Over the Ocean
A Wartime Story of Exile and Enduring LoveeBook
From the author of Aimée and Jaguar comes the extraordinary true love story of a couple who were separated during a shameful and fascinating chapter of British history
Erica Fischer tells her own parents' astonishing story and at the same time sheds light on a little-known, little-discussed chapter in British history. Fischer's parents met in Austria in the early 1930s. Her mother, Irka, was a Polish Jew and her father, Erich, was a Viennese lapsed Catholic. In 1938, Irka fled to the United Kingdom, to be followed the year after by her husband. By no means a rarity as refugees, they found work in southern England. However at the outbreak of war, Erich was arrested as an "enemy alien," which was then common practice in time of war. After being interned, he was transported to Australia in July 1940, along with 2,500 other deportees. The conditions were appalling on board the Dunera : the men were locked up below decks with overflowing latrines and only seawater to clean themselves. Faced with unimaginable hardships, the deportees banded together in solidarity to face their new life. Erich and Irka struggled to maintain a correspondence to try to ensure that they would be able to find each other when the war came to an end. Amazingly crafted, this biography reads like fiction and vividly evokes a chapter in history with which few people are familiar.