On the 27th June 1940 Miss Stella Armstrong made a report to the police about Miss Blanka Buring. The following is a paraphrase of the original report which I obtained from the National Archives of Australia.
Miss Armstrong says that she met Miss Buring about two or three years ago at the Women’s Club in Elizabeth St, Sydney. Miss Armstrong believes that Miss Buring is of German nationality. Stella reported that Blanka had said to her she hated England and was going to visit her beloved Germany.
Miss Armstrong also reports that Blanka had received an unexpected dividend in 1939 and that she was deciding whether to buy a car, or a house in Avalon. Stella noted to the police that Blanka also had a sister in South Australia.
As I was unfamiliar with this kind of activity I did some searching for context. I knew that German people were interned during World War II but I didn’t realise that every day Australians of German descent were reported on and then questioned by the police.
During World War II the Police Subversive Organisations Branch combined with elements of the Commonwealth Police, Navy and Army to form the Military Police Intelligence Branch to fulfill the role of a domestic security service. This involved the monitoring and control of enemy aliens, internees, prisoners of war, and suspected enemy agents plus the prevention of espionage, sabotage, sedition, and trading with the enemy.
Transcript of the above statement
No 14 Police Station Manly 12 July 1940
We beg to report having interviewed Miss Blanka Buring of Plateau Road, Avalon, on the 11th, instant, with the following result.
Miss Buring stated that she reside (sic) alone, does not associate with the local residents, and drives to town twice or three times a week in her own car.
She is about 60 years of age and was born in Australia of German parents, who came to Australia from Germany when they were each three or four years of age. Her parents are now deceased, and during their lifetime neither of them visited Germany. They were engaged in business as wine merchants and her brother Leo Buring, who resides at Emu Plains, is still connected with the same business. She receives an income from the South Australian branch of this business. She has been residing in this district for about two years, and is considered to be of good reputation but of an eccentric nature, as she has been observed walking alone on the roadway muttering to herself.
She has no associates in this locality except that she occasionally calls at the local store and Post Office.
She stated that she had visited a number of foreign countries including Spain, Italy and Germany and was last in Germany in the year 1929 for a period of three weeks when she was investigating social service work. During the year 1936, she visited England, Spain and France. On her return to Australia she resided at Mosman and later moved to Avalon. She stated that she was a most loyal British subject, and that in regard to the war, her sympathies were definitely with the British. She said “I think it must be admitted that one can find some good in every country, and I do think that Germany was unjustly treated in the Versailles Treaty. Having travelled (sic) about the world a lot, I am naturally broadminded and people do not seem to understand my outlook. I do not remember ever making any remark that could have been interpreted as being disloyal.”
This person is not required to register as an alien.
There wasn’t anything further of note in this packet from the National Archives.
Apart from being astounded at this course of events I also learnt a lot about Blanka from her statement. I didn’t know from where she derived her income so finding out that she was supported by Leo’s business answers my questions about how she could afford her overseas travel. This also explains her owning her own house and car. I am pleased to know she was comfortable at this stage in her life.
Instead of thinking of her as eccentric as the report suggests we would now think of Blanka, perhaps as an introvert who kept to herself. In her own words she says that people didn’t understand her, “I am naturally broadminded and people do not seem to understand my outlook.” By this time in her life Blanka had worked as a nurse, volunteered on boards and in training new social workers. Her broad-mindedness would have served her well in those endeavours. Blanka wrote about the need for social workers in hospitals and investigated what other countries were doing in this regard during her travels however I have yet to ascertain whether she worked as a social worker herself in hospitals or elsewhere.
This blog post is part of a series I’m writing about Blanka Buring. The previous post in this series is: