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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Rosendorff, Hans Gunther (1910–1983)

by David Black

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Hans Gunther Rosendorff (1910-1983), librarian, bridge player and columnist, was born on 2 January 1910 in Berlin, son of Richard Rosendorff, lawyer, and his Adelaide-born wife Elva Dorothy, née Philippson.  His mother died when he was a small boy.  Hans Gunther studied law and economics at universities in Berlin, Paris and Heidelberg, but his studies were interrupted after the accession of Adolf Hitler to power in 1933.  A Jew and a member of the Social Democratic Party, he was arrested on one occasion but released shortly afterwards.  He took refuge in Paris and then London, before migrating early in 1937 to Western Australia.  After living for a year on a farm at Burracoppin with relations of his mother, he tried a variety of occupations, including door-to-door selling and working with a travelling picture show.

On 14 November 1942 at the Church of the Epiphany, Mundaring, Rosendorff married with Anglican rites Jean Mavis Howatson, a ledger-keeper.  At the time he was operating a poultry farm at Stoneville owned by his stepmother, who had migrated with his father from Germany in 1939.  In November 1942 he registered as a refugee alien and on 22 December enlisted in the Citizen Military Forces; he was assigned to the 16th Training Company.  Accepting a voluntary transfer to the Australian Imperial Force on 19 June 1943, he joined the 33rd Works Company, serving as an acting corporal in Queensland before embarking for Morotai, in the South-West Pacific, in January 1945.  He was evacuated on medical grounds in July and was discharged in October.  Naturalised in 1944, he was a State public servant until 1950 when he joined the library staff of West Australian Newspapers Ltd.  He was chief librarian in 1959-75, largely responsible for consolidating the library into one unit and for providing a coherent classification system for easy retrieval.

Active in the West Australian Bridge Association from its inception in 1939, he served at various times as president and secretary.  For over thirty years he was one of the best players in the State, winning all the major State events, including the open team championship five times.  He captained the Western Australian open team at the Australian National Championships in 1958 and 1961–63, and altogether represented the State on eleven occasions.  In 1965 and 1966 he won the ANC individual championship and in 1973 he attained the status of grand master.  The non-playing captain of a number of teams in national and international competitions from 1972 to 1982, he was particularly successful as the captain of women’s teams.  In 1982 he and his wife won the State mixed championship.

Rosendorff had begun writing a regular bridge column in the West Australian in 1964.  In 1975 he was elected inaugural president of the reconstituted Bridge Association of Western Australia; his forthright personality saw him at the centre of controversies on a number of occasions as he endeavoured to increase the State’s involvement in national and international competitions.  Described as having 'a memorable personality', he lost his temper easily and could infuriate people.  Ultimately he was remembered with affection, for fighting long and hard for the development of bridge.  Survived by his wife and their three sons, Rosendorff died on 1 August 1983 at Shenton Park and was cremated with Christian Science forms.

Select Bibliography

  • West Australian (Perth), 'North Section', 26 October 1977, p 22
  • West Australian (Perth), 4 August 1983, p 14
  • BAWA Newsletter, vol 1, no 5, 1983, p 2
  • Trumps Plus, September 1983, p 2
  • A435, item 1945/4/400 (National Archives of Australia)
  • B883, item WX39841 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information

Citation details

David Black, 'Rosendorff, Hans Gunther (1910–1983)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 24 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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