Reinhard Waldsax, born in 1907 as Reinhard Waldsachs, was forced to abandon his stellar career at the University of Bonn when the Nazis came to power in 1933. He set up a private dental practice in Berlin but then chose to leave Germany altogether in 1935, making the United Kingdom his home. In 1940 he was interned and soon became one of the German antifascists sent to Australia aboard the Dunera.
At the Hay camp in New South Wales and later at Loveday in South Australia he was able to spend much of his time working in the field in which he was very highly qualified. His own records indicate that while at Hay – from October 1940 to May 1941 – he had 641 patients and 2896 appointments, performed 345 extractions, 718 temporary fillings, 509 cement fillings and 487 amalgam fillings. All of this and much more was done in quite primitive conditions, at times with implements Waldsax himself made, and for a financial reward of just a shilling a day. According to the Official Visitor, in Hay 16 cases of impacted wisdom teeth had to be operated on with a table-screw turned into a chisel and a self-made wooden mallet.
Waldsax was one of those who chose after his release from internment in 1943 to return to London, where he set up a private practice. After the war he sought to re-establish links between international dental organisations and those in his German homeland. His efforts were later honoured by the German government; Waldsax died in 1995.
NLA, Reinhard Waldsax papers, MS 10110.
Peter Monteath, Captured Lives: Australia’s Wartime Internment Camps, Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2018.