Robert Aufrichtig

Dunera Internee


On 10 July 1940 the HMT Dunera left Liverpool, England with 2,036 Jewish refugees from Austria and Germany, 451 German and Italian prisoners of war and others scheduled for internment in the remote rural town of Hays in New South Wales, Australia. Into the ship that had a maximum capacity for 1,500 including crew, were crammed 2,542 men, aged between 18 and 45 who, as well as dealing with the inhumane conditions, were subjected to ill-treatment by the British guards on board.


Despite the fact that most of the Jewish internees had fled Continental Europe to escape certain death at the hands of the Nazis, it had been suggested that some of them may have been agents planted to assist a planned German invasion of Britain. Thus began an ordeal that was to extend beyond the nightmare seven-week journey to Australia.

Among those shipped out to Australia were Robert Aufrichtig, who from 25 June 1940 was separated from his wife, Jetti, who was pregnant with their first child at the time. He arrived in Sydney on 6 September before being transferred to Hay on 8 November, the day before the birth of first son, Charles Aufrichtig.

Robert was held in Australia until 28 May 1941 and returned to Britain, arriving back at Liverpool on 19 June 1941, three weeks short of a full year away from home. His period of interment was documented on a Prisoner of War - Service and Casualty Form the title of which, in this instance was amended to read "Internees - Service and Casualty Form".


                                                      (From the collection of the National Archives of Australia)                                                                (click on image to view enlarged version)





Josef Nissenfeld

With him throughout this period were Josef [Joe] Nissenfeld and Arthur Spitz, each of whom would remain lifelong friends and play an invaluable part in the success of Robert's Restaurant, set up by Robert and Jetti. They and their fellow internees, among them composer Felix Werder, actor Max Bruch and political scientists Henry Mayer and Hugo Wolf, came to be known as the "Dunera Boys".

The incident is well-documented, among the many major reference works being that of The Dunera Affair, Edited by Paul R Bartrop with Gabrielle Eisen. Co-published by Schwartz & Wilkinson and the Jewish Museum of Australia, it includes the names of every detainee. In 1985, the Dunera Boys became the subject of an Australian television miniseries and movie starring Bob Hoskins and Warren Mitchell.

Felix Werder




Dunera - Josef Nissenfeld

Dunera - Arthur Spitz

Dunera - Internees