farms was distinct for at least 30 years after the arrival of the first migrants. Their ideas of building – part of their ‘cultural baggage’ – caused them to build up (a reflection of European land costs) rather than in the traditional Australian manner of building on. Although not built into all houses, the three most obvious German features were the black kitchen, the baking oven and the attic door in the side gable. The black kitchen (made of brick) was found only in the larger more expensive houses. Having a black kitchen meant that meats could be cured and the German sausages (Würste) smoked if desired. Black kitchens were a legal requirement at that time in Prussia, where most of the houses were built of wood. In South Australia, where houses were built of stone or brick, they were not really necessary to reduce the risk of fire but the traditional building habits remained for many years. The baking oven was found much more often in German farmers’ cottages. It allowed the baking of bread in the German fashion with the traditional recipes. Wood was placed inside the oven, the oven brought to the right heat, and then the ashes scraped out and the dough put in. The heat retained by the oven bricks cooked the bread. The third feature was, and still is, ubiquitous in the South Australian landscape in German areas. The 45 degree gable of the roof enclosed an attic door which was reached by an outside ladder. This attic, which ran the length of the house, was used as a general store area and occasionally for sleeping.

Another piece of Germany until quite recently widespread throughout the state, but now used primarily for display purposes or in processions, was the German wagon. With its singular sloping sides and generally total lack of springing it was an all purpose vehicle, cheap to build but immensely strong. It was arguably the distinguishing feature of a German farm. Clothes, with the possible exception in the very first days of settlement of the black wedding gown, have never really set the German settlers apart. Black was the colour when dressed for Sunday or best. Prussian-Lutheran sobriety was distinguished by its sombreness. More recent arrivals from other parts of Germany brought other more colourful clothing but these are reserved for dancing and festive occasions.

Perhaps the most obvious German influence on South Australia is to be found in food. This influence, especially in the areas of pastries and sausages, continues strongly in the present day, noticeable not only in the country areas but also in Adelaide. Because a German cold sausage had no real equivalent in English it was called from the earliest times in South Australia, Fritz, and there are innumerable stories of how this name originated. Attempts were made during World War I (1914—1918) to change the name to Austral, but these were unsuccessful. More successful was the attempt to change the name of the Berliner Pfannkuchen (a type of doughnut) to Kitchener, after the British War Minister of that period, Lord Kitchener (1850—1916). However since the arrival of the post-World War II German migrants and the opening of many new German bakeries the Berliner has become popular again, this time filled with jam while the Kitchener bun has continued, filled with artificial cream. For well over 100 years every Adelaide suburb and country town has had a least one delicatessen, the deli, copied from similar shops in Germany and being the Anglicised form of Delikat Essen-speciality foods. In such shops it has been possible always to buy a wide range of wholemeal, white and rye bread as well as cold meats and German-type sausages. Many delicatessens also function as the local sweet shop and milk bar as well as selling their more specialised goods.

While it is possible to buy most German foods at delicatessens in Adelaide a greater variety of such food is still to be found in the country areas of South Australia, particularly in the Barossa Valley, the acknowledged centre of German influence in the state. Here every year since soon after their arrival the local women have displayed their dill gherkins, their Sandkuchen (German cake), Streuselkuchen (seed cake), Bienenstich (bee sting) and various other specialties. All, like Fritz, have undergone changes in Australia, but still remain distinctively German. Competition to produce the best of any particular variety using traditional recipes, now formalised as part of the Tanunda Show, is as strong as ever. The fear of losing these old recipes, some dating from the Middle Ages, has led to publication in the Barossa and also in the other centre of German influence in South Australia, Hahndorf, of books which include not only recipes but also traditional cures for many ailments.

The early settlers from the eastern areas of nineteenth century Germany came from a countryside that had not been industrialised, indeed which only some 40 years before had thrown off the last remnants of feudalism. They lived in a way that had changed little over the centuries. These Germans brought to Australia therefore, not only medieval ways of planning towns and building houses and cooking, but also healing. The herbal and white magic cures in the Sixth and Seventh Book of Moses as well as containing such useful advice as which spells and herbs were best for ensnaring husbands or keeping husbands and wives faithful, also contained many useful and age old remedies for a variety of ailments ranging from the common cold to menstrual pains. The book was looked upon with horror by the Lutheran Church. Many families had it secreted away from the prying eyes of the pastor in a niche behind a loose brick in a wall or a fireplace. The Church considered that trust should be put in God, not in some pagan cure brought to Australia from an era lost in the mists of time. For the same reason the Lutheran Church also disagreed with the concept of homeopathic medicine which began in Germany and had always had a strong following. There were many adherents among the Germany community in South Australia. Today, although many of the various remedies have been forgotten, others that have stood the test of time are still practised.

The medieval influence can also be observed in beliefs approved of by the Lutheran Church. The pristine cleanliness of the farms, of people of German descent is due not just to the German concept of Ordnung – order – but to the tradition of stewardship. This tradition is a belief held by German-Lutheran farmers which maintains that although they may own their farm in a legal sense, in another deeper sense the good earth is only on loan from God for them to nurture and foster while they are alive. On their death it is to be passed to their sons, and so on down the generations. The farmers are merely stewards of the land. By nature therefore they are conservationists not exploiters of the land. Land is not something to be bought and sold like a normal commodity but something held in trust for God. In the Barossa Valley and other predominantly German areas of South Australia land has been in the same family since it was originally settled in the 1840s. Even today this tradition shows little sign of weakening.

The love of the land and its trees and forests was not absent from those Germans who settled in Adelaide. A German-born parliamentarian, F. E. H. W. Krichauff was responsible for the passing of the first Australian Woods and Forests Act (1875) to preserve, protect and replant a colony chronically short of timber. The belief in education led another (M. P. F. Basedow) to successfully move for the foundation of the first agricultural college in Australia, Roseworthy (1879).

The love of nature can also be found in the paintings of Hamburg-born, Sir Hans Heysen (1877—1968), who brought an Australian perspective to his work in a medium which was at that time still dominated by European images. In Adelaide German craftsmen showed particular skill in silver work Again the love of nature exhibited itself in their work. The famous silver tree at Broken Hill by Henry Steiner is a fine example of one of the leading exponents of the art, although other well-known naturist silver workers were Julius Schomburgk and Joachim Wendt, whose work has been thought worthy of recent exhibition. The work of other German craftsmen, particularly those who made vernacular nineteenth century furniture in the Barossa Valley, is in high demand in Adelaide today, although the number of fakes is perhaps greater than the number of original pieces.

In conclusion it is necessary to mention one belief held passionately by nineteenth century middle class German immigrants to South Australia that has not survived the test of time. Middle class Germans who arrived before World War I had an almost mystical belief in British justice and British fair play. Two world wars, the first in particular, in which anti-German feelings were swept along by the paranoia of many British-Australians far from the motherland and vulnerable to internal and external enemies, brought much suffering, heartache and sense of injustice to those of German descent who had considered themselves loyal South Australians. They withdrew into their own communities in country areas in particular, their belief in justice and fair play sorely tried. Only recently is a change of heart apparent. There has been strong demand from local communities that the German language be taught in schools in traditional German areas and these same communities are again looking on their German heritage and folklore with pleasure and pride as something they wish to share with all South Australians. During World War I all things of German origin in the state were suppressed and the rich German heritage of South Australia denied.

One most obvious example was the changing of 69 German place names on the map of the State, creating a totally erroneous impression of the origins of the nomenclature of the place names of South Australia. It is pleasing that the wounds finally have begun to heal rely and the melding of the folklore and traditions of the early and later waves of German migrants into South Australia are beginning to create an even richer tradition for the German community and for Australia.


(1) Cigler, M; Harmstorf, Ian. Some Common Misconceptions about the Germans in South Australia in Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia No 1/1975.
(2) Harmstorf, Ian. Germans in Australia. AE Press Melbourne 1985.
(3) Langmead, Donald; Harmstorf, Ian. ‘Guests or Fellow Countrymen’. unpublished Ph.D. thesis. The Flinders University of South Australia 1987.
(4) Young, Gordon. Barossa Survey. South Australian Institute of Technology.

The principal source of information for this paper on the attitudes of Germans in the South Australian community to Federation proved to be material printed in the South Australian German newspapers. To our knowledge no systematic research on Federation issues had ever been carried out on these papers. Given the importance of the German newspapers a further valuable source of information proved to be biographical information on politician and editor M. P. F. Basedow. Additional biographical material was sought on Basedows’ network of contacts in the South Australian community. Speeches by members of parliament who were of German origin were examined but provided only limited material relating to Federation. Lutheran Church journals did not prove to be fruitful sources of material, the newspapers being concerned with church life and administration.

As a result we concentrated our research efforts on the German language newspapers. The material found there is difficult for most Australian researchers to access, being in German, on microfilm and in Gothic script. For this reason we decided to report on the German language newspaper content in some detail in the paper. Translation from German into English was done by Dr Ian Harmstorf OAM.


In most analysis of Australia prior to 1945 ethnic minorities and their views have generally been discounted and their views held to be of little consequence. Yet the oft-quoted figure of Australians as ‘98% British’ in the period before 1945 is misleading in that it excludes the descendants of non-British migrants. Certainly the German ethnic community of 10% in South Australia was a force to be reckoned with in both political and cultural terms.

The importance of the German community in South Australia

It is thought that as many as 19,000 settlers of German origin had come to South Australia by 1900, providing nearly one tenth of the population in the early years. This State had a higher proportion of German migrants than any other in colonial times. The German community included people living in rural settings, such as in the Barossa Valley and in Adelaide Hills townships like Hahndorf, and a significant group in metropolitan Adelaide. The city group included skilled workers, business and professional people and some parliamentarians. There was a weekly German language newspaper, two Lutheran church journals and two German clubs in Adelaide.

People of German origin played an important role in areas as varied as science, applied sciences (such as viticulture, horticulture, forestry), business and the arts (music, art and crafts). They had considerable influence on innovative legislation that produced the first properly funded Forestry Department in Australia and the first agricultural college in Australia. Their influence was greater than their numbers, as a percentage of the population, would suggest. There was a widely held view by British settlers that the Germans were honest and hard-working. Some anti-German sentiment consistently existed, as Ian Harmstorf has noted, and it was eventually unleashed in the First World War. [1] However this anti-German sentiment was for a long time kept in check by liberal and humanitarian policies and politics, and it did not prevent leading members of the German community from making their contribution to political and civic affairs.

What then was the influence of the German community in shaping attitudes to Federation? The German community was already familiar with the impact of unification on the German states. Did members of the community tend to support or oppose Federation and what factors lay behind such attitudes?

The importance of South Australia’s support for Federation

Before we examine the role of community members of German origin it is useful to go back a step further to consider the arguments for and against Federation within South Australia itself, and within Australia more generally.

In October 1889 Sir Henry Parkes issued his Tenterfield appeal that Australia should have a central parliament and executive. Four months later, in February 1890, representatives of the six Australian colonies and New Zealand met in Melbourne. The representatives agreed that it was desirable to establish legislative and executive government for the whole of Australia. Colonial parliaments were to appoint members of a National Australasian Convention to consider a scheme for a federal constitution. This Convention, which met in Sydney in March 1891, drew up a draft federal constitution. In the next ten years this draft formed the basis for discussion and negotiation. While there was much public support for union, its advantages and disadvantages had to be debated in view of conflicting ideas and interests.

There were five substantial incentives to union. Firstly, the need for fiscal union; secondly a desire for adequate defence forces; thirdly, the determination to restrict the entry of aliens; fourthly, the need for uniform legislation on social, industrial and transport questions; and fifthly, the desire to speak with authority on matters relating to the Pacific region. [2]

Nevertheless, John Bannon argues that the slow progress between the 1891 Convention and the Convention of 1897—1898 reflects the wide range of alternatives that were being canvassed: a union without Tasmania; a union without Queensland; a union without Western Australia; a union of only Victoria and New South Wales; a confederation with New Zealand and Fiji; a series of bilateral agreements; ‘or simply no change to the status quo at all’. Queensland did not participate in the 1897—1898 Convention, Western Australia was not enthusiastic, and the NSW electorate gave only limited support. Bannon argues that Federation was not a foregone conclusion – indeed it was something of a miracle that it was achieved at all. [3]

In May 1892 Thomas Playford, then the Premier of South Australia, and his Attorney-General, the German-born Robert Homburg [4] were in Sydney where they raised their concern at the slow progress being made in NSW on Federation matters.

However, agreement was gradually reached that there should be two houses of parliament, a House of Representatives and a Senate, with the latter consisting of equal numbers of representatives for each State. Initially the predominant view was that these senators were to be elected by the state parliaments, whereas the lower house representatives were to be elected by popular vote. Parliament was to establish a federal supreme court which would become the highest court of appeal for the states.

Each colony was concerned to retain its own autonomy. The relative power of the two houses became a matter of great contention, with those who wished to support strong states’ rights favouring a strong senate. Another very contentious issue was that of tariffs.

Peter Howell argues that at the Constitutional Convention of 1897—1898 the South Australian representatives exercised significant influence that was out of proportion to their province’s wealth and population. [5] While there are differing opinions as to the relative importance of the role of the South Australian delegation, there is no doubt that in the final analysis the support of South Australians generally was important in gaining the eventual vote for Federation. The role of the South Australian German community is thus of interest as part of that support.

The attitude of the German community to Federation

The foundations of the new German state in 1871 influenced South Australian Germans in two different ways. Those in Adelaide seem to have developed increasing self-confidence in themselves and their native country. It was also a period of considerable economic prosperity in South Australia and many were becoming well-established in their adopted country. While in the long term this pride they felt in their homeland was to count against them during the First World War, [6] in the years leading up to 1901 South Australian Germans with some standing in the community felt free to express their approval of the positive aspects of the unification of the Germanic states.

Among those who spoke out on behalf of the German community was Martin Peter Friedrich Basedow (1829—1902) who came to South Australia in 1848. Trained for a teaching career, he established a school at Tanunda which he managed until 1864. He was a teacher and an editor and a member of Parliament, representing the Barossa District from 1876 to 1890 in the House of Assembly, serving as Minister for Education for a brief period in 1881 and was a Member of the Legislative Council from 1894—1900. He had previously been chairman of the Tanunda District Council 1864—1876.

As Harmstorf has pointed out, the strong desire of German migrants to become ‘good Australians’ as quickly as possible is one of the on-going characteristics of German immigration to South Australia in the second half of the nineteenth century, and Basedow is certainly the embodiment of this. [7] He was well respected in the community and a man of some influence both because of his political career and his position as a German language newspaper editor. He was a founder with pastor, educationalist and journalist Carl Wilhelm Ludwig Muecke (1815—1898) of the Tanunda Deutsche Zeitung, renamed from 1870 the Australische Deutsche Zeitung, which amalgamated in 1875 with the Süd-Australische Zeitung to become the Australische Zeitung. Through his second marriage Basedow was connected by marriage with Muecke, having married Muecke’s daughter, Anna Clara Helena Schrader, nee Muecke, in 1868. Muecke in turn was a close friend of Dr Richard Schomburgk who as second director of Adelaide Botanic Garden 1865—1891 made a remarkable contribution to South Australian gardening and to the plant sciences. The two men were founders, with Richard’s brother Otto, of a South Australian Emigration Society which brought to South Australia on the Princess Louise a number of people who were disenchanted with the failure of attempts to win liberal reforms in Germany in 1848. Richard Schomburgk died in 1891 and did not contribute to the Federation debate. However, both Muecke and Schomburgk, like their compatriot, the parliamentarian F. E. H. W. Krichauff, were remarkable for the breadth of their thinking and their concern about education and scientific research. It was certainly a view of the world which focussed on the long-term rather than the short term, on broad issues rather than parochial concerns. All retained contacts with colleagues in Germany who were active in the scientific and educational world.

In Adelaide, Basedow was an ardent supporter of the German Club. His fellow parliamentarians Robert Homburg and Theodor Scherk both supported the Club and served terms as president. There were two German clubs in Adelaide at this time – the German Club and the German Association. The German Club, established in 1854, charged considerably higher subscriptions than the German Association (formed in 1886) and attracted members from the professional and business sector. Promoting Deutschtum, the German language, customs and culture, it seems to have been regarded as a little stuffy and intellectual by some of the German community. The German Association with a much less stringent and cheaper membership, catered for both middle class and working class Germans. Over a period of time the wealthier members of the German community tended to be integrated into the Anglo-Australian community, and support for the German Club diminished. It was officially wound up in 1900 but continued to operate in rented premises until its final demise in 1907.

An account of a dinner held at the German Club in honour of Basedow in March 1890 gives us a picture of the close links between Basedow and some of the leading members of the Federation movement. Basedow was about to depart for a lengthy trip to Europe. Speaking at the dinner Sir John Downer said he had been Mr Basedow’s colleague in parliament for twelve years during which time they been warm personal friends and had felt the fullest confidence in one another. ‘He had been a wise, calm, judicious friend, whose advice had often proved invaluable. A good father, a good husband, a good citizen, a warm and constant friend …’ ‘If they had a thoroughly safe politician in South Australia, it was the guest of the evening’. [8] Seated near Basedow at the dinner were (Sir) Charles Cameron Kingston, Sir John Bray and Robert Homburg. Kingston and Downer were leading figures in the Federation movement. As has been mentioned, Homburg was later to serve as Attorney-General to Thomas Playford who played an active part in negotiations about the Federation process. Basedow’s biographer, Bernhard Basedow, described Sir John Downer as a great supporter of the German community. [9]

Basedow referred in his speech to the importance of German ideas which had been adopted in the broader community – for example he argued that compulsory education had first been mooted by the German community and had later been adopted – ‘as had many other excellent German institutions’. [10]

Basedow saw issues from a broader perspective than South Australian parochialism. His passionate support for the idea that South Australia should join the World Postal Union exemplifies this. He was much concerned with education and his views on taxation were ahead of his time. In advocating strict economy in the cost of government he noted that the cost of the German Reichstag (which governed a population of about 50 million) was only a little more than the cost of the legislature of South Australia with its population of about 250,000 people. [11]

What then was this man’s attitude to Federation? On 8 August 1899, at the time of the debate on the Federal Address to the Queen, he is recorded as saying that ‘it must be the conviction of every member of the House and, indeed, of every inhabitant of South Australia, that Federation must come whatever its opponents might say or do.’

There were, he observed, examples of ‘the efficacy and success of union’ as seen in the case of the United States and Canada and he noted that everyone had been able to see ‘the wonderful progress’ made by his native country Germany. He was of the opinion that the proposed constitution for the Australian Commonwealth

‘was not inferior to the Constitution Act of Germany, indeed he believed it was nearer perfection. They had all witnessed the wonderful progress recently made [in] Germany, and he believed and hoped that under union Australia’s progress would be immeasurably greater than it had ever been before.’ [12]

Attitudes expressed in the German language newspapers

The South Australian German newspaper, the secular weekly Australische Zeitung, with Basedow as its editor, was unstinting in its support for the federation of the Australian colonies from the earliest days of the debate. It presented Federation as being vital to the well-being of all South Australians.

In The Emergent Commonwealth Ron Norris refers to some ‘wide spread indifference to federation’, suggesting that ‘the question of federation did not catch the public imagination’. [13] By contrast the Australische Zeitung reported regularly and at length in its editorials and front page lead stories on the various Federal Conventions. For the year 1897, in 25% of the issues the main editorial comment was about federation. For 1898 the figure was 20%, with a further 10% made up of reports of the Federal Conventions set within the editorial columns, making 30% of editorial comment. In 1899 there was also a significant number of editorials devoted to federation.

Reporting the Hobart Conference of 1895 the newspaper considered the matter of federation the most important question facing the Australian colonies. However, it held serious doubts about the success of the conference because the Premiers who attended did so as ‘private individuals, rather than having plenipotentiary power’. The newspaper lamented that they ‘had no brief and no power to actually do anything’. [14] There was the danger that with the constant changing of ministers in Australia the momentum towards federation might be lost. To Germans who were used to a much more structured approach than was generally taken by British parliaments, the caution expressed as to the ultimate success of the talks reflected their more general suspicion of the British art of ‘muddling through’.

The Australische Zeitung stood for free trade between the colonies and regretted the move by the Premier of South Australia, Charles Cameron Kingston to unilaterally make a trade agreement with New Zealand as the newspaper considered that anything that made a final agreement on trade and tariffs more difficult or complicated was to be condemned. The editorial ended with the dramatic ‘We are in Danger’, but did not appear to have elaborated on this until some months later. [15]

Three weeks later the paper returned to the subject and a matter dear to the hearts of middle classes. What would Federation cost? [16] It outlined the new federal areas of post, army, navy and justice and went into the cost and size of each. Financially it saw free trade between the colonies as one of the chief advantages of federation. It was true that since South Australia would lose money on import duty, new taxes would have to be raised. However, it reasoned that this would lead to long term benefits such as tax reform. There was no doubt that overall ‘federation would be a blessing to the Colony’. [17] The Australische Zeitung then listed various areas in which it considered federation could lead to cost cuttings. The first was that ‘state governors could be local and on a much lower salary in keeping with their diminished responsibility as they would no longer have to worry about external diplomacy.’ The ‘army of public servants would be reduced’, and state ministers’ pay could also be lowered. Caution was then thrown to the winds as the editorial suggested that ‘the benefits of federation would be so great that costs can be disregarded’.

The newspaper hoped for a lessening of:

‘the tendency for colonies to act like major powers and in its place a noble national spirit would emerge. It will bring life, growth, advancement so we vote for Federation joyfully and gladly, although some sacrifice will be necessary. But he who does not sow, does not reap.’ [18]

In May 1895 the newspaper turned to matters of defence, perhaps foreshadowed by February’s ‘We are in Danger’ theme, and returned to this with increasing frequency. Its first mention of defence was low key, merely suggesting that no more should be spent on South Australian defence. Defence should be left to the federation which must have a standing army. [19] The theme was taken up in a different form two weeks later when the Australische Zeitung stated:

‘it is often said that if an enemy threatened Australia which had more strength than any one colony, the Federation would take place quickly. But such is almost beyond comprehension. However things have changed and stormy weather lies ahead that threatens our freedom and could lead to defeat if steps are not taken.’ [20]

A danger could be seen in the war between China and Japan and the victory of Japan. Japan was now among the top ten powers of the world and, like Peter the Great or Russia in 1895, wanted to be ruler of the east. Further, Japan could not ignore China.

‘With China’s 500 million people this would be shutting one’s eyes to reality. For hundreds of years a break out of the Chinese people had been feared and now it appeared possible. Chinese emigration was a threat to all countries but Australia was the first country that was in danger and would be overrun by a tide of people.’ [21]

The newspaper asserted that such a danger was not exaggerated. Furthermore, it claimed, that very natural wish of all Australians must be fulfilled – ‘Australia for the white Australians’. This latter argument had double impact. On the one hand it supported the cause of Federation. On the other, it identified the Germans as part of the white community of Australia, as opposed to the Chinese who constituted ‘the others’, the outsiders and aliens. [22]

It was essential that the new Australia must form a defence force to keep the Chinese hordes at bay. Laws to keep the Chinese out had to be backed by force and only a united Australia would have enough power to protect the country from a flood of Chinese.

‘The first stream of Chinese had to be halted immediately to stop further incursions. Any initial invasion wave would have to be defeated in order to stop the rest. The Chinese needed room to live, and like the Wandering of the Peoples of yesteryear [a reference to the European migrations from east to west in the early centuries of the first millennium], a Chinese movement from north to south was most probable. We needed a strong government to protect us from this enemy and the colonies had to agree on this.’ [23]

The article concluded by stating that for this and many other reasons Federation could not be put off, for in times of peace one must rearm to avoid war. [24]

In December 1895 the Australische Zeitung argued that it was useless to propose some form of compulsory National Military Service in South Australia; rather the aim should be to proceed to Federation and let the new government deal with defence. Separate colonies were in no position to repel an invader. Only a federal fighting force could defend Australia. Besides while we might be attacked by an enemy of England on the basis of our being a colony and a friend of England we were little likely to be attacked as Australians. [25] Furthermore, it argued in a subsequent issue,

‘Is the protecting hand of Great Britain enough? Will Great Britain protect us in all circumstances? England might need her ships to protect her own shores. As separate colonies we could not repel an invader. Were we positive no such danger lies in the future? The unexpected happens often.’ [26]

While the newspaper could argue eloquently about defence there were other issues to consider. In practical terms the only way the border differences between South Australia and Victoria could be resolved was by federation. Similarly, the problem of the Murray river waters (water rights) could only be dealt with on a national level. Then there was the cost to South Australia of the Northern Territory, £60,000 sterling. [27] The issue of the use of coloured labour was a further problem that was more appropriately dealt with by a federal government. This 1897 article concluded by summarising the advantages of a federation: naturalised foreigners would be equal in the eyes of the law in all colonies; posts and telegraphs would be under one regulation; quarantine, lighthouses, the exclusion of criminals, patents, river transport, unity of armaments would all be better organised and controlled. ‘The disadvantages of Federation are minimal despite some people being against Federation.’ [28]

In February 1897 the paper discussed some arguments put by the opponents of federation and outlined some problems that had to be resolved. One issue was the number of senators required, the editorial claiming that there were too many senators under the Australian proposal of one senator per 30,000 – Germany had only one per 100,000. On the issue of the location of the national capital the newspaper argued that we should follow the lead of the United States of America and build a new government centre. While the free trade-protection issue between New South Wales and Victoria had to be resolved, some protection was necessary for the factories of Western Australia and South Australia. As against the fear that states would lose control of their laws the editorial claimed: ‘We will have South Australian elected Senators to protect us.’ [29]

At the time of the 1897 Convention the Australische Zeitung showed its bias in rejoicing that ‘the liberals had not done so well in the elections for the 1897 Federal Convention.’ [30] The paper praised the decision to introduce equal representation of the states in the Senate. During the Convention the paper noted various advantages in the transport field that could come with federation, for example that produce could be taken to the nearest port, even if it were not in the same colony. It also hoped that the matter of rail gauges would be resolved. [31] The paper commented on the slow progress of the Convention and, referring again to defence, reflected ‘that the appearance of an enemy fleet off Australian shores when the mother country was otherwise engaged would hurry matters up.’ [32] It pointed out that this had certainly been the case with the German states when France had attacked Prussia in 1870. [33]

The paper reported extensively on the 1898 Federal Convention in issues 4 to 11 but made no editorial comment until issue 12 in late March when it made a point of discussing the desirability of having a United States of Australia. [34] In the next issue the lead article was headed Ja oder Nein (Yes or No) in relation to the Commonwealth Bill referendum on 4 June. Among the first arguments put forward for a Yes vote was that ‘a Commonwealth Parliament would better be able to fight ‘socialism’ and ‘anarchy’ than the various individual states, as was clearly demonstrated in the United States of America.’ [35] Given the conservative nature of the Germans who came to South Australia – German electorates tended to return conservative members of parliament [36] – this argument undoubtedly appealed to the readers of the Australische Zeitung, while at the same time being totally consistent with the views of the owner. [37] The arguments put forward against federation by the Australische Zeitung were always stated to be the arguments put by the opponents of federation, but were immediately countered by the newspaper itself. For example, in an editorial in May 1898 entitled ‘For and Against’, there are only two coherent anti-federation arguments: it was said that some people argued that the new constitution was undemocratic (but against this some believed it was too democratic) and some wanted total free trade while others did not. The case mounted by the newspaper against federation could hardly be said to be either convincing or genuine. [38] By contrast the continuation of ‘For and Against’ the following week held a succinct, well written and plausibly argued case for federation. The points were numbered and listed in order. 1. Australia would have more power against foreigners, more protection and greater security. 2. There would be free, unhindered land traffic within Australia. 3. Rail tariffs would go, but income would increase, due to increased traffic. 4. Australian citizenship would be full citizenship and citizens would be full members of the British Empire not step-children with a colonial passport. Naturalised Germans would not be aliens in the next colony. 5. There would be unified marriage laws which would stop the present chaotic situation where men border-hopped and reneged on their duty. 6. There would be mutual recognition of laws, which again would stop bankrupts and defaulters border-hopping. [39]

It has been suggested by Noris in The Emergent Commonwealth that the general feeling towards federation was that it was a business agreement. [40] The above list given by the Australische Zeitung combined with other editorials suggests the Germans had a more defence oriented view. Indeed, the ‘yellow peril’ argument, which was an on-going theme of editorials in this period, was generally not given prominence at this time. Noris argues that the first federal platform of 1896 ‘ignored defence entirely’, as did the 1899 platform, that of pre-federation in 1901. [41] Defence did not become an issue until the Russo-Japanese war of 1904/1905 [42] when the Australische Zeitung predictions of some ten years previously appear remarkably prescient.

In a June 1898 article headed, ‘Before the decision’ there were two columns of general arguments in favour of the Federation. To conclude, and supposedly keep a semblance of balance, ‘it hoped all readers would do their duty’ – however it was quite clear what the newspaper considered that duty to be. [43] Did the people from the German community support the case for Federation when faced with the election? The newspaper believed they had and this view is supported by an examination of voting trends.

The newspaper was happy to announce that the results of the Commonwealth Referendum were positive for the Commonwealth. It noted that ‘where Germans lived in South Australia there was a substantial majority for Yes.’ It added that two German areas, Ebenezer and Mt Templeton did not record a single No vote. The editorial congratulated the country areas and said it was to their honour that they recorded such a large Yes vote, much larger than the city. The paper finally ‘saluted the United States of Australia’. [44]

By the end of the year 1898 the Australische Zeitung believed Federation would not happen that century and complained of a break of faith by NSW. [45] The next edition, complaining that some were deliberately pushing for Sydney to be the new capital, in order to put back Federation, suggested that a ‘fresh happy war’ and pressure from outside would hasten matters along but as an alternative the Australian people should by ‘manly action and patriotic anger force through their will’. [46] Exactly what was meant by this is difficult to deduce, but given the nature of the paper it could hardly have been meant to be subversive.

In March 1900 the paper was advising Australia’s representatives in London to allow no alterations to the constitution and warned them to watch the parliament in London. [47] Perhaps unlike British-Australians, German-Australians were aware of the reputation in some parts of the continent viewing Britain as ‘perfidious Albion’.

What of the Lutheran Church publications? These Lutheran Church journals of the period were entirely concerned with church matters and strictly followed the dictum, ‘render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s’. This was particularly so of the Lutherans who came to South Australia for, after their experience with Governments in Germany, they kept in Australia as far removed as possible from political matters as long as they considered their religious freedom to be free from danger.

While this overview must perforce take in only the views of the Australische Zeitung newspaper it probably reflects the views of middle class Germans in South Australia and, if the voting returns are an indication, the vast majority of German-Australian farmers as well. The only group unaccounted for is the small group of labouring Germans in Adelaide, most of whom had migrated in the 1880s. Their generally radical-left views might also suggest they would have supported Kingston and therefore the federation.

German-Australians formed ten percent of the South Australian community. There was a relatively small turn out for the vote of 30.4%. [48] If a considerable number of German-Australians had voted, and if they had voted as their newspaper suggested, they would have had a significant impact on the final outcome. The evidence suggests that although the German vote may not have swung the election in South Australia it certainly did influence the result. Of the electorate who voted in South Australia [it was non-compulsory voting] 35,333 people, that is 67%, voted ‘yes’. [49] Yet in electorates with large numbers of Germans and their descendants, [50] the percentage which voted was considerably higher: for example, 78% in the Barossa electorate [total electors 4,765]; 82% in Light [total electors 4,767]; and 76% in the electorate of Victoria [total electors 5,149]. The ‘yes’ vote as a percentage of the total electorate was also higher in German areas. For the colony as a whole, it was 26%, yet for Light it was 34%, Barossa 32% and Victoria 36%. Most other areas reflected a ‘yes’ vote of about 25% in the enrolled electorate. [51] These figures would suggest strong grass roots support for federation among the Germans of South Australia in addition to the strong support given by community leaders as indicated earlier in this paper.

The Australische Zeitung spells out clearly that for Germans security was high on the list of reasons for a united Australia. Given that many had left Germany because of insecurity, be it financial, social or religious, it is not surprising that security in their new homeland loomed as large as an issue. Anything that threatened security was seen to be dangerous, and anything that could be done to protect that security must be undertaken. Given that scenario, the German-Australian support for federation was a foregone conclusion.


The strong views of the German-Australian community had considerable impact because they were accepted into main decision-making society – as indicated by the friendships that existed between leading members of the German community and the Anglo-Australian community. Germans were at the time looked upon as ‘our German cousins’, and the significant link between the royal families of Britain and Germany made this quite tangible. Furthermore the influential positions German immigrants held within South Australian society meant that their ideas were not sidelined by mainstream society.

Our study has show that the German community gave significant support to Federation, as evidenced in their own German language newspaper, in the statements of their well-respected politician and community leader, M. P. F. Basedow, and in the polls.


[1] Ian Harmstorf, ‘Guests or fellow countrymen: a study in assimilation. A study of the German community in South Australia 1836—1918’, PhD thesis, Flinders University, 1987, p. 3.
[2] These points were made by L F Crisp in his Parliamentary Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, Melbourne, 1949, p. 11.
[3] John Bannon, The crucial colony: South Australia’s role in reviving Federation, Federalism Research Centre, ANU, Canberra, 1994, pp. 1—2.
[4] Robert Homburg 1848—1912 was MHR for Gumeracha 1884—1902 and for the Murray district 1902—1905.
[5] Peter A Howell, ‘The strongest delegation: the South Australians at the Constitutional Convention of 1897—1898’, in The New Federalist, No. 1, June 1998, p. 44.
[6] Ian Harmstorf, ‘Guests or fellow countrymen’, p. 3.
[7] Harmstorf, pp. 195—197 & 232.
[8] Bernhard Basedow, The Basedow Story: a German South Australian Heritage, published by the author, 1990, p. 47. Sir John joked that they had fallen out only once during that time – and that was when they were on the way to an election meeting at Tanunda. Basedow was driving and thought he was on the right track while Sir John thought they were not. They fell out for the first time – into a ditch, and trudged into Tanunda rather the worse for wear at 2am.
[9] Downer not only supported the German community but had a family connection with a family of German origin because his niece, Ada Downer, married Otto Heinrich Schomburgk, who became Sheriff and Comptroller of Prisons, and who was a son of Dr Richard Schomburgk.
[10] Basedow, p. 47.
[11] Basedow supported a progressive income tax. He supported remission of customs duties when circumstances permitted. South Australia depended heavily on indirect taxes.
[12] South Australian Parliamentary Debates, 8 August 1899, p. 54.
[13] R Norris, The Emergent Commonwealth, Melbourne University Press, 1975, p. 33.
[14] Australische Zeitung, 6 February 1895, No. 6.
[15] Ibid., 13 February 1895, No. 8.
[16] Ibid., 13 March 1895, No. 11.
[17] Ian Harmstorf, ‘The State’s First Nationalists’, in Insights into South Australian History, Vol. 2: South Australia’s German History and Heritage. Adelaide, 1994, pp. 38—40.
[18] Australische Zeitung, 13 March 1895, No. 6.
[19] Ibid., 1 May 1895, No. 18.
[20] Ibid., 15 May 1895, No. 20.
[21] Ibid., 15 May 1895, No. 20.
[22] I am indebted to Dr Brian Dickey for raising this point and related matters discussed in Helen Irving’s To constitute a nation: a cultural history of Australia’s constitution, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 1997, p. 114.
[23] This sentiment in the Australische Zeitung, reflects opinion of the day as expressed in the Bulletin magazine. Scott Benedict (ed.) in The making of the Commonwealth, Cassell, Melbourne, 1971, pp. 88—89 cites an example of such views in the Bulletin of 2 July 1987.
[24] Australische Zeitung, 15 May 1895, No. 20.
[25] Ibid., 11 December 1895, No. 50.
[26] Ibid., 17 February 1897, No. 7.
[27] This was referred to in an issue a year earlier (1 January 1896, No 1) when the figure was given as £65,00.
[28] Ibid., 17 February 1897, No. 7.
[29] Ibid., 24 February 1897, No. 8.
[30] Ibid., 10 March 1897, No. 10.
[31] Ibid., 7 April 1897, No. 14.
[32] Ibid., 14 April, 1897, No. 15.
[33] Ibid., 14 April 1897, No. 15. It argued that although it did not want enemy ships off the coast perhaps this would be preferable than for the states to remain unfederated.
[34] Ibid., 23 March 1898, No. 12.
[35] Ibid., 30 March 1898, No. 13.
[36] Ian Harmstorf, ‘Germans in the South Australian Parliament 1857—1901’. Unpublished BA. Honours thesis, University of Adelaide 1959, pp. 110, 118.
[37] Ibid., p 110. Basedow was the elected non-Labor member the Barossa electorate for 15 years.
[38] Australische Zeitung, 18 May 1898, No. 20.
[39] Ibid., 25 March 1898, No. 21.
[40] Norris, The Emergent Commonwealth, p. 39.
[41] Ibid., p. 138.
[42] Ibid., p. 153.
[43] Australische Zeitung, 1 June 1898, No. 22.
[44] Ibid., 8 June 1898, No. 23.
[45] Ibid., 28 December 1898, No. 52.
[46] Ibid., 4 June 1899, No. 1.
[47] Ibid., 21 March 1900, No. 12.
[48] Stuart McIntyre, ‘Some absentees from Adelaide’, in The New Federalist, No. 1, June 1998, p. 16.
[49] Ibid.
[50] Ian Harmstorf, Germans in the SA Parliament, p. 118. Lutheran figures are used as a guide.
[51] Australische Zeitung, 8 June 1898, No. 23. The figures given were quoted in the Australische Zeitung as coming from official sources.


(1) Australische Zeitung.
(2) Bannon, John. The crucial colony: South Australia’s role in reviving Federation, Federalism Research Centre, ANU, Canberra, 1994.
(3) Basedow, Bernard. The Basedow Story: a German South Australian Heritage, published by the author, 1990.
(4) Benedict, Scott (ed.). The making of the Commonwealth. Cassell, Melbourne, 1971.
(5) Coxon, Howard, Playford, John and Reid, Robert. Biographical Register of the South Australian Parliament 1857—1957. Wakefield Press, Netley, SA, 1985.
(6) Crisp, L. F. Parliamentary Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, Longmans, Melbourne, 1949.
(7) Harmstorf, Ian. ‘Germans in the South Australian Parliament 1857—1901’. Unpublished B.A. Hons thesis. University of Adelaide, 1959.
(8) Harmstorf, Ian. ‘Guests or fellow countrymen: a study in assimilation. A study of the German community in South Australia 1836—1918’. PhD thesis, Flinders University, 1987.
(9) Harmstorf, Ian. ‘The State’s First Nationalists’, in Insights into South Australian History, Vol 2: South Australia’s German History and Heritage. Adelaide, 1994.
(10) Howell, Peter. ‘The strongest delegation: the South Australians at the Constitutional Convention of 1897—1898’ in The New Federalist, No. 1, June 1998.
(11) Irving, Helen. Constituting a nation: a cultural history of Australia’s constitutional centenary. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1997.
(12) McIntyre, Stuart. ‘Some absentees from Adelaide’, in The New Federalist, No. 1, June 1998.
(13) Norris, R. The Emergent Commonwealth. Australian Federation: expectations and fulfilment 1889—1910. Melbourne University Press, 1975.
(14) South Australian Parliamentary Debates 1887—1901.
(15) Süd Australische Zeitung.

The first large group of Germans arrived in South Australia as religious refugees in 1838, only two years after the proclamation of the colony. Their homeland had been in the eastern part of Germany (this area is now part of Poland) and they had suffered persecution because of their refusal to use a new prayer book. Although the persecutions were soon to stop, letters written back to Germany told of the economic, religious and political freedom to be found in South Australia and a ‘chain migration’ was soon in motion. Soon, not only Lutheran congregations were emigrating to the new colony but all types of people from towns and cities as well as villages. By 1900 over 18,000 Germans had come to South Australia.

When war on Germany was declared on 4 August 1914 there was a general feeling in the more educated sections of the community that the loyalty of German settlers should not be discussed or questioned. It was considered that it should be taken for granted. Premier Peake said shortly after the outbreak of hostilities. ‘There would be nothing of racial animosity in this State’.

The German settlers in South Australia had built up a vast store of goodwill. Queen Victoria had been married to a German, and Germans were looked upon as thrifty, practical and hard-working-a people noted for their morality and law-abiding nature. George Fife Angas, one of the State’s founding fathers, had praised the Germans during the Victorian gold rushes of the 1850s, pointing out that of all his farmers, the Germans alone had stuck to the soil. In the soil lay the wealth of South Australia. Prosperous and industrious, getting ahead by their own efforts, the Germans were seen as excellent examples of one of the principal foundation stones on which the colony was built – self help. Even Germany’s support for the Boers during the South African war had not changed this view. ‘A strong fusion of the Teutonic element has invaded every department of public life. Germans have taken up high positions in the learned professions, industrial and commercial enterprises, and also in the political world.’ So wrote H. T. Burgess in the ‘Cyclopaedia of South Australia’ in 1907. Not only was the German influence visible in Adelaide with German music shops, tobacconists, bakeries, concerts, plays and even street bands, but also in Parliament where German concepts of education and worker protection found ready acceptance among the more liberal minded. In many parts of rural South Australia the German influence was even more noticeable, with areas being like small replicas of Germany. Brought about by the accident of geographical isolation, it was to lead to distrust during the First World War.

World War I

There had always been a close relationship between the Liberal Union and the German community. Many people of German descent had held important positions in Government when the Liberal Union was in power. The Labor Party, initially against the war, no doubt felt after war was declared, that they had to redeem themselves. Two members of the party in particular, Verran, who was Premier from 1910 to 1913, and Ponder, made a great deal of political capital out of the anti-German feeling created by the outbreak of war. Two attempts were made to disenfranchise naturalised persons in South Australia but these were unsuccessful. Labor had also sound political reasons for supporting the anti-German bandwagon. If Germans, as was often suggested, were thrown out of all government jobs, many positions would become vacant – always a vote catcher in times of high unemployment. German financial success was also envied and as a person with a German name could be arrested on the accusation of an English-Australian, it was a fine time to settle old scores. Australian born citizens of German descent were arbitrarily denied their democratic rights as the rule of law became inapplicable to 10% of the State’s population.

The Attorney General: A German Spy?

In 1914 Mr Hermann Homburg was Attorney General for the State of South Australia. Shortly after the declaration of war two military officers entered his office with fixed bayonets. Their commanding officer demanded the right to search. They were told they could take only those things to which they were legally entitled. Representations were made to the Minister of Defence but no assurances were obtained that the incident would not be repeated. The Premier alone made an apology. Mr Homburg was born in South Australia and had never set foot outside the State. He was the king’s legal adviser in the State of South Australia. This incident suggests that in times of war Australia has the potential to become a military dictatorship where the rule of law ceases to exist.

The Lutheran Church: A Subversive Organisation?

The following extract is from a letter written to the Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher, by the president of the Evangelical Synod in Australia, Pastor T. Nickel, and published in the ‘Register’ on 24 December 1914, a few months after the commencement of World War I. ‘Sir, we are well aware, as Lutherans and Australians, of our duty towards our beloved King and our Government. The Synod in Australia stands in no connection, whatsoever, with any of the State churches in Germany. In no congregation the name of a German prince has ever been mentioned. Although the German language is still used in the service of our congregations, we do not want to be regarded as a German church. Our private schools are not German but parochial (parish) schools, the main objective of which is not to teach German but to give religious instruction. Religion and German accepted, the whole curriculum is in the English language…’

In January 1915 Pastor Nickel was interned on Torrens Island. On 30 June 1917 all schools run by the Lutheran Church and German communities in South Australia were shut. The Church had always considered that to keep the Lutheran faith pure, it was necessary to keep the German language. As a result the Church came under suspicion from people who would not or could not understand the difference between religious and political loyalties.

Torrens Island: Concentration Camp

The site of the present Torrens Island power station was once a concentration camp. Between October 1914 and August 1915 some 300 Germans were interned behind barbed wire on this island in the Port River. They were later transferred to N.S.W. because according to the newspapers of the time: ‘the camp has the worst reputation in this country among those who are qualified to know’. Although systematic torture did not take place on Torrens Island there are well-documented cases of shooting, flogging naked bodies, being made to run over barbed wire and being pricked with bayonets until blood flowed.

Under the infamous War Precautions Act anyone could be arrested at any time and kept in gaol indefinitely without trial, not even knowing what they were accused of. Many of the internees had been born in Australia. The War Precautions Act turned Australia into a nation of informers, into a nation spying on itself, into a police state. Could this happen again?

Changing The Map

As the war continued and the casualty lists of Australians who had died in battles like the Somme and Ypres grew longer, anti-German hysteria grew. It was decided to eradicate every German name from the map of South Australia. Originally it was hoped to change most of the German names to Aboriginal names, but it was thought these would be too hard to spell. On 10 January 1918, after 18 months of discussion, 69 German place names in South Australia were changed. Interestingly, Adelaide – named after Queen Adelaide, the German wife of William IV. – was not changed. In 1935 the names of Lobethal, Hahndorf and Klemzig were restored to mark the pioneer work of the German settlers in the State’s centenary year of 1936. Forty years later Siegersdorf, Kaiserstuhl, Krondorf, Neukirch, Schrieberau, Langmeil, Grunberg and Hoffnungsthal were also restored. As Australia has now recognised itself as a multi-cultural society, should the remaining names, or at least most of them, be changed back to their original German on the occasion of the State’s 150th birthday in 1986?

World War II

In 1939 with the outbreak of the Second World War, South Australia initially saw a repeat of what had happened in 1914. Civil liberties were again suspended and Australian born citizens of German descent were again arrested on the say so of an informer – who was sometimes a business competitor – and taken off to some form of internment without trial. Soldiers were sent to ‘foreign’ places like Hahndorf and the Barossa Valley to search for Nazis. Because one man, Johannes Becker, had proclaimed himself a Nazi in South Australia all Germans and people of German descent came under suspicion. The paranoia that had gripped the country some 25 years before was again evident. Although the extreme excuses of the early days of the war moderated to some degree, house arrest of Australian-born citizens was commonplace. For the second time in our short history many Australians had shown that in time of crisis, they react with a lack of compassion and a complete disdain for the rule of law and order which is supposedly so much a part of British heritage.

The Aftermath

The bitterness caused by me First World War has still not been eradicated. German immigrants had worked hard to find a place in me Australian sun. A sizeable number had migrated to avoid Prussian militarism. All appreciated the social, political and economic freedom of Australia, yet between 1914 and 1918 all these good works were to be forgotten and they found themselves back in a police state, hounded for their religion and persecuted for not being militaristic enough. As a final insult Australia – which in many cases was the land of their birth – turned against them, rejected them without legal or moral reason to the point of internment, merely because of their German heritage.

Today, German towns and festivals are one of our main tourist attractions, but one might ask how deep is this acceptance after the experience of the two world wars? How accepting of other attitudes and ideas are Australians really? Are we really a multi-cultural society?

Exhibition: Speakers Corner, Constitutional Museum, Adelaide 1984.


(1) Ey, Anna: Memoirs (written circa 1900—1907).
(2) Geue, Johann: Memoirs (written 1923).
(3) Homann, Louise: Memoirs Journal of a Life of Many Moves, translated. Adelaide 1965.
(4) Peltz, Friedrich: Memoirs (written 1989).
(5) Schedlich, Carl: Memoirs (written circa 1900).

19th Century Books

(1) Bergmann, A.: Lebenslauf des ehemaligen Lehrers Adolf Bergmann. Adelaide 1912.
(2) Bergmann, A.: Humoristische Beschreibung der Australischen Kolonie. Tanunda 1895.
(3) Bergmann, A.: Samenkorn in die Herzen von Jung und Alt. Light’s Pass 1889.
(4) Cawthorne, A.: Menge the Mineralogist. Adelaide 1859.
(5) Dieseldorff, W. A.: Wegweiser nach Süd-Australien. Hamburg 1849.
(6) Doeger, George: Auswanderer nach Süd-Australien – Ein Rathgeber. Tangermünde 1849.
(7) Gerstäcker, F.: Gesammelte Schriften. Bd. 1—3, Jena 1872.
(8) Gerstäcker, F.: Nord- und Süd-Australien: ein Handbuch für Auswanderer. Dresden und Leipzig 1849.
(9) Gerstäcker, F.: Im Busch: Australische Erzählung. Jena und Leipzig 1864.
(10) Heising, A.: Die Deutschen in Australien. Berlin 1853.
(11) Hunckel, C.: Berichte deutscher Ansiedler in Süd-Australien. Bremen 1845.
(12) Jung, K. E.: Der Weltteil Australien. Prague 1882.
(13) Kauvlers, E.: Seereise nach Süd-Australien am 15. August 1848 von Hamburg. J. E. Schamler, Bautzen 1854.
(14) Listermann, G.: Meine Auswanderung nach Südaustralien und Rückkehr zum Vaterland. Berlin 1851.
(15) Reimer, R. (ed): Süd-Australien. Berlin 1851.

20th Century Books

(1) Bodie, L. et al. (eds): The German Connection. Sesquicentenary Essays on German-Victorian Cross Currents 1835—1985. Victoria 1987.
(2) Borrie, W. D.: Italians and Germans in Australia. Melbourne 1954.
(3) Brauer, A.: Under the Southern Cross. Adelaide 1956.
(4) Buchhorn, Martin (ed): Emigrants to Hahndorf: A Remarkable Voyage from Altona to Port Adelaide, South Australia. The diary of Captain Hahn of the Zebra. Translated with commentary by Lee Kersten, Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide 1989.
(5) Butler, E.: Cork Elms and Controversy at Hahndorf. National Trust, Hahndorf 1985.
(6) Fox, A. L.: Hahndorf. Fox Publishing, Hahndorf 1977.
(7) Harmstorf, I.: The Germans in Australia. Melboume 1985.
(8) Cigler, M.; Harmstorf, I.: The German Experience of Australia 1833—1938. Flinders University of S.A. 1981.
(9) Schwerdtfeger, P. (ed); Homann, L.: Journal of a Life of Many Moves. Adelaide 1956.
(10) Homburg, H.: S.A. Lutherans and Wartime Rumours. Adelaide 1947.
(11) Iwan, W.: Um des Glaubens Willen nach Australien. Breslau 1931.
(12) Lodewyckx, A.: Die Deutschen in Australien. Stuttgart 1932.
(13) Lodewyckx, A.: Die Deutschen in der australischen Wirtschaft. Stuttgart 1938.
(14) Lyng, J.: Non-Britishers in Australia. Melbourne 1927.
(15) Nielsen, George: In Search of Home: The Wends (Sorbs) on the Australian and Texas Frontier. Birmingham Slavonic Monograph No. 1, Birmingham 1978.
(16) Price, C. A.: German Settlers in South Australia. Melbourne 1945.
(17) Renner, H.: Hahndorf. A German Village Under the Southern Cross. Hahndorf 1988.
(18) Schubert, D.: Kavel’s People. Adelaide 1985.
(19) Sinthern, Peter S. J.: 53 Jahre Österreichische Jesuiten-Mission in Australien. Wien 1924.
(20) Shemmeld, J. W.: Kruger Jars’ n’ Fencing Wire. Unknown, circa 1983.
(21) Tampke, J. (ed): Wunderbar Country. Germans Look at Australia 1850—1914. Sydney 1982.
(22) Thiele, C.: Barossa Sketchbook. Adelaide 1968.
(23) Thiele, C.: Heysen’s Early Hahndorf. Adelaide 1976.
(24) Vondra, J.: German Speaking Settlers in Australia. Melbourne 1981.
(25) Voigt, J.: Australia-Germany: Two Hundred Years of contacts. Relations and Connections. Inter Nationes, Bonn 1987.
(26) Voigt, J. (ed): New Beginnings. The Germans in New South Wales and Queensland. Stuttgart 1983.
(27) Wade, L.; Fox, A.: Hahndorf Sketchbook. Rigby, Adelaide (Undated).
(28) Wichmann, K. (compiler): German Settlement in South Australia. Resource Booklet, Adelaide 1985.
(29) Young, G.; Harmstorf, I.: Barossa Survey. Adelaide 1977.
(30) Young, G.; Harmstorf, I.: Hahndorf Survey. Adelaide 1981.
(31) Young, G.: Lobethal Survey. Adelaide 1982.


Some of the older articles will be difficult to obtain but have been listed in case of special interests.
(1) Daly, J.: ‘Adolph Leschen, Father of Gymnastics in South Australia’ in Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, No. 10, 1982.
(2) Fischer, G.: ‘A Great Independent Australian Reich and Nation’, Carl Muecke and the ‘Forty-Eighters’ of the German-Australian Community of South Australia’ in Journal of Australian Studies, No. 25, November 1989.
(3) Gemmel, N. G.: ‘Some Notes on Ferdinand von Mueller and the Early Settlement of the Bugle Ranges’ in South Australian Naturalist, Vol. 49, No. 4, June 1975.
(4) Grope, L. B.: ‘The Story of Klemzig, South Australia’ in Year Book of the Lutheran Church Adelaide, 1975.
(5) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘German Settlement in South Australia until 1914’ in Jupp, J. (ed): The Australian People, Sydney 1988.
(6) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘Some Common Misconceptions about South Australia’s Germans’ in Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, No. 1, 1975.
(7) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘History of the German Association’ in 100 Years SAADV 1886—1986, Adelaide 1986 (English and German).
(8) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘True Germans are Patriotic South Australians: South Australian Germans Before 1918’ in Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, No. 17, 1989.
(9) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘God Ordered Their Estate: Some Lutheran Traditions in South Australia’ in Harmstorf, I.; Schwerdtfeger, P. (eds): The German Experience of Australia 1833—1938, Flinders University, Adelaide 1988.
(10) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘The Trouble with Patriotism. The issue of Loyalty: South Australian Germans 1838—1900’ in Proceedings of the Third Biennial Conference of the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows, Flinders University, Adelaide 1980.
(11) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘South Australia’s Germans in World War II’ in Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, No. 16, 1988.
(12) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘The interests of the German Community in the 1890s in South Australia in the 1890s’, Constitutional Museum, Adelaide 1983.
(13) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘The Historic Importance of Hahndorf’ in Hahndorf Past Present and Future, Department of Continuing Ed., University of Adelaide, Adelaide 1976.
(14) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘Teutons in South Australia’ in Tradition, June 1974.
(15) Harmstorf, I.; Marsden, A.: ‘The Townscape of Hahndorf’ in Environs, October 1976.
(16) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘German as a Community Language’ in S.A. Teachers Journal, No. 5, December 1979.
(17) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘The German Experience in South Australia’ in History Forum, July 1981.
(18) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘Australians or Aliens?’, Constitutional Museum, Adelaide 1984.
(19) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘The Germans in South Australia’ in South Australia 1855, Constitutional Museum, Adelaide 1981.
(20) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘Unsere Deutsche Vergangenheit’ in Das Band – South Australian German Association, March 1988.
(21) Holthouse, E.: ‘Reminiscences of the Old Port’ in South Australiana, Vol. 20, No. 1, March 1981.
(22) Kraehenbuehl, D.: ‘The Life and Works of J. G. D. Tepper FLS and his association with the Field Naturalists Section of the Royal Society of South Australia’ in S.A. Naturalist, Vol. 44, No. 2, December 1969.
(23) Lehmann, H.: ‘South Australian German Lutherans in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century: a Case of Rejected Assimilation’ in Journal of Intercultural Studies, Vol. 2, No. 2, 1981.
(24) McCredie, A. D.: ‘German Musical Traditions in South Australia’ in Harmstorf, I.; Schwerdtfeger, P. (eds): The German Experience of South Australia 1833—1938. Flinders University, Adelaide 1988.
(25) Meyer, C.: ‘The Germans in Victoria 1849—1900’ in Journal of the Royal Historical Society, Vol. 68, Pt 1, June 1982.
(26) O’Neill, B.: ‘Johannes Menge (1788—1852), Father of Australian Mineralogy’ in Harmstorf, I.; Schwerdtfeger, P. (eds): The German Experience of Australia 1833—1938. Flinders University, Adelaide 1988.
(27) Payne, P.: ‘Richard Moritz Schomburgk, Second Director of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens 1865—1891’ in Harmstorf, I.; Schwerdtfeger, P. (eds): The German Experience of Australia 1833—1938. Flinders University, Adelaide 1988.
(28) Peake, A. G.: ‘Deed Poll Name Changes in South Australia’ in The South Australian Genealogist, Vol. 13, No. 4, October 1986.
(29) Price, C. A.: ‘German Settlers in South Australia 1838—1900’ in Historical Studies in Australia and New Zealand, May 1951.
(30) Sellick, J. W.: ‘The Trouble with my Looking Glass: A study of the Attitudes to Germans during the Great War’ in Journal of Australian Studies, No. 6, June 1980.
(31) Schumann, Ruth: ‘…in the Hands of the Lord: The Society of Jesus in Colonial South Australia’ in Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, No. 14, 1986.
(32) Teusner, M.: ‘Johann Menge 1788—1852’ in Barossa Historic Bulletin, Vol. 1, No. 5, 1978.
(33) Tilby Stock, J.: ‘South Australia’s German Vote in World War I’ in Australian Journal of History and Politics, Vol. 28, No. 2, 1982.
(34) Triebel, L. A.: ‘The Early South Australian German Settlers’ in Tasmanian Historical Research Association Papers and Proceedings, Vol. 13, No. 3, 1960.
(35) Triebel, L. A.: ‘Johann Menge, an Eccentric German Scientist in South Australia’ in Tasmanian Historical Research Association, Vol. 11, No. 2, December 1963.
(36) Triebel, L. A.: ‘A Carl Linger Letter’ in South Australiana, Vol. II, No. 1, March 1963.
(37) van Abbe, D.: ‘The Germans in South Australia’ in Australian Quarterly, September 1956.
(38) van Abbe, D.: ‘The Germans in South Australia’ in German Life and Letters, Vol. 12—13, 1958.
(39) van Abbe, D.: ‘The Interests of the South Australian German Press in the Nineteenth Century’ in Historical Studies in Australia and New Zealand, No. 31, 1958.
(40) Walker, R.: ‘German Language Press and People: South Australia, 1848—1900’ in Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 58, Pt. 2, June 1972.
(41) Walker, R.: ‘Some Social and Political Aspects of German Settlement to 1914’ in Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 61/1, March 1975.
(42) Watts, D. J. B.: ‘Captain D. M. Hahn and the First Special Survey’ in South Australiana, Vol. 20, No. 1, 1981. (This edition also carries two further unacknowledged articles: ‘Letters to G. F. Angas by D. McLaren, J. Menge, C. Flaxman and A. L. C. Kavel 1838—1839’, and ‘German Colonists as seen by the Press 1839’, South Australian Colonial Register.)
(43) Woodburn, S.: ‘Heinicke’s Grand Orchestra: The Reminiscences of Herrmann Heinicke’ in South Australiana, Vol. 22, 1983.


The theses listed below are those that deal specifically with the Germans in South Australia with the exception of music theses. These are of a highly specialised nature but information on them can be obtained through the Music Department of the University of Adelaide. Other theses, especially those dealing with World War I, usually have references to South Australian Germans as do many books on the subject. Pointers to additional sources of information on specific aspects of the Germans in South Australia may be found in either the references or the bibliographies in some of the theses listed above. As new thesis and articles are constantly being written the above lists are by no means definitive.

(1) Bishop, L.: ‘Blood is Thicker Than Water’, Perception of the German Threat in South Australia During World War I, B.A. Hons. thesis, University of Adelaide 1988.
(2) Brasse, L.: ‘German Colonial Architecture in South Australia’, S.A. Institute of Technology, Department of Architecture, Thesis 1975.
(3) Carmichael, L.: ‘Government Sponsored Immigration – a Comparison of Two Major Periods of German Migration to South Australia, 1836—1906 and 1947—1971’, Torrens College of Advanced Education 1973. (Now the University of South Australia, Underdale.)
(4) Davies, D.: ‘Australian-Britons and German-Australians Public attitudes to German Settlers in South Australia 1870—1914’, B.A. Hons., University of Adelaide 1975.
(5) Ferguson, B. A.: ‘Patriotism in a Country Town: Mt. Gambier in the period of the Great War’, B.A. Hons, Adelaide 1973. (Chapter 5 on the position of the local German-Australian community.)
(6) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘Germans in the South Australian Parliament 1857—1900’, B.A. Hons, University of Adelaide 1959.
(7) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘German Migration with Particular Reference to Hamburg to South Australia 1851—1884’, M.A., University of Adelaide 1971.
(8) Harmstorf, I. A.: ‘Guests or Fellow-countrymen: A Study in Assimilation: An Aspect of the German Community in South Australia 1836—1918’, Ph.D., Flinders University 1987.
(9) Kaukas, A.: ‘The Internment of German Nationals Living in Australia, in particular those living in South Australia’, B.A. Hons, University of Adelaide 1983.
(10) Pech, B.: Augustus Kavel 1798—1860′, B.A. Hons, University of Adelaide 1967.
(11) Krips, M.: A History of Music in South Australia before 1900′, B.A. Hons, University of Adelaide 1973. (Thesis stresses the contribution of the German settlers.)
(12) Paul, P.: ‘Das Barossa Deutsche’, M.A., University of Adelaide 1965.
(13) Sabel, A.: ‘Immanuel College at Point Pass; the Foundation years 1895—1922’, Murray Park College of Advanced Education, 1973. (Now the University of South Australia, Magill).
(14) Schaefer, T.: ‘The Treatment of Germans in South Australia: 1914—1918’, B.A. Hons, Flinders University 1972.
(15) Scheimchen, H. L.: ‘The Hermannsburg Mission Society in Australia, 1866—1895: changing missionary attitudes and their effects on the aboriginal inhabitants’, B.A., University of Adelaide 1971. (16) Schulz, E.: ‘Guilty till Proven Innocent’, B.Ed. thesis, SACAE Salisbury 1987.
(17) Wallace, P. V.: ‘Parliamentary Attitudes towards the German Population in SA 1914—1918’, B.A. Hons, Flinders University 1972.
(18) Zweck, J.: ‘Church and State Relationships as they Affected the Lutheran Church and its Schools in South Australia’, M.Ed., University of Melbourne 1971. (Available through the University of Adelaide.)



There are articles about individual Germans in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Other than those mentioned above there are numerous articles about various aspects of Lutheran life in early South Australia in the Year Books of the Lutheran Church of Australia.

In the Mortlock Library there is a large selection of family histories, many of which have been written by people of German descent. The standard of historical accuracy varies but all contain extensive and accurate genealogical tables. The German newspapers published in South Australia are also held on microfilm in this library as well as the University of Adelaide. The ‘South Australiana Source Sheet No. 12’, also held in the Mortlock, is an excellent guide to the published sources on Germans held in the Mortlock and Bray Library Collections.

The Adelaide Hills Tourist Information Centre, 64 Main St., Hahndorf has various books about Germans in South Australia including Barossa Bibliography by Reg Butler (Hahndorf 1992). This book contains references to many smaller works about towns in the Barossa as well as a more general bibliography.

There have from time to time also been articles about Germans in the popular press. Among these are:

(1) ‘They Worked Hard and Prayed Long’, The Bulletin Sydney 10/7/76.
(2) ‘Pride of the Princess’, Advertiser Adelaide 2/12/89.
(The story of the ship Princess Louise.)

There are many books, both descriptive and novels, written about local areas in which Germans settled. This is particularly true of Hahndorf and the Barossa Valley. These books are readily available in their local areas. Of these books the novels by Colin Thiele are the best known. Neither the descriptive books nor novels have been included in this survey.

Author’s Note: Although there is some overlap in some of the articles and even, occasionally, repetition, each article has a different thrust and centres around a different theme. Both the History and German Teachers Associations have been kind enough to overview the articles for their relevance to South Australian Certificate of Education topics within the respective disciplines. I should particularly like to thank Dr Tony Stimson and Mr Geoff Howe of Eynesbury College for their help in the initial selection of articles.