Michael Glas was an Austrian, born in Trieste in 1896, and had served in the First World War. He fled to England in 1938 with Alice Lichtblau, whom he married soon after. Both were detained there as a result of Churchill’s ‘collar the lot’ policy. On his way to Canada in 1940, the vessel in which Glas was travelling, the Arandora Star, was sunk by a German U-boat with great loss of life. Having managed to survive that catastrophe, Glas was sent to Australia aboard the Dunera. His wife Alice, however, was left behind as in internee on the Isle of Man.
The National Library of Australia holds the moving correspondence between Michael and Alice Glas, a couple separated by a war and by half the world. Michael’s letters give some insight into his mental state during the difficult months he spent in the Tatura and Loveday camps. On 7 November 1940 he lamented:
I have buried even the most modest and reasonable hopes. In order to be able to live at all I have suspended my sense of reason and allowed a crust to form around my soul. In other words, I live only in the present; following reason I can see no future. That requires also tearing myself away from the past; no feeling from past times and no hope for the future come near me. I appear to myself like a living corpse.
A rare source of solace came to him in the thought that one day he and Alice would finally be reunited. Three weeks after his baleful letter he wrote more hopefully:
Dear child, you know that I have just one wish in this life, and that is to see you once more! I have the feeling that with the fulfilment of this wish everything, everything would be good again. Just how much sorrow and suffering is contained in this ‘everything’ you can guess – but only guess.
Like many of the ‘Dunera boys’, on release in September 1942 Glas joined the 8th Employment Company of the Australian Army, where he served until his discharge at the end of the war.
NLA. Papers of Michael Glas, 1938-1945, Bib ID 6222038
NAA: B884, V501547, GLAS MICHAEL: Service Number - V501547
Peter Monteath, Captured Lives: Australia’s Wartime Internment Camps, Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2018.