Simon: Episode 3 from the "Up from the Rubble" podcast series that focuses on Manfred Reich, a World War 2 survivor from Berlin. This installment sees Manfred begin his Australian visit in a migrant camp, discover his dream town, work his way around Australia and meet his eventual wife.
Manfred: But I wasn't very long in in Bonegilla just as well because the cooks were terrible, the cooks were shocking. They boiled the lamb until it was dead! Boiled the lamb and that was already white they boiled it until it was worse than white so real dead and the smell of it during the day. Ha, we dreaded the smell so there was a, ah, a ruckus then we said to the powers to be, this is no good there are French, there are Italians there are Greeks and there are German, there are Swiss. We can co, cook better than you Australian people. Nah! I don't think? Well, let’s try it? Do you wanna do it? Yes! Alright, so you got one day to prove it. 1 day, 1 midday and 1 evening meal. Steak, cooked beautiful and it smelled beautiful through that whole camp. So what happened? All the cooks, the Australian cooks were sacked, because nobody wanted to eat their food so now we had out a la carte food. Wonderful! Swiss, French, Italian, Greek. Wonderful!
But it didn't last long. 11 days and I went to Wangaratta because Wangaratta wanted an upholsterer and I started upholstering in Wangaratta.
Sound Bite: 3NE local radio announcement:
Manfred: Wangaratta, which was only about 40 to 50 kms from Bonegilla.
Simon: So you liked Wangaratta a lot?
Manfred: Wonderful! Wonderful! Wangaratta is just excellent. There was snow on the hills. There is, there are rivers for fishing and there is freedom. It's wonderful, yeah. Yeah, that’s where I thought I wanted to live forever, so now I didn't want to just stop my trip right here. But Wangaratta was not my destiny I thought after 6 months I'll be going to somewhere else. I set my aim to have roughly about 6 months in each place and and travel Australia. The first six months in Wangaratta as an upholsterer, the next six months into Melbourne so I went to Melbourne. I got into a meat factory. Meat! Again to the mutton! Ah shocking, shocking and we used to pull the tongues and all that ! Oh, now I can't even, no it’s terrible! Terrible! Just shocking! Even though the Allied bombed us out of, out of, existence, when I worked at the meat factory in Melbourne, we had people that admitted to having bombed Berlin while I was there at the time, but that didn't mean much to me because it was so long after that war.
Simon: So, why, why wouldn't you be angry at the for killing millions of people?
Manfred: They did what they had to do and we did suffer what Hitler had done to us, so really, there was no reason to hate the people that, they were told what to do. They couldn't get out of it. When I was under the house, I wasn't hating anybody because I was 6 years old, so you don't hate at six? Well I don't think so, ah, and when I worked at the meat factory and found out that those people had bombed Berlin, I said I can't hate you. The hate actually comes from the adults and the adults will put that hate onto the children.
Well my friend from Germany wrote to me and I wrote in glorious colors, beautiful Australia and all that and it didn't take long and he came two weeks later we were all sacked because if you had no orders you got the sack and you got the money that was no unemployment money, so we had to live off what we’d saved. So Horst was my friend and I, after a short stint about a week or two, he was out on his ear. So then we looked through the papers and the army started to recruit so we, mind you, as Germans, Ha Ha, walked to the army headquarters and asked to be to be employed for the army. They said, “what do you think you’re doing? You’re the enemy!” Ah, Ha Ha!
So we said alright alright where can we go? So the, the railway were, were looking for cleaners so both of us went in as cleaners. We used to travel with a little hand cart and deliver paint and other things to the outlying areas there in Williamstown, at the railway yards and I just by chance walked through the upholstery place and I asked the foreman do you want any upholsterers? Yes! We need some! I said alright, I’m an upholsterer. Well, he said, show me? So I showed him. Ooh, yes you can start straight away. So I stayed in the upholstery section and my friend Horst was kept as a cleaner, it didn't last long because you had to stay strict to protocol and outside in the area like in Wangaratta when I used to do couches and that we had to do it within a day. At the railways, we had 48 hours to do the same work and that didn't suit me because, you had to do a job and then unpick it and do a job, the same job, and unpick it again because you were working too fast. And they couldn’t have that. So, we didn’t last long and yeah, we left, Horst and I left. And this time we went to Adelaide.
Sound Bite: Post war Adelaide, South Australia promotion advertisement:
We went to the employment office, but they said you can go and build a dam outside, outside Adelaide. So we went out and they had Nissen huts for the people and we went in and we got given a room, we got in with our goods and chattels and cleaned out and swept and carried on and the people said “Hey those German’s, they’re going to stay here for 3 or 4 years, the way they clean up and put their curtains up and everything. Next morning out into the field and down ah, into the creek up to be a waste in the creek and dig gravel up and put it on a platform and then hoist the platform up and there was a guy up on top of the hill and he directed the crane driver to bring the gravel across to the other side and all the while, while this thing is hoisted up, rocks are falling down on us, no helmet so we didn’t get any helmets and no, no safety precautions, nothing! We said, no this is no good! We’re not going to last here! And they said “Well where you gonna go?” and we said “oh, well, we’re just going to, I don’t care where”. “You gotta pick up your money! No! Ah forget the money and we just go.” So we loaded up our car and and went back to Adelaide. So Horst was too chicken, he wouldn't stay and I said I'll look after you, it’s alright we’re only two, I’m not married, I have no kids. I can do it. No, no, I want to be by myself so he went back to, to Melbourne got his job back as a cleaner at the railways and I went to one of the, Burke's, knocked on the door. Yeah, you can have a job. So I had a car and a crew of 3 and so we did carpet laying there and that was good. But the trouble was loose lips, I said after a little while in Adelaide I go back to Germany and so when they heard that they, they sacked me! They said we don’t need anyone who is going, flitting around the world! Alright so I was without a job. Got my holiday pay and went two doors down to Dunlop’s and Dunlop’s made floor tiles and he said can you do that? Yeah, I said. I can do that. So we did floor tiles in the hospitals and all those big jobs. Woomera the rocket range up in the desert. Dunlop’s flew us over there to fix a great big new extension of the a dining hall. So the tiles of that whole place, was black and white, so it’s one black and one white. Very simple! And we did it. And we flew back home to Adelaide and then the next day, in the Adelaide Advertiser was a picture. And the boss called us in. Come, come over here? The, the troop that was over at Woomera. So we come, wondered what it was? So, he showed us the front page picture of the newly opened dining hall and there in the doorway, right in the doorway, instead of being one black and one white there were two blacks and two whites. That should have been a checkerboard but what we did we went out that way and looked through the whole the whole room and we saw everything was perfect standing on the, the direct tiles that were wrong. They had to fly us back for four tiles to Woomera. But anyway, I got another free trip out of it so that was, that was good. But just think? The Advertiser? The main paper had the picture of Dunlop's people doing a thing like that? Black and white! You can’t go wrong. Sure enough, you can. You can, I can tell you.
Colin Henschke, friend in Adelaide: Hi. My name is Colin Henschke from Adelaide South Australia. It was on a Friday night. Choir practice evening at Saint Stephen’s Lutheran Church Adelaide, 1959. A stranger entered our church and this is what he heard:
Sound Bite: Recording of St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church Choir:
As this stranger opened the side door, everyone looked. The door squeaked open and in came this, well I’d call him, a new Australian looking chap. Crew cut. T shirt, shorts and leather sandals. He walked behind the choir and sat down next to me and said “Hello! I’m Manfred. I’m from Germany!” Well, ah, I, ah, shuffled in my chair and said “Oh. I’m Colin, welcome!” You know as we singing during the evening, I thought to myself, what does this guy want? Is he hungry? Thirsty? Is he looking for a bed for the night? Or what does he want? He just kept smiling at me and said “I just want to meet people.” Well that was the beginning of an everlasting friendship. When Manfred arrived in Adelaide, he knew no one. He went to the German club to meet people and get involved in activities in the local community and that’s where he saw the notice for the Friday night choir practice at St. Stephen’s. Manfred regularly attended church services and youth meetings and also continued coming along to choir practice. Gradually I thought “well this German guy, well he’s OK’ he’s alright. We also discovered that we had the same silly sense of humour. It didn’t take too long for Manfred to notice a young lady who was involved in the youth program and a very regular attendant at church. Mandy Jericho was her name. Mandy had a great sense of humour and a very infectious laugh, just like Manfred. Always bright and cheerful. We saw a romance taking place in front of our very eyes. Those two were very inseparable.
Manfred: I went into the kitchen and she was the one that was laughing the most and ah, I thought that will do me this, this is very nice it's good so we laughed together and that there was it and after 60 years of marriage we’re still together!
I had promised my mum in Germany in Berlin to be back in 2 years but the 2 years were already up and I couldn't leave because I still had a car to be paid off and nobody wanted the card because it was ah, European car it was a Fiat, I should have bought a Holden really, but I didn't, heh, and so I had to wait and promising mum I will be back. Mandy’s family is a family of 8, ah, 7 daughters 1 son and so I asked Mandy’s mum if she wouldn't mind if Mandy and I got married in Germany because my mum had no one I was the only one, so Mrs.Jericho, which is Mandy’s mum, yeah, said it's OK you go ahead. So we got engaged and it was another 6 to 8 months before we sold the car and booked a trip back to Germany.
Simon: But not all of Mandy’s relatives were as supportive of Manfred’s addition to the family.
Manfred: Mandy’s brother in law was killed by the German’s and the surviving brother in law didn’t like German’s because of that. So Mandy and I went to a party at Mandy’s sister's place. He accused me of killing his brother in Germany, which I had nothing to do with. So, I didn’t feel very safe myself and he threw me out. As simple as that! Because he didn’t like me. I had to sit out in the car and wait for someone to get me back in. Yeah, that’s how it was here in Australia. But that was about the first and only time in Australia where I got dealt with very badly from the person still remembering the war, which I had nothing to do with it !
Being a German is bad enough and being in a foreign country like Australia that had fought against Germany and then you are a German in this country there, there will be some ostracism. We came to Germany but not knowing what would happen because the war a sorry the wall was built in 1961.
Sound Bite: U.S. Army documentary snippet about the Berlin Wall:
Simon: Mum told me that she was warned by some of her co-workers don’t go back to Germany because this is gonna be World War 3
Manfred: He, he, I know, well you see we booked at the passage in August and the wall was put up in November. The war mongering's were going on and everybody thought there was a third World War coming, very much so, and so poor Mandy wasn’t, wasn't too happy like she was crying more often than not.