To Walk Under Palm Trees

The Germans in Samoa: Snapshots from Albums


TGIS 2-81

The NZ Administrator in Samoa, Mr Alfred Turnbull (pictured left), told Wellington on 24 July 1944 that he wanted to defer the return to Samoa of the bulk of the internees. Mac McKay wrote to him putting the case for the men to return straight away. Turnbull telegraphed on 2 August, reversing his position and withdrawing his objection. McKay sweetened the pill for him by undertaking to draw up appropriate terms of parole in Samoa.

Mr McKay also dealt deftly with a problem for one internee who had the misfortune to be praised by Nazi supporter, Dr Walter Hellenthal, the pre-war German Consul in Wellington, who visited Samoa in May 1937. Hellenthal is shown in the middle of the group photo (on right) in a white suit and white shoes, at a reception that was held on a property in Lotopa, Apia (Turnbull is standing next to him in grey suit). He wrote a report to the German Embassy in Canberra that the Allies obtained at the start of the war. In this, Hellenthal included a commentary about the political soundness of several people he had met in Samoa. One man he had praised was in New Zealand in 1944 pressing for return to Apia. Mac McKay told the tribunal that Hellenthal’s report was “superficial and unreliable” and believed that the man should be returned and “could be relied upon to observe discretion and keep honourably any promises he makes.” McKay’s recommendation was agreed to.

Credit: Turnbull photo, McKay Family Collection (cropped); group photo, Tony Brunt Collection.

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