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Papers of Wilhelm Anton Friedrich Paul Steiner, onetime internee in Central Camp, Douglas

Date(s): 1939-1952

Creator(s): Steiner, Wilhelm Anton Friedrich Paul; Various

Scope & Content: The deposit contains correspondence relating to Willi's internment and attempts at release, correspondence to his brother Franzi (Willi's pet-name for Franzi was 'Pipsi') after his release and loose-leaf letters from Franzi to Willi November 1939 - September 1941; also letters for Willi in German from his mother, father, and other relatives (in English), am undated postcard instructing correspondence to internees to be addressed by letter of camp in line with a new regulation, Home Office guidelines for procedure in case of serious illness of near relatives of internees, 26 February 1941 and a programme for a Christmas 1940 choral concert printed by Camp Office, Central Camp, Douglas, carrying a design of an infant child signed by Paul Cumpoletz.

Administration / Biographical History: Wilhelm (Willi) Anton Friedrich Paul Steiner, later styled William Anthony Frederick Paul Steiner, was born in Vienna, Austria on 16 December 1918, the elder son of Richard (1878-1944), a judge and Paula (1894-1944), a linguist. His younger brother Franz (Franzi) later styled Francis (Frank) Maximillian Magdalene Michael was also born in Vienna on 2 October 1922. Both were schooled by Benedictine monks at the Schottengymnasium grammar school in Vienna. Willi went on to read law at the University of Vienna; simultaneously studying at the Consular Academy by which he was awarded an Honours Diploma in 1938.

From January 1933 Adolf Hitler held high office as Reich Chancellor of Germany and his National Socialist German Workers' Party (known in Britain as the Nazi party) came to the fore. After March 1938 when Nazi Germany invaded Austria. Richard Steiner was dismissed from the Bench on racial grounds: the family were considered non-Aryan given their Jewish descent. Richard had converted to Catholicism in the early twentieth century and as a consequence of his marriage to Paula in 1918, she too converted to Catholicism. Paula's mother was a devout follower of Judaism but her father was a free-thinking nominal Jew, qualities that Paula had inherited (according to Franzi).

In 1938 Willi travelled to England having been accepted to train to practise at the English Bar, becoming a member of Gray's Inn in September of that year. Following the events of Kristallnacht ('The Night of the Broken Glass') and after spending three nights' temporary refuge in the extraterritorial residence of the Argentine Consul General, Franzi was sent to England as part of the Kindertransport rescue effort on 10 December 1938. The brothers' parents moved to Hungary. In May 1944 they were arrested and deported to Auschwitz in July that year. Paula died in Auschwitz in October 1944 and due to his absence in the Auschwitz records (and given his age, bad health and the inhuman conditions of the transport to concentration camps) it is assumed Richard died on the journey there (according to Franzi).

In England, Willi continued further study and Franzi completed his secondary education at the Belmont Abbey School, Hereford. In 1940 both brothers were interned on the Isle of Man as enemy aliens due to their compulsorily imposed German passports. Willi was held between July 1940 and January 1941 in Central Camp, Douglas and for much of this time shared living accommodation at House 22 with Franzi. Franzi was interned from July 1940 until September 1941. After the closure of Central Camp he was moved to House 57 in Onchan Camp and later to House 1 in Hutchinson Camp, Douglas.

The relationship between Willi and Franzi and their time as internees on the Isle of Man is a major aspect throughout the documentation in this deposit and gives important insight into the internment experience. The brothers had further relatives interned on the Island: a cousin, Ruth (Anne) Williams (née Steiner, b.1923) spent about five weeks in Rushen Camp from May 1940 and her brother Friedrich Steiner (c.1922-2012) was also interned at the same time. He later transferred from internmet to become a member of the Pioneer Corps and took the name Frederick Allen Stanley (MBE).

After his release Willi worked in a munitions factory for two years; he was released from duty in 1943 due to his short-sightedness and eye strain. Alongside his war effort he worked in the London School of Economics (LSE) Library, obtained a second-class pass in the Bar Finals in 1941 and was called to the Bar in Michaelmas Term 1942. Willi proceeded to hold several eminent positions as an academic law librarian in a career spanning nearly fifty years. He died on 14 May 2003 and was survived by his wife Barbara (née Smith), their four children, Richard, Margaret, Mary and Anne and their five grandchildren.

After Franzi (Francis/Franz) was released from internment he had a varied career which included work in the civil service, the oil industry and a stock-broking firm. In 1966 he married Rosemary (née Oldham, d.1990), raising two children Rob and Claire. The family lived in Highgate until hte mid 1980s. Franz retired in 1987. For fifty years he was a reporter for the newswire service of the Austrian Catholic Church and for many years he chaired the Parliamentary and Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Union of Great Britain. In 2005 the Vatican awarded him the most prestigious lay honour, the Knighthood of St Gregory.

In 2009 Francis (Franz) returned to the isle of Man for his first visit since the war and, with MNH Librarian Alan Franklin, visited the locations of the camps in which he had been held.

Franz died on 24 February 2019 in Oxfordshire and is survived by seven grandchildren.

Language: English

Extent: 1 box

Collection: Manuscript Archive

Level: FONDS

ID number: MS 11882

Record class: Private

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