As part of a new initiative to more closely highlight the incredibly diverse collection the PMI holds, we are going to be discussing an area of the collection and an individual collection item within that area each month.
This month we are looking at local histories, the core of the PMI collection. We have information on pretty much every town in Victoria, as well as a lot more specific material on institutions within towns.
We are focusing on the material about the town of Tatura (we have 21 books on Tatura and its environs) and specifically the book Walls of Wire: Tatura, Rushworth, Murchison. The PMI collects Victorian History (and a selection of Australian History with Victorian content) and this book is an excellent example of the many items that feature in the PMI’s collection, highlighting the memories and experiences of people in even the smallest towns in Victoria.
Walls of Wire: Tatura, Rushworth, Murchison “is a social history of the humane Internment and Prisoner of War camps set up during WW2, (among others throughout Australia) at Tatura, Rushworth and Murchison in Central Victoria, Australia, under Army Southern Command, to accommodate both local and overseas internees and Prisoners of War.
The group of Tatura camps was one of the largest internment establishments in Australia – classed as a “model,” holding approx. 12,000 – 13,000 people of multi-cultures, multi-nations, men, women and children from almost every country in the world.” (blurb)
It is a wonderful resource of maps, photographs and advertisements/ration cards from its era. This book provides context about the Dictators that triggered the establishment of many camps, how many people who, despite living in Australia for many years, were interned with the outbreak of WW2 and the stories of many other who came from all over the globe as refugees and migrants.
There are characters waiting to jump out of these photos and make their way into an historical novel! A group that particularly captures my imagination are the Templers, from the Temple Society of Australia, a German community of Christian values that had been settlers in Palestine for approx 80 years. When WW2 broke those who remained were interned and most of the community immigrated to Australia, having had their homes effectively taken away and Germany not in a state to support many more new citizens.
I can only imagine what other stories, family histories and characters are waiting to be found in these pages!
For example, did you know that:
“Some Templers were deported to Australia in 1941 and were interned in the camps at Rushworth until 1946, one year after the war ended. At this time, despite having been deported to Australia, acquired their 5 years residential qualifications and could become Australian citizens. 95% of them did so…Apparently none of the members have ever regretted coming to Australia. Temple Society headquarters are in Melbourne, and their elderly members are cared for in the Temple Aged Peoples Home, consisting of self-contained units, hostel and nursing home.” (pg 111)
“ Rev. Martin Winkler, Lutheran minister originating from Nuremburg, Germany, maintains that all escapes from the camps occurred because the young virile men missed women’s company, so sought it outside the wire. Rev. Winkler himself, an interned civilian, was granted permission to roam freely from camp to camp, carrying out his role as chaplain, performing religious duties, conducting mass, burial exercises when necessary. Martin Winkler met his wife a young Templer girl from Palestine when interned in Camp 3. They were married in the camp.” (pg 110)
This brief precis only touches the edges of the many stories found in the internment camps and the history of Tatura. To find out more you’ll just have to borrow the book…