I am an MA student at King’s College London in the Digital Humanities department, exploring community archives (like this group!), which focus on different aspects of the Holocaust. You may also know me as the Digital Asset Manager at The Wiener Holocaust Library so it’s likely we’ve exchanged emails or seen each other if you’ve attended an event at Russell Square.
For the purposes of my dissertation I’m particularly
interested in finding out:
Why you chose to contribute to the Kitchener Camp Descendants group
What you hope to get out of participating
Whether you’ve been involved in other heritage/archiving projects
How aware you are of similar projects
How in your view traditional archives can better assist with ensuring the success of projects like Kitchener Camp
Your views on Holocaust memorialisation more generally
While this project ultimately contributes to my degree, I’m also hoping the results will help inform decisions at The Wiener Library more generally. As you know the Library took over the running of this site from Clare earlier this year and it’s useful for us to know what motivated you to participate, the importance of the project to its contributors and what you would ultimately like for the site to become.
I’d be very grateful if you would share your views in this survey. It should take less than 10 minutes to do so.
Please do get in touch if you’d like to discuss anything in more detail or if you have any issues with completing the survey.
It has been clear for some weeks that this would need to happen, and it has now been confirmed that the programme of Kitchener events organised for this Spring has been indefinitely postponed because of the COVID-19 crisis.
I absolutely support these postponements and look forward to the rescheduling of these or other events at some point in the future.
The Wiener Holocaust Library has now started the final part of the IT process to take this Kitchener website into their care.
And so it is time to say my thanks and my goodbyes.
First, the practicalities: if you have contacted me with information for the website this year (2020), please can I ask you to forward it to email@example.com. Give her a couple of weeks to complete the transfer of the website first, but this is the address to which recent and future materials should be sent.
I am so very sorry that I have not been able to keep up the work on the website this year. I have been ill, requiring surgery and a biopsy: I’ve had to focus on my health and my family. Thank you so much for all your kind enquiries – things are looking up and I am recovering well.
Of course, I will see many of you at events as the Kitchener history is taken forwards. But this day had to come. If the project had stayed with me, eventually, it would have been lost to families and to historians. And that isn’t what any of us would have wanted. Sadly, but inevitably, I can’t afford more time away from work, nor the ongoing resources needed to run the website, the correspondence, and the accompanying research.
The two years through which I created and ran the Kitchener Project have been a truly extraordinary experience, however. And I will be speaking about these processes at the Wiener Holocaust Library on the evening of 23 April 2020, if you’d like to join me.
Over time, the library will automatically send their newsletter to email addresses on our Kitchener list. If you do not wish to continue to receive these, you may opt out in the usual way. We figured this was the simplest way of working out who wants to stay in touch.
As for me, I had to re-start my ‘day job’ at some point, but if you want to keep up with what I’m doing next – and whatever spin-offs may arise – you are most welcome to visit my family history website at www.fromnumberstonames.com.
‘From Numbers to Names’ is where my family history work began.
I gather that a number of folk have assumed that my focus on Kitchener history spoke mainly to my relationship with my dad. And of course in some ways it does, as it does with all of us, for all sorts of complex reasons.
But my family history work began with – and continues to be driven by – a deep need to know something about our missing family members – and the deepest emotional driver for this is my grandmother Else Weissenberg (pictured below) who was killed at Auschwitz in 1942.
Those of you who have seen the digital section of Leave to Land may recall that my Kitchener work is in fact dedicated to Else.
From Numbers to Names
When my mother died in 2014 I decided, finally, to look into my dad’s family history.
I began with two items: my father’s ‘German suitcase’ of documents and letters, which I ‘inherited’ when my mother died, and a slip of paper on which in a young child’s script I had written our family tree – on a rare occasion when my dad felt like discussing his pre-war life. I have no memory of what prompted this exchange.
All I know is that many decades later it was to prove invaluable to what happened next.
Anyway, this story is told on From Numbers to Names, which I created so that I could keep far-flung family and close friends in touch with what I was getting translated and what I was discovering.
The originals of all the documents and letters that are on that website will eventually be housed for safe-keeping with the Wiener Holocaust Library, London – in the heart of a city my dad loved, in the country that gave him safe refuge at his time of greatest need.
I know many of you have been on similar family history ‘journeys’.
As most of you know by now, when I was working through my dad’s materials in chronological order, I soon found his documents and pictures of Kitchener camp. And I wondered, ‘What was all that about then?’ I tried Google, and found very little. And the rest, dear friends, turned into this Kitchener Camp Project!
Just for the moment, From Numbers to Names is closed. When we were getting a lot of media interest ahead of the exhibition and the Kitchener memorial plaque last year, I didn’t want my family website trawled for information.
I still have some work to do before making the site ‘go live’ again, but if you’d like to stay in touch that way, please check From Numbers to Names in a few weeks’ time, and I’ll look forward to seeing some of you there.
Archival research: Some future work?
There’s something else hopefully coming up that you might want to keep in touch about.
A number of times I have been on the receiving end of friendly remonstrance for not telling the story of other – especially women – refugees to Britain, many thousands of whom arrived on what are generally referred to as Domestic Service visas.
There were also the Kindertransport rescues, and many smaller rescues – around 65,000 of which were carried out with the assistance and organisational capacity of the Council for German Jewry. The largest section of the Council was the Central British Fund – today, World Jewish Relief.
The World Jewish Relief records are the last significant unexplored archive about Jewish refugees to Britain in the 1930s. And I am in the process of applying, alongside a historian, for funding to access this archive. If we succeed in securing the funding, we intend to run workshops on our findings, write blogs and articles, and of course, we will be asking for individual histories to be shared about the tens of thousands who were rescued over these crucial years.
At least in the early days, I will probably use ‘From Numbers to Names’ for my updates on this work, rather than trying to run a separate site. There isn’t any funding for that side of things, so we’ll just have to see how things progress.
Do listen out for this next stage of research getting going (…fingers crossed!). The funding decision will be made mid-Spring 2020.
So, this just leaves the thank yous and the goodbyes…
I don’t really know where to start – or where to end! And as I hope most of us will stay in touch, I hope the goodbyes aren’t really necessary.
I suppose my deepest thanks must go to the families who put their trust in the project and supported it with materials and with suggestions of avenues to explore – many of which I’d never heard about before. You have shared photographs and documents, as well as corrections and ideas – and we needed all this to get to where we have reached today.
In relation to the many suggestions of events and people to be followed up: I soon came to refer to these as my ‘rabbit holes’ – so many of which I would love to have had time to go down in depth.
But the extraordinary response from so many families, historians, and institutions meant that my initial intention – that I would spend months carrying out research in archives – was just not achievable. To keep up with the correspondence and the materials that came pouring in was the best I could hope do. To undertake serious archival research as well would have taken a small team of people, as things transpired. And of course, there have not been the resources to make that possible.
The World Jewish Relief archive aside, I’m not yet sure which part of our history I will follow next. All I do know is that something in me – a ‘need to know’ what happened to my family – will keep taking me down one rabbit hole or another.
I genuinely hope and trust that I will continue to encounter Kitchener families and our diverse histories along the way. And one thing I am certain of – is that there is much more to be learned from the many Kitchener descendants who have yet to find us.
The things I’ve learned and the people I’ve encountered here will remain with me always. Importantly, your generous support and your personal warmth will travel with me wherever I go next.
And for all who have asked what my father would have thought of this work – I genuinely believe that our fathers and our grandfathers, our uncles and our cousins would be proud and pleased with what we achieved together over the few months that led up to the 80th anniversary of their Kitchener camp rescue to Britain in 1939.
In collating the many small pieces of our family histories, we have brought an important and meaningful piece of research together. And in so doing we have focussed light on another corner of our shared Holocaust history.
Finally, I know many are taking up the baton to share this history further – in the form of articles, and talks, and events.
Please keep up this vital work. The sharing and future understanding of our Shoah and refugee history depends on us all.
With my warmest wishes – and my heartfelt thanks –
Their archive contains over 1,400 histories of destroyed synagogues, prayer halls, and their communities.
From the website:
“… a memorial to the former synagogues of German Jewry that had been attacked during the pogroms in November 1938. The Nazi-orchestrated pogrom of the night of November 9-10, 1938 was dubbed “Kristallnacht” (“Crystal Night”) by the German authorities and press. In coining this term, Nazi propagandists – whose intention was to beautify a night of inhuman cruelty, theft, violence, and destruction – drew inspiration from the sight of glittering mounds of broken glass; all that remained after thousands of windows were smashed as rioters wrecked, and in many places burned synagogues and prayer halls, and vandalized and looted Jewish homes and businesses. In this night German Jewry came after around 1500 years to an abrupt halt.
This website contains 1400 histories of each community and its synagogue that had been attacked during Pogrom Night. On the one hand each story summarizes stories of foundation, enriching cultural exchange and coexistence, and on the other hand each single community history documents phases of banishment, violence, anti-Semitism, and prejudice.
Not included are around 600 synagogues or prayer halls, defunct or operating, that were not damaged on Pogrom Night itself, unless they were attacked at an earlier or later date. After the pogrom almost all of these synagogues had been closed by order of the German authority, too. Nonetheless, the project team wishes to acknowledge the importance of these synagogues and the Jews who built them, and the project team pays tribute to them.”
Since Oliver Cromwell re-admitted Jews to Britain in the mid-1600s, Jewish men have fought in the British Armed Forces. First limited to the role as nurses like all women, Jewish women have taken on an increasingly broad range of roles in the 20th century as well, some serving in the Second World War as drivers, mechanics and spies.
This illustrated talk will draw on the highlights of the collection of the Jewish Military Museum, formerly based in Hendon, to tell some of the fascinating stories of courage, resilience and sacrifice of Jewish men and women who fought for Britain in various armed conflicts.
Kathrin Pieren is the Collections manager and curator (social and military history) at the Jewish Museum London. Before joining the Jewish Museum, she managed Petersfield Museum and the Flora Twort Gallery in East Hampshire.
The talk will last around 45mins, followed by a ten-minute Q&A session, with a mystery prize for the best question.
Young Jewish refugees in Britain: Research help needed
Dear Kitchener Descendants,
I am a PhD student at Royal Holloway’s Holocaust Research Institute, exploring the history of the Central British Fund (CBF) (which you may know as the Jewish Refugees Committee at Bloomsbury House). Today the organisation is known as World Jewish Relief. They provided financial support for the Kindertransport and Kitchener camp.
My focus is the CBF’s work with adolescent refugees, some of whom arrived on the Kindertransport; others arrived on work visas or training schemes. I am interested in the experiences of young (mid to late teens) refugees and how the CBF interacted with this group. Many were seen as “too old” to adapt to British homes, yet too young to support themselves or enter full-time employment.
The experiences of these young refugees tended to take place in agricultural training, vocational schools, and (for girls) in nursing or domestic service. They were housed in hostels or residential homes for training to become self-supporting, or to prepare them for re-emigration. I have been exploring nursing and domestic service training, schools for Jewish refugees (such as Bunce Court), and agricultural training centres (usually managed by Zionist youth programmes with the support of the CBF).
I am interested to hear more about how and in what ways these experiences had an impact on young refugees. How did the presence, influence, and relationship with the CBF (however indirect or infrequent) affect the lives and identities of a younger generation of Jewish refugees in Britain?
In many ways, Kitchener was an early experiment in how to “deal” with refugees, and in responses to refugees arriving from Europe. The experiences of Kitchener refugees may help answer some of my research questions.
Although many Kitchener refugees were older than the adolescents in my other case studies, I am interested in learning more about the following:
The experiences of younger men at Kitchener (in their late teens and twenties).
Interactions with workers/volunteers of the CBF/JRC, and Bloomsbury House.
Reflections/memories of the support received from the CBF (or other British-Jewish refugee agencies).
Reflections/memories of what was “expected” of them as so-called aliens. How were they treated? Were they expected to participate in particular duties or work? Did they feel pressure to assimilate? Or to do what was ‘expected’ of them?
Indications of how they thought their time at Kitchener, or their treatment by refugee agencies in Britain, had an impact on later life and aspects of identity.
I would love to hear from anyone who is willing to assist me in my research and/or is interested in finding out more about my project. Please do get in touch if any of the above information has resonated with you or your family’s story.
The book is called Closed Chapters. And apparently Hurst led one of the Alien Tribunals in Kent in autumn 1939.
Some extracts follow that I thought you might be interested in reading.
I’m particularly interested in the penultimate extract, below, because I am curious about the extent to which the refugees’ careers prior to the so-called Nuremberg laws had been forced to change by the time they became refugees in Britain.
Anyway – I hope you find this an interesting perspective – from very close to the time at which these events took place.
(And yes – I’m trying to track down the references to the Government White Paper of October 1939, and the reference to The Times newspaper article dated 1 November 1939.)
I just received an email that those of you who are signed up for Wiener Holocaust Library (WHL) newsletters will probably already have seen.
I’m posting it here in support of the WHL, which has shown – and continues to show – such steadfast support for the Kitchener project.
It’s taken a not-insignificant level of resource in terms of their people and costs to maintain this support. So if you can, please consider donating a contribution to help support the WHL in return for the vital work they do for us all.
Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving. A day when everyone, everywhere can do something to support the good causes and communities that mean so much to them. It is a day to celebrate and encourage giving in all its forms.
The Library depends on your support to grow as an institution and to protect our valuable collections. Please visit our website tomake a donation today.
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A quick post to ask whether you could please check your letters and documents to see whether any of your materials mention Thomas Frame.
We believe that Frame was Vice Consul in the British Embassy in Berlin. It is possible that he helped some of the Kitchener men get their visa out of Germany. Sometimes the official signatures on documents are difficult to read, but as you know what you’re looking for in this instance, it might make it a bit easier.
We have seen the articles about him in the Journal of the Association of Jewish Refugees, so we are hoping for information beyond this.
This request aside, I’m meanwhile continuing to add new names and information to the Kitchener project all the time. Our digital archive here is growing by the week.
In the next few days I should have a fuller update for you.
It was an honour yesterday to witness the formal remembrance ceremony that included a wreath for the refugees of Kitchener camp. This took place at the Cenotaph in London, during the AJEX (https://www.ajex.org.uk) commemoration in Whitehall.
For families not resident in the UK, particularly, I should stress that this is no small, local affair but the state monument in London. This is a recognition of the history of our fathers, grandfathers and extended families on a national scale – and it was an incredible moment to witness.
As well as a commemoration to the armed forces and associated forms of service, a prayer was also said for the six million – among whom all of us will count some family members.
Our Kitchener wreath was laid by Michael Ziff, who had a family member who was a Dovercourt boy, I believe. That is, he was a Kindertransport teenager who for a time was resident in Kitchener camp until more suitable accommodation could be found. I had a brief chance to tell Michael about the project after the ceremony, and hope the family get in touch to tell us a little bit more.
Below, I have added some of the photographs I took, and I sent out quite a few tweets on the day – all of which get uploaded in real time on the right-hand side of the website (best accessed on a desktop).
I’ve been so pleased to hear that a number of Kitchener descendants were able to attend the commemoration, although somehow most of us managed to miss each other in the crowds!
But whoever you were standing alongside, I think you’ll know what I mean in what I say next – whatever religion (or none) that you follow.
In this context especially, there seems something very special about Hebrew prayers rising on the air from a crowd of people gathered together in the heart of London.
A wonderful event – and thank you so very much to AJEX for thinking of us, and for remembering our fathers and grandfathers at Kitchener camp.
Monica Lowenberg has very kindly uploaded her photographs of the day, including images from the memorial booklet.
These can be accessed from her email, which was sent out earlier today.
Spectators can also watch without a ticket, standing between the Cenotaph and Banqueting House, assembling from 1.30pm.
Everyone is welcome to attend. It would be lovely if as many Kitchener families as possible could be there – whether or not your father or grandfather was in the armed forces.
We are unlikely to run another Kitchener event this year, so it’s a last chance to gather in our 80th year. And for such a worthwhile occasion.
AJEX, The Jewish Military Association UK, is unique.
Established as the Jewish Ex-Servicemen’s Legion after the Great War, it exists to celebrate and support the contribution of those members of the Anglo-Jewish community who have served and continue to serve Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.
The Charity is organised across three pillars:
Welfare, Remembrance and Education