XII. Soldier and Student
Australien 1942 to 1945The Army Recruiting Centre to which our guide takes us is located at the Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne's suburb with the same name. We change at Spencer Street Station to the suburban train system and travel through Melbourne for the first time since 1940. We get brief glimpses of traffic and crowds in the streets and on the platforms, views of the Botanical Garden and Government House, which are pointed out to us by our guide in passing. By lunch time, we have joined the queue leading into the digestive system of the Australian Army. Once again, I face in the raw a team of doctors and officers,. However, by now I have got used to it and it is all over quickly. I am somewhat worried about my eyesight, but without reason. After X-rays and the usual testing of nervous responses, we are taken over by the quartermaster who equips us with replicas of the uniforms which have been guarding us until the morning. We receive kit bags, mess gear, a change of underwear, and, of course, no offensive weapons of any kind; we see some of them in the hands of other recruits passing through the same routine. We are quartered in another section of the racecourse on an open grandstand, where we are welcomed by ex-internees who have just returned from work. We will sleep here for several weeks until tents are erected for us in another section of the huge racecourse. Our present abode is drafty and dangerous at night, as Melbourne is under black out; while sleeping on the steps of the viewing stand, one is readily trod upon by late "homecomers". A number of such accidents lead eventually to our removal to another location.
Franz L. is pleased to see us again and takes us out on our first night of freedom to a former student friend of his who emigrated to Australia before the war. We walk out of the camp at dusk to get drunk with new impressions. Tree lined streets, trams travelling along the centre strip of Dandenong Road, shop windows in Glenferrie Road, fenced gardens with roses and mown lawns. Some things are familiar from the previous incarnation, others are novel and take getting used to. After a few days of full enjoyment, we become accustomed and accept the change.
The highlight of the evening is food at a table with a white cloth, served by a hostess who makes us feel as welcome as one can be made. Real coffee from Rosenthal porcelain, sugar cubes from a silver bowl, continental cake. We sit in a room lined with bookshelves. There are curtains shutting out the night. Flowers stand on the table. My eyes wander about the entire evening; afterwards, I cannot recall a thing that is talked about.
When we have bedded ourselves down in the dark on the wide steps of the grandstand, we go to sleep to the distant noise of the trams and trains, stars looking at us through the wide open ing. In the morning, we eat a rushed breakfast in a dark space underneath a grandstand. We must be on the parade ground at 6 a.m. to await the day's work allotment . Each working party is formed according to needs and headed by a non-commissioned officer only few of whom are Australians. An officer accompanies us to locations which require several working parties.
Rainer Radok in uniform, July 1942During the first days of the existence of the 8th Australian Employment Company, a name which sounds quite mysterious, but actually means that we are expected to provide labour for chores with which we can be entrusted in the opinion of the Army's hierarchy; naturally, we never meet this hierarch. Our commanding officer, Captain Broughton, a Maori with thorough knowledge of German acquired in his youth in Switzerland, one day called out from our unit all former officers in the armies of the first World War. Without great ado, he promoted or demoted them to lance-corporals and corporals, and thus imposed on the privates in his Company a burden which at times is hard to bear. Some of our corporals were lieutenant colonels in the German Imperial Army; their ideas of discipline are completely out of tune with Australian standards which we do not take long to absorb.
Melbourne CityAs we mount lorries to take us to Victoria Docks, the Winter Sun rises and begins to warm us. We are to load ammunition and food into ships. Others go to stores in town from where trucks take goods to trains and the docks. One party goes to Toorak, Melbourne's de luxe suburb, to dig air raid trenches which will never be used and are filled in again after the war. Since the bombing of Darwin, Melbourne is afraid. In the beginning, all jobs are new. At the lunch time break, we find opportunities to go window shopping, try out the beer, watch girls, etc.
The first few days of work pass quickly. At night, we are beat from the unaccustomed and often heavy physical labour. We have the feeling that we are now part of the war effort. However, at times, we feel that we ought to be equal to all other Australian soldiers, and, in particular, that we ought ta be allowed to volunteer for overseas service. We want to be trusted and be like the others.
In the evenings, when we are given leave passes, we spread out over the town tasting long missed and new experiences. Res taurants, cinemas, concerts, theatres, servicemen's clubs are regular venues of members of our company. After a few experiments in this direction, I give up and start to reorganize my existence so that it will acquire a purpose. Overall, I find little inter est in what is offered; my concern about the more distant future outweighs many other considerations. Besides, after a day's hard work, I am too tired to make the best of available opportunities. When I take a girl out to see Walt Disney's "Fantasia", I go to sleep with the "Pastoral" and wake up with "God Save the King".
We find a refuge in the house of the Alsen family who came from Königsberg just before the war. Over and over again, Mimo helps all of us. She becomes my life-long friend. I spend many happy hours in her place in the suburb East St. Kilda where many refugees reside. They have brought many things with them. Their furniture and pictures form a background familiar from the distant past. I get often permission to sleep on a couch in the lounge instead of going back to camp.
We work long hours on six days of the week and are given rarely overnight passes. Each month, we receive two days recreation leave which accumulate and must be applied for. After a couple of weeks, I already find my way around Melbourne and have seen most of the districts in which my life is to unfold. The University is located between Carlton and Parkville, just North of the compact city area comprising a rectangular lattice of more or less busy streets with tramways travelling along some of them with great noise. If one wants to get to another part of town, one must first enter the city by bus, tram or train. The Southern edge of the city is formed by Flinders Street Station which radiates all suburban trains. Beyond the River Yarra, one reaches the Botanic Garden and a wide open park with the Shrine of Remembrance of World War I. St. Kilda Road travels South along this park, past St. Kilda Junction, to St. Kilda Beach, Melbourne's only centre of nocturnal excitements. Another tram branches in an Easterly direction at the Junction to run along Dandenong Road to Caulfield. On the way, it passes through East St. Kilda. Toorak lies between Dandenong Road and the Yarra, where several other main arteries run parallel to Dandenong Road.
I pay my first visit to the University on the first Saturday morning when I do not have to work. With the aid of Margaret Holmes of the Australian Student Christian Movement (ASCM), I begin to sort out the confusion which has arisen from the omission of my name from the list of students who sat for the supplementary matric examinations earlier in the year. The official at the University's Registry advises me to apply for special matriculation. He tells me that a single subject will cost seven guineas. As a private, I am paid six shillings per day, so that I will have to work twenty-four and a half days to pay the fees for one subject. A pass degree takes ten subjects, i.e., almost a year's work! Since I will also have to travel on public trans port, where as a soldier I get six trips for every shilling, buy paper, books and ink, look after small daily needs such as soap, toothpaste, razor blades, etc., and purchase stamps, study be comes in the first place a financial problem. The brothers agree to contribute from their savings made before our internment until I can solve this problem which takes less time than I originally expected.
On pay day, Captain Broughton hands out our pay to one person after another, entering the sums, contained in small envelopes, in our pay-books. We make applications for part of our pay to be sent to America to our parents. I receive my first pay at an age of 22. I never expected to be a soldier at that time and to be paid in Australian currency.
We are a strange army unit which would have no place in the Prussian Army. General discipline is loose and achievement of the objective of providing cheap and relatively efficient labour is in the foreground. Relations between the Captain and the privates are informal and friendly. I meet him one day in town when he gazes at my not too clean boots. "Why don't you Nugget your boots?" My astonished answer "What is Nugget, Sir?" leaves him speechless. It would have produced more than a shrug anywhere else. Of course, I find out quickly that Nugget is the most popular brand of boot polish at the time. If I had reacted in that manner to one of our ex-Imperial Army sergeants, I might have been in considerably more trouble. Anyhow, for a little while, my boots do receive attention.
During July, a letter informs me about the decision of the Professorial Board of Melbourne University. I am to be given special matriculation after my English paper has been examined and found to be a pass. They indicate, however, that I cannot be given the leaving certificate, since I have only passed official ly in four subjects! The following Saturday off, I present myself at the Registry and sign the matriculation book. The first hurdle has been overcome; I am now able to launch late entries for this year.
The decision regarding the direction of specialisation which I am to adopt has already been taken much earlier. I will not be able to attend classes regularly and cannot participate in tutorials and laboratory work. I will have to study on my own and present myself for annual examinations. Under these circum stances, mathematics is for me the only option. The work is well defined, it is possible to decide whether one is on the right track and minimum contact with teachers is possible. The struc ture of an Arts Pass Degree demands selection of subjects from well defined groups. I decide on Pure and Applied Mathematics and German, leaving further decisions to a later date. I enter the first years of each of these subjects early in August. I will have to sit for six examination papers in November and take an oral examination in German before then. I am not worried about the last nor really about the others.
At about the same time, the 8th Australian Employment Compa ny is shifted from Caulfield Racecourse to Camp Pell, near the University on the other side of Royal Parade, the main road running North from the city. Our tents are erected on the slopes of an open park below temporary kitchen and administrative buildings. As before, we are sent out all over town to our diverse chores after a morning roll call of two hours' duration, and return tired and dirty after 5 p.m., just in time to wash before the evening meal is served and swill down a few glasses of cold beer before the canteen closes at 6 p.m. As we become accustomed to work, permanent groups of workers form, which are sent out daily to the same locations. These are cliques, as permanency at a store or station can bring definite advantages. The problem is to convince the sergeant major that it is also of an advantage to the war effort.
Throughout the following years, I shall myself have several such "specialist" assignments. The best is when I become the official woodchopper, on the basis of my experience in internment. Every morning, I have to fall out and march smartly to the back of the kitchen for my day's assignment. After many weeks, an emergency arises and I am the last reserve, promptly called for by the sergeant major. In this manner, he discovers that all that time the wood has come chopped, that I have been engaged mainly in stacking it around the kitchen boilers and that I have had ample spare time which I used for my studies.
During the first year, I must concentrate on techniques for performing well in the examinations. I attend a few lectures in the evenings, but decide soon that I must study former examina tion papers as well as the material required to sit for them successfully. In my own mind, there is now no doubt that I am undertaking this programme at the university to acquire qualifi cations rather than in depth training. Once the war is over and if I feel then that I can do so, I will have to go full-time to a university, preferably overseas, and really study in contact with very qualified persons. At the moment, I am afraid of finding myself as a foreigner in a strange country at the end of the war without qualifications. This driving motive keeps me going and keeps me away from distractions. Only in this manner will I be able to undertake for years two full-time jobs: Army Labour Service and University Study.
During the first few weeks at the University, I meet several students some of whom are members of the A.S.C.M. One evening, I travel out to Carrum on the way to Frankston on the Bay East of St. Kilda, where they hold a meeting. For the first time since 1939, I stroll along a beach in the evening. Suddenly I feel homesick. Memories of Nidden and happy years before the emigration arise. Hearing the waves lap the sand is like coming home. As times goes by, I grow very fond of Australia's beaches. Their width and length, the absence of people and the presence of surf at many locations makes them into one of the country's greatest assets. At all times of the year and the day, they offer a refuge which is welcome and restful.
Map of Eastern VictoriaLater on, I attend an A.S.C.M. meeting in Healesville, in the hills North of Melbourne. We go for long walks in the forests which are quite strange at first. Eucalyptus trees take some getting used to, but as it is early spring and wattle is flowering everywhere; it is easy to warm up to this new environment with its dense undergrowth. The conference itself is concerned too much with the pros and cons of various religious preoccupations for which I have no understanding whatsoever. It seems to me that they are concerned with the organization of various aspects of happiness for masses of people and fulfillment for the organizers, who do not necessarily believe and practice what they preach. I manage to keep out of arguments and we remain friends. The expe riences of the past years have created a gap between myself and my contemporaries which appears to be almost unbridgeable.
Late in August, Jobst and I are sent with a large contingent to Albury, North of Melbourne on the border between Victoria and New South Wales. We are to transfer goods between trains on the different railway gauges of Victoria and New South Wales. At Seymour, the train stops for a long time and we receive again tea and sandwiches. When we reach Albury, we can see the beginning of the high mountain ranges of Eastern Australia. We are stationed at Albury's Showgrounds and Racecourse in tents. Like in Melbourne, we are taken daily to `work at the railway station and in the large central store of the Austra lian Army at Bandiana, in a valley a few miles from Albury, where after the War immigrants will be housed, before they are distri buted between the Australian States.
Albury is a small country town on the Upper Murray, Australia's largest and longest river which emerges from the Australian Alps nearby. The changing rail gauge seems to be the main reason for its existence. There is little diversion, apart from swimming. The red lights outside doctors' surgeries lead at first to some confusion on the part of our more experienced comrades.
There are few places where I can study, and none without people playing cards or making noise. I have not been able to take all necessary books with me, because some of them are hard to obtain or expensive. My studies are starting to worry me. At the end of September, I contact Uwe who stayed behind in Mel bourne and had offered to swap with me when we were being sent away. I have to phone the Captain who says immediately " one Radok is as good as another " and the matter is arranged. Two days later, when I return from work, Uwe is waiting in my tent. That night, we paint the town red which, in terms of Albury, means that we go to the Globe Hotel the owner of which has a German background and serves the best meals in town, backed up by good Australian wines. After the meal, we sit for hours in the lounge talking about many things which have never been discussed between us. It is to be the best contact ever between us. Has the family's formal subdivision into two groups, although the age difference between them is only three years, made such closeness difficult?
On the next day I return to Melbourne. The race for the examinations begins. I am stationed again at Camp Pell. The closeness of the university is a great advantage. Nevertheless, our working hours are long and frequently I am the last person turned out of the Victorian State Library on Swanston Street at 9.45 p.m. My great coat has large pockets; occasionally, I borrow unofficially a book until the next night or over the weekend. I am sleeping less now and use every opportunity during the day for a nap. One day, during lunch break, after having consumed the fairly unappetizing food served to us bp an Australian Central Army Kitchen, I sit on my small, half-round, cylindrical mess tin. Leaning against a wall, I have fallen into such a deep sleep that I miss the end of the rest period and the sergeant has difficulties waking me up.
The examinations in Melbourne's Exhibition Building, which was built in 1888 for the Australian Centenary celebrations and became in 1901 the venue of Australia's first parliament, provide a new experience. At small tables, arranged in seemingly endless, parallel rows, huge numbers of students work hard at a wide range of subjects for three hours at a time. On entering, one has to find the table marked with one's examination number, allotted by the Registry, and sit down. One may read the examination paper and must fill in a form, but cannot make notes or prepare in any other way for the race which is soon to begin. When a bell rings, everyone starts to attack his given task with great vi gour. Staff members and volunteer school teachers wander between the tables throughout the examinations and watch all moves. It is cold in the Exhibition Building during November. The cold stops me from panicking.
, The day I walk out of the last examination, I go to the university and enquire about next year's work. I meet in this way one of the mathematics teachers who assures me that this has not happened before in her experience covering many years. She pro mises me private tuition during the vacation and lends me books. We become friends and I am to see a lot of her during the follow ing years. I decide to sit during 1943 for Pure and Applied Mathematics II, German II and Modern History. Really, I should have taken four subjects during my first year. However, in view of my late start, I did not give this question any consideration. If I am to finish my studies in 1944, I will have to take four subjects in 1943. Of course, first of all, I will have to pass all examinations for which I have just sat. My optimism refuses to be quenched.
While waiting for the examination results which are due to be announced in the Melbourne newspapers before Christmas, I take some time off. I visit friends, go several times to the beach, sleep long hours and soon recover my spirits and strength. The summer is very hot. In these temperatures, the very hard, physi cal work taxes our resources.
In December, I am told that my examination leave, which I had accumulated from recreation leave, will be converted into special leave. Suddenly I have 8 glorious days of doing nothing. I am given this information only after I have passed all examina tions. The Captain really looks after "his students". I spend some of this time with students of my year at the university. I discover that there is a great gap between us. Their attitudes to their studies differ. Few of them seem to consider it a privilege to be able to study instead of serving in the Armed Forces. It is quite probable that the cream of their years have volunteered for war service. Many of those left play at it and there are also failures. Perhaps all these facts have worked out to my advantage in that standards have had to be lowered.
In one respect, the examination system here differs from what I know from Germany. There we were allowed to take books and notes into the examination. Here we must remember everything by heart. A lot of effort goes into the process of memorizing de tails without a knowledge of which one cannot even make a start. However, what has this got to do with understanding which presum ably is to be tested. I am fortunate to have picked mathematics, where one remembers principles and has to memorize only little. A friend doing English and German Honours has memorized all her seen texts, and probably for this reason is far ahead of the other students in her subjects. For me, since school time, memo rizing is an almost insurmountable obstacle.
Furthermore, the amount of material tested in any one exami nation is larger here as each test covers a whole year's work, while in Germany there were examinations each term. I still suffer from the disadvantage of talking German much of the time. This is going to present problems during the next year when I will have to write essays.
Large numbers of American soldiers have landed in Australia. Occasionally, we are profiting from their presence by being supplied with American rations and receiving ration cards for American cigarettes. Everywhere in town, there are Americans in search of relatively rare pleasures. Our attraction in this man starved city has faded in the face of this, more wealthy competi tion. One American story claims that Melbourne is half as big as New York's cemetery and twice as dead. When the Americans move into Camp Pell, a fence is placed around the entire compound; quards at the gates check leave passes. At times, we climb the fence, but on the whole we have to stay in more often. Each camp area has its own guards. Life is becoming more complex without getting better.
We like doing chores for the Americans, because often there are side benefits. We move their offices which have been esta blished all over town. We must make sure that people find in the new locations their old furniture. The reason, we tell ourselves, is that their chewing gum is stuck underneath. But such jobs are rare; most of the time, our work is without change, heavy, dirty and uninspiring. The fact that, if we had been Australians, many of us would have volunteered for overseas service does not in crease our enthusiasm. Many of us make repeated attempts to volunteer for active service, but no one is successful.
During summer, in the warm evenings, the park near the Botanic Garden is crowded with couples lying on the grass and relaxing. Australian and American military police wander between them checking leave passes. A kind of life has come to Melbourne that is foreign to this, in general, sedate community. These extravagancies are accepted because of the war; they are enjoyed by the Australian young as well. The lessons of living under American occupation are learned quickly. In return, the Americans soon appreciate that morning and afternoon teas are a kind of Australian religion which must not be disturbed under any circum stances. The arrival of ships carrying G.I.s is, of course, top secret, and yet they seem to be welcomed unfailingly by Australi an girls whose source of information is also secret. One day kids set up boot-cleaning facilities outside the central Flinders Street Station. They charge exorbitant rates, well beyond the means of Australian privates. Melbourne has become the city of residence of General Macarthur.
After Christmas, I return to my studies for the year 1943. Twice a week I receive special tutoring in pure mathematics. I spend a lot of time in the libraries, reading up on history. I have been interested in history since I was quite young; I always wanted to discover how other nations see a specific nation's activities. Here is now my chance. I read around my subject rather than concentrating on suggested reading.
The brothers have returned to town; we go often to work together. Uwe takes a deep interest in my studies and the fact that I worry about the future. He hopes to be discharged before long. He has strengthened his contact with the Meteorology De partment at the University which started in 1940 through my correspondence to find Kurt Teichert. Early in February, we are told that we are not allowed to send part of our pay to our parents each week. Each of us receives what at that time amounts to a large sum of money. I pay the first third of the university fees of twenty-eight guineas and am still left with enough cash to go for my first holiday in years. Uwe suggests Lorne on the South Coast, where he has just been. One Saturday evening, I take the train to Geelong, South of Melbourne. I bunk down in the station at midnight to catch the first bus in the morning. There is no early train from Melbourne on Sunday morning.
This is my first contact with Australia's South coast. The road, described so vividly by Kipling, leads often along precipitate cliffs and returns deep into the land to get around tree smothered gullies. Below, perpetual swell breaks against the rocks and on reefs, probably a remainders of a coast line which surrendered to this inexhaustible source of energy. The colour of the ocean changes quickly with the clouds, the air is even refreshing in the middle of Summer. It is like a visit to a new country after all these months in inland camps and towns.
I have not tried to book into one of the hotels before leaving Melbourne, since these days, because of labour shortage, most hotels operate only a few rooms. I wander along Lorne's main street, which is also the Great Ocean Road. I select the Lorne Hotel as it looks most attractive. As expected, they tell me that they have no vacancy. I then ask them for a loan of blankets to sleep on the beach. This somewhat unusual approach to the accom modation problem changes the manager's mind. I am given an out side bungalow which I share with multitudes of mosquitoes. The age of insecticides has not yet arrived. What is available is in short supply. It becomes simply a question of survival of the fittest.
In such an out of the way place as Lorne, these days men are a rarity. I become very popular with a group of young women and learn fast lessons neglected for years. Torchie is to become my companion and friend for the rest of my life. Every day is like another. Brilliant sunshine and perfect surf keep us on the beach, except during meal times and at night when the mosquitoes are waiting outside. I hire a small surfboard and learn to ride the waves. Fortunately, the days of standing on boards have not yet arrived, because I would probably have been too clumsy.
Every meal becomes a feast with a small bottle of wine to celebrate the occasion. In the evenings, the few guests assemble in the lounge and wish to dance. I have never been too good at it, but in this emergency I am accepted. The four days away from Army routine begins to feel like a life-time break. I return to Melbourne fully refreshed and ready to attack the Academic Year in earnest.
While in Lorne I read Emil Ludwig's "The Germans". I feel somewhat disgusted with this politically motivated effort. It is too simple to seek all explanations for the last years' events in the character and history of the Germans. (As a matter of fact, these efforts have continued until the time of writing of this story). It is probably a paying proposition at this very stage, but this approach will not survive. The Nazis' ability to disre gard completely any spoken or even written word as a commitment will find many private and public, German and non-German imita tors in the future. Perhaps such a dictatorship, without the slightest touch of moral constraint, is new and augurs a new generation of politicians. A few years later, Albert Speer, Hitler's architect and engineer, will write in prison in Spandau about this very aspect and voice a warning which will not be heeded. He says that modern technology has given individuals and organizations power which they are not qualified to exercise, neither morally nor responsibly. He refers to radio and the spreading of propaganda and misinformation, as a basis of power.
The war is beginning to take a new turn. The subversion of Nazism is on the horizon. We watch with great interest the deve lopments in Russia during the second year of the Russian campaign and the preparations for landings in North Africa. Everyone talks of sheep skins for Russia and sentiments for Russians lose their political annotation. Suddenly, they are no longer communists, but gallant defenders of a fatherland and valuable allies. In the Pacific, the threat of the Japanese Army is becoming more remote, as far as Australia herself is concerned. Melbourne has no longer black-out.
When I return to town, my tutor has found for me a small room at 96 Gatehouse Street in Parkville, along the fence of Camp Pell and near the University. I can now afford to pay ten shil lings weekly and establish a proper base for this year's private campaign. A bed, a small table at the window, a wardrobe and a chest of drawers satisfy my basic needs. An outside toilet and a bathroom with a tub on iron legs complete the scene in which I am to spend most of my leisure time during the next two years. I don my civilian slacks at the weekends. My food away from the Army consists largely of bread and eggs boiled in an electric jug before coffee is made with the same water. The last is the main luxury which I allow myself. It is still freely available and keeps me awake during long hours of study. Presents from friends gradually equip my little household: A coffee pot, cups, plates, a radiator, when the landlady promptly raises the rent by 2 shillings. Later on my friend Walter Wuerzburger, the musician, "sets up house" in a bungalow in a backyard below my room. I can see his establishment from my window. We share his alarm clock; it becomes my responsibility for us not to miss the morning parade, since we sleep almost all nights in our own beds rather than in camp. One night, a fire starts in the backyard between our estab lishments. I give the alarm and become a hero for a day.
From my upstairs window, I see the grass of the wide back lane and the paling fences of the backyards across it. A tall silver poplar changes the colour of its leaves as Autumn ap. proaches. In the distance, the outline of the multi-storey Royal Melbourne Hospital rises over closer-by single and double storey buildings. It is a peaceful atmosphere which offers refuge and is congenial to work. When I receive visitors, they come around the back of the house and whistle, if they can see me at the window leaning over my books. My room becomes a centre for a few friends and Uwe who later in the year uses it for a couple of weeks. In general, friends may sleep here whenever I must stay in camp. They leave behind a bunch of flowers in appreciation.
One day, I am put in charge of several men to execute a job for the Americans. Between us we agree to do the job well and quickly and finish early. I release them before handing our working papers to the office. The sergeant major wants to send us out again and I get into trouble. This is the only time that I am considered for high office in the Australian Military Forces. After the War, I shall meet one of our Australian officers ring ing the bell at Melbourne's Victoria Market at noon on Saturdays.
Our work is hard, monotonous and extremely tiring. As the academic work accelerates, I switch over to a new time table. When I return from work in the evening, I hasten to the Universi ty for a shower. I then pick up books and other material, before I go to bed at about 8 p.m. I rise soon after midnight and study through the small hours of the day. Anyone walking along the back lane during this time must wonder about the light at my window. Thus I keep up with the homework which I must hand in weekly. The preparation for my first essay on the German Reformation and its social significance demands a great deal of reading in the li brary; it disturbs my new routine, but cannot be avoided. I profit from my ability to read German and French. However, I shall find out later that not all my supervisors share this opinion. I am reproached for using references in languages other than Eng lish.
As it becomes cooler, I find it easier to concentrate on the studies. Also, I am less tired from the work during the day. Occasionally, I manage to take a few hours off to see friends at the University or spend time with Torchie whom I met at Lorne. After years of confinement in purely male company and no experi ence of a close association before internment, the conversion to a normal existence takes some adjustment. The preoccupation with my studies does not help here, because I am always tense and in a hurry. I lack the facility to stray far from my preoccupations. I am not easy to live with and get little out of the more common lines of entertainment. Torchie undertakes the tedious task of teaching me and finds it at time too much. She helps me a great deal with my essays and types them out for me.
Occasionally, the Army work takes us to new locations. At an Army dump besides Melbourne's Yarra, we sort in the open air reject materials and make rudimentary repairs. We wash glass jars with hot water and caustic soda. When our Austrian photographer corporal reports to the officer in charge with a wide wave of his right hand somewhere near his forehead that "the bottoms are shpringing", we think we are in a cabaret. We still talk German much of the time, but use every opportunity to study. There are by now many students among us who later on are to become profes sors at Australian Universities. Their haversacks are walking li braries. Whenever the call for "smoko", i.e, a break for smoking a cigarette, is given, they sit quietly in a congenial spot away from their comrades, who talk about their latest escapades or play "Two Up", and study. One day, a sergeant adds to the standard call for "smoko " the words "I do not care what you do, but for heaven's sake do not taken them books out!". It is not that they are uneducated, but rather that only our Captain has enough vision to appreciate what "his students" are attempting to do.
At another occasion, we work in the raw sugar sheds at Williamstown, on the other side of Melbourne's bay. The 200 lbs. bags of evil smelling sugar are lifted out of ships, coming from Queensland, in slings to build many feet high piles reaching right up to the roof. It is a very dirty and hot job which at taches to us its smell for days. At lunch time, we seek to escape for a few minutes and go to the local pub for a beer. The day before, several German Prisoners of War escaped from camps up country, only too familiar to us. They are looking for them everywhere, and, of course, also in Williamstown. A man in the bar hears our accents and reports us instantly to the police. We spend a pleasant hour at the Police Station until we are bailed out by our sergeant.
Our work is becoming better organized and heavier. It occu pies longer hours, as the war effort is intensifying and dead lines must be met. Around this time, we are given minimal drill with a dozen old rifles allotted to our Company. We have to mount guards on our section of the Camp which, as has become obvious now, has been fenced not only to keep us in but also to keep the public out. An immediate consequence of this surprising martial involvement is a rumour that we will be permitted to volunteer for overseas service. Probably, it is only a half-hearted attempt to introduce some discipline. As part of this strange project, we march one day behind our Captain through the streets of suburban Melbourne, led by drums recruited from the Company's private dance band. There certainly is always a surprising touch of improvisation present in all our involvements, and our skills are made use of in original ways. These excitements last only for a few weeks; they are forgotten thereafter.
As the pressure of my studies mounts, I become less satis fied with the material. I feel that the examinations are breath ing down my neck and try to economize effort, keeping in mind the main objective at the end of the year. My lecturer in Applied Mathematics, Dr. K.E.Bullen, lends me his notes which I collect regularly at the end of each week after he has used them himself. In the coming months, this support will save much time. It offers a better insurance for success and gives me direct means of assessing myself in relation to other students. His willingness to entrust me with his notes demonstrates that the staff of the mathematics department is getting to know me.
The Australian Army Education Services agree to pay half the fees of Army students at the University up to three subjects. I apply for my fourth subject and receive permission after weeks. Never before has anyone tried to do that many subjects. After all, the war has not yet lasted that long.
An intriguing aspect of the Australian scene is its anti alienism. Members of our Company have opportunities to study this sentiment. It is a mystery to us, because after all there is only a limited number of generations from Europe which have lived in Australia. As the years go by, we are to gain insight into this complex question for which we have become, only accideutally, a perhaps welcome outlet. Like anti-semitism in Germany, anti- alienism in Australia has no personal annotation, since every Australian knows at least one good non-Britisher; and that is the only qualification one requires to become an alien. It is a political weapon often exercised through the media, in order to take the population's attention away from acute and important problems. After the war, even recently arrived Britishers are to get their share when they are decorated as "Pommies". Such clas sifications sidetrack the real issue of the quality of people which, of course, is much harder to tackle for the majority of a nation; therefore they take such shortcuts.
I have to reduce the reading around my history topics, as I am wasting valuable time. I concentrate on the essays and mathematics. Partly, this change is also a consequence of the new rhythm of studying early in the mornings when the libraries are closed. It is also cutting me off from most people with normal routines. I am becoming a hermit. My main contact with the outside is through letters to my parents who have only a vague idea of my present existence and expect to hear regularly from me. I write one letter per week in the early hours of the morning. Turn round takes up to two months, so that it is diffi cult, if not impossible, to conduct a proper correspondence. Years later, these letters, carefully preserved by father, enable me to reconstruct the atmosphere of this period of my life.
Ocasionally, I go to town at night and sit alone or with Torchie in "Cinderella", a small coffee lounge at the top of Collins Street in the heart of the city. A monumental lady in a black gown pours real coffee from a square copper can. Cinnamon toast is also served. This is as close as you can get to conti nental luxuries in Melbourne at that time. The absence of coffee-houses is deeply regretted by all members of our Company who do not have a home and require such a home away from home. Australi an feeding habits have not yet undergone the traumatic changes which they are to encounter in the post-war period. They are far from what we are used to; it takes a great deal of ingenuity and skill to obtain even minor items which formerly were a matter of course. For example, chicken livers are hardly consumed by Aus tralians who do not like "inners". We buy them in large quanti ties in Victoria Market at one shilling and six pence per pound, until the price rises as a consequence of our interest which then lapses. Other exotic things can be found there occasionally. Otherwise, apart from pies and pasties, baked wild rabbits and cooked ham are the only "take-away" food. It is a long time before myxamatosis is introduced. As regards cheeses, Mild and Tasty offer the only options apart from a soap-like processed substance, called Krafft's Cheese.
Around the middle of the year, I receive from mother an article by Pierpont Morgan on the ' Leisured Class", and its effect on culture. Her reasons for sending it to me are obscure. I wonder how many people belong to this group, in order to give themselves social standing. Others are there, because they have everything and exercise out of boredom an unfortunate influence on cultural developments. In later years, such a trend is to strengthen and lower Australia's potential. It would be nice to belong to such a class, but how many of those in it actually justify their position by responsible and intelligent use of their opportunities? This discussion can be taken further afield and lead to the need to justify higher salaries. After all, if you contribute to an important development or even originate it, you are a person who gets a great deal of satisfaction out of this success. With reasonable comfort and security, you will then always have more than others; should not that be the best remu neration to receive? In contrast, many people, having reached a high position in esteem and income, tend to consider it a vehicle to improve their comfort and further advancement with the sky the limit, rather than as an expression of trust and a position of responsibility with respect to the community.
In June, I take leave to finish my first essay on the German Reformation. I do some final reading and attend a few lectures. I build the essay around the quotation from Dostoevsky's "Grand Inquisitor": "For fifteen centuries, we have wrestled with freedom, but now it is over and ended for good". How well this applies to many political situations through the ages. A good idea will always attract parasites who will exploit it for their own petty schemes.
Ian Brown in Scotland has died on active service as a pilot. This sudden direct contact with the dying abroad is making us subdued. He has been Uwe's very good friend. It makes me realize what a privileged position I have, even if there are many around here with more privileges, and the need to reach optimum perform ance. I break the news to Uwe as by chance I am the first to learn about it. He is just about to go on leave. I make my room available to him. For two weeks, I spend my free time in the libraries and in Camp. When he vacates, he leaves the by now traditional bunch of flowers.
One day, while I am in camp on night duty, two trams collide near the compound. I hear the crash, run to the fence, climb over it and pull one of the badly hurt tram drivers out of his cabinet. Both his feet have been torn off as he fell backwards during the impact. He dies that night in hospital. Two days later, I am called in front of the Company on parade and commend ed for my quick action. It is my second direct contact with death within weeks.
We are shifted out of town to Broadmeadows, a large army store West of the road to Sydney. Instead of in tents, we are accommodated in large huts of the same type which we encountered in the internment camps. This comfort is offset by longer travel and higher travel costs. Just at this instant I require more time in the library. Again, I begin to borrow books illegally over night. Rarely I reach the library before 8 p.m.
My second essay in Modern History deals with the Dreyfus Affair, the rise of Anti-Semitism at the end of the last century. I read the newspapers of that time rather than the books dealing with it. Torchie types the final product which receives a criti cism for the neglect of standard references. I also start reading for the German examination: Goethe's Faust I and Tasso. I fami liarize myself with the history of German literature up to 1740 and learn by heart 50 lines from Faust and Tasso. I devote ten days to this work and hope that it will get me through the exami nation. At this stage, the Army Education Service confirms that it will pay half my fees. As my room is quite a drain on my re sources, this is an important concession.
Will the war finish before I finish my studies? The landing in North Africa and the progress in Russia are raising hopes. Events after the War will show that these worries of mine of being then out on the street were quite unnecessary, but at the present time there are no indications justifying optimism. In America, entry into the Army brings automatically citizenship and rights. Here in Australia, we have no formal commitment by any authority with regard to what may happen to us at the end of the war.
In early August 1943, we receive a letter from Christoph through the internment camp. He has chosen these means of communi cation after the outbreak of war with America. He is well and alive. Naturally, he is unaware of our membership of the Austra lian Army. We send the letter on to America so that the parents' worries will be relieved.
In September, I pass my oral examinations in German and History. Temperatures are getting warmer and our army work takes us outside for long periods. It is time to reduce sleeping and begin the soaking process for the examinations. Only a brutal frontal attack will get me through this year. Lack of contact with students and staff again prove a handicap. I do not know details of what is being done in class which can be important for the examination papers.
The brothers are sent to Tocumwal, another transfer point of the New South Wales and Victorian Railways System further upstream along the Murray River from Albury. After the examinations, I will swap with Uwe to repay him for his help the year before. I will also get a rest in this way, as these country places offer little opportunities for dissipation. All examinations pass smoothly; early in December I wait confidently for the results. As it is fine weather, I go often swimming in the evenings. As the year before, the sudden removal of pressure leaves me at a loss what to do with my time. I resume contact with friends and have visitors to my room. I organize a Christmas party for my friends and invite Uwe's lady friend Anita to be our hostess. It turns out to be a great success. A painted Christmas tree hangs on the wall, there are candles, plenty of food and drink, life and canned music. With eight visitors, my small room is over crowded. When we break up, it is well after midnight; one of the critical times in the year has passed without fits of depression. Many of us have close relatives far away or killed in the War. All have known warm family gatherings.
I have passed in all four subjects. Now I can go to Tocum wal. Uwe arrives in Melbourne early in January 1944 on leave. I am gathering material for the studies of the final year: Pure and Applied Mathematics III and Greek I. The last subject replaces Statistics which I am not allowed to do; the lecturer demands presence during practice classes. I choose Greek as my tenth subject to make up for my bad performance at school ten years earlier. It will be an extra hurdle, and certainly is not a wise choice. I leave Melbourne at 12 hours' notice with a case of books and notes. Uwe remains behind with his friend.
The camp at Tocumwal lies a short distance away from its outskirts. We are housed in tents with extra sunshades because of the heat. The only place for studying is a recreation tent with a couple of tables. Our work is very hard. We transfer goods from gauge to gauge. Temperatures rise daily above 100 degrees; it takes a while to get used to the dryness of the air. Tomato juice and honey in 4 gallon drums, potatoes in bags weighing more than 100 lbs., tinned food in cases are carried from one truck across to another over a narrow board. We load a lot of ammunition from a nearby ammunition store, including bombs. Vehicles have to be roped down on flat top cars, tarpaulins have to be fastened over open trucks. We rise early and return late. The life is healthy and uninteresting.
On days off, we ride bicycles to nearby dams to catch yabbies, the local name for freshwater crays. Bits of string with foul meat are tied to pegs around the dam. The yabbies can only walk backwards; in doing so they tighten the strings. You hold a net behind it and it walks conveniently into it. One of us lights a fire and heats water in a 4 gallon tin. Before long we can gorge ourselves on yabby tails and beer. It would be heaven for any Swede, who, of course, would prefer Akquavit to beer. Only the flies are a nuisance, but under the solitary trees which we find in every paddock, there is enough of a breeze to reduce arm waving to a reasonable level.
Another pastime is swimming in the slow flowing Murray. The water is quite cold and we are warned to be careful. Two members of the Company die swimming and some of us have to attend the funer al. Jobst is a member of the guard of honour; he faints from the heat and stench.
I now face the last year of study when the number of stu dents is smaller and gradually quality becomes a challenge. It is difficult to obtain the prescribed books. I have had to copy out by hand a large part of R.Courant's Differential and Integral Calculus before I left Melbourne. I sit night after night in the large community tent, studying texts and working examples which I send to the University weekly. I am often by myself and the setting has its attractions. Apart from the song of the cicadas on the trees surrounding the camp, there is little noise; as a rule, a cooler breeze blows in the evenings.
In February, a small gang is sent out to nearby Oaklands, in New South Wales, where we load bagged wheat for several days in temperatures which exceed by far those we have encountered hi therto. In Tocumwal, the Murray must exert a moderating influ ence. We sleep on earthen floors in half round Anderson shelters with mice as persistent companions. There are no showers; a milkshake at the only shop within 20 miles is a rare refreshment as an addition to basic Army fare. Soon we look like dusty pigs and wait for our return to Tocumwal which by now has become heaven. Still, it has been a change and we have now seen a bit of New South Wales.
The University has accepted my entry for three subjects. There has been some doubt, because the Army Education Service no longer approves more than two subjects. A rumour has it that a high officer in Darwin has been accused of neglect of duties over his studies. Another student in my unit has his request turned down; when he refers to my case, he is told that my record justi fies such an exception. I will have to pay for the three subjects myself, but I will save one year, if I succeed. Margaret Holmes comes again to my aid with the fees.
Learning Greek gives me as much trouble as before, although I derive more pleasure from it. The words simply do not stick in my mind. I am relieved when I learn that I may use a dictionary during the examination. Nevertheless, already now I fear that I may fail this time. The mathematics also prove difficult, as there is no one here to whom I can talk. It is not easy to resolve all questions by correspondence.
Sand storms are a regular occurrence at Tocumwal. We have experienced them at Tatura which is not far from here. They cover the entire landscape with a reddish veil; after several days our tents must virtually be dug out. Writing letters becomes a prob lem, because within minutes the paper is covered with dust and it has to be wiped, as the ink on the pen dries too quickly. There are as yet no ball-point pens. When the wind goes round to the South, the cool change revives everyone for a short while before the cycle restarts. Work during these days is extremely trying, temperatures rise and so does the beer consumption. Even at lunch time, we visit the pub. The wide streets of Tocumwal are empty at any time, even of dogs, and we reckon one can ride a bicycle down the main street at noon in one's birthday suit without drawing the slightest attention.
During March, I am given 12 days' leave to return to Mel bourne. I have held on to my room and "return home" for the first time in years. I spend most of my time in the library and at lectures. I copy more material, since I expect to stay in Tocum wal indefinitely. I buy translations of Plato's "Apology" and Sophocles' "Deianira", the seen texts for Greek which I propose to learn by heart, following a procedure adopted by my most successful friend at the University. There is a piano in an amenity hut at Tocumwal. I buy a copy of Bach's two and three parts inventions. I intend to practice again after many years.
On my return from Melbourne, I attack my studies with full vigour. It has become cooler. The new books and notes make the work easier. Yabbying and swimming excursions become rarer; the dust storms appear to have stopped. As I get deeper into my studies, I am doubting again my abilities and miss the interac tion with students and staff. I am left too much to myself. I wonder at times how I would have fared under normal conditions, whatever that means.
Thomas Mann's address to the German People at the beginning of 1944 raises all sorts of problems. Are there not people in Germany who are only trailing along because it is impossible to do otherwise without running a senseless mortal risk? In Germany, people live in confined areas and are easily watched. It is the system of fear of being reported which keeps the Nazis going. In Australia, with large distances between homes, such a system cannot work. You can always jump over the back fence when you see someone coming along the front path. Because of the sprawling suburbs, it will be impossible to organize a complete population into spying. Besides, the country is huge, the population small. Returning to Thomas Mann, I feel that guilt is a strange word. Bombs will finish the war, but will they educate people? Bombs are destructive, education is constructive. His talk clears my own ideas on many of these aspects. Yet, I cannot see myself living in Germany again unless, perhaps, I can visit Nidden regularly.
One late afternoon in April, the recreation tent in which I am studying becomes the centre of a mini-tornado, or Willy-Willy, as they are called locally. At different times, we have seen them at large distances throughout the Summer, but they have become rarer during recent weeks. Their vorticity raises dust and debris to great heights. In this case, my notes rather than dust are spread irretrievably over New South Wales and Victoria. The tent collapses on to myself and another person happening to use it. As the tent pole misses our heads and the confusion is at its ex treme, I hear the other chap ask "Are you still alive, comrade?" Indeed we survive, but my work for the year is now in jeopardy. It will take months to recopy the material. I must get back to Melbourne or will have to give up most of this year's work. The next morning, I report to the commanding officer. My return to Melbourne is arranged within days.
Without our Captain, I and many of the unusually large number of students in his Company could not have performed under these conditions as they did. Did he perhaps realize our plight in that many of us would not have been engaged in such manual activities, for example, if we had been in the U.S.A.?
All round I will find in later years that in Australia talents and skills among those who have not reached as yet full command of the English language, or even once they have done so, are not used to their full potential. The only way out of such a situation is to employ rather than to be employed. The large numbers of very highly skilled refugees who went to America in the Thirties, if they had come to Australia, would have been largely wasted.
Soon I have settled again into last year's routine of mid night study in my room at Gatehouse Street. We are stationed at Broadmeadows with all its waste of time and money through long travel. At times, they are trying to control leave passes and some of the funniest situations in our Army career arise in this way. The first train to Broadmeadows leaves town before 6 a.m.; it is, as a rule, crowded with soldiers most of whom are without leave passes. As it approaches Broadmeadows Station from where a bus takes us to the Camp, we hear that the station is surrounded by Military Police. Checks are to be made. As the train slows down before reaching the end of its journey, soldiers emerge from all doors on both sides of the train and jump down to make a dash for the camp rather than face the music at the station. After this, an alternative route to the camp by train, a sea-sickening rail bus with a longer walk across meadows becomes quite popular. The rail bus has soft springs which set it into an almost unsta ble pitching motion.
By the middle of the year, I am highly nervous, difficult to get along with, tired and apt to catch colds readily at the slightest opportunity. My tonsils are swollen most of the time and give considerable concern. In order to get more sleep, I stay back in camp often and try to work there. The lighting is bad and it is uncomfortable, but necessary. I am starting to think about dropping one subject, at least until February when supplementary examinations are given. When I enquire on this aspect, an official in the University tells me that I have done better up to date than any of the internees who stayed back in the camp and studied therefore full time. At least I know now from that point of view that I did not lose by joining the army.
Some of the advanced mathematics lectures are now given at night; I am able to attend almost regularly for the first time since I resumed studies in 1942. Thus, I discover that my under standing is there and that I seem to be ahead of my class in many areas. I gain confidence at a time when I need it badly. I begin to appreciate the subject matter and start to see real value in the methods being taught. I continue to receive the lecture notes from one of the lecturers whose lessons I cannot attend.
My work on the Greek texts is making headway, although I certainly would have difficulties without the translations. My grammar is as bad as it was ten years ago. This language must have served in the past to train memories. I will never make out why my memory is so bad for certain things. I can remember visually, but not by sound.
The landing in Normandy overshadows all events during June 1944. The end of the war is now in sight; one can sense already everywhere a great feeling of relief. I am to visit the Professor of Mathematics Dr.T.M.Cherry to discuss the year's work. It is quite a trauma, as I have seen him at different times, but never have talked to him. For me. he is an object of old-fashioned respect and everything has to be thought out beforehand, lest I waste his time. In these days, our valuations have not yet been degraded by unjustifiable self-importance and demands of equality. There is only one professor of mathematics; in order to get that position he must be good. I gather my courage and call him at home on the phone to make an appointment, as it is difficult for me to phone him during the day. I have always hated the telephone. One cannot see the person with whom one is conversing, nor can one display one's own attitude to them. I am asked to visit him in his home one night. When I come away, I have the feeling that he does not appreciate fully the conditions under which I study. Probably, he cannot envisage that for me passing of the examinations is the primary objective. Knowledge and understanding will have to come later, if at all. He suggests that I take an extra year, but leaves the final decision to me, as an important consideration are also the,fees which have already been paid.
I go next to see the Greek lecturer and apply for deferral of my examination. Unhesitatingly, he agrees with the deferral and explains that it just means that he will have to set another examination. However, he does not mind. Now I will have to be lucky.
Early in July 1944, I am sent to Heidelberg Military Hospital for examination. I have had a recurrence of a gall bladder attack with symptoms similar to those which I experienced many years earlier while still in Koenigsberg. Most likely, it is only a response to the mounting pressure. It is a welcome rest. I study furiously while in hospital, admired by the nurses who pamper me and refer to the Greek alphabet as hieroglyphics. Regular sleep after lights out and regular eating contribute to a quick recovery.
Uwe is discharged from the Army. Previously, he had failed a test in engineering drawing! He could not print by hand very well, and it is a long time before Lettraset will be introduced. A few days later he starts in the University's Department of Meteorology. This is the best personal news since the parents landed in the U.S.A. He has deserved it more than many others and takes quite some time to get used to it. After almost five years, it is strange to be in control of one's own time. He is able and will prove that he can give provided he has the chance.
Nine more pages of Sophocles"'Deianira". I have to continue reading Greek if I am to give myself a fair chance in February. I do not yet know it by heart. My mathematics studies are accelerating as I fall behind. Three months to go to the examinations.
Early in August, Jobst has an accident planing timber on a buzzer in the workshop at Broadmeadows. He loses the tips of three fingers on his right hand and is rushed to Heidelberg Military Hospital where he is held for two months for skin transplants. I visit him regularly as his wife Shirley, whom he married during 1943, works in Hobart as a musician. Naturally, he is down hearted. Heidelberg is a long way out of town; such visits take a lot of my time.
The night of Jobst's accident, I see for the first time Shakespeare on the stage in English. The University's Tin Alley Players produce Hamlet at the Union Theatre. Tickets are hard to get; Torchie held on to ours even though I had been confined to barracks for a few days for losing my temper with a non-commissioned officer, so that the chance of using them was small. I get a leave pass to take Jobst to hospital and, after seeing him in good hands, rush into town for the performance.
As the effort in the Pacific area builds up, our workload increases. We work again on Saturday afternoons, mostly at Broadmeadows. During September, a rumour has it that we may return to Camp Pell. Early in the month, through the assistance of Dr. Behrendt, released 1942 from internment to teach at Melbourne University, I am given an interview at the Aeronautics Division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Australia's own chain of research institutes. My interview is at night; I am shown around the laboratories after a long conversation with my future boss, Mr.H.A.Wills. I will be offered a position provided I pass my mathematics examinations. I raise the question of the degree only to be told that it does not matter at this stage when I will finish it. I am to work on problems of elasticity, a subject covered in my course. This is an exciting prospect. Everything I did during the last years now looks as if it was conceived as an overall plan. It is unbelievable. For days I think about it and almost refuse to believe it. In the middle of September, I write my application with the aid of Uwe. My studies now assume a different aspect. They have become the key to freedom. I forge ahead with the preparations for the final examinations.
Soon after the interview, I am sent to Camp Pell. This makes a lot of difference during the last weeks before the examina tions. Apart from everything else, Broadmeadows has had lately many aspects of an internment camp. Our officers have tended to keep us back in camp and to impose tedious regulations, for example, with regard to the exact way of making one's bed. Probably, they have to stay back themselves and think they might just as well do so in company. There has been quite a bit of friction between the privates and the non-commissioned officers, and the atmosphere has become unpleasant.
Apart from all these details, which make a transfer desira ble, I will also save a lot of time and money. I will be more mobile during the last weeks before the final examinations. Library and tutoring assistance come again within reach. I can call on Uwe in his office at the University whenever possible and even see Torchie in the middle of the day. In other words, life is suddenly becoming worth living. I feel as if I have been released again. It is not hard to get used to good things.
At the end of September, I have a major attack of tonsilitis with strong headaches. The doctor threatens to send me to hospi tal. However, as it happens to be a weekend, his medicine and rest avert this time such drastic action. Later in October, an attack recurs and the doctor sends me to hospital. On hearing about my examinations in November; the hospital doctor treats the acute symptoms and makes an appointment for tonsillectomy at the end of November. I appreciate the few days rest in hospital and the consideration I receive from all involved. I am released two days before the first examination.
Torchie ThwaitesUwe tells me that he has heard that my application for release has reached Army Headquarters. It looks hopeful and is just the extra boost required for the examinations. My relation ship toTorchie reaches the point of no return. All going well, we will marry at the end of the year when I will have a few days off around Christmas. The year ends with great hopes for the future.
The day after my last examination, I report to Heidelberg Hospital. I am operated on 23rd November. Three days later I watch at the hospital Charlie Chaplin's "Great Dictator" for the first time. It is a very trying experience so briefly after the operation, when every smile is accompanied by intense pain.
While recuperating, I hear that the army has refused to release me. A second application has been launched immediately. The struggle with the bureaucracy takes a standard course. What reason can there be given for a refusal to release someone with specially acquired skills from basic unskilled labour? It is hard to envisage the discussions, if any, which may have taken place, or are such applications turned down the first time as a matter of course without any consideration being given to their merits? Perhaps the simplest explanation is that it increases the work load of an organization and hence its chances of expansion with all that involves, including promotions. It would be interesting to sight the file one of these days! I am sent for convalescence to a garden home in Kooyong, an Eastern suburb of Melbourne, where there is some luxury and freedom of movement.
The day of our wedding is fixed for Friday, 22nd at 7.30 p.m., after work. It raises a few problems, as I cannot improve myself financially until I get out of the Army. To say the least, I am not much of a proposition. Uwe finds us a room at 43 Marine Parade along the beach front at St. Kilda. Since his marriage a few months earlier, he lives two houses away. I am back at work again; Sundays are the only days off. Torchie wants to marry in church, more for her somewhat antagonistic mother's sake than her own. An enemy alien! We go to see a parson at St. Kilda who tells us that he has been waiting for us. Obviously, someone else must have rung up to make an appointment. He has difficulties in spelling my place of birth, but a war map on his desk enables me to point it out to him. Koenigsberg is and has been in the War news for quite some time.
When she hears about the church wedding, Torchie's mother drops her passive resistance. She will give us a reception at her apartment off St. Kilda Road. A few days before the event, the examination results are published. I have passed in both subjects. If only the release would come through quickly. On 22nd December, after lunch, while on a working party in St. Kilda not far from our new room and the church, I ask our sergeant of most Bavarian origin whether I may leave a couple of hours early as I am getting married that night. It takes some effort to convince him of the truth of this fact, but in the end I get away in time. I have borrowed a Summer uniform from one of the dandies in the company and get dressed at Uwe's place. I look smarter than I have looked in years, but make a mistake with the emblems on the lapels. Australia's suns are setting rather than rising, a mistake which is rectified during the evening by two Army Cap tains attending the reception. However, this happens only after photographs have been taken.
Torchie's mother forgets in all the confusion to add soft drinks to the fruit cup which, as a consequence, is laced with pure gin. The party takes off quickly; people stay into the early hours of the morning. We leave around midnight. I have to be on the parade ground in the morning. However, two holidays are to follow.
Almost immediately, I resume the work for the Greek examinations. Each night, we sit by our window facing out to sea while I
memorize the seen texts. It is tedious; soon Torchie knows them
better than I do. On the other hand, after a while, I only require a
starting word and the Greek text, to be well on my way. My visual
memory is good.
On 20th January, 1945
On 20th January, 1945, I learn that I am to be released four days later, 988 days after I left the internment camp. That nigh t I dance along the shore on my way home from the tram to tell Torchie. The war has taken 5 years and four months out of my life, but at least I have managed to use the last 30 odd months to some advantage for myself. I pass through the formalities, receive at the end a civilian hat which I never wear, a last cigarette ration conveniently carried in the hat, and a clothing voucher. for a suit and shoes. In Austrslia, clothing has been rationed for a long time. When asked my name, the clerk cannot understand my pronunciation and makes me write it down. "Ah, you do not pro nounce the letter R?", he says and receives the reply "You do if you can". I have given up the battle with the English pronouncia tion of that letter. It is to mark me as a foreigner for the rest of my life.
Rainer Radok, B.A. (Melb) March 1945