The Enemy Within – Exhibition at Shrine of Remembrance

Murchison & District Historical Society has been approached to loan some items for an Exhibition about Prisoner of War & Internee Camps, opening in February at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.

Some art works by von Gruenewaldt will be featured from the Collection held in the Heritage Centre in Murchison.

Hans Wolter von Gruenewaldt, (1907 – 1973) known as Gerry, was a Mining Engineer in Johannesburg at the outbreak of World War 2 and as he was a German National in a British Commonwealth country, he fled South Africa.

The ship on which he was crew was captured by the British and he then spent time in several camps – one in West Africa, three in England and after a miraculous survival from a torpedoed ship, another in Scotland.

Finally, after enduring appalling conditions aboard the ‘Dunera’ he arrived in Australia in September 1940. He spent time firstly in Camps 6, 4 & 2 Tatura before being placed in Camp 13 Murchison where he spent the next five and a half years.

Gerry was a talented artist and during his imprisonment his leisure hours were spent drawing and painting. He was involved in stage productions and concerts, providing backdrops and illustrations to programmes. He also drew the scenes around him and sketched many aspects of camp activities as well as painted formal portraits.

Camp Commander Lt.-Col. Bush asked Gerry to paint murals on the walls of the Officers Mess and Recreation Hall. These were of comical, light hearted characters. Many of these murals survive and with other works are to be found hanging at various locations in the township of Murchison.

In 2007 Gerry’s son Axel contacted the Murchison Historical Society and offered his father’s portfolio of portraits and copies of many sketches and drawings that his father had compiled while held in Camp 13.

The Society was delighted to receive such a gift of previously unseen art work from Camp 13. The diversity, scope and ability of the artist can be appreciated through the work in this portfolio and makes a valued addition to our Collection.

Also included was the story of his recollections written by Gerry of his POW experience, and this story makes gripping reading. This account is available for sale from the Heritage Centre.

The Society is pleased to be able to loan some of the artist’s work for a notable Exhibition in Melbourne.

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