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WW1 German Vet, interned ww2 joins the Australian Army?

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While browsing a recent auction catalogue I came a cross a 1939-45 war medal to an Australian recipient (or so I thought ) and knowing my way around the Australian records web pages I thought I would take a quick look to see if he was of any interest. One word wow.


The medal was listed as engraved V501245 C F Somers

Entering the number into the nominal roll I nearly fell of my chair when this popped up

Somlitz Felix Carl Service Australian Army Service Number V501245 Date of Birth 21 Aug 1899 Place of Birth HAMBURG, GERMANY Date of Enlistment 31 Aug 1942 Locality on Enlistment Unknown Place of Enlistment CAULFIELD, VIC Next of Kin SOLMITZ, OLGA Date of Discharge 8 Sep 1945 Rank Private Posting at Discharge 8 EMPLOYMENT COMPANY

Carl Felix Somlitz was born in Hamburg in 1899 and was a member of a small but thriving Jewish Community at 18 years old he was called up for military service and served in the trenches for just over a year.

He was a Banker in Hamburg after the war but fled Germany with his sister Olga Solmitz after the infamous kristallnacht of the 9th-10th November 1938, Carl settled in Highgate London, Olga decided her new life would be in New York.

Carl was arrested and interned as a "Enemy Alien" in London in June 1940 and subsequently transported to Australia with no possesions.


I am assuming he was a model internee as he was allowed to enlist in the Australian Army in Agust 1942.

Carl married in 1946

Carl Felix Solmitz Karlsruhe, Hamburgand Eva Solmitz (Knee Frieslaender) Baden

M a r r i e d, Jan. 1946

397 Toorak Rd , South Yaiia

Melbourne, Vic., Australia

I await the arrival of his service record to fill some more gaps, I am assuming as his medal was auctioned in Germany then he must have returned at some stage. I have learned a very valuable lesson this week dont overlook the common everyday items you never know what an amazing story you may stumble on! :o

May I ask the Australian Forum Members is this unusual to find medals to German internees or was there a period of time were good behaviour allowed the prisoner to volunteer for the Australian Armed Forces?

Thanks and best regards


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Paul - welcome to the Forum. You certainly bring an interesting story with you. There were a number of internment

camps set-up in Australia during the First WW - and again in WW2. However, this is the first time I have heard of a

prisoner being released to join one of our armies. Obviously , his Jewish background must have played a big part

in the decision to release him.

I would say that you have a rare medal and it it would be interesting to have research carried out on what led to the

decision. I would also say, that you have an good article for both German and Aussie papers.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

Hi, great find. While I cannot answer the question, i would believe it is a rare occurence. I am aware of two groups in South Africa, where the individuals served in the German Army in WW I and then had subsequent service in the South African army in WW II. Both these groups come with the medals and some paperwork confirming the German service. Unfortunately never managed to acquire one of these.

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I remember many years ago over 40 being at a Remembrance Day Ceremony seeing a man wearing a CBE and another neck badge that I did not recognize along with German WW1 medals and Canadian WW2.....


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There was for many years in the '60s and '70s a Canadian Army officer who was entitled to wear an Iron Cross for his WWII service if he chose to. I'm not sure he ever did, but he was fairly well known. There were, of course, many German Jewish scientists who were recruited for war work in the UK, at least a few of whom were initially rounded up for potential internment when the war began. Your man probably had little difficulty convincing the authorities that he'd be no help to Hitler in the Aussie Army!

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  • 4 months later...

Wow! and many thanks!

Carl Somers was my great uncle.

In late 1973 I moved to San Francisco to attend SFSU. Carl and Eva were my only relatives in the SF Bay Area. I made a point of visiting from time to time. We talked about many things. They were brought up to be conservative, but Berkeley's liberal nature affected them.

Carl did not tell me about serving in the Australian Army. He did tell me about his WWI military service as an artillery spotter positioned slightly in front of German lines. His job was to observe the shelling and report corrections to gun operators. If he or the gunners made a mistake, the shells could land on him. Being the closest soldier to no mans land, he was an easy tarket for snipers. Lucky for him he was not wounded, though he did acquire PTSD.

After WWI he was apprenticed to a large bank in Berlin. At the end of his apprenticeship he was put in charge of the bank's foriegn exchange branch office in Munich. After this he worked for an accounting firm that sent him as part of audit teams to locations around the world. After this he returned to Hamburg to take over operation of the small private bank, Solmitz & Co., that had been started by his father. When life became difficult for jews, he decided to hide the bank's trust records. He then left with his sister for England. When she continued on to New York, she took his possessions with her. When he returned to Hamburg in 1958, the trust records had not been disturbed. The preservation of these records helped former bank clients obtain resitution. Carl was proud of his work as a German banker.

He met his wife Eva in Australia. She told me he was always invovled at the internment camp with keeping the others busy. After the war their internment camp was converted to living quarters for now free Germans refugees. To make money they started business. They bioth learned to sort perls from the South Pacific. Carl used his previous travel experience to become a traveling salesman for Australian products. Both Carl and Eva talked well of their treatment by Australia.

In 1958 they were able to return to Germany. They both sought restitution. By the early 1960s they were living in Berkeley, California. For many years Carl worked as a real estate broker. Carl's brother, Robert Solmitz, had settled with his family in Lost Angeles. His sister, Eva Solmitz, lived in New Yortk City.

The family archives currently kept by his niece, Ursula Osborne (my mother), has more information and photos of him and his branch of the Solmitz family. http://www.hrsolmitz-archive.org/

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Stan - good that you have been able to complete the story - which I find quite amazing. People are often brave and resourceful

in time of emergency - unfortunately the details are often lost or overlooked as time progresses. This is a fortunate case where

his history aand background have come to the 'top'. Mervyn

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  • 1 month later...

Dear Forum

not sure how the link got broken above here are Carl's Medals


How amazing to have a response from a living relative forum power!


Hello Paul

I hope this doesnt come across the wrong way, but have you considered asking Stan Osbourne if he and the family are interested in the medals ?

Their dollar value is low , but I am sure the sentimental value to the family would be high.



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  • 4 months later...

Carl Felix Solmitz was one of approximately 2500 internees sent by England to Australia on the Dunera & was interned in Hay, NSW from Sep 40 until May 41 when he & his fellow internees were moved to Tatura, Victoria. Most were of Jewish descent and of German or Austrian origin but there were also 200 Italians as well as some captured German merchant seamen.

There were more than 250 WW1 veterans among the German/Austrian internees. Most had been in the various armies but a few were in the Navy of Air Force. Of these approximately 50 joined the non-combatant labour units at varying times starting Mar 42.  Most of the Dunera internees served in the 8 Employment Company & were required to load/unload trains & sometimes worked in dock areas.  Transfers to combat units were not permitted nor was service overseas although a few did, probably by accident, after the war was over.  If discharged from the labour units, for health or other reasons, they were able to seek employment in Australia or opt to leave.  

About a half of the Dunera internees returned to England during the war & some served in the UK Pioneer Corps.  There were around 15 WW1 veterans who opted to do.  Later on those in the UK Pioneers could transfer to combat units but this was probably limited to some of the younger ones (youngest ones in the Dunera were born in 1924 & the oldest in 1874). 

Some went to Palestine & at least one then served with the British forces.  A few WW1 veterans died en-route to England when their ship was torpedoed.

Joining the UK Pioneers was one of the easiest ways to be released from internment & return to England.  Lack of shipping meant there were delays.  The options for temporary release in Australia were essentially limited to essential war work.  For many joining the labour unit in Australia was their only option for release.


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  • 11 months later...

Fabolous stories.  And a great photo too.  Thanks for posting.

I never met him , but there was in the 1970s and '80s a Canadian officer whose medal entitlement included his WWII German decorations.  He was, I think, a very young, late war enlistment in the Wermacht and after the war emigrated to canada and joined our army as a career.  And eventually got permission to wear his German medals in uniform, which may have been productive of a few awkward moments from time to time.  It certainly got him talked about!

I'd never known that internees could joing the labour Corps / Pioneers either.  It makes perfect sense, though: putting useful men to work in a place where they could do no harm if their sympathies were with the Axis.  Clever that. 

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