Gerhard Warschauer was born in 1908 Tremessen in what was then Germany; it is now Trzemeszno in central Poland. He studied engineering in Berlin and Munich before pursuing a career in Berlin.
Warschauer left Berlin as a single man in 1937 to make his way to Australia, supported by the Australian Jewish Welfare Society and with the offer of a job when he arrived in Australia. His departure from his homeland was the result of the realisation that the future for Jews like him in Germany was very bleak.
In April 1938 Warschauer married a New Zealander, Sheila Vincent, whom he had met during his voyage to Australia. At the outbreak of war he was living with her, his mother Rosa (who arrived in Australia in February 1939) and his baby son Lawrence in Bondi, while working as an electrical fitter at the White Bay Power Station in Sydney. A security assessment of him shortly after the outbreak of war (see below) claimed, ‘This German may be there [that is, at the power station] at the behest of influential NAZIS in Australia, and his being in such a vulnerable position should be immediately investigated; HE IS NOT THERE FOR THE GOOD OF AUSTRALIA.’ Shortly thereafter, on 19 September, he was arrested and interned but then released on 25 October, after his wife had vehemently affirmed his loyalty to Australia, and after a firm offer had been received to employ him in rural New South Wales.
In June of the following year, however, he was re-interned and held in the camp at Orange in New South Wales before transfer to Tatura in Victoria. Once again, his wife appealed vigorously against her husband’s internment, pointing to the particular cruelty that he was forced to live in detention with Nazis. Her efforts, amply supported by others who knew Warschauer, fell on deaf ears. The authorities insisted: ‘It has been found in several cases where a wife has made application for the release of a husband, she is quite unable to make any suggestion as to how the husband is to support himself in the event of his release. The wives are in receipt of State assistance, and usually after discussion they appreciate the fact that it would be particularly difficult for the husband to obtain employment, in view of the strong dislike of Australian employees to work with enemy aliens.’
Warschauer’s attempt to gain his liberty by appearing before the Aliens Tribunal No 1 (Victoria) in late March 1941 failed. In February of 1942 he was transferred to Loveday, where he was detained in Compound 14D. As in Tatura, there seemed little appreciation among the Loveday authorities of the difficulties faced by a Jewish anti-Nazi living in a population that included Nazi sympathisers. Indeed, Warschauer wrote in a letter to his wife, ‘Because we are anti-Nazi we are even more distrusted than the Nazis themselves.’
In time, however, Loveday authorities came to regard Warschauer as a model internee who would pose no threat in the wider community. Like other Jewish refugees, he was formally reclassified as ‘Refugee Alien’ rather than an ‘Enemy Alien’. He was released from internment by order of the Director-General of Security in July 1943 and enrolled for employment in the Civil Aliens Corps under the direction of the Allied Works Council. In that capacity he worked for a time in the Barossa Camp in Williamstown, later in Adelaide.
His older brother Heinz, born in 1903, unlike his mother and brother, was unable to flee Nazi Germany. An application made by Sheila to bring Heinz to Australia was unsuccessful. He was deported to Auschwitz in February 1943 – when Gerhard was in Loveday – and murdered there.
After the war Gerhard gained an engineering position at the Weapons Research Establishment, was naturalised in 1946 and built a home in Underdale. He and Sheila had three children. Gerhard died at the age of 61 in 1969.
NAA: D4880, GERMAN/WARSCHAUER G. WARSCHAUER Gerhard Erich born 1908 - Nationality: German - Arrived Sydney per Orion 20 October 1937
NAA: MP1103/1, PWN1153, Prisoner of War/Internee: Warschauer, Gerhard Erich; Date of birth - 18 June 1908; Nationality – German
NAA: ST1233/1, N19921, Mrs Sheila Amy Warschauer [Applicant] Heinz Joseph Warschauer [Nominee] Gerhard Erich Warschauer [Application for Naturalisation] [Interned] [Applicant] Rosa Warschauer [Nominee] [Includes names of other internees] [Box 73]
Sam Bradbrook, ‘Gerhard Warschauer fled the Nazis, but was arrested after seeking refuge in Australia’, posted Sunday 9 May 2021, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-05-09/loveday-internment-nazis/100115732
With thanks to Elizabeth Warschauer for information and assistance.