By: Gary Gumpl & Richard Kleinig (477/35697)
After immigration restrictions were lifted in 1925, a number of German nationals came to live in South Australia, the heartland of earlier German settlement. Among them was Dr Johannes Becker, who would go on to achieve infamy as Hitler’s Confidential Agent, and “Australia’s No 1 Nazi”.
A 29 year old war veteran and ship’s surgeon, Becker travelled to the Barosa Valley and quickly established a thriving medical practice. Embroiled in controversy and litigation from the start, he would later become the leading Nazi Party organiser for Australia. He gathered around him a small following of the like-minded expatriates who were eager to see the re-emergence of Germany from the wreckage of the Great War.
Days after the Second World War broke out, he and his Party comrades were interned. They were regarded by the Government as risks to national security, but newly declassified archives revealed that none of them had committed any acts which endangered Australian interests of affected the rights of any citizens. Though Becker lost favour with Nazi officials in Germany and was expelled from the Party in 1941, the Australian Authorities nevertheless interned him for seven years.
For a short time in 1947 he became a fugitive and Australia’s most wanted when he disappeared whilst on parole. Following his accidental capture on board a ship headed for Panama he was deported to Germany, leaving behind his family amid a blaze of hysterical publicity. He was never allowed to return to Australia and never saw his wife and children again.
The Hitler Club (the name coined by Australian security operatives) tells the gripping story of Becker and the people in his life, his rise to prominence and his inevitable fall at the hands of an unsympathetic legal system. Analysis of the transcript of Becker’s deportation hearing reveals that the Judge’s findings were flawed and unsupported by the evidence; the hearing was little more than a show trial.
The book highlights the irony of an innocent former Nazi being denied justice by a xenophobic Establishment that preached fair play but practised bias. This is a story that cannot be ignored in today’s “war on terror” and the internment of “enemy aliens” without due process.
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