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Letter from Oskar Speck to Miss Retemeyer

Date: 16 October 1937
Medium: ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Nancy Jean Steele Bequest
Object Copyright: © Australian National Maritime Museum
Object Name: Letter
Object No: ANMS0534[010]

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    Letter from Oskar Speck to Miss Retemeyer typed in German over one fold out page with text on all sides, except one. Dated 16 october 1937, the letter discusses his attack on the island of Lakor, where he was attacked. Also mentions his filming and his time spent in Dili.
    • Tepa, island of Barbar 16 October 1937 Dear Miss Retemeyer, At last, this is the letter I promised you. Have extended various greetings to you and hope you have received them. I should actually already be in Australia, but things haven'tdidn’t worked out quite thatso well in the last couple of months. Had malaria and then I couldn’t continue, because of the extremely adverse weather conditions. On the 26 September I was luckily able to depart from Timor. The weather was still very bad and I could hardly make more than 15km per day. Crossing over to Barbar I becamegot engagedinvolved in an unpleasant incident. On the island of Lakor, during the night, I was attacked by natives. They bound and mistreated me in such a way, that my body ended up covered in bloody weals. Well, I’m thick skinned, so that didn’t really harm me. Unfortunately, my eardrum wasn’t conditioned to cope with that sort of treatment so it simply split. Can’t hear anything ion my left ear anymore and have little hope of it getting well again. There is no doctor around here and the next one I will be able to visit will be in Toel. In spite of everything I was still quite lucky, because things could have turned out worse – and they would have, if I hadn’t decided to swim away atin a convenient moment. The natives couldn’t decide, what to do with me,, and so I was left alone for about 25 minutes. That gave me just enough time to bite through the bonds, take them off and push the boat back into the water. It’s a shame I couldn’t capture the stupid look on their faces on film. But, firstly, it was dark and secondly, I didn’t want to risk the right eardrum [being damaged], too. Fortunately, most of my baggage was still in the boat, especially the big suit-case, which they weren’t able to open. Otherwise, my film camera and the films would have been destroyed. All they were able to steal was my pistol and valuables worth around 50 Guilders. A steamship will arrive at Tepa on the 20th. I left a letter for the captain asking him to send a telegram I’ve written to the Consulate gGeneral consulate. So, I’ll just wait and see what happens. I’m certain of getting my things back, so, the only permanent loss will be in regard to my eardrum. For that I kept the bonds as a souvenir; they are made out of buffalo hideskin. I’ve noticed that all the natives here are Christians. I must confessadmit that, they’ve caused me the most problems so far. Toean Jesus certainly taught them quite some manners. What I described above couldn’t have happened on Timor, where the people are far less civilised. Being semi-educated and semi-civilised is the worst thing on Earth. I’ve always preferred the uncivilised natives. You rarely get to meet a truly civilised native. Here on Tepa, too, they’ve already stolen something from me. They were Christians of course, all under the influence of Ambon. I wonder what kind of experience I’ll have with the Papuans on New Guinea. I’m actually expecting my experiences to be good. I expect the Dutch officer to arrive here in two days. He’s on a trip doing inspections, so I’ll have to wait until I can give him my report. After that I’ll immediately travel on to Toel immediately. The weather’s fine and I hope to make it there within about a week. It isn’t far from there to New Guinea, so I’m pretty sure I’ll reach Thursday Island, Australia, before Christmas. What’s going on in Surabaya and how are you? Please give my regards to the Germans living there, including the Cconsul. Special regards to Dr Ziegler. Life in Surabaya will probably be continuing at its usual pace, without all the change I get to experience. Definitely hope to be back in Surabaya within a year. On my journey back to Germany I’ll probably stop at Java, in order to show my film there as well, too. I already have 3,000 ft of film stored in Bandung. I believe the things I have to show are very interesting. I hope all my films are fine technically OK. AGFA sent me a note to Dili, telling me that the exposure of the films was good and that there was nothing wrong with them in any other sense. I intend to have a standard sound film, i.e. a predominantly narrated film, made fromof my films. Herr Rickman took very good care of me in Dili. Really couldn’t have found a better host. Apart from that Dili is a terribly dreary one-horse town. Still, I did learn how to play tennis and Mah Jong. I was also able to experience the arrival of the new governor – another new governor. I must say, Timor is a very backward place. It’s been a Portuguese colony for 400 years, but conditions there can only be described as catastrophic. I sent some photos to Java and to the B.Z.[probably the newspaper Berliner Zeitung].[1] Maybe they were interesting enough to be published. Over here I’ve heard that the Moderow family have gone to Germany. I hope they are better off there. Sometimes I recall the evenings at the Tamburin. Unfortunately, all of that was only half, but I suppose it was meant to be that way. As much as I love having fun, I feel terribly unhappy when I can’t do the things I’d like to. My miserable financial situation is easier to bear in Kampong. Well, we have prospects and even though these prospects have often had to make wayplace forfor soundbetter reasoning, I keep looking for new prospects. I do believe, I’m the most optimistic person you can imagine. Even when the natives on Lakor held their knives in front of my eyes and indicated they would cut my throat, I still thought it might all be just a practical joke. That was when I was already bleeding and kicks blows rained down on me. Could you imagine more optimism than that? The tin mine idea doesn't look likewon’t seem to working. They tell me, that the government is against it and that I should see if I can haved more luck at achieving other things. So, I’ll have to go and see if I can find a new mine, and, being an optimist, I already have something in mind. This time it’s diamonds. They’re still pretty small and very black, but, looking at them through the magnifying glass of an optimist, they become larger and brighter each day. Perhaps you’ll laugh at this, but I’m enclosing one of my diamonds. If you should look at it through the eyes of a pessimist, you won’t even find it. The diamond won’t cost additional postage. In any case, some time later on you’ll be able to say that I endowed you with a diamond. And even if you dwon’t say that, because you might be a pessimist, being an optimist, I still imagine you willould. Dear Miss Retemeyer, having written enough non-sense atduring dusk in a remote pasangrahan [not explained] on Poelau Barbar, I will finish upend for now. In caseShould you have enough time and feel like it, please send your reply to Thursday Island, c/o Postmaster, Queensland, Australia. Hoping you are well, I send kind regards, Oskar Speck P.S. Please excuse the typing and all the careless mistakesnesses. [1] Translator's note: Probably the Berliner Zeitung newspaper
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