Wolf Klaphake, 1900–67
Wolf Klaphake was a German-born scientist. In 1935, he emigrated to Australia. From 1940 to 1944 he was interned as an 'enemy alien'. He died in Sydney in 1967.
Wolf Klaphake stood out – in more than one sense. He was six feet eight inches tall (203cm), lean, with fair (later grey) hair and blue eyes. Most of the few surviving photographs depict an earnest-looking man.
Wolf Klaphake was a chemist by training, but also excelled in other branches of the natural sciences such as physics and botany. He was a gifted linguist and a student of ancient Chinese cultures and religions.
'Who is this beanpole?' – From the ABC radio play A Doubtful Character
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From Zeitz to Casula
Klaphake was born on 5 March 1900 in Zeitz, a small town in southeastern Germany. Today Zeitz is known not only for its historic buildings, but also as the home of Europe's largest collection of prams. [FN1]
Elise and Wolf Klaphake, 1900.
Courtesy of Zita Klaphake
Wolf's father, Josef Klaphake, was the director of the local abattoir. When Wolf was one year old, his father died. Wolf, his sister Kitty and his mother moved to Leipzig, where Wolf went to school. After a six-month stint with an artillery regiment in Belgium, he returned to Leipzig to attend university. In 1923, he graduated with a doctorate and moved to Berlin to work as a chemist for the Schering-Kahlbaum company. [FN2]
When the Commonwealth security services seized Klaphake's papers in 1940, they found this brief curriculum vitae among them.
NAA: ST1233/1, N20785, p. 703
In 1935, Wolf Klaphake and his wife Maria emigrated to Australia. They initially rented a house in Melbourne on Riddell Parade, Elsternwick. They moved to Sydney in 1936, renting on Maclean Avenue, Chatswood. Klaphake worked first as a consultant chemist, and then for Industrial Microbiology Pty Ltd. This company was set up to fund Klaphake's research and then exploit the inventions he would make.
Less than six months after his release from internment, Wolf Klaphake applied to be naturalised. Because of his internment, his application could not be considered until a year had passed since his release. He was naturalised in September 1946.
NAA: A435, 1947/4/77, p. 18
From 1940 to 1944, Klaphake was interned in the Orange, Tatura and Loveday camps. In spite of his internment, which he considered grossly unjust, Klaphake decided to remain in Australia. He applied for naturalisation soon after his release.
Alice and Wolf Klaphake, 1964.
Courtesy of Zita Klaphake
After the war, he and his second wife Alice bought a property at Casula in Sydney's outer southwest, where he built a house and a laboratory. He continued to work as a consultant chemist until his death in 1967. He and Alice had two children.
'Like a very gifted child in school'
Wolf Klaphake was gifted, eccentric, naive, intelligent, stubborn, charming, withdrawn, romantic, uncommunicative, generous, intense, exuberant, repressed, depressed. There is little doubt that he was extraordinarily talented. His neighbour in Casula once described him as being 'like a very gifted child in school'.
 See Zeitz city website.
 For chemical processes invented by Klaphake while he was working for Schering-Kahlbaum, see the European Patent Office website (search for 'Klaphake').