All things Kitchener

Hello all

Below – a quick update before I get on the road for our rather circuitous route to end up in London for the exhibition.

And a very small ‘sneak-peak’ of the title section of our first exhibition banner! 👇🏻👇🏻👇🏻👇🏻👇🏻👇🏻👇🏻

As many of you will have seen, we had a wonderful piece of media coverage for the Kitchener history this weekend following a recent contact by Harriet Sherwood of The Guardian and Observer newspapers. It was all thanks to the hard work of Rebecca Singer at World Jewish Relief, who contacted Harriet on our behalf.

Harriet emailed and asked if she could also speak with some descendants. We put her in touch with Stephen and Paul who work so hard on our committee. They have put in countless hours to help bring the KDG events together, and I hope this helped make all their hard work feel worthwhile.

Anyway, I was delighted to see their fathers’ histories made it into the article, as did some fabulous images from Kitchener families who had given consent for their images to be shared.

You can see the article online here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/24/kitchener-camp-sandwich-kent-german-jews-haven?CMP=share_btn_link

And the newspaper version is below.

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This all happened very suddenly over the last week, and rather caught me on the hop in the middle of trying to ensure everything is ready for our exhibition opening, but what an incredible thing to happen.

I’m so sorry that the website is probably running very slowly at the moment: it was never set up for national news coverage. Over the last 24 hours we’ve had approaching 5,000 views, so it’s a little crazy here.

Rather wonderfully, we’ve also heard from four new Kitchener families already, one of whom has just arranged in lightning-fast time to join us in Sandwich, which is fantastic.

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If you have nipped out to buy the newspaper version of the Observer as a keepsake, you will have seen already that our little history has been drawn on as the lead-in to their coverage next week to commemorate 80 years since the declaration of war.

So next weekend will probably bring another batch of new readers to the project, because it is likely that the Kitchener article will be linked to again.

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You’ll have to forgive me for a short while if I can’t do much to reply to individual emails, but I do look forward to saying hello to as many people as possible on Sunday.

As you all know, the exhibition is intended as both a tool for education, and as a commemoration of the rescue of our fathers and grandfathers who were at Kitchener camp. I sincerely hope you will feel in the end that what I have pulled together over the last few months from our materials will do justice to our history and to our families.

I have never been so nervous in my life…

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For people attending the exhibition opening, a programme should come out to you in the next 24-36 hours.

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Many Kitchener descendants have written to me recently to say thank you for my work on the Kitchener project.

It is of course always lovely to receive thanks – and this is very much appreciated.

However, I think it’s important to add that from the start the Kitchener camp project has always been about all of us Kitchener families.

If I’d sat here at my desk and simply written about whatever I could find in archives, this website would not be the extraordinary resource that it is today.

The success of what we are producing together has never been about one person, one family, or one history. Its strength lies in myriad details and the minutiae of individual records. It lies in the expressions on faces in the many incredible Kitchener photographs, and in the small pieces of crucial information – and how they are expressed – in documents and in letters.

These faces and these turns of phrase still speak to descendant families across 80 years of history – and our collective response to this simple fact is what has made this project what it is today.

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I am also immensely grateful to everyone who has been in contact and shared difficult and sometimes very painful narratives – often for the first time.

I also want to say a particular thank you to those first families who got us going – who put their trust in the project and its endeavours when few had even heard of it. You know who you are – who have been through all these months with me – every so often emailing a suggestion, or offering some help, or just lifting my spirits when I’ve been tired.

It’s been a tough couple of years in some respects, but I have to say that when people thank me, I feel a bit of a fraud.

Because it has been the most wonderful two years working on the Kitchener camp project. I’ve met incredible people and encountered so much fascinating information. Simply put, I have learned so much.

I’m both touched and incredibly proud of what we’ve all achieved here, and while ‘thank you’ seems inadequate, it’s all I have – and I think you know how much I mean it.

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I’ll see many of you on Sunday and Monday – and I will hold in my heart every one whom I know would like to be with us but just can’t make it at the moment.

We will be thinking of you all – and we will remember your Kitchener forebears as we each will remember our own that day.

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The exhibition is co-sponsored by the Association of Jewish Refugees