G’tag von Zeppelinburg!

Australians, arise!

WHAT AUSTRALIA WOULD BE LIKE UNDER HUN RULE. -- An original recruiting poster which was used with great success in South Australia. Tasmania, it will be noted, becomes Kaisermania, and the idols of the Huns have provided other place-names.

This is from the Daily Mail, 3 July 1917, p. 8, and would appear to be a South Australian recruiting poster, showing how the map of Australia might be redrawn if Germany won. Australia itself becomes "New-Germany"; Perth becomes Tirpitzburg; Adelaide, Hindenburg; Brisbane, Bernhardiburg; Sydney, Nietscheburg [sic]; Tasmania (not Hobart), Kaisermania; and, most appropriately from my point of view, Melbourne would be renamed Zeppelinburg!

I don't think much has been written on German plans for Australia in the event of victory in the First World War, probably because the Germans themselves gave very little thought to the place. However, it seems unlikely that Germany would have wanted to take over Australia lock, stock and barrel; better to turn us into some sort of client state instead. They'd probably have wanted to take a few of Britain's colonial possessions in the area, and perhaps would have insisted upon reparations or favourable trade terms. And our battlecruiser HMAS Australia -- which caused von Spee such headaches in 1914 -- would no doubt have had to go. No independent foreign policy, perhaps (not that we had much of one as it was!) But we probably wouldn't have had to go so far as to need to translate such phrases as "don't come the raw prawn with me, mate" into German -- fortunately!

This idea that we had to fight Germany in France in order to prevent the Kaiser's victory parade down Swanston St had obvious potential as a motivational device, and was used in stories and films as well. Did people really believe it? The Daily Mail said that the poster had 'great success', so perhaps they did.

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8 thoughts on “G’tag von Zeppelinburg!

  1. Post author

    Well -- firstly I don't think Japan ever had any serious short- or medium-term plans to invade Australia; they certainly didn't have the capability. (There are certainly those who would disagree with this.) But having said that, I think there was some planning done, but later, in 1943 or 1944 by the Ministry of Economics or something like that -- possibly in relation to Australia's future role in the Co-prosperity Sphere. I can't remember where I came across this though ... might have been Henry P. Frei, Japan's Southward Advance and Australia: From the Sixteenth Century to World War II (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991).

  2. Post author

    Not a lot of people know that -- well I certainly didn't! There were definitely some German place-names which escaped, such as Heidelberg, Brunswick, and Altona in Melbourne (a few more listed here) -- maybe the royal connection saved the first two?

  3. Post author

    That Berlin->Kitchener link is quite interesting; if it's accurate it seems that a small minority of people who felt very strongly about the issue were able to intimidate the rest of the population into letting the change pass; less than a thousand people bothered to vote out of a total population of 15000. Possibly because the option of keeping Berlin wasn't even available!

  4. My understanding was that the main reason such posters were created were part of the propaganda of the war at home.

    Ie; specifically in relation to the plethora of German place names in Australia (particularly in the southern states although Queensland had its share prior to the "Great War").

  5. Post author

    Interesting, Cory, thanks. But if that's the case, what exactly would be the threat that Australians are supposed to rise up against, if not a German victory? Presumably not that ethnic Germans in Australia would somehow take over and rename the major cities -- there would be far too few of them, even in South Australia, for that to be a credible threat. (Not that that's ever stopped anybody before ...) A recruiting poster (which is what the Daily Mail said it was) makes more sense to me (possibly with an implicit accusation that ethnic Germans would welcome a German victory and take over the country if that happened). But I freely admit that I don't know a lot about Australian history, even in my period ... so I could be wrong!

    Here's an interesting link on Germanophobia in Australia in WWI (though perhaps not unbiased): http://www.teachers.ash.org.au/dnutting/germanaustralia/e/ww1.htm

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