Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Zinnbauer, Helga Josephine (1909–1980)

by Margaret Rilett

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

This is a shared entry with Alfred Freund- Zinnbauer

Alfred Freund-Zinnbauer (1910-1978), Lutheran pastor, and Helga Josephine Freund-Zinnbauer (1909-1980), librarian, were husband and wife. Alfred was born on 26 June 1910 in Vienna, only child of Bohemian-born Karl Freund, medical practitioner, and his Viennese wife Maria, née Zinnbauer. His father was Jewish and his mother Catholic. He was educated at the Bundesrealgymnasium. In 1931, attempting to counter discrimination, he added his mother's name to his surname and became known as Freund-Zinnbauer. Although raised as a Catholic, he trained as a Lutheran pastor in the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession, having studied theology at the University of Vienna. Appointed curate in the village of Wallern (220 km west of Vienna) in 1934, he was ordained on 27 July 1936. He was dismissed from his post twelve months later when his Jewish background was discovered.

Helga was born on 24 February 1909 at Orsova, Austria-Hungary (Romania), daughter of Otto Alscher, journalist, and his wife Else Leopoldine, née Amon. The family moved several times because of political unrest; Helga was educated at a Catholic secondary school at Timisoara, and the University of Vienna (Ph.D., 1936) where she studied psychology. Fluent in six languages, she was accredited as a high school teacher. On 20 March 1938 she and Alfred married in the Gumpendorf Lutheran Church, Vienna.

After failing to obtain a post with the church in Europe or North America, Freund-Zinnbauer was accepted by the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Australia. Under the auspices of the Bishop of Chichester's rescue mission for the victims of Nazi persecution, the couple travelled to England in May 1939. On 21 February next year they reached Adelaide in the Orontes. Four months later Alfred Freund-Zinnbauer was interned 'chiefly as a precautionary measure'; he spent four years at camps at Tatura, Victoria, and Loveday, South Australia. Released on 25 February 1944 he worked for over a year as a metalworker at Pope Products Ltd at Beverley, Adelaide. In April 1945 he was appointed Lutheran city missioner in Adelaide. His wife, meanwhile, had been employed from 1943 as a librarian at the Barr Smith library at the University of Adelaide. Completing the qualifying certificate of the Australian Institute of Librarians in 1946, she was to remain there until she retired in 1974. Zinnbauer—as he now called himself—was naturalized on 21 February 1946.

As city missioner Zinnbauer provided pastoral care for Lutherans in institutions and directed 'unattached' members to established Adelaide congregations. He became well informed on the needs of the sick, aged and poor, and of prisoners and young people. His perception of the task varied from that of the committee set up to supervise his work: he believed that spiritual care could not be separated from practical assistance, and that he had a duty to help all people in need, irrespective of class, race, creed or religion. He received the full support of his wife and, as very little money was available from official sources, the pair financed a great deal of their work from their own salaries. Inspired by the Zinnbauers, church-members responded enthusiastically to their appeals for material and practical assistance.

So that they could care for the crews of Scandinavian ships calling at Adelaide, the Zinnbauers learnt Swedish; over four thousand seamen were entertained during 1949 alone. When Baltic migrants from the displaced persons camps in Germany began arriving in 1948, followed later by other European refugees, Zinnbauer was at the wharf or railway station to meet them and settle them into their new homes. He found housing and jobs for them, provided household equipment and clothing, organized schooling for children, and helped with personal problems. In 1951 he established a hostel at College Park. The Zinnbauers lived there for twenty-four years, accommodating thousands of people including seamen, people discharged from hospital or prison, and the homeless.

Zinnbauer held church services for migrants and, with the help of supporters, ran Sunday schools for their children. To preserve their cultural heritage, he encouraged them to establish choirs, theatre guilds and language schools. At the same time he urged them to learn English and to become loyal Australians. He helped 'old' Australians to understand and accept the newcomers. Although he lacked the organizational ability to carry all his ideas through to fruition, many of his proposals were taken up by the wider community, including legal aid for needy defendants, proper support systems for immigrants, flats for aged pensioners and help for patients in psychiatric hospitals. He also found the time to study at the University of Adelaide (B.A., 1958). In 1967 he was appointed M.B.E.; he was also awarded the officers' cross of the order of merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (1972) and a medal of merit of the Republic of Austria (1978).

After they retired in 1974, the Zinnbauers lived at Trinity Gardens. Childless, they had adopted a 14-year-old girl and permanently fostered two boys. Alfred Zinnbauer died of myocardial infarction on 9 November 1978 in Adelaide; Helga Zinnbauer died on 16 December 1980, also in Adelaide. Both were buried in Enfield cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Rilett, And You Took Me In (Adel, 1992)
  • Offset, 30 Nov 1978
  • Lutheran, 4 Dec 1978, p 10
  • immigration and security files, D1915, item SA11087, D1976, item SB1940/25 and A367, item C61896 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Margaret Rilett, 'Zinnbauer, Helga Josephine (1909–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/zinnbauer-helga-josephine-12112/text21703, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 16 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Alscher, Helga Josephine
  • Freund-Zinnbauer, Helga Josephine
Birth

24 February 1909
Orsova, Romania

Death

16 December 1980
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Occupation