Eichendorffschule Wolfsburg

The Arandora Star

What does the passenger ship Arandora Star have to do with this cemetery?

On 2nd July 1940, the Arandora Star was sunk on her way to Canada by the German submarine U 47 under the command of Captain Lieutenant Günter Prien (1908–1941) at 7:58 off the coast of Donegal, Ireland. Among the approximately 800 dead were many Germans. The passengers also included 119 crew members, 163 guards and many Italians who had also been interned.

The British authorities had provisionally interned German and Austrian émigrés during the war, as distrust of all Germans grew, even of Jews. These internees were to be taken to Canada on the Arandora Star.

It was only after the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland and the Reichspogromnacht on 9th November 1938 that Britain allowed refugees from Hitler’s Germany to take refuge. Thus, in 1939, about 75,000 German refugees (politically persecuted persons, artists, scientists and economists, many with Jewish roots) were living in Britain.

With the start of the war in September 1939, however, they were automatically considered “enemy aliens”. They had to undergo interrogations and were divided into categories. In addition, the first internment camps for Germans were established. Concerned about this, the writer Stefan Zweig wrote.

“Once again I had fallen down a level, for an hour I was no longer just a stranger in this country, but an ‘enemy alien’, a forcible foreigner, forcibly banished to a place where my throbbing heart did not stand.”

In May 1940, the situation escalated when the Wehrmacht occupied the Netherlands. It was feared that Hitler was preparing an invasion of Britain. In addition, the British ambassador Sir Neville Bland spread that German paratroopers had been assisted by Dutchmen in the occupation. The BBC broadcasted Bland’s advice not to trust any Germans or Austrians.

All male Germans and Austrians between the ages of 16 and 60 were interned in hastily constructed camps in 30 counties along the coast. When Mussolini entered the war a week later, Italians were also interned.

As Britain became increasingly overburdened, it was decided to take the interned hostile foreigners to Canada and Australia. So the Arandora Star was supposed to do.

The approximately 700 people rescued from the disaster were interned again. No consideration was given to whether they were Nazi sympathisers or refugees. The newspapers reported that the sinking of the Arandora Star was caused by the undisciplined behaviour of the detainees, as they were German and Italian fascists. However, the fact that the ship was sailing without escorts and that no other precautions had been taken, was not mentioned.

Survivors of the disaster were brought to Australia only a week later, where many built a new life for themselves and served in the army there.

However, resistance to the internment policy arose in Britain. But it took until 1941 for internees to be released or repatriated.

Forty-six German prisoners of war who did not survive the shipwreck are buried here at Glencree.

The text was researched and compiled by Dalena Junge und Paula Thönebe, students at Eichendorffschule Wolfsburg, Germany, during a school project 2023. The Eichendorffschule is responsible for it and takes care that the information does not violate the basic democratic idea.