Academic journal article Lilith: A Feminist History Journal

'The German Woman Has the Inner Energy to Work for Germanness': Race, Gender and National Socialism in Interwar Australia. (1)

Academic journal article Lilith: A Feminist History Journal

'The German Woman Has the Inner Energy to Work for Germanness': Race, Gender and National Socialism in Interwar Australia. (1)

Article excerpt

On 10 November 1933, a meeting was held at the German Consulate in Sydney to discuss the founding of a newspaper to be called The Kangaroo. This title may have alluded to D.H. Lawrence's similarly named 1923 novel, Kangaroo, which explored the possibility of fascism in interwar Australia. It is also feasible that a deliberately Australian tone was being attempted with the symbol of the kangaroo in order also to gain the notice and the sympathies of nationalistically minded Anglo-Celtic Australians who might eventually support Germany over Britain, or at least weaken the profound Anglocentrism of interwar Australia. It is similarly possible that the kangaroo, as it was indeed used on the cover of Die Brucke (The Kangaroo's ultimate incarnation) from 1934 to 1939, could be made into an appropriate symbol, hopping between Australia and Germany. Finally, and most probably, given Die Brucke's abiding leitmotif, the name may have been chosen to set a comfortingly familiar and appealing tone for a newspaper which, from its inception, was to confront its essentially assimilated German-Australian audience with increasingly inflammatory material sourced mainly from a nation with which Australia had had, at best, a difficult recent past.

Dr Rudolf Asmis, the German Consul-General to Australia from 1932 until 1939, presided over the Kangaroo meeting. Asmis was primarily driven by a desire to reverse what he perceived as the deterioration of German-Australian Deutschtum (Germanness). What the predominant character of this renewed Germanness would be was made clear when 2,900 [pounds sterling] was wired from Nazi Germany to Australia for the establishment of the new publication. Earlier that year Asmis had founded, in the name of the Nazi government, the umbrella organisation the Bund des Deutschtums in Australien und Neuseeland (the League of Germandom in Australia and New Zealand) and, along with the German-Australian Chamber of Commerce, formed German-Australian Publications. (2) A weekly newspaper would be a key vehicle to spread a rejeuvenated, Nazified Deutschtum. The name Die Brucke was eventually chosen over The Kangaroo, presumably both for its paradoxically conciliatory ('The Bridge') yet also deliberately German focus (as opposed to appealing too much to Anglo-Celtic Australians and taking the editorial focus away from that of their main target: the German-Australian community), and also given the existence of an identically titled publication of similar political persuasion in the United States. Die Brucke's first Australian issue appeared on 24 February 1934. (3)

The Australian authorities recognised that Die Brucke was

   [t]he organ used most for the dispensing and distribution of [Nazi]
   propaganda amongst Australian people as well as National Germans,
   persons of German descent and Germans who have adopted British
   nationality. (4)

In short, Die Brucke became, in many ways, 'the official German paper' in interwar Australia. (5) It sought to:

   draw the German people of Australia and New Zealand closer together
   by strengthening the bonds between them and to act as a bridge not
   only between Germany and Australia and New Zealand but also between
   the people of German descent and the people of German nationality
   in these countries. (6)

Yet pride in the distinctively German, or, indeed, even identification with overt Germanness, had become an increasing rarity in interwar Australia--or at least had been forcibly submerged--due to Australia's especially vociferous postwar Germanophobia. Any version of National Socialism which would be applicable to Australia's German community would have to be carefully presented. Dr Asmis recognised this. Nazism in Australia should not excite the ire of the authorities, he reasoned, lest bans on the Party ensue and '[t]he great majority of German-Australians ... would creep back into their mouseholes . …

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