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MURCHISON P.O.W. CAMP & 'AMERICAN AID for GERMAN WAR PRISONERS'

This cover is headed Prisoner of War Post - Postage Free. And is posted To the “American Aid for German War Prisoners”, 16 Duerstein Street, Buffalo, New York, U.S.A.  It has a manuscript at the lower L.H.S. ‘From Australian Camp No. 13', a handstruck ‘APPROVED FOR TRANSMISSION BY CAMP COMMANDANT’ and a purple boxed handstamp ‘PASSED BY CENSOR V9' (Figure 1).

The reverse has a label with a red ‘3 Opened by Censor’ which is struck by the same purple boxed handstamp as on the front, and there is a partially obscured typed name of the sender and “No. 13 P.O.W. Group 13, Murchison, Australia, “D” Compound. (Figure 2).


A comprehensive search at the main Buffalo Library was unable to find any organization as the American Aid for German Prisoners but the Buffalo city directories for the years 1938-1942, but did reveal the names of the tenants of 16 Duerstein Street, Buffalo.  The first-named were Emile and Angela Auer, occupation given as ‘numismatic’ and Charles and Alice Thomas listed as ‘inspector’.  

I consider that the Auers with a Germanic sounding name were operating a service out of their home.  The unnamed librarian stated that Buffalo had a large German population during WWII and it was possible that there was sympathy in the community for the German prisoners, many of whom were interned citizens of Australia.  I consulted the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. and they found no listing for the ‘organization’.

There were three Prisoner of War Camps in the Tatura, Murchison area during World War 2, Camp 13 at Murchison was constructed in 1941 to accommodate 4,000 prisoners of war brought to Australia for detention for the duration of the war.  These included members of the German Afrika Korps and Luftwaffe crews captured in North Africa, also crew members of enemy merchant ships captured in various locations throughout the World, and over 300 of the German Raider, HSK “Kormoran”, who had been responsible for the sinking of the Australian cruiser HMAS “Sydney” off the Western Australia coast in 1941.  Two compounds held Italian soldiers, captured in North Africa. After the breakout of Japanese soldiers from the Cowra POW Camp in 1944, 400 of the survivors were detained in Camp 13.

Graytown was a timber cutting camp in association with Camp 13, prisoners were engaged cutting firewood for the camps and for use in the hospitals in Melbourne.

Commissioned Officers from the German Army, Navy and Air Force were held in Dhurringile Mansion, a large two story building, originally the home of a landed squatter, nine kms south of Tatura. This was the scene of many escape attempts including that of twenty prisoners through a tunnel.  Because of the scarcity of shipping, most of these prisoners were not repatriated until early 1947.


 
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