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Willie and Hilde Bittkow

The saddest moment for German migrants Willie and Hilde Bittkow was when their ship slowly inched away from the docks in Bremerhaven:

"Suddenly, at about 5pm, after a blast of the ship's horn, [it] very gently moved away from the pier. It was a very tearful moment. The band on the pier was playing the old German folk song 'Muss i denn, muss i den, zum Städtele hinaus', a tune that is always associated with someone leaving for a long time. It still brings tears to my eyes if I hear this tune now."

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Willie and Hilde sailed from Bremerhaven on the Italian ship Castel Verde with more than 800 other German migrants. Later, at Piraeus, a couple of hundred Greeks boarded also. While accommodation was 'not the best', they made the most of it.

Willie and Hilde Bittkow attended English lessons on the Castel Verde, learning along the way something about the Australian way of life from their teacher:

"I still remember a few of the things she told us: there is no stealing in Australia, one could go shopping, and there was no need to lock any doors and windows. Also, that every Monday was washing day and it was like a competition between the housewives as to who had their washing on the clothes - line first."

On board the ships there was some attempt to prepare the migrants for their new life in Australia, with English lessons and films, though the latter sometimes resulted in confusing information, as Alicia Arumets recalls:

We didn't know anything about Australia. They showed us films on the ship about Captain Cook and Aborigines and sharks and they gave us English lessons. We thought, goodness me, where are we going to end up. But sharks were better than communists.