A number of years ago, my father was interviewed for the Jewish Migrant Oral History Project. Thankfully, I have a copy of the interview, and I will be publishing excerpts from it in his memory.
Interviewer: You were talking about the situation on board the boat.
Dad: That’s when I first learnt something about anti-Semitism. There were the 10 Jews including me, the crew and one or two other passengers. One was a tall good looking blonde – even at that age I recognised a tall good looking blonde – and she was supposed to have worked for Phillips Wireless. Anyway, she was coming to Australia and she became very pally with the political officer. Things could have got rather nasty except for one fact, the captain was another old dog from World War One, and he had my family, at his table and he kept a fatherly eye on us. When the tall blonde made a big fuss about my father daring to go in the swimming pool they’d erected when we got to the equator, he shushed it up because non-Aryans were not allowed to go into a pool with the Aryans. My father wasn’t an angel, he lost his block, and my mother warned me, “Don’t go near your father for a while.” Then I realised… I had to behave. I couldn’t behave like I did with my grandparents. I had to keep as much away from annoying other people as possible. And that’s where the boredom set in and that’s where my father came to the rescue with teaching me chess, Hebrew and mathematics. All which came in handy when we got off the boat, because I’d missed several years schooling.
Interviewer: But you were continuing your trip.
Interviewer: You mention this boat was particularly slow.
Dad: Yes. Four to five months. It was literally a small steamer and it hugged the land.
Interviewer: Did you know anything of Australia?
Dad: No, I think our parents had an atlas and they were told by the committee in Berlin, “Watch out for bush fires and droughts in Australia” and “Careful, they’re the biggest con men in the world.” So no-one sold us the Sydney Harbour Bridge.