Mary’s Story

Losing the cottage again and again …

As I had married a German national, once war broke out the cottage and Northcote property were held by the Public Trustee. This was part of the general state of things during wartime.

Eventually, after the war the title of the cottage was restored to my name – only to be confiscated again when WWII broke out.

After the war things were not easy. Initially Emil and I lived in a house with 25 other families. In time we moved to a house shared with ten families, and we had two rooms there. Emil eventually did find employment, but wages were so low we almost starved.

A letter that I wrote on 21st February 1961 describes some of the events:

“After the war, Emil had trouble finding work because we were visiting there at the time when war broke out and the other men that had jobs before were given the preference in obtaining work but finally he did get work in repairing streetcars and I held on to my job at the candy factory until five weeks before Walter was born and at that time food was so scarce with everything being rationed and my boss, Mr Holstein,was very thoughtful about us at times.

Sarotti would have special food orders that their employees could purchase from them at a low price even after I was not working there anymore. He would get it for us at the same price. Both he and his wife were very accommodating.

The factory was bombed during WW2 and after that war was over, Mr Holstein was a very sick man and such little food they had. We sent them several food packages and one time she wrote that they had no food in the house. They had used up their rations when our food package came and it meant so much to them and later on he died so we sent one to her which she never got. Someone must have stolen it and that was in the American Zone in Berlin.”

I continued to correspond with Mrs Holstein throughout my life.

In 1919 our son, Walter, was born. Naturally it was a happy occasion; however, it also made the urgency to return to America even more apparent. It was a desperate situation in Germany. We needed a place to raise a family. Australia was now out of the question as the Australian government had confiscated the cottage and land. This was because I had married a German national. It was part of the war reparations imposed on Germany. My nephew, Charles Schwerkolt, tried to send us money, but the Australian Government would not permit money to be sent out of the country.

Before he died in 1920, my uncle, John Kruse, was living with his widowed daughter, Bertha, and she had sent us a package in Germany when we were so desperately poor. The food-and-clothing package contained some of the items that I had requested, but when Bertha became aware that my cottage rent money could not be sent to me to pay for it, I failed to receive any more packages from her. Fortunately her sister, Minnie, continued to send us ‘Food Drafts’, which were redeemable in Berlin.

From Germany to the United States

We needed to move quickly. America was our other option. There was a deadline and a quota limiting the number of German immigrants to the United States. We used up all our money to purchase passports and visas in an attempt to migrate as quickly as possible.

Sadly, in 1920 my Uncle John died in America. Two years later Minnie and her husband managed to send us the tickets to return to America. Finally we were ready.

Emil sailed first in August 1922 on the SS Mongolia to see if America would accept him as an immigrant. He entered the country without any problem. Relieved at this, I followed two months later with little Walter. To my horror we were detained on Ellis Island for three days and three nights due to myself being Australian born. The quota from Australia had been reached. I was also questioned about being so thin and was tested for TB. I had to wait for special permission from Washington for entry. Luckily, permission was granted.

Emil found employment with a lumber company. To supplement his income, he farmed and sold vegetables. Emil also established a poultry farm and sold the eggs. This business grew to 500 hens, which along with his large vegetable garden sustained them during the Great Depression and beyond.