Translations – crowd sourcing

Ideally, all documents and letters will be translated into English for upload to the site.

However, if families have a number of items for translation, this can prove expensive.

Sometimes people just enjoy translating materials, however – almost like others enjoy completing crosswords. So if you have documents at home that you are unable to have translated in advance, these can still be uploaded here and we will see if others are happy to provide crowd-sourced English-language versions.

So, if you only have documents in a language other than English, please don’t let this put you off submitting them to the project: let’s see what we can do by working together.

Looking for refugee records?

World Jewish Relief holds many registration cards from when Jews arrived in the UK in the 1930s, and there is no charge for families to access these records.

Formerly called the Central British Fund (CBF), which is now World Jewish Relief, this organisation rescued around 65,000 people from Europe to the UK throughout the 1930s and 1940s. They were the charity through which 10,000 Kindertransport children found refuge, as well as being the main body to organise the rescue of the men to Kitchener camp.

Exemption from internment, 1939
Exemption from internment, 1939

WJR encourages families to apply online for records here: https://www.worldjewishrelief.org/about-us/your-family-history

And they have a page about the history of the organisation here: https://www.worldjewishrelief.org/about-us/history

Do get in touch – they’d love to hear from Kitchener descendants.

………………………………………

The National Archives online has a useful set of information for people trying to carry out family or historical research in this area:

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/refugees/

For example, they hold around 600 ‘Aliens’ registration cards covering the period 1918 to 1957. They cover the London area only, and include British-born wives of refugees.

Richborough camp, Sandwich, From ‘Kindertransport’, by Hans Jackson, resident of Kitchener camp With the kind permission of Allen Sternstein
From ‘Kindertransport’, by Hans Jackson, resident of Kitchener camp
With the kind permission of Allen Sternstein

 

 

 

Refugee aliens

This article (almost certainly in the Yorkshire Post, but I have yet to verify that) was written by the wife of a vicar, the Reverend John Steele, who took in my Jewish refugee father Werner Weissenberg, and shared with him their English family life when he had no-one else left.

This family looked after Werner for many years as one of their own, continuing to stay in touch throughout their life times.

The article relates more widely to the plight of Jewish refugees to Britain over these years, pleading with others to support Britain taking in more Jewish refugees in need.

Refugee aliens newspaper article
Refugee aliens newspaper article

 

 

Kitchener Camp website meeting

Today we held the first steering committee meeting to discuss and plan this new Kitchener Camp website project.

We’re incredibly excited to be working on this new venture together, and are receiving considerable support and advice from the Wiener Library – which is very much appreciated.

The meeting was actually held next door to Woburn House, which was the HQ of the German Jewish Aid Committee in Britain – a key organisation helping to get Jews out of Germany in the 1930s. As need grew, the main operation moved to Bloomsbury House in February 1939, but Woburn House continued to be a base for the Central British Fund (later part of German Jewish Aid) in the postwar years.

This marvellously appropriate location added to our sense that this work is an important part of our long, shared history.

We have a huge amount to get through and will be calling on all kinds of people over the next few weeks to help us get underway quickly.

If you would be happy to help with some of the organisational side of things, please do get in touch. Not least, we need to get the word out as widely and as quickly as possible, so that we have the best chance of reaching the families of the almost 4,000 men who were in Kitchener Camp in 1939.

And if you have any of the items we are seeking to upload, please do start to look them out, and perhaps consider getting scans made of your Kitchener photographs, letters, and documents. A good high resolution scan would be great.

We are also interested in high quality photographs of items your fathers and grandfathers might have brought with them from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia, and in the stories and memories they might have shared about their first year in England.

In the meantime, as further information becomes available, I’ll post it up here.

 

More records to come?

A fascinating Long Read article by Linda Kinstler in The Guardian today, ‘The Last Nazi Hunters’: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/aug/31/the-last-nazi-hunters.

It has been said to me by a number of people over the years that there are ‘more records’ out there than we have had access to, to date, and this article would seem to verify that supposition.

Linda Kinstler’s piece raises a number of interesting questions for those of us who lost family in the Shoah, and asks some key questions: about the painstaking nature of the investigation of historical crime; about the motivations involved (in the present more than in the past, perhaps); and about the issue of ‘costs’ of various kinds.

Those of the second generation, in common with many survivors, often have a driving need to know ‘what happened’ to their missing family members. Traditionally, after all, people have a grave or other memorial to visit, but in our case there is most often nothing – not even the certainty of a date, or a death certificate.

The suggestion here, that there may be much more information still to be released, may be helpful to those of us who continue to look back both ‘in need’ and in commemoration.

The Kitchener Descendants Group (KDG) is formed

Kent, Summer 2017

In a small town in England recently there was a quietly remarkable meeting.

The group that met was formed of some descendants of refugees who had found safe haven in Britain in 1939.

The refugees – mostly Jewish men between the ages of 17 and 45 – survived the war because they had been allocated a much-coveted place at Kitchener ‘transit’ camp.

And in 2017 their descendants gathered together to commemorate this survival.

Over the short time it was open, from January 1939, Kitchener Camp gradually housed up to 4,000 refugees from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.

After World War II began in September 1939, the camp became, in part, a Pioneer Corps training camp; Kitchener was finally closed down in May 1940.

Many of these refugees went on to join the Pioneer Corps, and they fought for the Allied forces throughout the remainder of the war.

Most would never see their families again.

However, the group of descendants who met in Kent is testament to a story of survival – albeit in the midst of incalculable loss. Because of the opportunity offered by the camp, new families were later formed – with wives, children, and grandchildren, and even some great-grandchildren by now, perhaps.

Thus, the requirement to always acknowledge and remember the immense loss of those long, terrible years, is accompanied here by an important acknowledgement that there were some survivors among a people who had been marked for annihilation.

It is difficult to know how to summarise what this means, in the context of the Shoah.

The enormity of the loss among the families of these men – and among the countless families where there simply were no survivors – means we must retain a keen understanding that short statements and summaries are fraught with difficulty.

Is it possible – or even desirable to try – to make something meaningful out of so much loss?

And yet – there we were, more than 70 years later, in the Sandwich sunshine: a few of the family members who are alive today because of Kitchener Camp.

SANDWICH GUILDHALL PROJECT NEWS
AUGUST 2017

On Sunday 16th July the museum welcomed descendants of the Jewish refugees who came to Sandwich during 1939 to flee Nazi persecution in Germany.The visit was organised by Stephen Nelken and local author Clare Ungerson, whose book ‘Four Thousand Lives: The rescue of German Jewish men to Britain, 1939’ covers the history of the event. The visitors came to the museum for a tour and to see a slideshow of photographs from the Kitchener Camp from the archives collection. They brought their own documents and photos to be scanned and added to the collection, which will form part of a special exhibition in early 2018.

Sandwich Guildhall Project News is produced by Dover District Council and edited by Community Development Officer Hannah Batley

We choose knowledge

Having had a fascinating day in Sandwich, Kent, among some descendants of the refugees of Kitchener Camp in 1939, this website is being established for a limited period of time to gather together our documents, photographs, and memories.

In this way, we might form a picture of how the men managed to get out of Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia, of what their lives and routines were like in Kitchener Camp, and of what they went on to do when the camp closed down.

Hopefully, having a global website presence will mean that Kitchener descendants who do not live in Britain will be able to join us in sharing materials and memories.

At the end of this time, we will offer the site and its public documents to an appropriate institution to maintain these items as both materials for education and as an act of commemoration.

Let this be a good time to share our knowledge of these events among us

 

Kitchener camp photographs

Below are the Kitchener camp group photographs sent in to date (please do let me know if I have missed any!)- plus a couple of Pioneer Corps pictures

We hope you enjoy having a look through these – and don’t forget to contact us if you see anyone you recognise! Families would very much like to know the names of the people around their relatives at this time

If you’d like to see larger versions, please just click on a photograph and you’ll then be able to scroll through larger versions of these pictures

……………………………………..

The photographs are shown in no particular order, by the way – the software generates how they are presented and if you renew the page they will probably turn up in a different order again.

……………………………………..

It’s fascinating to be getting the hut numbers coming through on these photographs, and if you do spot the hut your relative was in, you can get an idea of where that hut was in the camp layout by scrolling down the extracts from a hand-drawn map of the camp, on this page: http://www.kitchenercamp.co.uk/kitchener-camp-2/