Helen Fry – Digging for Victory

Please note – many people have indicated an interest in attending this event

Because of its popularity, and for health & safety reasons, tickets are only available (maximum of 4 per purchase) through the Eventbrite.co.uk website

Thank you for your support and understanding

Kitchener camp, army photograph, 1939/40

Dr Helen Fry – Digging for Victory: Refugees in the Pioneer Corps in WW2

Dr Helen Fry has researched and published widely on the 10,000 Jewish refugees who fought for Britain during the war. These included 6,000 who started out in the ‘alien’ Pioneer Corps, many having enlisted from internment. Many went on to see active service in wartime and made an extraordinary contribution to the defeat of National Socialism. Their legacy remains largely unrecognised by the nation, including their vital work in denazification at the end of the war.
DATE AND TIME

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

18:00 – 20:30

LOCATION

Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide

29 Russell Square

London

WC1B 5DP

REFUND POLICY

Refunds up to 7 days before event


Many of you know Helen Fry’s books on Jewish contributions to the war effort – and many Kitchener men, as well as other refugees, served in the Pioneer Corps.

We are honoured to announce that Dr Fry has kindly offered to give a talk on the Pioneer Corps in connection with the Kitchener Descendant Group and for others with an interest in these events.

The talk will take place at the Wiener library in London on October 17th, from 6pm to 8.30pm.

Tickets will be available on Eventbrite from 9am on Monday, 20th August. There is a maximum of 60 tickets available.

For information, the link to purchase tickets is here. It will go live for ticket sales on Monday morning at 9am: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/dr-helen-fry-digging-for-victory-refugees-in-the-pioneer-corps-in-ww2-tickets-49168686866?aff=ebdssbeac

Many have already indicated an interest in buying a ticket. Because of the popularity of this event, tickets are only available (maximum of 4 per purchase) through the Eventbrite.co.uk website.

Looking forward to meeting up there!

1939 Register transcription

Over the months since we uploaded the 1939 Register, we have received some very helpful and interesting emails about the entries.

Here, I want to follow up an issue that has arisen a few times in these responses.

As many of you know, images of the original Register are held /owned by the British National Archives. These images of the original have recently been digitised by Find my Past, Ancestry, and so on. The process of digitisation is still in its infancy, and the transcription from faded, creased, sticky-taped originals to the typescript now available has created a number of errors.

In one or two instances locating these errors has been tremendously helpful in finding the entries for some men who did not appear to be in the Register but who should have been. We verify corrections through date of birth and job description, etc., and then check this against the image on the original document.

So – if you know that the NAME entry for your relative has an error, please get in touch and let me know.

It is a significant task to update the Register in its present form on the website, but I will be doing so on Friday of this week (17 August).

Any further corrections will be carried out towards the end of the year.

Many thanks, as ever, for all your help with this: it is very much appreciated, and it is important to get the information correct, as far as we can, collectively.

Kitchener camp 1939, Victor Cohn
Kitchener camp 1939, Victor Cohn

 

74th Company, Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps

As many of you will know (see Ungerson, Four thousand Lives, 2014), after war was declared in September 1939, that autumn, a series of tribunals was held at Kitchener camp to determine whether the men were ‘friendly’ or ‘enemy’ Aliens. Ungerson describes those who arrived to conduct the tribunals as already having a substantial amount of information about the men, to which they added over the course of these meetings. For many, it was the first opportunity they had had to share with those in authority what had happened to them in Germany.

The vast majority of the men in Kitchener camp were deemed ‘friendly’, and shortly afterwards they were ‘given the opportunity’ to join the British Army as part of the Pioneer Corps. One Kitchener family reports that the men themselves demanded the right to be allowed to join up.

Kitchener camp became a Pioneer Corps training camp over the coming weeks and months, and the ensuing events both for those who joined up and for those who did not wish – or were not allowed – to do so, will be explored as we move into coverage of the war years, which will converge around Dr Helen Fry’s talk on the AMPC in October 2018.

———-
October 17th, from 6 to 8.30pm, at the Wiener Library 
29 Russell Square, London, WC1B


Dr Helen Fry: Digging for victory: Refugees in the Pioneer Corps in WWII

Helen Fry has researched and published widely on the 10,000 Jewish refugees who fought for Britain during the war. These included 6,000 who started out in the ‘alien’ Pioneer Corps, many having enlisted from internment. Many went on to see active service in wartime and made an extraordinary contribution to the defeat of National Socialism. Their legacy is largely still unrecognised by the nation, including their vital work in denazification at the end of the war.

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of meeting another Kitchener descendant at the Wiener. We were meeting to discuss his family’s numerous Kitchener and Pioneer Corps documents.

It is going to take a while for me to go through everything, and get it all uploaded, but as a taster, for those with fathers or grandfathers in the 74th Company Pioneer Corps, below, you may be able to see your relative in one of the photographs sent in.

These are of the old school photograph type, and as such I was unable to scan them in their entirety, but they are presented here in two halves.

Even better perhaps, to those trying to find out more basic information – such as which of the six companies of Pioneers at Kitchener their relative was in – our fellow descendant also brought in a substantial amount of paperwork, including lists of names of the men in that company.

For now – I hope you enjoy the photographs – and please – do tell us if you can name anyone shown here!

(As usual with images across the site, please just click to enlarge the photographs)

Kitchener camp, 74th Company Pioneer Corps
Kitchener camp, 74th Company Pioneer Corps

From a Kitchener family: Dr Julius Gildener from Vienna, is shown in the first photograph standing furthest left in the back row

Kitchener camp, 74th Company Pioneer Corps
Kitchener camp, 74th Company Pioneer Corps
Kitchener camp, 74th Company Pioneer Corps
Kitchener camp, 74th Company Pioneer Corps
Kitchener camp, 74th Company Pioneer Corps
Kitchener camp, 74th Company Pioneer Corps

 

Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate

Part of our recent visit to Sandwich included a trip to Ramsgate to see the Montefiore synagogue and mausoleum. Unfortunately, at the last minute, we were unable to have the usual in-depth talk about the history, but this is a beautiful building and it was good to visit the place where some of the Kitchener men attended services – and some were married here. We did have an interesting short talk from a very kind gentleman who stepped up at the last minute, and some words from author Clare Ungerson, who gave us some more information about the site as it relates to the Kitchener history.

We are only too aware that not everyone who wants to can get to London and the south coast easily, where most of the archives – and the Kitchener site – are located.

Richborough camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018
Kitchener camp, Montefiore mausoleum, Ramsgate

It’s quite trip even for many in the UK, let alone an impossibility for those living overseas – although we have been lucky that for most of these events so far we have had Kitchener descendants join us from as far away as the USA and Australia, if their trips have happened to coincide with an event.

But for the many families who can’t join us, I am uploading images whenever I can. In this instance, I waited to check with the Montefiore Endowment Board that there were no security or other issues surrounding the posting of photographs before doing so, and we have now had the OK from them.

So – below – the Montefiore synagogue and mausoleum, Ramsgate – another significant place  in our shared Kitchener history.


For the website of the Montefiore synagogue: https://www.montefioreendowment.org.uk/sirmoses/ramsgate/

Richborough camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018
Kitchener camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate

The Wikipedia page on Sir Moses Montefiore is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_Montefiore

Richborough camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018
Kitchener camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate

And for more information on the synagogue: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montefiore_Synagogue

Richborough camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018
Kitchener camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate
Richborough camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018
Kitchener camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate
The diary of Phineas May: 
Sunday, 2 July 1939

I think the whole Camp wished to see me this morning about one thing or another. There were two Weddings solemnised in the Sir Moses Montefiore Memorial Synagogue in Ramsgate. It is a beautiful little Synagogue in White Marble and Gold. The Service is Spanish and Portugese. Beside the Synagogue is his Tomb.

The two young couples met at J.’s flat, as he acted as sponsor in both cases. Banks acted as best man for one and I for the other. After the ceremony the Minister invited the Wedding Party to Tea at his house next door and they had been to a lot of trouble to make a nice tea.

The comrades of the Bridgegrooms had both arranged a “Wedding Feast” in their huts, and so we of course had to make the usual “social round”.
Richborough camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018
Kitchener camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate
Richborough camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018
Kitchener camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018
Richborough camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018
Kitchener camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018
Richborough camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018
Kitchener camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018

The Core Collection of Sir Moses’ books, manuscripts and papers

Richborough camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018
Kitchener camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018
Richborough camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018
Kitchener camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018
Kitchener author Clare Ungerson giving descendants some information about the synagogue
Richborough camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018
Kitchener camp, Montefiore synagogue, Ramsgate, 2018

 

Getting the word out in the USA and beyond

Avotaynu, Jewish Genealogy, Ann Rolett, Kitchener camp article, front cover
Avotaynu, Jewish Genealogy, Ann Rolett, Kitchener camp article, front cover

Ann Rolett has put a huge amount of time and effort into writing and getting published a piece about the Kitchener camp project online, to help get the word out in the USA and beyond.

‘Kitchener camp: An extraordinary rescue of Jews to Britain in 1939’ is published in the Spring edition of Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy; it was copy-edited by descendant Lynne Parsons, who also contributed some valuable additions to the article.

The editors of Avotaynu, who also worked on the article before publication, have very kindly given us permission to reproduce it here. We are very grateful for all the time they put into this with our descendants, and for the large amount of space they have given the project to try to help us reach more Kitchener families.

I note that the back cover of this issue includes a mention of the excellent POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, which is a co-host, with the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, of the 38th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, which is being held at the Warsaw Hilton from August 5-10th, 2018.

More information here: https://www.iajgs2018.org

As ever, many thanks indeed to Winston Brill for allowing us to add some of his family materials to this publication – to help us to reach more families.

If anyone else would be happy to contribute similar permission for their materials to be more widely used in this kind of context, please do get in touch and let us know.

Avotaynu, Jewish Genealogy, Ann Rolett, Kitchener camp article, page 1
Avotaynu, Jewish Genealogy, Ann Rolett, Kitchener camp article, page 1
Avotaynu, Jewish Genealogy, Ann Rolett, Kitchener camp article, page 2
Avotaynu, Jewish Genealogy, Ann Rolett, Kitchener camp article, page 2
Avotaynu, Jewish Genealogy, Ann Rolett, Kitchener camp article, page 3
Avotaynu, Jewish Genealogy, Ann Rolett, Kitchener camp article, page 3
Avotaynu, Jewish Genealogy, Ann Rolett, Kitchener camp article, page 4
Avotaynu, Jewish Genealogy, Ann Rolett, Kitchener camp article, page 4
Avotaynu, Jewish Genealogy, Ann Rolett, Kitchener camp article, page 5
Avotaynu, Jewish Genealogy, Ann Rolett, Kitchener camp article, page 5
Kindertransporte memorial, Hope Square, Liverpool Street station, London; funded and maintained by the Association of Jewish Refugees
Kindertransporte memorial, Hope Square, Liverpool Street station, London; funded and maintained by the Association of Jewish Refugees

 

Sandwich: A personal reflection

Tudor house, opposite to the sea, along the coastal road from Kitchener camp
Tudor house, opposite to the sea, along the coastal road from Kitchener camp
Letter, Else Weissenberg to her son, Werner, resident of Kitchener camp in 1939

Gleiwitz, 15th June 1939

We have cleaned your bike, it looks really good, as I have always said – don’t be too quick to discard it. Who would have thought you could use it for excursions in England.

While we are finding out much about the collective nature of our Kitchener history, as descendants we each also have our personal family histories and narratives on which to draw.

For me, the group visit to Sandwich was engaging and fun – there’s something special about having the chance to talk with others who have a similar background.

This is probably often true of groups who share a common interest, but I suspect it may be more so for us, who have lived with little to no knowledge of these events, and with little understanding of them. Where people have lived with silence, absences, and often deep trauma among families, it should not seem strange that we should find such connections especially useful, perhaps.

Sandwich golf club
Sandwich golf club, opposite to the sea
The golf club is mentioned in the diaries of Phineas May
It is clearly suffering from the drought here – in summer 2018
The site of the old Kitchener camp is just visible on the horizon – where the chimneys are

But my personal visit to Sandwich also had its sobering moments, as I found on the Saturday before our meeting.

I had decided to spend Saturday working my way around various sites to take photos for the website.

One of the places I wanted to locate was a coastal path that a number of sources mention: the men travelled, often by bike, to go swimming here.

Sandwich bay, 2018 - along the Kitchener men's cycle routeSandwich bay, 2018 - along the Kitchener men's cycle route
Sandwich bay, 2018 – along the Kitchener men’s cycle route

Today the coastal road out of Sandwich is still very popular with cyclists, and it goes alongside a stunning curve of pebbled beach.

Sandwich bay, 2018 - along the Kitchener men's cycle route
Sandwich bay, 2018 – along the Kitchener men’s cycle route

Standing here on the beach, I felt very close to my missing family members, somehow – no doubt because of my grandmother’s letters, which talk about this stretch of England, and these outings my father made with his Kitchener friends.

Gleiwitz, 17th August, 1939

Your letter took a long time on its travels; it only arrived today in the afternoon. We began to wonder whether you were in London or even ill... I am pleased that you have the chance of enjoying bathing in the sea; sea water makes you stronger, but don’t stay in the water too long. The doctor advised me to stay in only three minutes – advice I didn’t heed as much as I should have, although I am now passing it on to you. I expect you immerse yourself in the water – do you have a high and low tide?
Sandwich bay, 2018 - along the Kitchener men's cycle route
Sandwich bay, 2018 – along the Kitchener men’s cycle route

My grandmother Else, who did not make it out of Germany but was killed in the Shoah, wrote regularly to my father while he was in Kitchener.

In a number of places she makes reference in her letters to these cycle rides, and to the men’s time on the coast, and in the sea.

The backdrop of her letters almost always returns to the situation from which her son has escaped .

Gleiwitz, 24th August, 1939

Dear Werner

Your letter arrived only today with the first delivery, but I was not worried about the lengthy pause, because I suspected you used the lovely weather to spend some time at the seaside. I am pleased that you were able to enjoy bathing and able to raise a smile or peals of laughter. Yesterday a Mr Angress came to visit; he is a good friend of Burg. He applied to go to the Camp in February, but he didn’t hear any more about it. He made half-hearted attempts to emigrate to Columbia where he has an eighteen-year-old son who is a decorator; he is also interested in Shanghai. Both attempts were unsuccessful. He wrote to the R.J.F., to a Herr Ernst Rosenthal, and now he has received confirmation from the Camp and hopes to be travelling in the next few weeks. He will bring you greetings from us.
Sandwich bay, 2018 - along the Kitchener men's cycle route
Sandwich bay, 2018 – along the Kitchener men’s cycle route

One reference always makes my throat tighten – in a way that will be familiar to anyone with this background.

For whereas Kitchener was a remarkable rescue of so many lives, there is not one of us who visited Sandwich at the weekend – as well as among every other family with this history – who does not know that moment when the tears well, unbidden, often at unexpected moments, our throats tighten, and once more our hearts break for the missing grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts, uncles and cousins.

I had just such a moment, standing here on the pebbles in the sunshine, looking out to the sea in that beautiful location.

I felt deeply the longing expressed simply by my grandmother, wanting only to be with her only son, whom she would never see again.

Gleiwitz, 29th June 1939

I would love to walk along the coast with you, my son.

And I wondered about the Kitchener men, who must have looked out over this blue water – and must have felt how close their families were, and yet how far away.

I picked up a pure white stone, sun-warmed, and held it close, and thought about my grandmother. And I picked up three pure white shells as we walked back up to the road – each item somehow becoming a talisman to help me leave again, and to come back to the present day.


 

Sandwich – a visit

A group of Kitchener descendants met in Sandwich at the weekend to see some of the remnants of places that our fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and cousins would have lived in or visited while resident at Kitchener camp for those few months in 1939 – 1940.

It seems such a shame – for those of us who are used to finding only remnants of the places in Europe in which our families lived, worshipped, and worked – that in Britain, too, we can only locate traces in relation to our relatives’ stay in Kitchener camp.

But – there it is – traces is what we have, once more – and something is better than nothing.

Kitchener camp, Sandwich toll bridge sign
Phineas May diary extracts
 SUNDAY, 29 January 1939 I found that it does not take longer than ten minutes to reach the main gates of the Camp from the Toll Bridge which is opposite to the hotel, when walking at an average speed.
 Friday 3 February 1939 … [T]he porter said there was a lorry driver waiting to see us. He had been held up owing to the fog and had not even a 1/- on him with which to pay the toll. All the lorry drivers cursed this ‘imposition’ to cross the bridge necessary to get on the road leading past this Camp. It is one of the last toll bridges in England and makes a fortune out of the town.

However, one of the lovely things about Sandwich itself in this context is that its chocolate-box prettiness means that many of the places we see today are still much as they would have been when our relatives were here 80 years ago: “Where once we walked …”, indeed.

Another really lovely aspect of our day in Sandwich is that we were joined by a number of local Sandwich residents – some of whom had families who took Jewish refugees into their homes. I am genuinely hoping that they will follow up on our discussions and send in some information and photographs, which would be a wonderful addition to this collection. We have always wanted to hear from Sandwich residents about these times and their collective memories.


Before I say anything else, I do want to say thank you to Kitchener author Clare Ungerson for organising the day for us all. She generously gives us an incredible amount of her time and energy, and we are very grateful to her for this.


Particularly for those families who live too far away to join us on these outings, I thought you might like to see some of the photographs we took – which I will also add to the relevant pages throughout the site, where these places are mentioned in the text.

It’s a bit of a ‘what I did on my holidays’ page, perhaps – especially for those who were there, but I hope it’s of general interest. I had a fascinating time searching places out to photograph for these purposes, and I hope they give you some enjoyment too.


Sir Roger Manwood school, Sandwich, Kent

Richborough transit camp, Sandwich, Phineas May diary, Roger Manwood school
Kitchener camp, Sandwich, Phineas May diary, Roger Manwood school
Phineas May, diary extract
Saturday, 13 May 1939

After the usual Saturday morning programme immediately after Lunch I left with a Party of men for the Sir Roger Manwood’s school (a fine Secondary in Sandwich founded in 1500) to their Sports Day … they have beautiful grounds. I had selected only sportsmen for this party and they enjoyed it very much. We had been invited by the Head Master, a Mr Oates (a fine fellow) and he had arranged Tea for us. Our friend Lady Airedale was presenting the prizes and came up and spoke to us, and said she would invite some more men over to Tea next week.
Kitchener camp, Sandwich, Phineas May diary, Roger Manwood school
Kitchener camp, Sandwich, Phineas May diary, Roger Manwood school
Phineas May, diary extract
Friday, 26 May 1939 

After much awaiting completed at 3 p.m. June issue of K.C. Review – 18 pages. In afternoon went to keep appointment with the Headmaster of the Sir Roger Manwood School at Sandwich, to go into details of sports day being held at his school on 24 June. The Sports Master has agreed to let us use their excellent sports ground in the evening during the week previous to run off the first races. The Mayor of Sandwich who is a Guvnor the School was there and I have agreed to let our Orchestra give a performance on July 1st in aid of the school funds.
Richborough camp, Sandwich, Phineas May diary, Roger Manwood school
Kitchener camp, Sandwich, Phineas May diary, Roger Manwood school
Phineas May, diary extract
Tuesday, 23 May 1939 

Excellent – the Headmaster of the Sir Roger Manwood School at Sandwich has consented to lend their beautiful sports field for a sports day for us on June 24th. I have an appointment with him on Friday afternoon to go into all details.
Richborough transit camp, Sandwich, Phineas May diary, Roger Manwood school
Kitchener camp, Sandwich, Phineas May diary, Roger Manwood school
Phineas May, diary extract
Monday, 5 June 1939

I with two Members of my staff went to the Sir Roger Manwood School to deal with the one hudred details necessary in connection with our sports day there on the 24th. We have had so many entries that there will have to be many preliminary heats the previous week. The Sports Master of the School, a Mr. Christian is a very charming fellow and gave us most valuable advice. At 8 p.m went to Sandwich and for a walk round the camp and took two of my Staff for a Coffee at the Tudor Tea Rooms, a beautiful old place. As we arrived back in Camp another 90 arrived from Vienna.
Richborough transit camp, Sandwich, Phineas May diary, Roger Manwood school
Kitchener camp, Sandwich, Phineas May diary, Roger Manwood school
Phineas May, diary extract
Monday, 19 June 1939

Went to the Sports Ground of the Sir Roger Manwood School to make any necessary preparations for our Sports day on Saturday
Richborough transit camp, Sandwich, Phineas May diary, Roger Manwood school
Kitchener camp, Sandwich, Phineas May diary, Roger Manwood school
Phineas May, diary extract
Wednesday, 21 June 1939

So the longest day has now gone. I spent the afternoon with two of my staff and the Sports Master of the Sir Roger Manwood School getting the school grounds marked out for Saturday. It all has to be marked out excellently. It is a lovely ground. The boys of the school were playing outside and it took me back to my boyhood again.

A party of 27 men arrived who had been stranded off Cuba on the St. Louis.
Richborough transit camp, Sandwich, Phineas May diary, Roger Manwood school
Kitchener camp, Sandwich, Phineas May diary, Roger Manwood school
Phineas May, diary extract
Friday, 23 June 1939

Completing final pages of K.C. Review. 

Went to the Sir Roger Manwood Sports field and helped with the final details of the Sports programme and laying out the track.

Margate: Hebrew Congregation

Richborough transit camp, Sandwich 2018, Phineas May diary, Margate synagogue
Kitchener camp, Sandwich 2018, Margate synagogue
Phineas May, diary extract
Wednesday, 28 June 1939

At 8.15 I received a message to come over to J., flat. One of the men had died in the Kent County Mental Hospital. I `phoned up the Hospital, London, Margate to make all the necessary funeral arrangements. 

It is rather strange that we had a Birth, a Marriage and a Death within one week.
Kitchener camp, Sandwich 2018, Margate synagogue
Kitchener camp, Sandwich 2018, Margate synagogue
Phineas May, diary extract
Sunday, 25 June 1939

Tried to bring all my work up-to-date so that I could go up to London after the Camp Wedding at 4.45pm. The Bridgegroom had been dressed by his comrades in evening dress – he might have been going to a Wedding ceremony in the East End. Ivy who was to give the Bride away brought her to the Synagogue in his car. She (the Bride) looked really charming. I made Banks act as best man and J., acted at the Father. The Synagogue had been decordated, and with the real Chupah and Minister from the Margate Synagogue it was very “Kosher”.
Richborough transit camp, Sandwich 2018, Margate synagogue
Kitchener camp, Sandwich 2018, Margate synagogue
Phineas May, diary extract
Thursday, 22 June 1939

J. and I were on to London and Margate synagogue and completed all arrangements so that the young couple can be married under the chuppah in our synagogue on Sunday afternoon. Rather strange that it should be the very afternoon of my first leave to go to London to a Wedding.
Richborough transit camp, Sandwich 2018, Margate synagogue
Kitchener camp, Sandwich 2018, Margate synagogue
Phineas May diary, extract
Monday, 14 August 1939

Got through a considerable amount of post and more interviews and had several “Wedding” consultations. Went to Margate to pick up Rabbi Cohen and returned we he officiated at a Wedding under the Chuppah in the open air.
Phineas May diary, extract
Monday, 21 August 1939 

At 5.30 there was another Wedding. This time at the Margate Synagogue at which I again acted as Best Man, the Margate Ladies Guild had provided a nice little reception afterwards for the couple.

Kitchener camp – trains to safety

This map shows the main railway line and the branch line into Kitchener camp (for a version you can enlarge, see the Kitchener camp page here):

The branch line into Kitchener ran off the main railway line, which is just visible through the trees in the image below. This picture was taken from the bank at one side of Richborough fort ruins, which the men visited, and to which Phineas took a few of the Dovercourt boys not long after they had arrived.

Richborough fort, 2018 - the railway line just visible among the summer leaves - went into Kitchener camp
Richborough fort, 2018 – the railway line is just visible among the summer leaves – a branch line ran from this into Kitchener camp
Richard Hymann transcript of interview, 12 June 2003

“We had to stop at Cologne, it was at night, we didn’t see much of Cologne, we never got off the station you see. And then we went to, we went over the border at Arnhem in a van, and then hurray, you know and then we went over to Dover and from Dover to Sandwich. ... there were one or two compartments reserved for us” 
Kitchener camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018
Kitchener camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018
Kitchener Camp ReviewMarch  1939 – extracts

"Arrival of the refugees

It is usually evening when the refugees arrive, struggling with their heavy trunks, sacks, rugs and coats over the churned up roadways which lead between the long, low huts …"
Richborough transit camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018
Kitchener camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018
Max Abraham (ORT teacher) transcript

Abraham mentions having a short medical examination on arrival at Harwich, “but only very superficial”. They then travelled onwards again to Liverpool Street train station in London, arriving at two o’clock in the morning. "It was absolutely terrible, and then we went to Woburn House and from there to the Kitchener camp. And that’s where we enjoyed ourselves. It was like a holiday camp.”
Richborough transit camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018
Kitchener camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018 – even the train name seemed to be getting into the general ‘war’ theme – though admittedly, it was the wrong war …
Kitchener camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018
Kitchener camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018
Siegfried Metz: "The boys were split into two groups to travel to England.  On 29 August 1939 the first group of 106 boys (including Siegfried) and their tutors travelled by train from Berlin to Hook of Holland, then by the Polish transport ship SS Warszawa to Harwich and then by train to Liverpool Street station.  They stayed overnight in the East End of London before travelling to Kitchener Camp at Sandwich. Siegfried appears in a group photograph of the ORT boys in the camp under the name of Sigi Metz."
Kitchener camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018
Kitchener camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018 – London direction
Tuesday, 6 June 1939 
Arrivals: Werner WeissenbergFritz BleicherErich Silbermann, Siegfried Silbermann
Richborough transit camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018
Kitchener camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018
Joachim Reissner: Together with his fellow students, Joachim travelled from Berlin to Cologne, crossed the border to France, took the ferry to Harwich, then took another train to Waterloo Station. From Waterloo, under the supervision of Lieutenant Col. Levey, they marched to Rawton House in Whitechapel and were then put on another bus to the county of Kent – the Kitchener camp. Presumably Joachim was reunited with his older brother, Willi, who had arrived at the camp in April 1939. From Kitchener camp, the ORT boys travelled to Leeds, where the ORT School had been relocated.
Richborough transit camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018
Kitchener camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018
Thursday, 13 July 1939
Arrivals: Richard CohnLothar Nelken, Herbert NachmannSamuel GoldsteinHans Friedmann
Richborough transit camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018
Kitchener camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018
Sunday, 27 August 1939

Phineas May - diary extract
"On our return to the Camp at 11.30 we found J. and Banks waiting for the arrival of 13 men from Germany. and 2 Blind Boys of 11 and 12 who had not been picked up at Dover."

Monday, 28 August 1939
Arrivals: Erna Finkelstein
Kitchener camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018
Kitchener camp, Sandwich railway station, 2018
From Wednesday, 30 August 1939, onwards
Arrivals: Peisach MendzigurskyHerbert Nachmann, Joachim Reissner, Isidor Wilkenfeld

Richborough Fort

This old Roman ruin was something of a favourite day out from the camp. On visiting it, I could see why. It’s a huge site and very isolated in the present day – and beautifully peaceful.

Phineas May diary, extract
Wednesday, 24 May 1939 

After the evening service I went for a walk across the fields to Richborough Castle with three of the Dovercourt Boys.
Richborough fort, 2018
Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp in the distance - the location of the old Kitchener camp, bought and developed by Pfizer, as seen from Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp in the distance – the location of the old Kitchener camp, bought and developed by Pfizer in the postwar era, as seen from Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp - days out, Phineas May diaries - Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp – days out, Phineas May diaries – Richborough fort, 2018
Phineas May: diary extract
Wednesday, 22 March 1939 
The most interesting item today was a visit I made to Richborough Castle to find out if special items could be made for the Refugees to go over it. Ivy drove me over and David and Nurse, I suppose this must have been his first visit round a place of historic interest. Richborough Castle is reached by a narrow road and when over there came to a level crossing the gates of which were closed. After waiting patiently for the train to pass that did not, Ivy espied a notice which read “Please Ring the Bell”. That done, two Railway men came out of a hut and proceeded to open the gate which could have been better opened by David himself...
Kitchener camp - days out, Phineas May diaries - Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp – days out, Phineas May diaries – Richborough fort, 2018
Phineas May: diary extract
Wednesday, 22 March 1939 

... The road runs towards the castle which was built flat on top of a hill. From the grounds of the castle which are beautifully laid out, a wonderful view of our Camp is obtained. Richborough Castle is scheduled as an Ancient Monument and is maintained by the Office of Works, Whitehall, to whom I will have to write for special terms. It is of course hundreds of years old and only a few walls are standing, though the foundations of the other walls indicate the complete plan of the castle...
Kitchener camp - days out, Phineas May diaries - Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp – days out, Phineas May diaries – Richborough fort, 2018
Phineas May: diary extract
Wednesday, 22 March 1939

It must have be an immense place, the construction of the walls is in itself interesting. We explored the underground passages and I should think that it must be one of the finest unintended air-raid shelters in these parts. David was much intrigued. The Curator said that if we would like he would give his descriptive talk about the Castle but it would take three hours. We said that we appreciated his kindness but we had to get back to the Camp early – it was a good excuse anyhow. The moats ... are all preserved. It is certainly worth a visit if one is in the neighbourhood and one has a little imagination to conjure up the past.
Kitchener camp - days out, Phineas May diaries - Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp – days out, Phineas May diaries – Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp - days out, Phineas May diaries - Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp – days out, Phineas May diaries – Richborough fort, 2018
Phineas May, diary extract
Monday, 29 May 1939

In the afternoon we had an audition for fresh talent in the Camp, and in the evening a repeat performance of our Saturday night show. I took Halford and my Office Staff a short cut across the field to Richborough Castle and took them over it.
Kitchener camp - days out, Phineas May diaries - Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp – days out, Phineas May diaries – Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp - days out, Phineas May diaries - Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp – days out, Phineas May diaries – Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp - days out, Phineas May diaries - Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp – days out, Phineas May diaries – Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp - days out, Phineas May diaries - Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp – days out, Phineas May diaries – Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp - days out, Phineas May diaries - Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp – days out, Phineas May diaries – Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp - days out, Phineas May diaries - Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp – days out, Phineas May diaries – Richborough fort, 2018
Richborough fort, 2018
Kitchener camp – days out, Phineas May diaries – Richborough fort, 2018

The cross in the picture above marks the place where a massive arch used to stand in the days of the Roman Empire. It is estimated to have been around 24m tall – so tall, in fact, that it would have been visible from midway across the channel, and was probably used as a guide by ships.


The Bell Hotel

See also Clare Ungerson’s excellent book, Four thousand lives (History Press 2014), for further information and detail about the place of the Bell Hotel in this history.

Richborough transit camp, Sandwich 2018, Phineas May diary, The Bell Hotel
Kitchener camp, Sandwich 2018, Phineas May diary, The Bell Hotel
Phineas May diary extract
SUNDAY, 29 January 1939 

At the Bell Hotel they were expecting me, “Jam” having left a message to say that we were not to go to the Camp if we arrived after 12.15… we had timed it well.

A little later Jam arrived with Mr. and Mrs. E.M. Joseph and Donald A. Woolf, and soon we were at lunch...
Kitchener camp, Phineas May diary, the Bell Hotel
Kitchener camp, Phineas May diary, the Bell Hotel, Sandwich
Phineas May diary extract
Monday, 30 January 1939

Having just listened to what Hitler said “We don’t want the Jews, if other countries are so sympathetic they can have them” I should not be at all surprised if “Jam” does not phone down tomorrow to say the 3,500 are coming at once and have a meal ready for them with within half-an-hour and all beds to be erected and well aired.

Maybe that my roughing it at the “Bell” Hotel will be short lived and I may have very soon to enjoy the “comforts” of the Camp.

And so has gone my second day down here – though slightly cold a lovely sunlit sky – ah well – once again to bed.
Kitchener camp, Phineas May diary, the Bell Hotel
Kitchener camp, Phineas May diary, the Bell Hotel, Sandwich.
http://www.kitchenercamp.co.uk/research/julian-layton/

Layton was called upon once again, therefore, and arrived  in the middle of October 1939. He stayed at the Bell Hotel in Sandwich to start with, where Phineas May had stayed when he first arrived there. Layton attended to the pastoral care needs of the remaining men as best he could under the circumstances, and by all accounts was successful at defusing the tense standoff that had arisen.
Kitchener camp, Sandwich, The Bell Hotel reception, Phineas May diary
Kitchener camp, Sandwich, The Bell Hotel reception, Phineas May diary 1939
Phineas May diary extract
SUNDAY, 29 January 1939 

The bedroom has running hot and cold water; is spacious and everything desirable. I imagine I shall be the only person staying here this week so “Jam & Co” have been rubbing in the “hardship” of my having to “rough it” like this for a week until the Camp is ready. I have promised to endeavour to tolerate this luxury on the condition that it is not for a longer period than one week.

Mr and Mrs Joseph left for London soon after lunch and we motored over to the Camp. Subsequently I found that it does not take longer than ten minutes to reach the main gates of the Camp from the Toll Bridge which is opposite to the hotel, when walking at an average speed.
Richborough transit camp, Phineas May diary, The Bell Hotel, the fireplace
Kitchener camp, Phineas May diary 1939, The Bell Hotel, the fireplace
Phineas May diary extract
SUNDAY, 29 January 1939 

A word here as to the hotel. It has recently been done up and is most tastefully furnished and roaring fires in open grates are a pleasing feature. If we were members of the Royal Family we could not have received from all the staff more kind and courteous attention. They were all out to please.

Historic Sandwich – town centre

Richborough refugee camp, Sandwich historic town centre, 2018
Kitchener camp, Sandwich historic town centre, 2018

For an example of a pass for a day out from Kitchener, see Ferdinand Vulkan / Documents: http://www.kitchenercamp.co.uk/documents/ferdinand-vulkan-docs/

Richborough Jewish refugee transit camp, Sandwich historic town centre, 2018
Kitchener camp, Sandwich historic town centre, 2018
See Richard Cohn / Letters for reference to a pass to leave the camp: 

"First thing, I'll go to London and have the money written in my name. A pass to London is generally granted only after four weeks, but I hope to be able to go earlier" (http://www.kitchenercamp.co.uk/letters/richard-cohn-letters/)
Richborough camp, Sandwich historic town centre, 2018
Kitchener camp, Sandwich historic town centre, 2018
Phineas May, diary extract
Monday, 28 August 1939

A very busy day. 

3 marriages to arrange, one death, and A.R.P. Took parties of men to Sandwich to assemble Gas Masks, and then arranged with Mayor Office to have them all brought to the Camp and so men worked until late into the evening and completed the assembly of them.
Richborough refugee camp, Sandwich historic town centre, 2018
Kitchener camp, Sandwich historic town centre, 2018
Phineas May diary extract
Sunday, 16 July 1939

A day of incidents amongst them was a call at my office from the Camp Police with a member of my artists group. The fellow is an awfully nice young man of 23 who had been married only 8 months, and his 21 year old wife has a job as a domestic in Sandwich.

When the Kitchener men and women left the camp with a pass for some time out, they would have crossed this bridge (below) on the road from the camp to the town.

Kitchener camp, Sandwich toll bridge - crossed many times by the Kitchener men. Sandwich is behind you; Kitchener in front.
Kitchener camp, Sandwich toll bridge – crossed many times by the Kitchener men. Sandwich is behind you; Kitchener in front.

Sandwich - the old fire station, Phineas May diary
Sandwich – the old fire station, Phineas May diary
Phineas May, diary extract
Thursday, 30 March 1939

Went with Banks to the town hall and in the court room we discussed with the various town officials A.R.P. for the Camp and afterwards went with the Chief of the Fire Brigade to the Fire Station where he showed us the town’s complete fire fighting appliances for air raids.

He was the third generation to be Chief of the Brigade and his grandfather started in 1814.

There are of course no resident firemen but if there is a fire he can press a button which rings a bell in each man’s home. If they then don’t turn up he apparently sends them a postcard....

A further batch of 108 arrived from Vienna in the evening.
Sandwich - the old fire station, Phineas May diary
Sandwich – the old fire station, Phineas May diary

Richborough refugee transit camp, Sandwich Guildhall - now museum and town hall; site of the Chamber of Commerce, Phineas May diary
Kitchener camp, Sandwich Guildhall – now museum and town hall; site of the Chamber of Commerce
Phineas May diary extract
Thursday, 9 February 1939

No more Refugees arrived at 6.30 p.m. we were fetched and taken by car to the Town Hall for the Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner. The Town Hall is, by the way, in parts hundreds of years old but a great part of it has been rebuilt at different periods.
Kitchener camp, Sandwich Guildhall - now museum and town hall; site of the Chamber of Commerce, Phineas May diary
Kitchener camp, Sandwich Guildhall – now museum and town hall; site of the Chamber of Commerce
Phineas May, diary extract
Monday, 6 February 1939

The Chairman (Mr Bishop) and the Secretary (Mr Fogg) of the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce came over to the Camp in the evening to invite “Jam” to be the Guest of Honour at a dinner they are holding on Thursday, and also extended an invitation to me, which I have accepted providing no Refugees arrive in the meantime. “Jam” is going to respond to the toast of the Visitors.
Kitchener camp, Sandwich market square - across from the Guildhall
Kitchener camp, Sandwich market square – across from the Guildhall
Phineas May, diary extract
Thursday, 9 February 1939

After the supper followed a dance and of course frequent visits to the bar. Everybody in the town engaged in commerce were there, and some useful acquaintances were made. Alderman Martin, his son and charming daughter-in-law had catered for this function and were very proud of it. They are Bakers and will be supplying the Camp with Bread – a very nice order.

Anyhow they looked after us extremely well and are really good folk.
Kitchener camp, Sandwich market square - across from the Guildhall
Kitchener camp, Sandwich market square – across from the Guildhall

Kimber’s coffee shop, Sandwich

Kitchener camp, Sandwich - site of Kimber's 'coffee and cake' shop.
Kitchener camp, Sandwich – site of Kimber’s ‘coffee and cake’ shop.
A local store – the Golden Crust Bakery – had a few chairs and tables in the back, where they served meat pies and cups of tea. When asked for a cup of coffee by our Austrian and German family members, Mrs Kimber served ‘Camp’ coffee to start with. 

However, she was soon persuaded to purchase the real thing, shown how to make it, and the men then had somewhere to go for Kaffee und Kuchen, which was apparently so popular that by summer 1939 it was often standing room only at Sandwich’s Golden Crust (http://www.ajr.org.uk/index.cfm/section.journal/issue.Jan10/article=4303)
Kitchener camp, Sandwich - site of Kimber's 'coffee and cake' shop.
Kitchener camp, Sandwich – site of Kimber’s ‘coffee and cake’ shop.

As a final set of photographs for now, we had the most ridiculous few minutes at the site of Kitchener camp.

The coach pulled over so that we could try to locate the rumoured one remaining hut from Haig camp. There is nothing now left of Kitchener itself – it was pulled down and built over after the war by Pfizer pharmaceuticals.

Random huts on the site of the old Kitchener camp
Random huts on the site of the old Kitchener camp

Half of us dashed off to try to find the hut to take a photograph, but no-one was sure what they were looking for.

This was compounded by the fact that we’d been dropped next to an outdoor array of huts for sale, and countless old huts of all shapes and sizes!

I was still giggling when I thought about this on the drive home …

Random huts on the site of the old Kitchener camp
Random huts on the site of the old Kitchener camp
Random huts on the site of the old Kitchener camp
Random huts on the site of the old Kitchener camp

This was one of the more surreal and funny moments of the day, with us ‘Kitchener Kids’ shinning up fences and trying to photograph random sheds through gaps.

I must say, I was impressed by the ingenuity of the group – and the climbing capacity of some (!) – but I’m unconvinced that we found anything useful.


Who knows whether we actually found the right huts or not, but I did wonder if this (below) was on the right lines – which I later found located on the opposite side of the road from where we’d been looking as a group …

A Haig camp hut?
A Haig camp hut?

Ah well, at least we now have many photographs of the original huts on our pages throughout this project.


 

Correspondence from the archives

I am in the process of putting together a page of items from research in the archives of the London Metropolitan and the Wiener Library, which hold many of the remaining materials from the files of the CBF, the Council for German Jewry, and similar organisations that were at the heart of the rescue of our fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and cousins …

There is more to follow but the initial work may be viewed here:  http://www.kitchenercamp.co.uk/1939-reichschvertretung-archives/


I will be spending some time in Sandwich soon, and will then upload what I hope will be a good number of photographs of the area in which Kitchener camp was located.

I hope this will be interesting and useful – especially for families who live too far away to visit for themselves.


Events

There is currently what sounds like a fascinating two-day seminar going on at the Parkes Institute in Southampton – that I’d have given anything to participate in, but am just too swamped with work at the moment.

If anyone is reading this who was able to there – I’d very much appreciate a summary – especially if there was any discussion on matters that are of interest to Kitchener families.

https://mobile.twitter.com/parkesinstitute?lang=en

……………………..

The Wiener Library has an exhibition on ‘Degenerate Art’ at the moment, which is absolutely fascinating and makes excellent use of their archival materials: “In 1938 the New Burlington Galleries in London hosted an exhibition defending artists who faced persecution by Nazi Germany. Learn more about this international response against Nazism at our current exhibition”.

https://www.wienerlibrary.co.uk/current-exhibitions

……………………..

The Jewish Museum in London has an exhibition on ‘Jew(wish) cartoons’, running until 16th September, which has been receiving rave reviews:

http://www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/jewish-cartoons

……………………..

The excellent research resource that is the EHRI has recently expanded its work on the concentration camps, and more information about this can be found here: https://ehri-project.eu/ehri-portal-vocabulary-set-concentration-camps-greatly-expanded-and-enhanced


Finally for this week, a quick note from Illana, who has just tweeted the following from her work experience with World Jewish Relief: “As part of my work with the Comms Team, I discovered that 28 different press companies, in 5 different languages, covered the inspiring World Jewish Relief cycle which retraced the Kindertransport journey 10000 children took to flee the Nazis”

Thank you so much to those Kitchener descendants and their friends who donated and / or helped in other ways – it was very much appreciated.

The day the cyclists arrived back in London was a wonderful occasion, in brilliant sunshine. It was an honour to be there. The WJR organisation of the event was faultless – which must have been an extreme challenge in itself in the middle of the busy Friday evening commuter period.

Many, many congratulations to all those involved – with an especial shout out one more time to 80-year old Paul Alexander, his son, and grandson, who completed this marathon commemoration side by side.

Paul’s father was one of ours – a man rescued through the Kitchener camp scheme.

World Jewish Relief, Berlin to London 600-mile cycle commemoration Kindertransporte
World Jewish Relief, Berlin to London 600-mile cycle commemoration Kindertransporte, Hope Square, Liverpool Street station, London
World Jewish Relief, Berlin to London 600-mile cycle commemoration, Kindertransporte, Finish Line
World Jewish Relief, Berlin to London 600-mile cycle commemoration, Kindertransporte, Finish Line
World Jewish Relief, Berlin to London 600-mile cycle commemoration, Kindertransporte, Kinder Paul Alexander and grandson
World Jewish Relief, Berlin to London 600-mile cycle commemoration, Kindertransporte, Kinder Paul Alexander and grandson. Paul’s father was rescued at Kitchener camp
World Jewish Relief, Berlin to London 600-mile cycle commemoration, Kindertransporte
World Jewish Relief, Berlin to London 600-mile cycle commemoration, Kindertransporte
World Jewish Relief, Berlin to London 600-mile cycle commemoration, Kindertransporte
World Jewish Relief, Berlin to London 600-mile cycle commemoration, Kindertransporte
World Jewish Relief, Berlin to London 600-mile cycle commemoration, Kindertransporte
World Jewish Relief, Berlin to London 600-mile cycle commemoration, Kindertransporte
World Jewish Relief, Berlin to London 600-mile cycle commemoration, Kindertransporte
World Jewish Relief, Berlin to London 600-mile cycle commemoration, Kindertransporte
World Jewish Relief, Berlin to London 600-mile cycle commemoration, Kindertransporte, Hope Square, Liverpool Street station, London, Association of Jewish Refugees
World Jewish Relief, Berlin to London 600-mile cycle commemoration, Kindertransporte, Hope Square, Liverpool Street station, London, Association of Jewish Refugees

 

Map findings – an update

I was making a couple of additions to the map this weekend as new families have been getting in touch, and thought you might like to take a look at where it’s got to.

This screenshot (below) gives a fair overview of the 114 entries to date.

As usual with images on the site, just click on it to make it larger for viewing.

Richborough transit camp - countries of origin - screenshot of Kitchener map, 8 July 2018
Kitchener camp, countries of origin, screenshot of Kitchener map, 8 July 2018

There is a good span of countries of origin starting to be seen here. I also dropped a marker on Sandwich, just for reference.

If you can’t find your family details on the map, please let me know, with their (original) name, town / city of birth, and date of birth – and I’ll add your information to the collection.

Over the ten months or so that we have been running, we have been hearing from families at the rate of approximately one a week, which is fantastic.

Do keep telling people about the project – not least because the more Kitchener descendants we locate, the more meaningful the conclusions will be for the wider history. And don’t forget – a lot of families actually know little or nothing about how their fathers and grandfathers got out of Germany, Austria, Poland, etc., so it sometimes takes a bit of explanation and help.

It’s also just really nice to get the chance to know more of our ‘Kitchener family’.

The link below takes you to the full Kitchener camp map and its details.

Wanted: Materials relating to November 1938

The Wiener Library has put out a call for original documents that relate to the events of November 1938.


“The Wiener Library’s autumn 2018 exhibition will examine the 1938 November Pogrom (Kristallnacht) – to coincide with the 80th anniversary of these events.

We are seeking original personal document collections from Jewish refugees and survivors who may have witnessed Kristallnacht, including diaries, letters, photos, camp-related documents, emigration papers, and others related to the events of 9-10 November 1938.

The documents, which can either be loaned temporarily for display or donated to the Library to enrich our collections, may be shown in the autumn exhibition.

VI-A-3-d-1_0053_WL2465.jpg

Mother and child passing by smashed shop windows in Magdeburg after the November Pogrom

Source: WL2465

Please contact Christine Schmidt (cschmidt@wienerlibrary.co.uk) or Barbara Warnock (bwarnock@wienerlibrary.co.uk) for further information.”


If your family has anything they feel may be of relevance to this important exhibition, please do get in touch with Christine Schmidt or Barbara Warnock at the email addresses provided above.

From ‘Prelude to the Holocaust’, by Hans Jackson, resident of Kitchener camp With the kind permission of Allen Sternstein
From ‘Prelude to the Holocaust’, by Hans Jackson, resident of Kitchener camp
With the kind permission of Allen Sternstein

Kitchener refugees – Hansard

As we probably all do, from time to time I look through our family paperwork to see what new leads might be found.

My father sometimes jotted down the details of statements made in Parliament regarding the situation as it pertained to Jewish refugees, citizenship, reparations, double taxation changes, and so on.

I am not sure whether he made these notes whilst listening to radio broadcasts, or from watching televised parliamentary proceedings, or whether he consulted Hansard – the official record of British parliamentary proceedings.

"Hansard is a 'substantially verbatim' report of what is said in Parliament. Members’ words are recorded, and then edited to remove repetitions and obvious mistakes, albeit without taking away from the meaning of what is said. Hansard also reports decisions taken during a sitting and records how Members voted to reach those decisions in Divisions" (Source: https://hansard.parliament.uk/about?historic=false)

Anyway, I felt I could do worse than to follow my father’s path and carry out an online search in Hansard for items that pertain to our shared history.


What follows is necessarily couched in rather dry parliamentary language, so it won’t be for everyone, but for those interested in such things, it does give a flavour of the kinds of issues being raised, and the kinds of battles that were being fought at this high level, as they pertained to the rescue of our family members.


The first reference I found to Richborough (Kitchener) camp is from April 1939. It occurs in relation to the topic of ‘Refugees’, and is part of a speech given by Earl Winterton.

The whole session is here:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1939-04-06/debates/6bc30393-5613-4ac4-882e-69d9495d8cb9/Refugees?highlight=richborough#contribution-fcc86713-9cd1-4590-9f16-a3749a62f4e0

The section that pertains to Richborough transit camp and our areas of concern is as follows.

Earl Winterton 

I should like, also, to thank the Hon. Member who initiated this Debate. Normally, I do not think it is very helpful for a Government spokesman to praise the moderation of the speech of the Opposition spokesman, because there may be some covert object in view, but here there is no party question involved, because we are all trying to do our best, according to our different points of view, to solve this terrible problem. 

I do not want to be rhetorical, but I must make these observations at the outset of my remarks: that, superimposed upon all the evils to which flesh is heir, some of which are unavoidable in the present state of medical and other science, we have this terrible man-made evil of the refugee problem, and no one who lives with that problem from day-to-day, as I do, can exaggerate the aggregate of suffering which it causes in mind and body. 

In this as in so many other respects the world to-day has returned to a scale of human woe which is medieval in its poignancy and scope, almost like the Black Death or some other great scourge of the past. 

The Debate has mainly ranged round the work of the Evian Committee, of which I have the honour to be chairman, and on which I represent His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, and I think I can best answer the points as to what is being done, and what has been done since the formation of the committee, to assist in the solution of this problem by quoting certain facts and figures. 

The Evian Committee, wisely, I think, divided countries which can help into two categories, countries of temporary refuge, those countries where there has been infiltration, like most of the Western democracies, and countries of permanent settlement where there is a sparse population and much unoccupied territory, where it was hoped the refugees could go in greater numbers.Let me deal first of all with the countries of temporary residence. I would pay a tribute to what has been done in Holland and Belgium by private organisations, and I hope that I am giving away no secrets when I say that I understand that certain grants have been made from this country's voluntary funds to assist voluntary organisations in one of those countries in their work. 

Let me give a few facts. Between March, 1933, and March, 1938, there arrived in this country from Germany, classed as refugees—the figures have been given before in Debate, but I make no apology for repeating them—4,325 men and 3,310 women. Take the situation to-day. On 28th February, 1939, there were in this country 4,674 German men, 3,663 women, 3,340 Austrian men and 2,446 women, 357 Czech men and 169 former Czech women subjects. At that time there was, in addition, a total of 4,404 children in this country. 

I should like to disabuse the minds of hon. Members of any misunderstanding in regard to those figures and to show that the charges that have been made or suggested in the course of the Debate, notably by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) as to the extent of the contribution of this country are not accurate and constitute a very great under-statement. 

The British movement for the care of refugee children brought in about 4,000 children in December and January last. It will be a little time before all those children are settled in individual homes. When this has been accomplished it is expected that yet more children will come in. From October, 1938, to 15th March this year, Sudeten-Deutsch, Austrians, Slovaks, and others were being dealt with as rapidly as possible by the British Committee for Refugees in Czechoslovakia. The German coup interrupted that process, and a number of political refugees were left in Czecho-Slovakia, unable to get out. 

The High Commissioner for the League, who is also director of the Evian Committee, and I, with the full support of His Majesty's Government, did everything possible to get these people out. We went to exceptional steps. 

I do not want to comment on the circumstances which caused this deplorable state of affairs, but it was literally impossible to get those people out of the country. They were not allowed to go. Until 1st April, no visa was required by Czech subjects, and had the Germans not occupied Czech territory, a larger number of refugees would have been able to leave. A large number have come to this country without visas. The difficulty was that, before they could come, the Germans imposed an exit visa. The whole responsibility for the situation lies, not in the action of this country, but in the action of the German authorities.

 I am just going over the facts to show the extent of what we have done in what I think I may call an emergency. I want now to deal with the permanent situation, and to say a word about the activities of voluntary organisations, and about Richborough camp. 

I mention these, because they support my argument that it is unfair to blame His Majesty's Government or the voluntary organisations of this country for certain things that have occurred. There is room, I understand, in Richborough camp, for between 400 and 500 more refugees than are there at the present time. 

It is hoped that those refugees would be people capable of being trained, but we cannot at present get them there, as they are not allowed out of Germany. I shall say a word in a moment about our discussions with the German Government, but let me go on to say one or two things about the question of infiltration, especially since the first meeting of the Evian Committee. 

I have already dealt with the facts of immigration into this country. The numbers both here and elsewhere are larger than many people suppose.
Colonel Wedgwood

Will he tell us the figure?
Earl Winterton

Not necessarily. This is a technical question, but the suggestion is for an equivalent of 25 per cent. of the Jewish wealth. Even when that has been done the main question is, Where are these people to go? I shall devote the remainder of my speech to this point.

It is best to be entirely frank and to mention something which is unhappily pervasive and hampers the work of the Committee and of all refugee work. It is the sub-current of anti-Semitism or anti-alienism which exists in many countries. So far as it is based on absurd prejudices and an almost pathological credulity concerning the alleged evils done by the Jews, or is instigated by certain organisations, one of which exists in this country, it is a wholly cruel and evil thing. 

But some of it proceeds from genuine apprehension. It is thought in more than one country that refugees admitted for permanent settlement will merely enter already crowded professions or swell the existing army of retailers and middlemen. That is why I am so desperately anxious, in order to dispel these fears, to get some of these land settlement schemes actually in operation, for I believe it will be found to be the case, as in Palestine, that these Jewish refugees, if properly trained and selected, will make good primary producers.

I should like to answer one of the points made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, who did not seem to have a single supporter in this regard, by saying that the leading Jews with whom I have discussed this question share my opinion and my keenness on the subject of land settlement generally—not land settlement in one particular country. But we must have the land first in considerable quantities in countries with sparse population and undeveloped resources. It is impossible to generalise about these land settlement schemes, but what my colleagues of the Evian Committee and I have in mind are schemes large enough to give a community feeling without producing alarm in the minds of the people of the countries settled that they are going to be swamped by immigrants. 

I see the hon. Gentleman assenting. I should like to thank him and others who have put suggestions before me, which shall be carefully considered. 

These settlements would benefit the countries with which they were effected by increasing the general volume of trade and production and by  causing an inflow of capital. It is obvious that it would be impossible, on both political and economic grounds, to propose that the great bulk of these immigrants should be taken into the national life of the densely populated Western countries, but there is room for them in other parts of the world. May I give a very brief resumé of what has been done? I am saying nothing improper when I say that I have pressed, not only on the Governments of other countries but on His Majesty's Government, the extreme urgency of finding land in order to settle these people, and in this I have had every support from the Colonial Secretary. There is at present an expert mission of investigation to British Guiana, which has just finished its work. It is partly American and I should like to pay a tribute, if it is in order—I think it is—to the personal interest displayed by the President of the United States. I hope that the report of the Mission will be in the hands of the director very shortly. 

A mission has gone out to Northern Rhodesia, where I have considerable hope that it may be possible to bring about a settlement. The possibilities of settlement in British Nyasaland are also going to be examined by the Commission which has gone to Northern Rhodesia. Suggestions have been made about Dominica and British Honduras. They are under consideration by the Colonial Office.
 Source: Hansard online, 6th April 1939, Vol. 345, ‘Refugees’.
Reproduced here under the terms of the Open Parliament Licence: https://www.parliament.uk/site-information/copyright-parliament/open-parliament-licence/

The next reference to Richborough in Parliament was a little later that summer, only a couple of months before war broke out.

On the subject of Refugees (Agricultural Employment), a short exchange follows, given in full below – and this is interesting not least in giving a taste of some of Nancy Astor’s ‘interventions’.

Source: Hansard online, 6 July 1939, Vol. 349, ‘Refugees (Agricultural Employment)’.

Reproduced here under the terms of the Open Parliament Licence: https://www.parliament.uk/site-information/copyright-parliament/open-parliament-licence/


In August 1939, as the last of our families were making last-minute desperate escapes, as noted in Hansard under the heading of ‘Refugees’,  Mr Williams and Mr Peake discuss agricultural training for Palestine and Richborough refugee camp.

Mr Williams

asked the Home Secretary how many refugees are being trained in this country with a view to immigration to Palestine; the estimated cost over a period of six months; and what body or organisations are responsible for financing the scheme?

Source: Hansard online, 2 August 1939, Vol. 350, ‘Refugees’.

Reproduced here under the terms of the Open Parliament Licence: https://www.parliament.uk/site-information/copyright-parliament/open-parliament-licence/


Finally, in the following link, there is some oversight of the debates that were taking place once war had broken out and the country was trying to decide what to do about the presence in Britain of our fathers and grandfathers, uncles and cousins.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/1940-06-12/debates/138821c6-c14e-43d1-ab77-f0928578e105/TheFifthColumnPositionofTheBbchighlight=richborough#contribution-8166acd3-537d-42cf-b637-c65c89bd3ba9

Of particular interest for our purposes, for those who do not wish to read the entire entry, is the following, spoken by Lord Bishop of Chichester

Further, national security and national service are not altogether disconnected. Large numbers of the men who have now been so suddenly interned were actually working for the Government when they were taken.

Some of your Lordships know the camp of the Pioneer Corps at Richborough. The men who were working at Richborough as proved and trusted servants of the Government, because they lived in Richborough, on Whit Sunday last were removed from Richborough and are now interned. They do not understand it. This action is really depriving the country of valuable work. 

These men were encouraged—rather strongly encouraged—to join the Pioneer Corps. They most willingly accepted this opportunity of serving the country to which they are so grateful. Now they are interned and out of action, unable to help. 

There is another category of considerable  importance—quite a different class. Amongst the internees lately made are something like thirty scholars of great eminence in Europe whose loyalty to this country is beyond any manner of doubt. Some of these men have made very great contributions to science and to learning in various branches. Some of them have been doing work for the Government. Now they are useless. They cannot work. There is an extraordinary waste of their capacity. Even if they were allowed to go harvesting when the time comes, they would be doing infinitely less service in the camp as internees than they could do if they were outside and have done. I believe that, all unconsciously, acts of injustice have been done. I also venture to say that, all unconsciously, the policy—unless, as I hope, it is changed—is playing into Hitler's own hands. I do not understand how the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, can really miss that point. 

I am sure that that is the remark which is made in secret in his chamber by many a Nazi leader in Germany, and I can have little doubt that it is not an uncommon impression abroad. I would suggest that there are certain steps which ought to be taken for the sake of justice. When the Order was made, it was described as a temporary measure and hope was given that there would be a re-examination of the cases which were admittedly hard. I would like to suggest that that promise should be implemented with all speed, and that there should be local tribunals in the camps set up now which should have the power to order the release of persons of indubitable integrity and loyalty. 

I should further like special consideration given to the hardships of students, boys and girls just over sixteen, going through their ordinary school course.But if nothing can be done for a large number of individual cases of undoubted integrity—and I hope that is not the case—I still hope that special action may be taken with regard to the conditions under which these men are interned."

Source: Hansard online, 12 June 1940, Vol. 116, ‘The Fifth Column: Position of The BBC’.

Reproduced here under the terms of the Open Parliament Licence: https://www.parliament.uk/site-information/copyright-parliament/open-parliament-licence/


 

Dunera Lives – a review

Dunera Lives: A Visual History

Ken Inglis, Seumas Spark and Jay Winter, with Carol Bunyan

Monash University Publishing, 2018

http://www.publishing.monash.edu/books/dlv1-9781925495492.html


This post responds to a new book that explores the wartime experiences of the HMT Dunera deportees to Australia.

Dunera Lives: A Visual History has just been published by Monash University Publishing. A Visual History is the first of two volumes, and it explores mainly visual and creative responses to the Dunera events. We were sent a copy to review.

As ever in this context, it is difficult to obtain a definitive number for the men who were both in Kitchener and on HMT (Hired Military Transport) Dunera, given the records that are left. A co-author of Dunera Lives who has been working for a number years in the Australian archives has concluded that around 239 is a decent guide. Whatever the exact number, however, it is clear that this narrative is an important part of our shared Kitchener history.


The outline

For the most part Dunera Lives explores two main aspects of Dunera history – the notorious voyage itself, and the men’s experiences in internment camps in Australia.

It also touches on the immediate aftermath of the war for these refugees as they settled in new countries and obtained the formal paperwork of their new citizenships. And the final section looks briefly at later life choices, outcomes, and accomplishments.

Some of the Dunera men were sent to the Hay camps, some to Tatura, some to Orange: the book explains the differences and suggests some reasons why particular men (and in some cases their families) were sent to particular camps. The Kitchener men were mostly detained in Hay camp 7. Andreas Eppstein, “a 25-year-old Jewish statistician from Breslau … and a graduate of the London School of Economics, was elected leader of camp 7. As his deputy the camp elected an older man, Dr Hans Frankenstein, a 40-year-old physician from Allenstein in East Prussia who was spokesman for a group of about 250 refugees from the Kitchener camp” (p. 128).

The book also deals to some extent with the experiences of families deported to Australia on board the Queen Mary. About three weeks after the Dunera, the Queen Mary docked at Sydney with around 265 detainees on board, having sailed from Singapore in very different conditions to those on the Dunera. On arrival, the Queen Mary detainees were taken to internment in Tatura camp 3, where they were separated into two compounds: for married couples, children, and single women, and for single men over the age of 16.

Dunera Lives - front cover
Dunera Lives – front cover

An acknowledgement

Despite a number of email exchanges on this subject with one of the authors  of Dunera Lives – the thoughtful and perceptive Seumas Spark – I didn’t really know what to expect when Monash sent a copy for review. I assumed it would be a ‘text book’ of historical events.

However, the reality is quite different from the general ‘history book’ in both form and impact. The impact of the work gradually dripped its way into my consciousness – and I expect it will remain there.

My father wasn’t on the Dunera, so I do not have a direct connection to these events, and thus I had no particular expectations of the book, which will make my responses rather different to those of the many families who have been directly involved over almost 80 years, and who have made the many extraordinary contributions to this volume.

My father having been in Kitchener, however, I think I understand something of the leap of faith it must have taken for families to put their trust in someone else to respect and keep safe these personal memories and histories, formed in the most extreme of circumstances.

Before I continue then, I want to pay tribute to the families whose generous contributions form the substance of this book. Despite everything they will have experienced in being survivors, or second- and third- generation family members – with all the weight of responsibility that this entails – these people have put their trust in the editors and publishers of Dunera Lives to do justice to, and be respectful of, their families, their memories, and their histories.


Dunera Lives: A response

I read the introduction and then looked at the first few images. I was reading the captions with care, but was intending to move forwards methodically and swiftly, in the impersonal process of reviewing a book.

Having read the introduction, I planned to go through a few more pages and then return to some other work that was pending. I kept turning to ‘just one more image’, however, through into the main body of the book, and after what seemed like only a few pages in, I was still sitting at the kitchen table two hours later, and I was now examining the images with much more care.

Less than an hour after this, I went to get a magnifying glass.

My responses were changing with the images, which run through political caricature, images of violence, of desolation, of humour, and of beauty.

Some of the images are self-portraits, some are portraits of individuals on board the Dunera or in the Australian camps, some are more general scenes of camp life, and some depict the landscapes and the nature that the men found in their new homeland – even to the extent of the detailed botanical drawings made by Hans Lindau, which were created in minute form on 2,500 sheets of toilet paper, with a pen provided by the Quakers. This was an extraordinary labour of love indeed.

On board the Dunera, too, a camp constitution – much of which was put into effect on arrival – was carefully scripted on toilet paper.

I can’t begin to imagine the patience that writing this constitution must have taken.

On a rolling ship, imprisoned in the hold, with layered hammocks all around, and more layers of bodies with nowhere but the floor to sleep … In filthy, humid conditions – on something so fragile as toilet paper – these men drew up a constitution for the democratic functioning of their future lives.

Just to think on this for more than a minute is to be in awe of the certainty and the clarity of such minds – and to be deeply conscious of the men’s determination that they would not be destroyed by what had been happening for so many years in their countries of origin.


Some of the images in the book are violent, some crude, some political; some present amusing caricatures of politicians or characters in the camps; some depictions are stark, some anguished, and some have a simple beauty – it is a compelling range of response.

In Orange, 1941, by Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, the painter presumably seeks a moment of peace, beauty, or escape: at first glance, he seems to find a memory of another life – or to seek a life that might be returned to.

The painting is a landscape with some small, red-roofed buildings caught between the foreground and the distant hills. But the landscape is not peopled – aside from the intimation that lives must be being lived in these buildings. Presumably, part of the artist’s escape is encapsulated in this moment away from other people, when confinement with others had been enforced for so long.

Centred in the image: a slashed area of deep orange rock, with sharply defined and defining black lines, rising from the soft green of the grass. It is reminiscent of many paintings of southern Italian hillsides, with flashes of bright colour picking out raised areas.

The far distance has no detail – but dark purple hills. What lies at such a distance cannot be depicted by an artist who will not have seen much beyond the wire that forms the bounds of his new abode. What lies beyond the camp confines cannot be envisioned: it cannot be given form or light or detail. ‘Beyond the camp’ is, thus, the amorphous mass of these purple hills – it is indiscernible – as it would have been to men in captivity for so long.

The picture caught my eye – like a view from a window. It is a view that would be preferable to the one the men endured day in, day out.

If this picture had been mine, I would have hung it on a wall, and pretended that it was my window – even for a moment.


There is a terrific variety of media on display here – books of poetry bound with bootlaces; pictures in crayon and watercolour; simple sketches and woodcuts and carvings. There are detailed programmes for musical and dramatic events; Christmas cards; cartoons; caricatures; photographs.

Some depictions are in black and white, while others make startling use of vivid patches of colour.

There are even sheets of music here, and a lunch menu from the Queen Mary.

There are maps; engravings on a cigarette tin; extraordinarily detailed bank notes that were in use in the camps; sports membership cards and a list for a sports team. There is even a hairdresser’s advertising sign from Hay’s camp 8, juxtaposed with exercise books for the many lessons that took place – the older men teaching both the youngsters and their own peer group.

Many of the images seem to emphasise the ongoing problem of loneliness in a crowd; and many, of course, make reference to the barbed wire that surrounded them for so many long months. In image after image the wire is as ever-present as their fellow inmates; indeed, it takes on a character of its own in these varied depictions.


Barbed wire

The image of the barbed wire that surrounds the men and denies them their freedom is prevalent throughout many of the images shown in Dunera Lives.

The depictions of the wire begin on the ship: in Hans Rothe’s sketch, it divides a man’s torso piece by piece, in jagged lines that run down his body, segmenting it, as surely as he is divided from the world by the wire.

Dunera Lives, p. 77; Hans Rothe, ‘Dunera 1940’, detail, barbed wire
Source: Schonbach family

In an illustration for a programme for a variety show entitled ‘Laugh and Forget’ (a detail from which is shown below), the wire at Tatura camp forms the lower half of a whale’s teeth. The man in the mouth of the whale, Jonah-like, sits half in and half out of the enclosure. Smiling at the limits of the wire, his release will take far longer than Jonah’s three days.

The man’s head may be above the wire, but his heart and body are enclosed by it, and the layer of ‘teeth’ formed by Tatura hangs, menacingly, above his head.

When the whale’s mouth closes, ‘Tatura’ is what will crush the smiling inmate, whose apparent jollity, and that of the guards below him, belies the reality of his entrapment.

Kitchener camp, Dunera Lives - detail
Dunera Lives – detail

Dunera Lives is an extraordinary achievement in bringing together so many varied forms of creative response to the same basic set of circumstances. It also provides a span of official responses to what took place, and it will be a long time before some images leave me: official photographs of Dunera men with numbers on boards beneath them – depicted like criminals.

The book cannot – and has not set out to – give a detailed account of individual lives and the wider history: it couldn’t possibly achieve both this range of individual response and provide such detail. However, it certainly provides sufficient information – especially in the introduction – about the general history to enable the reader to place the images and short individual histories in a larger wartime context.

There is also a useful set of appendices, compiled by Carol Bunyan, which outline the men’s name changes, and the ships on which internees returned to Britain, as well as some interesting notes on the gradual release of the men from internment, and why they were finally able to leave the camps: to join the British army,  the Australian army, or civilian employment. By early 1943, this section notes, most had been released.

Thus, Bunyan concludes, there were three main phases to do with the issue of release: from arrival in September 1940 to the arrival of Major Layton in spring 1941 – a period in which few were released;  from April to December 1941, when “the most effective way out of the camp was to accept the offer of transport back to Britain to join the British army” (p. 516) – which was taken up by around 400 men; and from January 1942 onwards, when the men could join the British army, the Australian army, or the civilian workforce.

In the end, around half the Dunera internees served in one of the Allied armies, 394 went back to civilian life in Britain or Australia, and some, for various reasons, remained interned for the duration of the war.

Dunera Lives - reunion 1963, Melbourne, p. 468
Dunera Lives – reunion 1963, Melbourne, detail, p. 468

The national archives in Australia have extensive records on HMT Dunera, and a very kind and helpful staff.

The Jewish Museum of Australia, Melbourne, has an exhibition on Dunera history (see short video below), and the Sydney Jewish Museum also holds a number of items relating to the Dunera history: https://sydneyjewishmuseum.com.au/collection/hay-money/

See also more information on the Sydney Jewish Museum holdings here:

http://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au/exhibition/objectsthroughtime/dunera/index.html

Kitchener forms

When people were trying to leave Germany, Austria, the Sudetenland, Poland, Italy, and so on – the various countries of origin from which our families arrived at Kitchener camp – they had to fill out countless pieces of paperwork.

When everything was in order, they still needed to obtain permission to leave from the national authorities, and to show that they had permission to enter Britain.

They had to certify that they had paid all their taxes (steuerliche Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung), that they didn’t owe any money, and that they were only taking certain types of goods out of the country, up to a specific allowance.

They also had to present a certificate of good conduct (Führungszeugnis).

They had to undergo health checks, have a passport issued, and evidence that they would be able to emigrate onwards within 9 – 12 months.

I recently found another form the men had to fill in, which is reproduced below (the original can be viewed at the Wiener Library)


Instructions ‘R’, Paragraph 14

Serial No.

Date of issue

Refugee to be admitted to the United Kingdom to proceed to Richborough Refugee Camp and to remain there until emigrated.

Maintenance and emigration guaranteed by the British Council for German Jewry

………………………….

Full name …………………………………………………………………………………….

Date of Birth……………………………Place of Birth……………………………..

Nationality………………………………Passport no. ………………………………

Address abroad ……………………………………………………………………………

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Occupation abroad ……………………………………………………………………….

 

Signed on behalf of the

Reichsvertretung  Der Juden in

Deutschland (or Israelitische Kultusgemeinde), who certify

that applicant is physically fit for admission to the Camp.


In the meantime, the extraordinary undertakings of the aid organisations continued night and day, as they tried desperately to keep Jews alive while living under conditions of extreme privation in many cases.

The aid organisations funded and organised getting men out of the concentration camps and prisons, they assisted them in obtaining visas and other travel documents, and provided travel costs for individuals and groups. At the same time they were providing soup kitchens, and advice offices, as well as funding the training places that were seen as a way out for younger men and women and for girls and boys.

What is very noticeable in the archives is the ongoing effort to raise funds, which was being done day in, day out – year in, year out…

A letter such as the one extracted below is typical, and only one of hundreds like it.


Letter

January 3rd, 1939

Dear Sir Osmond

A meeting of the Officers of the Council for German Jewry this afternoon considered the enclosed statement which has been received from the Reichsvertretung regarding its work during the first expenditure of, approximately, 8 million marks.

We understand from Dr Hirsch that, in view of the present situation in Germany, it will not be possible to mobilise any funds in that Country before the 15th February, so that a sum of 4 millionMarks will be required up to this date.

We understand that the position after the 15th February will be as follows:

The Reichsvertretung will collect from the Jews in Germany various amounts viz:

  1. In connection with the 20% Property Tax which has been levied by the German Government, 1% will be added and will be placed at the disposal of the Reichsvertretung for Jewish requirements.
  2. A 33 1/2% Income Tax will be demanded from those Jews who do not pay Property Tax. This applies mainly to Jewish Physicians, Legal Advisers, Employees of Jewish Organisations and, to a certain extent, to those receiving pensions.
  3. A Jewish Flight Tax, the amount of which is not yet fixed, will be demanded from the Jews emigrating from Germany.
  4. The funds owned by the various Committees, Unions, Institutions and Foundations will be mobilised for Jewish work.

Provided such raising of funds will be allowed by the German Government authorities, the Reichsvertretung estimates that such a collection in Germany, which will probably be the last one, will amount to about 25 – 30 million Marks.

It is the intention of the Reichsvertretung to use this collection to cover the requirements of the Reichsvertretung in Germany during the remainder of 1939 …

The suggestion of the Officers was that the sum of £100,000 should be divided between the ICS, the American Joint Distribution Committee and the British Section of the Council for German Jewry, and I am writing to you tonight so that you may have the opportunity of considering the matter and seeing whether you can announce to the meeting of the Executive on Thursday afternoon that the ICA will be able to bear its share …

Yours sincerely

Joint Secretary

 

Source: The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust, General correspondence between the Reichsvertretung and the Council for German Jewry, Collection ref. 606/6

 

 

Berlin to London

Safe haven

Arrival in Britain

What the journey means to those of us with mothers and fathers, or grandmothers and grandfathers, or aunts and uncles – who were rescued at the eleventh hour …

Shabbat shalom


Yesterday the cyclists crossed into the Netherlands – an emotional moment.

As with our fathers and grandfathers, the moment the Kindertransporte children crossed the border was often marked by cheers and shouts – and more – as you can see in the video below, posted on Facebook by World Jewish Relief.

“We had to stop at Cologne, it was at night, we didn’t see much of Cologne, we never got off the station you see. And then we went to, we went over the border at Arnhem in a van, and then hurray, you know and then we went over to Dover and from Dover to Sandwich. ... there were one or two compartments reserved for us” 

Interview, Richard Hymann, Kitchener camp, 1939, Refugee Voices, Association of Jewish Refugees: http://www.kitchenercamp.co.uk/research/interviews/

The youngest cyclist is Daniel – the grandson of Paul Alexander whose story is outlined below, and great-grandson of a Kitchener man. He could still use some fundraising help to reach his target.

If you can share his page on your Facebook or Twitter account – please do.

I don’t know the family, but this is an extraordinary undertaking for such a young lad, and it’s good to acknowledge that:

https://www.worldjewishrelief.org/daniel-berlin-london-ride

Hope to see some of you at Liverpool Street station tomorrow, to help cheer the riders home!


Update

If you’d like to support a fellow Kitchener descendant on his amazing 600-mile Kindertransporte commemoration bike ride – Paul Alexander was both a baby on the Kindertransporte, and (like many of us, he has only recently found out) he is also a Kitchener descendant!

The link to further information is here:

https://www.worldjewishrelief.org/about-us/kindertransport/720-paul-alexander

And the link to his direct fundraising page is here: https://www.worldjewishrelief.org/paulalexberlinlondonride

PS I’ve volunteered to help at the finishing line on Friday. If anyone else is doing the same, do drop me a message and we can team up!

Also, a link to Paul’s grandson’s fundraising page is here: https://www.worldjewishrelief.org/daniel-berlin-london-ride

Let’s give him a hand – he’s cycling 600 miles, age 14!


World Jewish Relief fundraiser

So, generally, we keep to a no-advertising policy, except to let families know about events they might be interested in attending.

However … while I doubt that many of us will want to don lycra to join in with this one, it is such an iconic event in relation to one of our sister rescues, the Kindertransporte, I hope you will forgive us this one.

Update: We have received some lovely messages of support for this cycle ride, including the following:

“Subject: The Kitchener Camp

Message Body:
My thanks to the British people who made this possible.”


In commemoration of the start of the Kindertransporte in 1938, some World Jewish Relief staff, friends, and some of those who were around in the 1930s (!) – are staging a 600-mile bike ride from Berlin to London Liverpool Street station.

The riders are setting off from Berlin on Sunday morning, on the 17th June, and are due to arrive in London during the afternoon of Friday, 22nd June.

And it seemed to me that many Kitchener folk would want to know this is going on.

You may be relieved to hear that there are various ways we can participate without actually getting out our bicycles and shorts …

You can follow the cyclists’ progress from the start of the race, live, on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WorldJewishRelief/

And you can post good luck notices there too. You can bet they will be reading them during lunch breaks and supper time, as will their families.

The fund-raising the riders are looking for provides what feels like an appropriate opportunity for some of the Kitchener families who have asked me how they can contribute to some of the organizations who helped their families survive.

https://www.worldjewishrelief.org/get-involved/challenge-events/617-kindertransport-commemorative-cycle-berlin-to-london-1722-june-2018

The event has had a number of mentions in the media, with today’s in The Guardian helping them to reach even more people with this uplifting challenge.

https://www.theguardian.com/…/a-victory-ride-cyclists-to-re…

Here’s hoping the riders hit their targets.

An amazing expedition – a good cause, close to most of our hearts.


The Kitchener connection

It’s also worth knowing that there is a very direct connection to our Kitchener history, in the figure of Paul Alexander, the gentleman who appears in the video below.

(If you click to enlarge the video, the sound comes through fine)

Paul Alexander was on the Kindertransporte, and he is one of the cyclists undertaking this 600-mile journey. His father Alfons Minikes got out of Buchenwald thanks to a permit to come to Kitchener camp, where he worked as the Spanish teacher for his fellow men.


Für das Kind

Worth remembering: the predecessors of World Jewish Relief helped to save around 65,000 German Jews through the 1930s, and you can ask them if they still have your family records.

About half of these records still exist. Tragically, the vast majority are for people who did not make it to safety in time.

This is a chance to support an amazing endeavour, as WJR people once supported us.

As our US friends say – it’s an opportunity to ‘pay it forwards’.

 

Richborough newspaper article

“Look what I just found!” should be a new section heading for the website … I’ve been receiving a few of these recently – and some of them are real ‘finds’.

This one in particular is a good example of how the most unlikely scraps of paper left by our fathers and grandfathers, uncles and cousins, can sometimes reveal or substantiate another part of our Kitchener history.

Please don’t ever assume the ‘scraps’ are too trivial – all scraps welcomed!

"Clare, I just happened to be going through some old books of family photos and came across a piece of newspaper.

No clue what the newspaper is or the date.

The other side has an article about an amusement stall worker who was arrested for stealing cigarettes and concealing them in his socks.

By the way, the paper was quite brown, so this is fixed up a bit.

Winston"
It is worth noting that the gentleman who sent this in is none other than the “English-born son” mentioned in the article below.

Me, I quite fancy reading the other side too … I call that a pretty enterprising  use of socks!
Kitchener camp, Walter Brill, Winston Brill, birth, marriage, newspaper notice, Refuge life at Richborough
Kitchener camp, Walter Brill, Winston Brill, birth, marriage, newspaper notice, Refuge life at Richborough