Conor Brockbank, Modern History Graduate, Aberystwyth University
The final blog focusing on the evacuated University College London (UCL) students will explore the life stories and experiences of nine students who ended up being interned in either Australia or Canada, far away from both their safe haven of Aberystwyth and their homelands of Germany and Austria. According to the historian Rachel Pistol, the British Government made the decision in 1940 to move some internees away from Britain and to the dominions of the British Empire, namely Australia and Canada, to prevent internees helping the Nazis in the case of the potential invasion of Britain.
This decision to move some of those deemed “enemy aliens” to Canada or Australia was not initially known publicly. It became public, however, with the sinking of the ship the Arandora Star on 2 July 1940, according to the political scientist Neil Stammers. This ship was carrying internees to Canada when it was torpedoed leaving only 600 survivors from the 1,900 people onboard. In the British Government’s admission on the radio on 3 July, according to Stammers, they argued that those on board were Nazi sympathisers and Italian fascists. Despite the government’s admission, as the following life stories demonstrate, they also sent internees who had been deemed “enemy aliens” on similar ships to the Arandora Star who were clearly neither sympathisers nor fascists to be interned in Australia and Canada.
One such internee was Heinrich Eugen Nowottny, the only UCL student who was interned in Australia out of the nine whose life stories will be explored. Heinrich was born on 11 June 1912 in Germany. It is unclear how Heinrich fled Germany and ended up becoming a UCL student, but he was evacuated alongside his fellow students to Aberystwyth at the beginning of the 1939 academic year and lived at 5 North Road. It was while Heinrich was living there that he was interned on 25 June 1940 and later sent to Australia on the HMT Dunera on 10 July. This journey on the Dunera, according to German studies academic J.M. Ritchie, was unbearable and the guards on board reportedly robbed the internees.
Heinrich himself appears in a photograph on a webpage of the National Museum Australia that focuses on internees who arrived in Australia on the Dunera. From this photograph, it appears that Heinrich was interned in the Tatura Camp in Victoria. Heinrich remained there for nearly two years before his release was authorised on 5 January 1942. He returned to Britain on the SS Themistocles and was released on arrival on 6October 1942. Heinrich then lived in Oxfordshire for the rest of his life. There, he married Winifred Dodds in 1948 and then became a naturalised British citizen and changed his name to Henry Eugen Nowottny in September 1959. By the late 1950s, Henry was a technical translator and lecturer. He passed away in 2001 in Oxfordshire.
The remaining eight UCL students were all interned in Canada, including Paul Mandl. Paul was born on 9 February 1917 in Vienna, Austria and became a refugee from Nazism in England, where he began studying at UCL. From there, he was evacuated to Aberystwyth in 1939 and lived at 32 Portland Street. Paul remarked in a student magazine, according to the social historian Georgina Brewis, that Aberystwyth and Wales more generally reminded him of Austria due to their social and geographical similarities. While in Aberystwyth he also took an active role in student activities. This time for Paul was one he looked back fondly on, as he recalled in a letter written in March 1943 to the University College of Wales (UCW), Aberystwyth’s student magazine, Y Ddraig, The Dragon:
I’ll never forget the session 1939-40 in Aber, where staff and students showed such profound sympathy with the victim of Nazi barbarism. I would like to thank you all for everything you did to make me feel at home at the College by the Sea.
However, this safe haven and the fun he was clearly having alongside his studies in Aberystwyth was not to last, as he was interned in June 1940, a week after his university exams had finished. He was then boarded on the SS Ettrick for internment in Canada on 3 July 1940 and was interned in ‘A’ Internment Camp in Farnham, Quebec. His release was not authorised until May 1942 and by the Christmas of that year, he was able to continue his university studies albeit a full term behind, on this occasion in Canada itself at the University of Toronto. This came as a great relief to Paul, who recalled in the same letter to The Dragon, that upon his internment he ‘felt that I never again would be able to study at a University’. The University of Toronto soon began to feel like home, much like Aberystwyth had before his internment. However, on this occasion this was partly due to the stark contrast of interment and the freedom he now experienced, rather than the similarities of home and the safe haven which Aberystwyth offered, as he remarked, again in the same letter, that:
Obviously this [Toronto] is home cheerfully, as nothing is so dear as one’s personal freedom.
Paul clearly became settled in Canada, as he remained there for the rest of his life, other than sabbaticals in his hometown, at the University of Vienna and at the Institute of Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria. Canada, however, was where he spent most of his academic career, as he gained his BA and MA from the University of Toronto. He then went on to undertake research at the National Research Council in Ottawa between 1945 to 1967, and during this time he gained his PhD from Toronto in 1951. Paul was professor of Mathematics at Carleton University in Ottawa from 1967 to 1982. In 1997, the Dr. Paul Mandl bursary was established there by Paul and his colleagues to be awarded annually to students in the Honours Mathematics program at Carleton. Paul passed away in August 2010 in Ottawa, Canada.
Another UCL student who was also interned in Canada via the SS Ettrick was Carel Paul Erwin Eichwald. Carel’s life has been greatly recorded by his son in a series of articles in 2005 for the BBC’s WW2 People’s War archive as well as in a 1985 essay that Carel himself wrote recollecting his experiences for a history course at the University of New England in Australia. (The WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories with contributions from members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar). Carel was born on 11 March 1920 in Amsterdam, when his mother was travelling through the Netherlands on her way back to Germany from seeing her family in England, where she was born. Carel spent his childhood in Schönberg, near Frankfurt in Germany. After the rise of Adolf Hitler in 1933, the Eichwalds, a Jewish family, began to make plans for their future in England, such as getting guests who stayed with them in Germany to pay into an English bank account they set up for this purpose.
Carel’s parents sent him to England after finishing school in 1936 to the safety of his mother’s brother and sister-in-law who lived there. Carel attempted to return to Germany that Christmas but was turned back by the Gestapo and was, according to an account written by his son in 2005, told that if he returned, he would be sent to a concentration camp. He began his studies at UCL in 1937 and by 1939 was reunited with his parents after they fled Frankfurt during the 1938 November pogrom, where Jewish businesses and properties were attacked. Along with many of his fellow UCL students, Carel was also evacuated to Aberystwyth at the beginning of the 1939 academic year and he initially lived at Glynderwen on Trinity Road. According to Carel’s 1985 essay, his first tribunal he attended at Aberystwyth resulted in him ‘within minutes’ being classified as category ‘C’ due to his connections to England on his mother’s side.
However, much like Paul Mandl this educational haven was not to last, as he was interned in June 1940. Carel recalls in his 1985 essay the night of 25 June when he was taken from his accommodation of Courtlands on Queens Road in Aberystwyth and put into a cell at the local police station:
[M]y landlady knocked on my bedroom door. “Couple of gentlemen downstairs to see you, Mr. E!” They apologised: “We’ve been instructed to intern you, Fifth Column scare – sorry about it, but it’ll be temporary only; then you’ll be out again. They gave me time to dress and pack, write a note to my parents, then locked me in a police cell at Aberystwyth.
He was then taken via Brecon and Cardiff to Liverpool, where he remained in an internment camp, until along with Paul Mandl and many others he was boarded onto the SS Ettrick for interment in Canada. Carel and his fellow passengers on the Ettrick were not informed of their destination, according to Carel, so boarded the ship completely unaware of where they would end up. After arriving in Canada, he was initially interned with Luftwaffe and those who had been determined category A at the tribunals, until his refugee status was acknowledged. These internees were Nazis and Nazi sympathisers and were the exact kind of people that Carel and his family had fled from in Germany. He was eventually transferred to the same internment camp as Paul Mandl in Farnham, Quebec. Contrary to the claims of the sympathetic police officers who picked up Carel in Aberystwyth, however, his interment was not temporary, as his release was not authorised from this internment camp until February 1941 and upon his release, he was 3,049 miles away from where he was picked up in Aberystwyth.
Carel returned on the SS Thysville to England. According to an article written by the editor in the Spring 1941 edition of the UCL student magazine the New Phineas, Carel had joined the Pioneer Corps and was at their training centre in Ilfracombe, Devon. In this article entitled ‘News of Internees’, Carel also shared the status, locations and camps of fellow UCL students who had been evacuated to Aberystwyth and then were interned in Canada, including Peter Ulrich Weichmann, Hugo Erhard Rolf Landsberg, George Brandt, Immanuel Goldschmidt and Werner Max Wolf. Through this article, UCL students were encouraged to begin a letter writing campaign to those students who had been interned and to make sure this was done frequently and that the letters should be lengthy.
Carel married Thalia Allen, a fellow UCL student who had also been evacuated to Aberystwyth in 1939, in Kent in 1942. Around this time, Carel also changed his name to Paul Elwell, which, according to Carel, was so he could join the fighting units of the war. Paul was demobbed in July 1946 after serving in reconnaissance and the intelligence corps as well as on the Italian front. He emigrated to Australia in 1948 to work in a department store and removals company in Sydney and worked there until retiring in 1981. His second attempt at a university degree in New England was unsuccessful as he suffered a brain haemorrhage and until he passed away in 2004, he was incapacitated.
Peter Ulrich Weichmann, the first of the four interned students who Paul Elwell shared their locations to the New Phineas, was born on 9 November 1921 in Charlottenburg, Berlin. By 1939, Peter and his mother and father, Alfred and Dorothea were living in Stanley Gardens in Notting Hill. Alfred had found a job as a BBC announcer and Peter had begun his studies at UCL. It is unclear when the Weichmanns left Germany and arrived in London. After Peter was evacuated to Aberystwyth later in 1939, he found accommodation at 55 Bridge Street. He was interned from there in June 1940 and unlike Paul and Carel, Peter was boarded on to the MS Sobiecki for internment in Canada on 4 July 1940. Like Paul and later Carel, he also was interned in Internment Camp A in Farnham, Quebec. His release was not authorised until 14 August 1941, and he was not officially released for another six days. Peter returned to Britain and became a naturalised British citizen at the same time as his parents in July 1947, changing his name to Peter Tom Ulrich Wykeman. He went on to marry Daphne Trice in Hampstead in 1961 and moved to Surrey in 1966. Peter worked in the iron and steel industry first in London and then later in Brussels. He passed away in 1987 in Surrey.
Another interned UCL student whose location was revealed by Paul Elwell, Hugo Erhard Rolf Landsberg, was hard to track beyond his release from interment. Hugo was born on 28 February 1920 in Berlin. How and when he came to England is unclear, but he was evacuated as a UCL student in 1939 to Aberystwyth and lived at Fedw in Custom House Street. He was interned from Custom House Street on 21 June 1940. Hugo was then moved to Canada but unlike Paul, Carel and Peter, he was interned in Internment Camp I, which was located elsewhere in Quebec. His release and return to Britain were authorised on 12 November 1941. What happened to Hugo beyond that is unclear.
In comparison, much more is known about George Brandt, another of those listed by Paul Elwell in the New Phineas. George was born on 20 October 1920 in Berlin and his family left Germany in 1933 not long after the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. He began studying as a Modern Languages student at UCL in 1938 and was evacuated to Aberystwyth at the beginning of his second year. George lived at 38 Portland Street during his time in Aberystwyth and became actively involved in student activities, whether that be assisting in editing the New Phineas or writing poetry and reporting on societies who had been evacuated to Aberystwyth for the magazine. He was also actively involved in the University College, London, Jewish Students’ Society, which had found a new home in King Street in Aberystwyth. The Jewish Chronicle reported that George was involved in discussions that the society hosted on topics like the Creation Chapter in Genesis and Evolution in October 1939.
This activity came to an end when he was interned in June 1940. George was, however, allowed to take his final exams before his internment. He was then interned in Internment Camp N in Sherbrooke, in the Southern district of Quebec, Canada. George was released as a student from internment on 4 October 1941. He carried on his university education in Canada, gaining an MA from the University of Winnipeg in 1945. After completing his MA, he worked at the National Film Board of Canada until he left to return to England in 1949 with his new wife, Toni. In 1951 he joined the drama department of the University of Bristol. George remained at the university for the rest of his academic career, being appointed to the newly created position of Director of Film Studies in 1971. According to George’s obituary in the Guardian, he was in this position and throughout his academic career, an essential player in introducing practical film and television studies to universities in Britain. He retired from the University of Bristol in 1986 and passed away in September 2007.
Immanuel Goldschmidt, who was also interned in Canada, was a fellow member of the UCL Jewish Students’ Society, alongside George. He was born on 15 July 1921 in Berlin. By 1939, he had left Berlin and was a law student at UCL and was living in Lingfield, Surrey at the same address as his future wife, Elsie Tanner, who he married in 1944. When Immanuel was evacuated to Aberystwyth, he initially lived at 67 North Parade and later moved to Aventine on Cliff Terrace. Here one of his roommates was the future sixth president of Israel, Chaim Herzog. He was an active member of the Jewish Students’ Society along with Chaim and George, taking part in discussion topics such as ‘The Poetry of the Psalms’ in October 1939, according to a report in the Jewish Chronicle.
Immanuel was later interned in Canada, as recalled in Chaim’s biography in 1996, being boarded on to the MS Sobiecki on the same day as Peter Ulrich Weichmann. Immanuel was interned further to the east in Fredericton, New Brunswick in Internment Camp B. He was later released and arrived back in Britain on the MS Indrapoera on 30 June 1941. Immanuel graduated from university the following year. Like Carel, he then went on to serve in the war for the British forces. Immanuel became a naturalised British citizen in 1947, changing his surname to Goldsmith. By 1950, he was admitted to practice law in England. In 1959, along with his wife, Elsie, he moved back to Canada, where he was required to take a bar admissions course at Osgoode Hall Law School in Ontario, before he could practise law. Immanuel then established himself as a lawyer in Canada, becoming a partner in the law firm Caswell & Goldsmith. In 1970, he was appointed to the Queens Counsel. He also published books on building contracts and personal injuries and death in Canada, which were well received and republished. Immanuel passed away in Toronto, Canada in July 2003.
Werner Max Wolf is the final evacuated UCL student whose life and subsequent internment in Canada will be explored. Werner was born on 28 February 1919 in Berlin. By the time of UCL’s evacuation to Aberystwyth, Werner was undertaking a BSc there and moved into 8 Eastgate Street. He later moved to 67 North Parade, which may have crossed over with the time Immanuel was living at this address. Before he was interned, Werner was fined £5 for being in possession of information useful to the enemy. It is not clear what this information entailed but it was clearly judged to be serious enough at the time to warrant a fine. In mid-1940, Werner was interned and moved to Canada and was not released until September 1941, after being returned to Britain on the SS Thysville in January of that year. Werner did not return to Aberystwyth and settled in London, where by 1947 he was working as a research chemist. By 1966, he had moved to Co. Durham in England and was working for Chemical Compounds Ltd.
Overall, internment in Australia and Canada for many of the UCL students, such as Paul, George and Immanuel, meant the sudden and complete cessation of their contributions to the wider evacuated UCL student life in Aberystwyth, as many had active roles in student journalism for the New Phineas or in various student societies. Internment in Australia or Canada meant being moved thousands of miles, not long after leaving Germany or Austria and their subsequent evacuation to Aberystwyth from London. Many of them also faced longer periods of interment than their fellow students who had been interned on the Isle of Man, with internment periods for UCL students in Australia and Canada being between 12 to 23 months longer.
Internment in Canada also influenced the future paths some of these students took after their release, as many of them remained or ended up returning to Canada to make and build a life for themselves there. Others returned to Britain and their lives took a variety of different paths; some became naturalised British citizens, many married, a few gained jobs in teaching, chemistry or the iron and steel industry and others emigrated in the pursuit of work and a life elsewhere. None of these students, apart from Paul Mandl, seem to have returned to Germany or Austria on a semi-permanent or permanent basis.
UCL students, staff and their families who were evacuated to Aberystwyth were the largest group of refugees from National Socialism who were either internment tribunal attendees, or who were later interned from Aberystwyth and the surrounding areas. However, they did not make up the whole of this group of refugees, with others who were from the art and agricultural industries as well as the domestic services finding refugee in Aberystwyth and the surrounding areas. Their life stories, internment tribunals decisions and for some their subsequent internments will be addressed in the following blogposts in this series.
NB. This blog was written in conjunction with the Aberystwyth at War project. The blog can also be found on their project website.
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Photos used with the permission of Archifdy Ceredigion Archives, Aberystwyth.