During the First World War, a parcel of land in Holesworthy near Liverpool was used as a German Concentration Camp. It was established here for the interment of Germans and Austro-Hungarians, who were the main enemy in the war being fought in Europe between 1914 and 1918.

German Concentration Camp at Holesworthy

Up to 6000 people were held at this camp from 1914 to 1920. All of them were men, and many of them had been sent to Sydney from all over Australia. Most of them were interred without trial, or without the knowledge of their families. They included people who were German-born, including staff of German companies based in Australia or crews of German vessels docked in Australian ports. But among their number were naturalised Germans, and others who were born here (but with German parents).

The internees lived in cramped conditions. Initially they were housed in tents, but soon after their arrival, they were set to work to build up to 200 barrack-style huts, along with furniture. Each of the huts accommodated up to 30 men each. Because one wall of each of these huts was, in effect, a canvas curtain, it was no barrier against the piercing cold of the winter, and the long, hot and dusty summers.

In addition to building their own accommodation, the men built cafes, restaurants and theatres. Despite the hardship and isolation of the conditions at Holesworthy, they created a self-contained cultural life, complete with an orchestra, theatrical productions, art classes, regular newsletters, and gymnastics.

Although the First World War ended in 1918, there were internees still imprisoned at Holesworthy two years later. By 1920, most of them were deported to Germany.

Check out this online exhibition showing conditions at the German Concentration Camp at Holesworthy, featuring photographs by Paul Dubotzki.

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