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Internee and entomologist

Portrait of a man with tightly cropped hair and holding up a sign with the numerals '4981'. - click to view larger image
Hans Overbeck, 1915–18

Hans Overbeck was fascinated with the world. A German businessman, linguist and entomologist, he was working in Singapore when war broke out. Imprisoned as an enemy alien, he was transferred to Australia with other German internees in 1915 as the British attempted to rid their Asian colonies of German influence.

Overbeck spent 4 years in Australia’s two largest internment camps: Holsworthy near Sydney, and Trial Bay on the northern New South Wales coast.

While interned, he translated traditional Malay texts, began learning some of the local Aboriginal languages and collected ant specimens, many of which were later identified as new species.

Black and white photo of men with axes, some shirtless posing on and in front of a large fallen tree.
A work party from Trial Bay internment camp cutting wood


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