Enemy aliens

The term ‘enemy aliens’ conjures all sorts of images… however, in time of war, they are people linked with an enemy country, foreigners. At least that’s the idea. However, many who were born in one country and living in another were quite loyal to the ‘new’ country, yet in times of trouble, good friends became distrusted, the worst being expected. During the two World Wars, many of these individuals found themselves imprisoned in camps such as Stobs and on the Isle of Mann.

Even in places geographically far removed from the war, enemy aliens were to be feared. In South Africa, a camp was set up at Fort Napier in Pietermaritzburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal for German nationals, both internees and prisoners of war.

A few South Africans found themselves stranded in other countries on the outbreak of war, or their nationality called into question because they hadn’t become naturalised or, if they had, not changed their surname to something more Anglicised.

One of those who found himself stranded in Britain, was Hermann Kallenbach, a friend of Mahatma Gandhi who travelled with him to Britain shortly before war broke out. Two daughters of the mining magnate, JB Robinson found themselves in Germany on the outbreak of war, but managed to smuggle themselves out – how many were not so fortunate? In South Africa, L Baumann was forced to changed his name after the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania. As a result, his firm also changed its name – to Bakers. Baumann had been in business from 1881. It does not appear he was interned.

For more on internment of enemy aliens in war, visit the Internment Research Centre.

While researchers have looked at the internment of those seen as a threat to society, I wonder if anyone has studied the re-integration of those interned into the society which ostracised them. How long did it take for friendships and trust to be reinstated? Was it the same for those who found themselves under the authority of a new country such as the Boers under Britain in 1902 and the Germans in East Africa and South West Africa in 1918?


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