View of Huyton Internment Camp

WAG 1999.13


Dachinger was an Austrian artist who came to Britain as a refugee from the Nazis in 1938. At the outbreak of World War II, 74,000 men, women and children of German or Austrian origin were living in Britain. Most were refugees but some were long-term residents, businessmen, or domestic servants. The British Government was unsure how to treat them and feared some may have been spies and therefore a threat to national security. The British Government hastily constructed Internment Camps to arrest and confine them, a procedure that had been followed during World War I when 29,000 people had been detained. Initially only a small selection of people, considered to be of 'high risk' were interned, however by the summer of 1940 the numbers had quickly increased to 27,000. Dachinger and his father were arrested by the police in June 1940. They spent one night sleeping in the Tote rooms at Kempton Park Racecourse, before being transferred to the Huyton Internment Camp, near Liverpool. Huyton was one of three internment camps in the north west. It was constructed on the recently built Liverpool Corporation Woolfall Heath Housing Estate, which was left unfinished due the outbreak of War. Huyton was a transit camp, a place where prisoners temporarily stayed pending their transfer to more permanent camps on the Isle of Man or deportation overseas to Canada and Australia. Dachinger was detained at Huyton until October, when he was transferred to the Mooragh Camp at Ramsey on the Isle of Man. In 1999, the Walker Art Gallery purchased a group of watercolours and drawings made by Dachinger and German artist Walter Nessler (1912 – 2001) who was also imprisoned at Huyton in 1940. During their internment, they spent much of their time painting and drawing. Their work records the forbidding physical appearance of the camp and, more importantly, the dreariness of camp life and the suffering of the internees. Most of the works are sketchy and unfinished. Supplies were limited and it is thought he may have made a brush from his own hair, and mixed primitive pigments from mud, ash and sap. Some of the work was produced on improvised materials such as newspapers or wallpaper.