Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The enemy in our midst?

At about the same time as Coburg was wrestling with the vexatious issue of its Germanic-sounding name, some residents were making life difficult for those with German backgrounds.

One such was 50 year old Otto Neuendorf, a photographer, who had been employed by Pentridge Prison for 26 years. He claimed to have introduced the finger-printing system of prisoners to Victoria in 1902 and took the finger-prints of prisoners at Pentridge from that time until his ‘retirement’ in 1914.

Only a few weeks after war was declared, Neuendorf, who lived in Moreland Grove (later The Grove), Coburg, placed a Public Notice in the Brunswick and Coburg Star, declaring that he was a British Subject (he had been naturalised in 1890) and that he had ‘received many insults’ and intended to take ‘stringent action against any person who assails his character by spreading false reports concerning him.’ He strenuously denied that he’d made disparaging comparisons between the troops at the Broadmeadows Camp and German soldiers.

Argus, 11 September 1914, p.8.

A few weeks later, a short article appeared saying that he’d resigned from the Penal Department. I wondered why. Had pressure been placed on him to go? An article in the National Archives of Australia’s journal Memento, gave me the answer: His son, also Otto, was bitter about his father’s treatment at the hands of his employers and claimed that his father had been forced to resign.’

Determined to show his patriotism, a year later Neuendorf Senior, now of Sydney Road, Brunswick, donated an ambulance to the war effort.

Argus, 27 August 1915, p.8.

A World War One vintage ambulance and mobile operating theatre (right) outside a train station. ID number P02537.003.
Courtesy Australian War Memorial. 

Other sources:
Brunswick and Coburg Star, 4 September 1914, p.1; 18 September 1914, p.3.
‘Resisting the call to arms: men who did not enlist in World War I’, Dr Bart Zino, in Memento, National Archives of Australia, Issue 36, 2009. You can read it online at

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