The Evacuated German and Austrian Students and Staff of University College London in Aberystwyth during the Second World War: 2. Interned UCL Students & Staff on the Isle of Man

Conor Brockbank, Modern History Graduate, Aberystwyth University

Part two of this blogpost series will explore the individual stories of the one University College London (UCL) student and four members of staff who faced internment on the Isle of Man after they had been evacuated to Aberystwyth. As it had been during the First World War, the Isle of Man was used as a place to intern people. Klaus Albrecht Mayer was the only UCL student to be interned on the Isle of Man who is featured in this blog. Klaus, pictured below, was born in Mainz, Germany on 17 November 1918 and was evacuated alongside his fellow UCL students to Aberystwyth in 1939. Klaus lived at 18 Marine Terrace in Aberystwyth until he was interned in June 1940. After Klaus was released in November 1940, he returned to Aberystwyth and lived at 43 Cambrian Street. It is unclear what direction his life took after this.

Klaus Albrecht Mayer (b.1918), photo within Police Memorandum Book inscribed ‘Aliens’ Photographs’, H.W.?Owen, MUS/204, Archifdy Ceredigion Archives

Internment was not only the fate of evacuated UCL students but also a very small number of staff who were also interned on the Isle of Man. Karl-Werner Paul Maurer, who was born on 24 June 1905 in Esslingen, Germany, had been a lecturer in German at UCL since 1931. Karl-Werner had previously taught at the University of Dijon and Bonn before being appointed there. He was evacuated along with the rest of his department at the beginning of the 1939 academic year. Karl-Werner and his wife Sheila moved from Taviston Street in Euston, Camden into Jasper House on Great Darkgate Street in Aberystwyth. However, in June 1940, alongside his colleague Robert Pick, an Austrian lecturer in the department who was later the editor at Alfred A. Knopf publishing house in New York in the 1950s, he was interned on the Isle of Man. This was met by his fellow colleagues in the department with much protest.

Both Karl-Werner and Robert were released after a short period, which came as great news to the UCL evacuated German department, which had been very stretched to cover the work of two interned colleagues. Sheila left Aberystwyth during Karl-Werner’s internment and there are no records to substantiate if she returned, but it is most likely that she did as Karl-Werner began teaching again in Aberystwyth upon his release. During the remainder of Karl-Werner’s time in Aberystwyth from his release in March 1941, it is clear he not only taught the evacuated UCL students but also offered his expertise and knowledge to the German department of the University College of Wales (UCW), Aberystwyth and its students on a regular basis from 1941 until the UCL department returned to London in 1944. Karl-Werner moved to the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada in 1951 and rose to the Head of the German department there before his retirement. Karl-Werner passed away in early 1995.

Karl-Werner Paul Maurer (right) and Sheila Maurer (left), photos within Police Memorandum Book inscribed ‘Aliens’ Photographs’, H.W.?Owen, MUS/204, Archifdy Ceredigion Archives

Like Karl-Werner, Hermann Hans Anton Von Zeissl, a UCL research assistant, was also interned on the Isle of Man. Hermann was born on 2 December 1888 into a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria and later became a civil servant in the Austrian government. On 15 March 1938, after the Anschluss (annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany), all Jewish and half-Jewish civil servants were removed from their posts. Hermann, who had risen to the position of Assistant head of the University section in the Austrian Ministry of Education, would have lost his job.

In this environment of increasing hostility to Jewish Austrians, Hermann fled to England in 1939. Hermann, it appears, went on to work as a research assistant at UCL and was living at 150 Sinclair Road, West Holland Park in Kensington and Chelsea by September 1939. In late 1939, both he and his daughter, Anneliese, who had also come to England and was a languages student at UCL, were evacuated to Aberystwyth from London and Surrey respectively and lived at Pantyderi on Llanbadarn Road. On 21 June 1940, Hermann was interned and was moved to the Isle of Man. Anneliese remained in Aberystwyth at this time and continued her studies. It is unclear if they were reunited in Aberystwyth, as it is hard to establish if both their university departments were still evacuated there when he was released from internment on 16 October 1940.

By the summer of 1945, Hermann was able to return to his position in the Austrian government and by 1949 he had become the President of the Austrian UNESCO Delegation. Anneliese, on the other hand, it appears did not join her father when he returned to Austria and instead remained in Britain, where she married Brian Dee in Cuckfield, Sussex in 1951. Hermann passed away in 1967 in Austria and Anneliese in November 2013 in Oxford.

Anneliese ‘Anna Elizabeth’ Von Zeissl (1916-2013), photo within Police Memorandum Book inscribed ‘Aliens’ Photographs’, H.W.?Owen, MUS/204, Archifdy Ceredigion Archives

The final evacuated UCL staff member whose life and subsequent internment on the Isle of Man will be explored is Georg Schwarzenberger, who was born on 20 May 1908 in Heilbronn, Germany. Georg grew up in a middle-class Jewish family and attended Heidelberg University in Germany where he met his future wife, Susanne. Georg and Susanne became actively involved in the Social Democratic Party (SPD). The political party itself was banned by the Nazis on 21 June 1933 and many of its leading representatives were imprisoned or removed from office. Under these circumstances, he fled to London in 1934 and was later joined by Susanne. Georg eventually undertook a PhD at the University of London, completing this in 1936. After the Munich Settlement and its consequences in 1938, Georg and Susanne renounced their citizenship and became stateless.

By 1939, Georg had a post in the Faculty of Law at UCL and was the Secretary of the New Commonwealth Institute for Justice and Peace, which later became the London Institute of World Affairs. Georg, alongside his colleagues in the Law department, was evacuated to Aberystwyth in 1939 and took up residence at 5A, Oxford House on Marine Terrace in Aberystwyth. However, two days into the beginning of the war, Georg faced the first of many sudden changes and imprisonments in one form or another. On 3 September 1939, he was arrested by the Cardiganshire Constabulary and imprisoned briefly as an Alien Suspect between 4 and 7 September at HMP Swansea. He was released due to an intervention via telegram by the then newly appointed Home Secretary, John Anderson.

During the 1939-1940 academic year, Georg was incredibly busy, as alongside his own teaching responsibilities, he undertook a leading role in covering the lecture courses for the International Politics department of the UCW, Aberystwyth, due to the permanent staff of the department, such as E.H. Carr, being absent and away on government service. The department was in safe hands, however, as Georg played an important role in the second consensus in International Relations on realism, alongside E.H. Carr, in fact. Furthermore, Georg and his UCL colleague, George Keaton had to move and established the New Commonwealth Institute in Aberystwyth. All this hard work was disrupted when he was interned in June 1940, and this was seen as a ‘serious blow’ to the Institute according to the Directors Report written in October 1940 by Keaton.

At his tribunal, where his category was changed from ‘C’ to ‘B’, he was asked by the Chairman if he wanted his wife treated the same as him and, as Georg believed he would be reclassified as ‘C’, he agreed. Georg was not only judged an “enemy alien” by the British authorities, but he was also viewed as such by the Nazis. In 1940, Georg, unbeknown to himself, ended up on the secret Gestapo Invasion Arrest List, which would have meant imprisonment if the Nazis successfully invaded Britain. The decision of the tribunal in Aberystwyth against the Schwarzenberger family had widespread ramifications, since not only was Georg interned but his wife and son faced the same fate too.

Whilst Georg was interned in Douglas on the Isle of Man, he continued to be involved in education, as he recalls a Camp University being set up and that he was put in charge of teaching Law. Susanne and Georg were separated and for seven weeks she was also separated from her son, as she was kept in Holloway Prison while a place was being established for women internees on the Isle of Man. When the Rushen Internment Camp was established for women internees and their children, Georg and Susanne were able to keep in contact via post between the two camps and on one occasion were allowed to see each other.

Georg, along with his family, however, missed very little of his academic teaching as he was released by November of the same year, as UCL arranged for his release under the University Release Order. Instead of moving back to Aberystwyth, which he only briefly reported back to, Georg went back to the family home at Edgware. This did not last long, however, as that night his home was bombed. The department and the Institute moved to Cambridge not long after and until he could find suitable accommodation there, Susanne and their son remained in Aberystwyth with friends until around 1941 to 1942. Georg remained a member of the UCL Law department until 1975, becoming a professor in 1963. Georg passed away in Hertfordshire in 1991 and Susanne in 1994. Georg’s legacy continues with the Georg Schwarzenberger Prize in International Law, which is awarded annually by the University of London to a student in the Faculty of Laws, who is considered outstanding in the field of Public International Law.

Internment on the Isle of Man clearly breached across the student and staff divide, with well-known and established academics alongside new students facing the same internment policy, indicating the wide-ranging reality and blunt implementation of the policy of interning all German and Austrian men. The evacuated safe haven of Aberystwyth was destroyed for most of these men and their families. However, for some, like Klaus, Karl-Werner, Robert, Susanne and her son, it continued to offer that safe haven for them after they were released from their short periods of internment on the Isle of Man and returned to live, learn and teach there. Internment on the Isle of Man was not the only fate which awaited German and Austrian men who were swept up in the British government’s move towards mass internment, as some faced internment much further away in Australia and Canada. The fate and life stories of these evacuated UCL students who faced internment there will be the focus of the next blog 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.

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