Karel Joseph Koenig

Karel Joseph Koenig (1898 -1994) was a “Dunera Boy” who arrived at Jones Bay Wharf in 1940 as an interned enemy alien aboard the Dunera, together with over 2,000 internees of similar background. Most were Jewish prisoners of German and Austrian background.

Karl Koenig was born in Brommov in the Sudeten region of Czechoslavakia, Jewish and German -speaking. As a teenager he was a Cavalry Officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War One, narrowly escaping a gas attack on the Russian Front. In the 1930s he married and started a family: when his wife declined to leave the country, they divorced. Later, in the early years of World War Two, he dodged a bullet in the back while escaping from the Nazis.

After finding refuge in England, he was deported to Australia as an enemy alien, surviving a torpedo attack on the Dunera. After three years interned at Hay, NSW, he was released on condition of enlisting in the 8 Employment Company of the Australian Army. He was demobbed in May 1944. Peace opened opportunities, leading to a distinguished career in International Law. After he graduated from the University of Sydney, he married Katherine Young, and they had two sons. In the 1980 New Year Honours he was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM). His daughter-in-law, Kay Koenig, recorded his life in her Voices from his Suitcase (Sydney, 2012).

Further Reading

  • Kay Koenig, Voices from his Suitcase