Simon Hochberger – Memories

A researcher living in New Zealand got in touch recently about Simon Hochberger. He is writing a short biography to accompany a poem written by Simon – who is listed in British National Archives records as a journalist and author.

Below are a few notes from our early email correspondence

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I am researching the life and work of the journalist and poet Simon Hochberger (1906-1947). He was one of the Dunera internees and on his arrival in Melbourne he registered his last address in the UK as Kitchener Camp. I found his name on the 1939 Register.

Fortunately, and thanks to your most interesting and informative webpages, I have learnt a bit more about Hochberger. He contributed to the Kitchener Camp Review and he organized and directed the camp show in August 1939.

Unfortunately, I still do not know from where and how Hochberger got the visa to emigrate to England and the camp. Is there a register of first interviews at arrival or something similar I could consult? He may have come from Vienna, perhaps via Dachau.

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In the Kitchener Camp Diary I found the following sentence (19th August 1939), which might not be quite correct: “The show is entirely in English written by Hochburger by chief assistant and was a great success” (http://www.kitchenercamp.co.uk/research/phineas-may-kitchener-camp-diary-1939/kitchener-camp-diary-august/). The name should read “Hochberger” (correctly spelled in the report on the show in the Camp Review) and could the second ‘by’ be misspelled for ‘my’ referring to Hochberger’s  contributions to the Review?

A major focus of my research relates to German-Jewish writers, their work and biography in the 1930s and 40s, with monographs on Karl Wolfskehl, who fled to NZ and died here, and on Gerson Stern, who emigrated in 1939 to Palestine. A colleague who wrote a short essay on Hochberger – “The Lost Writer”​. In 1946 Hochberger published a remarkable epic poem ​Warsaw Ghetto. It has been almost forgotten, probably because of his premature death only a year later. My hope is to prepare a new edition of this poem and accompany it with a short biography. The still-powerful poem deserves to be better known.

By now I know quite a bit about Hochberge’s life since his escape to England – his stay at the Kitcchener Camp, the Dunera, and his stay in Hay and Tatura (mostly thanks to the Kitchener webpages and files in the National Archives of Australia). After his release from the Australian Army he contributed to the Australian journal The Zionist until he moved to NZ as editor of the NZ Jewish Chronicle. He had only edited two issues when he died.

As far as I have been able to find out, Hochberger’s entire close family perished in the Shoah.

I was most grateful to learn about Julian Layton. I have encountered his name in a number of NAA files, but knew little about his important role, and Grünbaum’s Diary was an eye opener: Grünbaum knew Simon, although he doesn’t mention him by name, but the drawing on the last page of the diary is inscribed “copy of Hochberger”.  Is it a humorous sketch of Simon? The drawing refers to the reception of the internees at Hay.

I know a bit about the family’s Galician origin and background, but I would like to learn more about Simon’s upbringing in Germany, education and early journalist/writing career.

Finally, the State Library of Victoria has put online an electronic copy of Hochberger’s booklet with the poem which sparked my current project: http://digital.slv.vic.gov.au/view/action/singleViewer.do?dvs=1544303689633~19&locale=en_GB&metadata_object_ratio=10&show_metadata=true&VIEWER_URL=/view/action/singleViewer.do?&preferred_usage_type=VIEW_MAIN&DELIVERY_RULE_ID=10&frameId=1&usePid1=true&usePid2=true

Kindly submitted by Friedrich Voit for Simon Hochberger

Editor: If anyone has further information about Simon Hochberger, please do get in touch so we can pass it on