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

Archive Collection

Scope and 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. Letters for Willi in German from his mother, father, and other relatives (in English), a postcard instructing correspondence to internees to be addressed by letter of camp in line with a new regulation (n.d.), 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.

Administrative / 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 and 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. By 1933 Germany had been taken over by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party and in March 1938 Nazi Germany had invaded Austria. Richard Steiner was consequently dismissed from the Bench on racial grounds; the family were considered non-Aryan as they were of 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 because he had been accepted for training to read the English Bar, becoming a member of Gray's Inn in September of that year. By November 1938 following the events of Kristallnacht ('The Night of the Broken Glass') and after spending three night’s 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. Their parents moved to Hungary; however in May 1944 they were arrested and deported to Auschwitz in July 1944. 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 and after the closure of Central Camp, moved to House 57 in Onchan and House 1 in Hutchinson Camp in Douglas. The relationship between Willi and Franzi and their time as internees on the Isle of Man is a major aspect throughout the deposit and gives important insight into the internment experience. The boys had further relatives interned on the Island; a cousin, Ruth (Anne) Williams (née Steiner, b.1923) spent about 5 weeks from May 1940 and her brother Friedrich Steiner (c.1922-2012) was also interned at the same time who then went into the Pioneer Corps from internment and there turned into Frederick Allen Stanley (MBE).

After his release Willi worked in a munitions factory for two years, but 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 was released from internment he had a varied career which included the civil service, the oil industry and a stock-broking firm. In 1966 he married Rosemary (née Oldham, d.1990), raised two children and retired in 1987.

Conditions Governing Access

No regulations or restrictions are implemented on this material.

Advance notification of a research visit is advisable by emailing library@mnh.gov.im

Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from MS 11882's deposit file and the website http://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/282/.

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), November 2015.

Related Material

Related material held by Manx National Heritage includes the 'Memoirs of Willi Steiner' (reference number: MS 12001) and numerous library and archive resources relating to interment on the Isle of Man.