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The Library’s collection of papers of ‘enemy aliens’ interned in Australia during WW1 contains around 40 handwritten diaries written by internees. These diaries form the heart of the collection, which also contains the internees’ newspapers, theatre and sporting programs, petitions and letters of complaint, and glass plate negatives of the Holsworthy camp.
During the First World War nearly 7000 ‘enemy aliens’, mainly of German and Austro-Hungarian origin, were interned in camps in Australia. Camps, referred to at the time as 'concentration camps', were established at Torrens Island, South Australia, Rottnest Island in Western Australia, Enoggera in Queensland, Langwarrin in Victoria, Bruny Island in Tasmania and in NSW; Trial Bay, Berrima and Holsworthy (as well as a smaller camp in Bourke). The ‘concentration camp’ at Holsworthy, near Liverpool, New South Wales, was the largest and housed internees of various nationalities including German, Croatian and Australian.
The diaries, confiscated from internees by guards as they left the camps and then sold on to the Library in 1919 and 1920, are a window into the personal experience of internment during WW1 in Australia. They are written by internees of diverse backgrounds – German citizens who were ship employees or living in the Pacific at the outbreak of WW1, Croatian nationals who were working in the mines of Western Australian, and Australian citizens with German heritage.