Alfred Freund, as he was born, was the son of a doctor of Bohemian Jewish background. Dr Carl Freund practised medicine in Vienna, where he became all too aware of the latent anti-Semitism which, around the turn of the century, was finding open expression in Austrian politics. Such was the depth of ill-will that Dr Freund was persuaded to convert to Catholicism, which he did in 1901. Several years later – in 1908 – he married Maria Zinnbauer, whose forebears had migrated to Austria from Bavaria in the middle of the nineteenth century. Maria was Catholic, so it was no surprise that their son, Alfred, who was born in 1910, was baptised and raised as a Catholic, but in 1928 he converted to the Lutheran faith. He remained aware that his Jewish roots might at some point count against him. To this end he added to his existing family name ‘Freund’ the less ambiguously Germanic-sounding ‘Zinnbauer’, his mother’s maiden name. Thus he became Alfred Freund-Zinnbauer.
After graduating in 1934 he became assistant to an elderly pastor in a place called Wallern, west of Vienna, where he was ordained in 1936. Alas, his Jewish roots did stifle his Church career in Austria from the beginning. Although the annexation of Austria was not to occur until 1938, and although he enjoyed widespread support, the depth of anti-Semitism was such that he was dismissed from the parish in the middle of 1937, forcing him to return to Vienna and to contemplate emigration.
Just a few days after the German invasion of Austria in March 1938, Alfred married, but he and his wife Helga resolved that they had no future in Austria, prompting Alfred to write to Pastor Johannes Stolz of the Lutheran Church in Adelaide to see if he might help them migrate to South Australia. Though it took many months, the efforts of Stolz and others on behalf of the couple ultimately bore fruit. After a period in the United Kingdom they were finally able to leave for Australia in January 1940, by which time they were ‘enemy aliens’.
Alfred at first found work among the congregation in North Adelaide, but in June of 1940 two policemen appeared at his door with a warrant for his arrest. The warrant declared that it was the opinion of the Commandant of the 4th Military District that for public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth the ‘enemy alien’ Alfred Freund-Zinnbauer should be detained for the duration of the war. Information, it seems, had been received which suggested that the Freund-Zinnbauers possessed an overly positive view of their homeland.
Alfred was initially taken to the City Watchhouse and from there to the army barracks in the Adelaide suburb of Keswick. Several days later he was transferred to the Tatura internment camp in Victoria, a destination he shared with many other detainees of German background, not all of them ill-disposed toward their Fatherland. In January 1942 he was transferred to Loveday.
It was not until February 1944 that he was released from Loveday, having been re-classified as a ‘refugee alien’. He received a call as a City Missioner for the Lutheran Church in Adelaide and was installed at a service held on 10 May 1945, just as peace was being declared in his native Europe. To be City Missioner meant performing a wide range of tasks, including caring for Lutherans in old people’s homes, hospitals and gaols, or Lutherans who were away from their country parishes. Freund-Zinnbauer also pursued an activity he had commenced before his internment – he paid visits to visiting Scandinavian vessels in Adelaide’s Outer Harbour and offered to take the seamen on trips through Adelaide and the surrounding areas. This concern for the well-being of outsiders extended also to his tireless work for immigrants, whom he would greet on the wharves or railway platforms of Adelaide and then find new homes or lodgings for them. From 1951 his duties included the managing of the Marlborough Street Lutheran Hostel, a kind of halfway house for immigrants and travellers. In 1963 he initiated the Johannes Stolz Prize, of which he was also benefactor, as a tribute to his mentor. The prize was to be awarded to a migrant who had achieved well. In congratulating its first recipient, Freund-Zinnbauer wrote, ‘Dr Stolz was interested in migrants. When people fled from Hitler’s Germany, he helped many to escape to Australia.’ Pastor Freund-Zinnbauer died in 1978, his wife Helga two years later.
Margaret Rilett, And You Took Me In: Alfred and Helga Freund-Zinnbauer. A Biography, Adelaide: Lutheran Publishing House, 1992.
Erna Mayer-Lange, Niemand hat größere Liebe. Pastor Alfred Freund-Zinnbauer. Eine biographische Zusammenstellung aus persönlich Erlebtem, Dokumenten und Berichten von Zeitgenossen, Adelaide: Lutheran Publishing House, 1989.
Peter Monteath, Dear Dr Janzow: Australia's Lutheran churches and refugees from Hitler's Germany, Adelaide: Australian Humanities Press, 2005.