At the Paraparaumu Library ‘Murder in the Library’ event last 30 April I was talking about Nazis in my crime story The Plot to Kill Peter Fraser when I heard a loud, sceptical, derisive snort of disbelief from somewhere to the back left of the packed house. Clearly the male snorter did not believe we had Nazis in New Zealand. Pity he had not read the evidence in several of my books.
Firstly my non-fiction Island of Secrets, the story of Matiu/Somes Island in Wellington harbour, used in both world wars to incarcerate enemy aliens. I listened to Wellington City Librarian Stuart Perry’s interview with one of the socialist prisoners there in the Second World War, John Charles Klingenstein. ‘In 1941,’ Klingenstein says, ‘I saw a document from Hitler (per Himmler) brought to the island by the Swiss Consul (uncensored mail) which contained a list of names of men who would form a Government. Among others was this well-known Cabinet Minister.’ Klingenstein was talking about the puppet government Germany would install once it had conquered New Zealand.
I corresponded with one of the German nationalists incarcerated on the island. Johann Braunias recalled pro-Nazis wearing cardboard swastikas and celebrating Hitler’s birthday. I copied socialist Odo Strewe’s grading of fellow inmates from full-on Nazis to those like him and Jews there who opposed the Nazis.
I begin my first Dan Delaney mystery The Death Ray Debacle by quoting Detective Stevenson’s report on the Auckland German Club taking on from 1933 ‘a more sinister trend … of increasing nationalism’ which resulted in Auckland Police having the club under constant surveillance a year before Scotland Yard followed suit with its ‘Nazi Squad’. My story draws on press reports of foreign agents active at the time in New Zealand. The cover of the book indicates their allegiances.
My Peter Fraser book speculates on the activities of Nazis released from Somes Island internment, highlighted in a report I quote from NZ Truth newspaper for 7 August 1946: ‘50 and more Germans interned on Somes Island … all self-confessed Nazis, who swore allegiance to the Third Reich and through the Swiss Consul received money from the German Government during their internment.’ The newspaper wanted them deported.
My third outing for Dan Delaney, the yet-to-be-published On a Bodgie Bike, draws on police surveillance of Yugoslavs in Auckland in the 1950s, dealing with people who brought either rabid communist or rabid fascist views with them. The World War Two Ustashe from Croatia was the most enthusiastic of all Nazi Germany’s fascist support groups.
If the snorter was prepared to read Island of Secrets and the first two Delaney novels, he might want to swallow his snort.