Kitchener Camp Review, 1939

This page is under construction, gradually being added to as I get some time in the archives to make notes.

If anyone has original copies of any of these issues, images would be gratefully received!

The Kitchener Camp Review was published monthly.

“The journal of the Kitchener Camp for refugees at Richborough, near Sandwich written by and for them”

March  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 …

It may from the outside present a rather bleak aspect: but directly the men come into the temporary dining room, they are greeted by the refugees already here as long lost brothers, and it is very touching to see the warmth and gladness of the welcome…

It is up to everybody fortunate enough to be here to work hard so as to enable this Camp to be got ready for those who are still unfortunate enough to be in Germany.


Our recreation

The recreational side of the camp has already got going, and every evening in the Common Room the refugees will be seen playing ping-pong, chess, draughts, or billiards, or investigating the intricacies of darts, which they did not know prior to their arrival here; there is also a punch ball and boxing gloves for those so inclined …

During the weekend we had our first outing, when the large family, dividing into different parties, visited the village and strolled over the Golf Course to the sea, some even being fortunate enough to be taken out for car drives.

A further evidence of great kindness and friendship towards the refugees comes from the manager of the New Empire cinema, in Sandwich, who has extended an invitation to them to visit his Cinema in any evening they wish.

Kitchener camp, Empire cinema, Sandwich 2017
Kitchener camp, Empire cinema, Sandwich 2017

Numbers are as yet small: at the time of going to press there are eighty in Camp.


Editor: The following article was written by the camp doctor, “the only Italian refugee so far in Camp.”

Our hospital is comparatively big: we have 25 beds, which is a good proportion for a proposed population of 3,500. But we have to consider that whereas in the normal conditions some people are able to stay in their own homes in bed when they have even a small temperature, it is not advisable that he should remain in one of our huts … [The] hospital is better arranged than the usual public hospital. Instead of one big ward, we have cubicles for single beds. 


A temporary menu

Breakfast is porridge, bread and butter, and tea or coffee

No. 1 (lunches)

Sun

Marmite soup

Veg

Fish cakes

Fruit compote
Mon

Stew

Veg

Plum duff
Tues

Boiled cod

Sauce

Veg

Bread pudding 
Wed

Boiled beef

Veg

Fruit compote 
Thurs

Fillets haddock

Veg

Treacle pudding 
Fri

Saveloys

Mashed potatoes 

Jam tart
Sat

Veg soup

Mince meat

Veg

Apples
Richborough camp, Sandwich 1939, Hans Friedrich Elias
Kitchener camp, 1939, Hans Friedrich Elias, with his brother Eduard Elias

Recognised in the photograph by family, Hans Einziger, third from the left, wearing spectacles

Above, some of the kitchen helpers – residents of the camp

 

No. 2 (suppers)

Sun

Veg pie

Bread and butter

Cocoa
Mon 

Macaroni cheese

Bread and butter

Cocoa
Tues

1 egg

Cheese

Bread and butter

Cocoa
Wed 

Pea soup

Bread and butter

Cocoa
Thurs

Cheese

Pickles

Bread and butter

Cocoa 
Fri

Fried fish

Bread and butter

Cocoa 
Sat

Pilchards

Bread and butter

Cocoa 

April 1939 – extracts

Complimentary tickets

Everybody here is very grateful to Mr Goodman of the Empire Cinema, Sandwich, who has been receiving as guest parties of 35 refugees four evenings every week, and has made each Refugee feel he is an honoured guest.

English lessons

Through the good offices of Mr E Guy, Principal of the Thanet Technical Institute (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Kent_College), some eighty Professional teachers have formed themselves into a rota … I am sure I will be seconded by every Refugee here when I propose a Vote of Thanks to these good folk, who, after a tiring day teaching children, give up their precious spare time to make a long journey – for they come from all over Kent – to give these lessons.

Other helpers

I wish I had the space to mention by name all the good people who in one way or another have tried to make the lot of those here a little happier. Extraordinarily handsome gifts have been sent, while a list of those who have given unstinted time and service would fill a number of volumes of this journal.

Kitchener Commons

Saturday 19th March, was notable for the first assembly of our Parliament. The Visitors room had been turned into a very good resemblance of the House of Commons. Mr D. S. Woolf acted as “Mr Speaker”, and opened the evening with an explanation of the usual procedure of debate … “Members”, of course, spoke, with but few exceptions, in German, but used the English terms such as “Mr Speaker”, “Right Hon. Member”, and when they wished to show their approval said “Hear! … Hear!!”

Momentous Statement

The Speaker said that the Prime Minister might be some minutes late, and that he would have a momentous statement to make to the House … [a] door opened and in walked … did our eyes deceive us … Mr Chamberlain … no – but Mr K…y dressed up to look the very image of him. He entered, amid tumultuous cheers.

Opening of canteen

Early in March a small Canteen was opened which was an immediate success. It is run on real co-operative lines, for those who can afford to buy from it are helping to pay for the free issue of chocolates and cigarettes given to each refugee every evening.

Sandwich String orchestra 

At the invitation of Mr Max Burwood, the enthusiastic Conductor of the Sandwich String Orchestra, a number of talented Refugees, who have been deprived of their musical instruments, were invited to join the orchestra, and now go every Thursday to rehearsals. When we have sufficient musicians in Camp, Mr Burwood has offered to come here and train a KC Orchestra.

Get to know the English mentality

Secret no. 1   When I came to England, I started conversing with whatever Englishman I could get in touch …

Secret no. 2    Try hard! Very hard!! To THINK English!!!

Secret no. 3    Get acquainted with the English mentality.

We all here experience the English hospitality and generosity, and they are giving us this anonymously.

There are school children who sent pennies they had saved to help us, there are rich people who give thousands of pounds for we Refugees, and nobody expects anything in return.

Every Sunday there is an appeal for charity by some famous Englishman, and already on Monday morning money starts pouring into the BBC offices.

My experience as the first Male Nurse

There is a new profession for me – that of a male nurse! And I was appointed the first Male Nurse of the Camp.

I know that the patients would prefer a Female one, nevertheless a man is better than nothing.

The are two sorts of sick people. First, those who are still able to quarrel, and second, those who are too weak, even to do that. The first sort wants water, milk, etc., only when it is impossible to get it, and when it is obtained, they are too sleepy to drink it. The second sort speak with such a soft voice that you cannot understand them. It’s better so, otherwise you would have the same bother with them as with the first kind.

Each male nurse should be forced, by order, to join the harriers Club of the camp, because it is a fact that only those people, which live far away from the kitchen, become ill.

The Director’s Message

Whilst the size of our family here grows all too slowly, the happy spirit … has not only been maintained, but has been increased.

There is no doubt that all men in this Camp fully realise the grave responsibility which is resting upon their shoulders, to prepare a home for those who have yet to come from the ‘other side’.

The work has progressed well, but I appeal to you all to redouble your efforts to complete the preparation of the Camp, so that it could never be said that any man was prevented from leaving Germany or Austria because we had slacked in our efforts to get he Camp ready.

Work hard – and be happy that it has fallen to your fortunate lot to have the opportunity to serve your fellow men, such as is given to few people during their life-time.

From this moment the Camp motto shall be –

“DO IT WITH A SMILE”

………………………..

Our agricultural programme

Having been entrusted with agricultural training, I am instructing those refugees who will eventually work on the land in some out-post of the world.

There are about 8-10 acres of soil at our disposal, which could be used for this purpose. This soil, lain fallow for many years, consists mainly of dry grass, which extends between the huts on the West side of the Camp.

In order to make it possible to till this soil, all grass, weeds, and insects have to be cleared off … it must be dug by hand and levelled …

Provisions are made to sow early and late potatoes. Then sowing of early vegetables will be tried on a small area, and according to the success I will grow early vegetables after having reaped early potatoes, and through reaping twice, everything will be done to get as much as possible out of the soil. If the harvest of late potatoes should not take place too late in the year, it will be possible to grow Winter vegetables.

In this way the camp will be enabled next Spring to have its own supplies of vegetables at hand, and, in consequence, save money …

In this way, it is hoped to train at least 200 refugees every year in the various branches of agriculture, and, at the same time, it will be a useful source of supply of the vegetables required at the camp.

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT

… When we reached the hall in which the monster pole from which the Union Jack was to fly was – and saw it lying on the floor – in the dim light of our lanterns, it looked like some huge monster fast asleep. Stealthily we got to work, and more than an hour had gone before it was ready to be erected at the entrance of the Camp, where a foundation had been prepared for it.

One, two, three — ready — steady — go — and we had hoisted it on our shoulders and were carrying or, more correctly, staggering with our heavy burden out into the night.

There was no difficulty in putting the first bolt thru the fixture in the foundation, but to get it in an upright position was another question. After what seemed an eternity, we somehow managed to get it into position and inserted the final bolt … the task was done:

It was one-thirty …… and so to bed!

Richborough transit camp 1939
Kitchener camp, magazine, Some Victims of the Nazi Terror: The Reward of the Salvors

October 1939 – extracts

Children

Amongst the good that has resulted from so much bad is the pleasure that the number of little children, who now live in the precincts of the camp, give to those who are fortunate enough to look after them. A kindergarten and school have been started, and the lessons given by fully qualified teachers are eagerly looked forward to by diligent pupils.

Strolling players

One is reminded of the famous song from The Mikado – A Wandering MINSTREL’ – in connection with the small groups of entertainers that we have arranged to go round from hut to hut to give entertainments in the evenings. A little music from small accordion bands, songs, some jokes, and some conjuring tricks all help to while away the long evenings which now have to spent by the campmen in their dimly lit huts. It can, therefore, be imagined how much the visit of our strolling players is looked forward to.

Electricians

To brighten our darkness, our electricians have made many forms of lamp shades and other devices so as to give the maximum light with the minimum chance of any being seen outside the huts. Empty beef tins, round cardboard containers, bulbs painted blue and black have all been tried.

NEWS! NEWS!

Lucky are the huts that now have wireless sets, as news is most eagerly awaited for, and as no German newspapers are available, those who are still not familiar with the English language are only able to get first-hand information of what is going on by means of the radio stations.

High Holy Days

On the new year a number of small Orthodox and Liberal services were held for congregations consisting of 300 to 400 people, at which representatives from each hut attended. Numerous services were held in the different huts, and on the day of atonement similar services were held as on the new year.

Rain

Heavy rains recently resulted in the formation of large lakes in various parts of the camp, and in connection with them various good stories went round the camp, and one was to the effect that a U Boat had been sighted in the lake between huts 25 and 26.

Looking up to to the sky

It is hauntingly dark now in our camp when the sun has set. Only a few weeks ago hundreds of lights still glittered and flared comfortingly from one hunt to the other – now, however, the gloomy state of our Camp at night has become a true image of the outer world’s state. Strife has come unto that world with all its miseries and tragedies – and a bitter resignation is the only feeling which fills an honest man’s heart …

There are some fifty huts scattered over the field, and in those huts there are living more than three thousand people, refugees, the majority of them men, but a number of women and children as well – celebrating in a rather modest, rather discreet way our Jewish New Year  … [V]ictims of peace, we have left slavery and humiliation of liberty, for the chance of taking breath in freedom again. But now the anxiety for our beloved ones, our friends still living in the areas of war eclipses that feeling … who can help asking again and again … “What will become of us?” that deeper, more depressing question: “What will become of them?”

………………………..

There will be ordinary work-day tomorrow again, with its toil and recreation; part of our people will leave for the National Service, whilst the others will continue developing the Camp, doing office work or learning English.

………………………..

Agriculture 

The agriculturalists are quickly developing the new acres we acquired surrounding the Camp, and they tell us that the turf is extremely hard and difficult to plough, and that this would be a hard job for experts with proper equipment … The first crops of vegetables have been well up to the expectations of our experts, and are far beyond the wildest dreams of those farmers in the neighbourhood who have said that the ground was unsuitable for the purpose for which it is now being used.


More extracts to follow ...

 

Source: The Wiener Library for the study of the Holocaust, Doc 644, P03297, Reference only