When on duty at the Heritage Centre at our regular open time on Saturday mornings, you never know who may come along that has a very interesting connection with Murchison and district history.
Recently a young couple walked in to the Heritage Centre who are in Australia on a working holiday from Germany. The young lady’s grandfather, Dietrich Kassner had been in Camp 13 during the war. In his professional life he was a Lawyer but during the war he held the fairly lowly rank of a Corporal in the Infantry and as a Prisoner of War ended up in Murchison Camp 13. When she was looking at our Camp 13 display – there was a photograph of her grandfather enjoying a tea break with a group of fellow German POW’s in 1943, who were out on a wood cutting work party for the day from Camp 13! Imagine her delight! In the image, her grandfather is smiling, looking very relaxed, well fed and fit and healthy, holding his mug of tea. (Third from the right in the back row of this photograph).
We were able to find details for her about her grandfather, and his files in the National Archives suggest he was a model prisoner as there were no misdemeanours or solitary confinement detentions recorded! He was captured in 1941 at Tubruk, in Libya, North Africa and transported to Australia on the converted liner, the Queen Elizabeth arriving in Sydney in October 1941. He was then transferred to Camp 13 Murchison. He made use of the time in the Camp giving lectures on Law – in fact, such was the standard of his teaching that 6 of his students received credits for their studies during their incarceration, when repatriated to Germany. Dietrich Kassner spent 5 ½ years at Camp 13 until he returned to Germany on the Orontes in January 1947.
His visiting grand-daughter, Leonie, was able to retrieve details from her grandfather’s account of his time in Camp 13 and we discovered that he was a member of the Camp theatre group and knew the artist of the famous murals from Camp 13, Hans Wolter von Gruenewaldt. Several others mentioned by von Gruenewaldt in his memoirs were also recorded in Leonie’s grandfather’s story so there were other strong connections revealed.
Leonie was so pleased to have paid us a visit and it was great to be able to assist in her learning more about her grandfather’s time in Australia during the war.