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Austrian emigres in the British Paradise Islands

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Refugees from Nazi-occupied Austria play an important part of the history and development of the British Paradise Islands, as featured in the Two Paradises fiction/fantasy realm devised by author Jonnie Comet. Edit

History Edit

Following the horror of the Anschluss of March 1938, many Austrians loyal to their home country but not to Nazi Germany began to emigrate out of eastern Europe. One destination was London. Once there, many displaced Austrians found service with the RAF, the Royal Navy and others in agreement with a peaceful but firm resolution to the problem of Nazi Germany.

When no solution, as proposed, was able to stop the advance of a German takeover, many of the displaced persons began to fear for staying in Europe at all. In early 1939 several ships of refugees left the British isles, bound both south and west. By late 1941 the Austrian population in London was increasing by several hundred per month. To many, the political privations of a Nazi Austria seemed more severe than the ideological ones; and indeed not all the émigrés were Jews evading what would become the Holocaust.

Responses to concerns about ethnic discrimination Edit

Expatriate Austrians living in England volunteered for duty with the Allies; but at first the government were cautious about having representatives of a conquered people roaming free at home during wartime. Many Austrians, knowledgeable about German and Austrian attitudes and activities in Europe, were given jobs in translation and in codebreaking, vital work relying on an unbroken mutual trust. However physical movements of such persons in England were typically monitored, if not openly then covertly. Those who intended to move on towards America and to other places often found their freedom restricted or curtailed altogether. Some Austrians in England, both Jews and non-Jews, began to regard their status as one of de facto containment, drawing comparisons to the prospects, not yet entirely known (nor entirely fair), they would have had under Nazi control.

Following the aerial attack on the US bases at Pearl Harbor, the RAF established a well-armed surveillance base on what is now known as Morning Island, in the British Paradise Islands. A compromise was effected whereby some 1100 Austrians were granted exile status and stationed, as adjunct staff to the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy bases or in support roles such as in distribution, in trades and in agriculture, in the islands.

Many islanders as well as Austrians and British living in Britain considered postings to Paradise as a form of ethnic concentration, rooted in suspicion, intended to remove them from the potential for espionage or insurrection. The gruelling 9700-nautical-mile [14930 km] voyage, typically all by ship, took four weeks at sea, plus several stops along the way, and all along was the threat of being taken by German submarines or by surprise attack by Japanese aircraft. The land to which they came was hot, susceptible to violent storms, undeveloped and at the far side of the world; and the posting carried with it no promise of any return to or communication with central Europe.

In the event, however, most Paradisian Austrians served their adopted tropical home well, typically with loyalty and distinction.

Post-1945 Edit

Following the War, most of the émigrés sought to return to a free Austria. Those whose work or other preferences called them to stay on were granted a provisional right to residency, the only time in the modern era this has been done by a Paradisian government, on grounds of rewarding former political refugees who had served their host territory in a time of war. Those who had been farmers, entrepreneurs and tradesmen set up new lives, built houses, tilled new lands and began new careers, many in the same lines of work they had known in Austria. The RAF base and Royal Navy presence were to remain; and many found postwar occupations similar to those they held during the War.

By the time of the Korean conflict (1950-1953), many Austrians who had stayed in the islands had become full belongers or had been accepted into a resident-to-belonger programme. Over the course of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, about 350 Paradisian Austrians served with ANZUS and British military in Southeast Asia.

Legal status Edit

Those Austrians assigned to or who volunteered for service in the territory during the 1939-1945 War, and those who were born to those who did, were granted right to residency status that has been accepted as equal to that of belonger status under post-1986 Paradisian policy. No comparable preference has been given to foreign family members making application for either tourist or business visas or requests for more permanent immigration; so in many cases an Austrian’s choosing to stay on in Paradise after the peace of 1945 meant family associations continuing only over international boundaries.

Land grants processed in the 1945-1950 period for the benefit of Austrians remaining in Paradise have had two effects: they have been upheld consistently by law and courts as being on par with those benefitting English and other wartime settlers; and they have cemented the loyalty and belonger status of those former Austrians.

Paradisian Austrian heritage today Edit

Those of Austrian heritage living in the islands tend to maintain a kind of blended loyalty, politically to the territory and to the British Crown but culturally and socially to their ancestral homeland. It is not uncommon to see red-and-white Austrian flags flying on 12 March, in commemoration of the Anschluss, as well as on 15 May, the anniversary of modern Austria’s independence. During Festival, parades often feature Austrian-heritage groups, sometimes wearing lederhosen or dirndl skirts and Tyrollean hats, singing Alpine folk songs in German. Numerous restaurants in the territory feature Austrian, German and Swiss cuisine due to this influence; wiener schnitzel is a popular selection at kiosks and cafes.

Houses built by Austrian natives reflect Baroque architectural themes, with staid, symmetrical facades, block quoins, and tile rooves. What is known in Paradise as ‘chalet style’, featuring tall, steeply-pitched rooves and small windows, entirely incongruous in a tropical, snowless setting and yet locally popular, is said to be an Austrian influence as well.

Due to much intermarrying between those of Austrian, English and Scottish ancestry, the frequency of fair complexion (however well-tanned by the tropical sun), light-coloured hair and blue or grey eyes, already common in Paradise, may inhibit instant recognition of ethnic Austrians on sight. However most Austrians are encouraged to take German as their second language in school, to participate in heritage organisations, and to honour their ancestral country’s traditions in food, holiday celebrations, and music and the arts.

Austrian-Paradisians may be Roman Catholic, Anglican or Lutheran Protestant, or Jewish, all of which are adequately supported in the territory with available clergy and houses of worship.

It is said the British Air VIP flights from Paradise to London carry as many of Austrian background as they do others, suggesting that Paradisian Austrians pay regular and frequent visits to friends and family in Europe. Likewise, the Austrian embassy in Paradise processes approximately 1500 visa requests annually from Austrian tourists wishing to visit the BPI.

Austrian influence on Paradise Edit

Towns with significant of former-Austrian populations Edit

These areas were established by or else adopted by and settled by Austrians during the 1939-1945 War

  • hamlet of Vienna, Eden I.
  • borough of Herling, Morning I.
  • borough of Waterton, Morning I.
  • borough of Ocean Park, Morning I.
  • borough of George Town, Caravelle I.
  • hamlet of Small’s, Hope I.
  • Shelter Coast, Hurricane Hole, Eden I.
  • Governor’s Park, Governor’s Harbour, Morning I.

Character surnames of Austrian heritage Edit

Characters of these surnames, whether or not narratives identify them as such, are descended from original Austrian émigrés

  • Baylor
  • Boerch
  • Bosch
  • Brann
  • Eber
  • Flagg
  • Grentsch
  • Grieg
  • Halder
  • Heidelbraun
  • Hend
  • Hettinger
  • Hoffenbauer
  • Kane
  • Kohn
  • Maber
  • Mocker
  • Petter
  • Schaffer
  • Schlosser
  • Schoederer
  • Schubert
  • Van Dyke
  • Voss
  • Zannegger
  • Zant
  • Zorn

Further character details Edit

Gwendolyn Dahl’s family, though mainly Norwegian and English, live in a chalet-style house, built in 1956 by Austrian émigrés, on Centre Street in St Alice.

Noemi Chesney states that her ‘wish gift’ upon her 13th birthday is to ‘go back’ to Austria with her grandmother, Ursula Schlosser Chesney (and other family members). She has been to Austria only once before when very young yet harbours fond memories of the occasion.

Johanna Grieg (often spelling her name Joanna), friend and classmate of Janine Hewlett, is the star pupil in her German class as well as likely ‘lead student’ (valedictorian) of her 2004 O-level class. Her father, Hans, is a PE instructor at North Eden High School and physical trainer for the boys’ and girls’ gymnastics teams. Johanna was likely named after Johanna of Austria, a cultural icon of the 16th C.

Connie Baendegaard, of a Dutch father and Austrian-Paradisian mother, appears both as an intimate friend of Darby St Claire in The Seduction of Susie and as a whiny gymnastics teammate of Gwendolyn in The Love of Gwendolyn Dahl story arc. She lives in the well-to-do Lindengarten section of Vienna hamlet, Eden Island.

* * * Edit

Doc.b. 2015.0802. ©JCP Ltd www.jonniecomet.com Edit

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