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Liverpool Blitz: Internment and Huyton camp

Huyton internment camp opened in 1940 to hold Germans, Austrians and Italians suspected of being spies and saboteurs. It was sited on the outskirts of Liverpool - a coastal area that was thought to be open to internal attack.

'Group of figures in hats and coats' by Hugo Dachinger
'Group of figures in hats and coats' by Hugo Dachinger
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The Huyton camp was one of the largest in the country. It was formed around several streets of empty council houses, and surrounded by eight-foot barbed wire fences. The original plan had been to hold internees there until they could be deported to the Isle of Man. However this practice was stopped, partly in response to the outcry following the sinking of the internee transport ship, Arandora Star. She was torpedoed in July 1940 with the loss of 682 lives.

Some internees were Nazi supporters, but many were Jewish, left wing and anti-fascist refugees who had fled mainland Europe to escape Nazi persecution. Many had children in the British forces, and themselves had fought for the Allies during the First World War. Some were interned simply because they had foreign ancestors - one MP pointed out that the royal family has German ancestry so theoretically should be interned as well.

'Men Washing Outdoors' by Hugo Dachinger
'Men Washing Outdoors' by Hugo Dachinger. This image was painted on a copy of The Manchester Guardian from Monday 20 July 1940
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Huyton camp mainly held men (smaller numbers of women were sent elsewhere), splitting families apart. Internees had little or no access to newspapers or the radio so had little idea what was happening to friends and relatives in the outside world. Some residents were put to work locally, often working in fields. The large number of artistic and academic refugees in the camp kept themselves occupied by lecturing and performing. These included the artist Hugo Dachinger whose work is featured on this page. As a result the camp became known as Huyton University.

Most internees had been released by the end of 1942, with repatriation beginning in 1943. However the last internees were not released until the end of 1945, well after the war had ended.

Audio

audio

There were mixed feelings about the German people; both those in the internment camps and those abroad. Marion Browne talks about her father's opinions
(windows media | mp3 | read transcript)

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