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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Salomon, Horst Egon (1920–1994)

by Norman Etherington

This article was published online in 2020

Horst Egon Salomon (1920–1994), restaurateur, real estate agent, and property renovator, was born on 28 April 1920 in Berlin, youngest of three sons of Ernst Alfred Joseph Salomon, lawyer, and his wife Elisabeth Gertrud, née Mendelsohn. After Horst’s parents divorced in 1923, his father took custody of his elder brothers while he stayed with his mother. She subsequently married Heinz Golzen, a judge. Although all Horst’s close family were of Jewish descent, some identified as Lutherans while others were not religious.

The Nazi Nuremberg laws of 1935, which defined Jews by race rather than religion, caught Salomon and his relatives—Christian as well as Jewish—in their net. His stepfather was dismissed from the judiciary, while he was forced to leave public school. He secured a scholarship to an agricultural high school in Denmark and earnt his keep by working on the associated farm. In 1938, unable to stay in the country at the expiration of his student visa, he wrote frantic letters seeking some alternative to returning to Germany. His appeal for assistance reached Dr Rudi Lemberg of the German Emergency Fellowship Committee, Sydney, and Pastor Karl Mützerfeldt of the Lutheran Immigration Aid Society, Adelaide. They arranged and funded the migration of Horst and his brothers, Gerd Hugo and Guenther Ernst (Ernie).

By late February 1939 all three had arrived in Sydney. After relocating to Adelaide, they were supported by Mützerfeldt who found them employment with Lutheran farmers. At the outbreak of World War II, Horst was working as a kitchen hand in a hotel at Lorne, Victoria. As an enemy alien he reported weekly to the police. When he moved back to Adelaide in March 1940 without permission, he was arrested. Further investigation elicited testimony from informers about his alleged pro-German sympathies which led to his internment at Tatura, Victoria, in June 1940. An appeal instigated by his brothers failed, the tribunal concluding that his ‘personality is unpleasing, impetuous, and egotistical’; and that his ‘unbalanced and tactless temperament’ would be ‘likely to cause serious unrest in any Australian community in which he was present’ (NAA D1915).

Salomon found the internment experience transformative. Allocated at first to a camp dominated by Nazi sympathisers, he complained and was eventually transferred to another compound at Tatura. From this point he more openly identified as Jewish, though not to the extent of religious observance. In January 1942 he was relocated to Loveday Camp near Barmera, South Australia, before being released in April the next year. Reclassified as a refugee alien, he then worked for Pope Brothers Ltd. In 1944 he enrolled in economics at the University of Adelaide, but financial stress would prevent him from completing his degree. There he was introduced to a politically active and intellectual set of friends who opened the door to a new life. His associates, then and later, included Max Harris, Don and Gretel Dunstan, Clyde Cameron, and Neal and Jill Blewett. On 15 March 1945 he enlisted in the Citizen Military Forces and served with the 6th Employment Company and the 29th Works Company in South Australia and Victoria. He was discharged on 27 September 1946 and naturalised in December that year. On 20 November 1954 he married Betty Dorne Lewis, a nurse.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s Salomon was a business partner in the bohemian Rendezvous Café at Glenelg. In March 1954 he applied for registration as a land salesman. Through this work he noticed the unrealised potential of Adelaide’s historic homes and cottages. The success of his first sympathetic renovation, of a dilapidated pair of cottages on Wellington Square, led to more work in North Adelaide, some of it undertaken in conjunction with the architect John Chappel. In total he completed forty-seven house redevelopment projects, their success helping to popularise heritage over demolition in South Australia. Although his restorations did not always accord with conservation practice, it awoke private owners and the broader community to the benefits of retaining old buildings.

After giving up real estate Salomon operated Horst’s Restaurant in Grenfell Street from 1979 to 1988. His extroverted personality and witty repartee drew a clientele of journalistic, literary, academic, and political notables. When he was awarded an OAM in 1990, he characteristically remarked that he found it amusing to be honoured by the country that imprisoned him as an undesirable alien. Survived by his wife and their son and three daughters, he died on 24 August 1994 in Adelaide and was cremated.

Research edited by Nicole McLennan

Select Bibliography

  • Adelaide Review. ‘Getting an Education.’ No. 33 (December 1986): 6
  • Advertiser (Adelaide). ‘Refugee Was Pioneer in Restoration.’ 26 August 1994, 7
  • Muenstermann, Ingrid, ed. Some Personal Stories of German Immigration to Australia since 1945. Adelaide: Xlibris [for the author], 2015
  • National Archives of Australia. A446, 1959/55757
  • National Archives of Australia. B884, S115799
  • National Archives of Australia. D1915, SA12688
  • National Archives of Australia. M1103/1, PWS3042
  • Salomon, Betty. Interview by the author, 28 May 2019
  • Salomon, Horst. Interview by Anthony Michael Kaukas, 15 October 1983. Transcript. J. D. Somerville Oral History collection. State Library of South Australia
  • Salomon, Horst. Interview by Mandy Salomon, between April and December 1993. Transcript. J. D. Somerville Oral History collection. State Library of South Australia.

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Norman Etherington, 'Salomon, Horst Egon (1920–1994)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/salomon-horst-egon-29798/text36883, published online 2020, accessed online 20 September 2020.

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