Internment talk

The talk on internment given to the Kitchener Descendant Group a few weeks ago is now available to view on the Wiener Library YouTube channel at the link below.

With many thanks indeed to Dr Rachel Pistol for a fascinating insight into conditions in the camps from Summer 1940.

Rachel’s comparative study of internment in Britain and the USA during the Second World War is available via the Bloomsbury publishing website at the following link – and is now out in paperback.


Oh – and Mazel Tov, Rachel and Alan! Congratulations on your marriage! 😉

Arolsen Archives

We talked quite a bit about possible sources for records when the Kitchener project began, but the recent arrival of a particular set of materials has reminded me that it’s been a while, and not everyone will have read as far back as those early notes and thoughts. There have also been some updates since then.


The materials kindly sent in over the last week are from the Arolsen Archives – until recently called the International Tracing Service (ITS) – which themselves have undergone significant change since the Kitchener project began almost two years ago. Not least, around 13 million of Arolsen’s records have now been digitized and are searchable online ( They have also produced a fantastic ‘explainer’ section on their website to help families understand the archival cards and records –

As you know, from around 9th to 11th November 1938 a majority of the men who were soon to be the Kitchener refugees were rounded up and incarcerated either in local/regional prisons or – on the whole – in one of three large concentration camps – Dachau, Buchenwald, or Sachsenhausen. (I sincerely apologise that I’ve not had time to put up information about the latter, but I will do so later this year …)

The Kitchener rescue was specifically set up by the Central British Fund to rescue the ‘November Jews’ (incarcerated during Kristallnacht, as it’s still sometimes called).


Kitchener camp, Richborough, Max Metzger, KZ Dachau - Record card, ITS Documents from the Wiener Library
Kitchener camp, Richborough, Max Metzger, KZ Dachau – ITS record card
ITS record kindly submitted by Max’s family and reproduced here with the permission of the Wiener Library

If you have not yet applied to Arolsen Archives to see whether they have records of your father/grandfather’s arrest and imprisonment in November 1938, you may wish to consider it.

As with many archives in this area, there tends to be a bit of a delay in responding because so many people are making these kinds of enquiries.

The link for relatives to apply for information to Arolsen Archives is here:

If you are looking for records about your Kitchener relative, this can be a good place to start. It is also worth making an enquiry with Arolsen about missing members of your family from the National Socialist period.

If you live in the UK, you may want to get in touch with the Wiener Library instead – they are a license holder for the ITS database:

If you’d like to know more, Elise Bath of the Wiener Library will be giving a workshop for Kitchener descendants at our exhibition on 1st September at the Jewish Museum in London.


It is as well to begin with an understanding of what Arolsen may have records on, and what they won’t, so I’ll do my best to explain its remit here – broadly, in the terms in which it was explained to me a few years ago.


Arolsen Archives holds tens of millions of records on around 17.5 million people.

Arolsen Archives, Winter 2018
Copyright Clare Weissenberg

A sobering statistic.

This is both a vast number of records about a vast number of people, yet it is also an incomplete account of the Shoah.

Arolsen Archives, Winter 2018
Copyright Clare Weissenberg

There are many reasons for this incompleteness – not least of which is that the National Socialists destroyed huge quantities of materials when it became apparent that they would lose the war. Allied bombing raids and fires also destroyed many buildings in which records were stored.

Arolsen Archives, Winter 2018
Copyright Clare Weissenberg

There is another reason why a particular person’s records may not appear in the Arolsen database, which goes something like the following.

If a person was in a labour camp for some period of time – records would have been generated: entry to the camp, lists of belongings, medical records, and so on. These records may have been destroyed, but they would have been created at some point in the system.

If a person was one of the hundreds of thousands deported to the killing centres of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, Treblinka, Chełmno, Bełžec, or Sobibór, for example, they did not enter areas where records were taken. They were, on the whole, sent straight to their deaths.

Therefore, in a majority of cases, there will be no records of these people having being in the camps. There might be a record of the transport to the camp, but that is probably about all.

Many people find it difficult to encompass the idea that something so vast, so organised, and so well-documented in many ways has failed to document our individual cases, but – this is the situation as we find it today.

It’s hard, I know, to have neither gravestone nor record, which may be part of why we have a drive to record and to document whatever is left.

Dachau entry book, recording the arrival at the camp of Kitchener refugee Werner Weissenberg


In addition, if a person was not deported to a specific camp but, for example, shot in a forest or on the edge of a ravine, there will be no record of their deaths in Arolsen Archives.

In other words, Arolsen has documentation only when someone appears in the logging systems of the National Socialist state. And as I said, even many of these records no longer exist.

Max Metzger - KZ Dachau card - listing name, prisoner number, and date of release
Max Metzger – KZ Dachau – listing name, prisoner number, and date of release
Kindly submitted by Max’s family and reproduced here with the kind permission of the Wiener Library


For many of the men arrested in November 1938 there will be a small number of documents in Arolsen Archives.

They may also have a postwar trail of documents generated by the refugees themselves when they were trying to find their relatives and to make claims for some level of financial restitution.

In practical terms, this trail can be useful because of the information given about searches carried out through the Red Cross, the American Joint Distribution Committee, and similar organisations in the immediate postwar years. It may outline family names, addresses, dates, and so on, which may help people today in their search for genealogical information.

Werner Weissenberg – KZ Dachau – listing name, prisoner number, and date of release
Visit to Arolsen Archives, Winter 2018

Finally, the recent materials sent in about Max Metzger very helpfully provide the date on which he arrived at Kitchener camp – 13 July 1939. Thus, while we began with a set of documents that added much to our understanding of Max’s incarceration in Dachau KZ, in fact these materials also give us a single invaluable piece of refugee information, in giving us one more arrival date to add to our understanding of the Kitchener history.

Kitchener camp, Richborough, Max Metzger, ITS Documents from the Wiener Library, "Lager (camp) in England" from 13 July 1939 to 18 December 1939
Kitchener camp, Richborough, Max Metzger, ITS Documents from the Wiener Library, “Lager (camp) in England” from 13 July 1939 to 18 December 1939, Dated 1 October 1952

Through one small piece of information at a time, we are patiently building up a history that was all but lost to us.


Interesting! Having gone to Phineas May‘s diary – as I do whenever we get an arrival date – to put Max’s name into it, I realised that the date on which he arrived is slightly unusual in that we now know a number of the men who arrived on 13th July 1939.

See screenshot below.

It’s also one of the times Phineas mentions an arrival – here of “86 men from Germany”.

So – we now know that some of these 86 men were Richard Cohn, Lothar Nelken, Herbert Nachmann, Samuel Goldstein, Hans Friedmann, Max Metzger.

Hmm – now did these men have anything else in common? So far – we have no answer to this, other than the fact they were German rather than Austrian, but – time may tell us more…

The ‘Ritchie Boys’

Anyone familiar with Helen Fry’s work on German and Austrian Jews in British Military Intelligence services in the Second World War (; will be interested to read about Camp Ritchie in the USA.

Nine Kitchener men who successfully transmigrated to the US from Kitchener ended up at Camp Ritchie doing vital intelligence work as part of the US forces contribution to the Allied war effort.

                 Kitchener men in the US Military during the Second World War

Our review of ships’ manifests from 1939 and 1940 indicates that at least 500 Kitchener men departed England for the United States.   

As a condition to obtaining the required visa, each man was linked to a sponsor who vouched to provide support as necessary to prevent the émigré from becoming a public charge. The men entered the United States either in New York, another American port, or by way of Montreal or Quebec, Canada.  They then proceeded to the areas where their sponsors or, if lucky, their relatives and friends, resided.  

When the United States entered World War II in December 1941, Kitchener men were subject to the draft. Unlike in England where separate Alien Battalions were established in the unarmed Pioneer Corps, there were no separate units for aliens. Also unlike England, the United States expedited the granting of citizenship to refugees who were in the armed forces rather than deferring citizenship until the end of the war.

Overall, some 550,000 Jewish men served in the American military during the war.  

Through the work of an American, Dan Gross, we have identified nine Kitchener men whose names appear on both the 1939 Register for Kitchener camp and on the list of men who were part of what became known as “The Ritchie Boys.”

The Ritchie Boys consisted of approximately 15,200 servicemen who were trained for U.S. Army Intelligence during WWII at the secret Camp Ritchie training facility. 

Approximately 14%, or 2,200, of them were Jewish refugees born in Germany and Austria. They had been drafted into or volunteered to join the United States Army and when their ability to speak the languages of the enemy were discovered, they were sent to Camp Ritchie on secret orders. 

They were specially trained in methods of intelligence, counterintelligence, interrogation, investigation, and psychological warfare.

The Jewish refugees were suitable for these tasks because they knew the German language, and importantly the German mentality and behavior, better than most American-born soldiers. The role of these soldiers was therefore to work on the front lines (or even behind them), at strategic corps and army levels, at interrogation, analyzing German forces and plans, and also to study and demoralize the enemy. The majority of them went on to work as members of the US Counter Intelligence Corps.  

Descendants of these and other Kitchener men who served in the US armed forces during WWII are invited to contact us with information so that we can add to our information about this significant part of Kitchener history. 

Note: The nine men at both Kitchener camp and Camp Ritchie are:

Hugo Einziger

Otto Freund

Erwin Grossman

Paul Husserl

Oskar Kleinberg

Leo Plachte

Rudolf Rosenstadt

Emanuel Suessmann

Paul Timan

See the Complete Roster at Dan Gross’s excellent website:


Source for this article

“Ritchie Boys,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed July 6, 2019).

Research and article by a Kitchener descendant

The magic of everyday objects

We’ve just had a Kitchener item sent in that is both completely ordinary (a book) and completely wonderful, as all Kitchener items are. It’s prompted me to write something about ‘objects‘.

There is a section of this website for objects brought out of Germany, Austria, Poland, and so on – our various countries of origin.

While it doesn’t seem sensible to post images of anything of ‘monetary’ value, there is a lot to be said for getting a sense of what was kept in terms of more everyday items. After all, for many of us, what was packed into a few suitcases and trunks is all that’s left from generations of our families. There must be precious few ‘family heirlooms’ in many households with this background that go back more than one generation to our parents’ post-war homes.

Apart from the interest and the poignancy of the ordinary things our fathers chose to bring with them, there are sometimes specifically ‘Kitchener’ treasures around, if we think about it.

Sometimes, we just need to look at an old item differently.

In our home, for example, I have a stack of my dad’s old books, as I’ve mentioned before. I used to vaguely wonder why on earth they were kept, especially once my dad had died, because none of the rest of us could read German. And yet, I find that I too have held on to them; and they are still with me after our latest house move. These days, of course, I’m even less likely to get rid of them than, say, 5 years ago before I really got into the family history!

Since learning so much more about all this, I have been through every old German book on our shelves with a fine-toothed comb, and have found all sorts of bits of working-out (he was a physicist and mathematician) in his meticulous hand-writing, but also notes, newspaper cuttings – all kinds of things that now have meaning for me.

Indeed, when we were clearing things for our recent house move, I also realised that a tatty old suitcase in the barn, which I’d vaguely earmarked for disposal, had the following label on it …

Werner Weissenberg – suitcase from Germany


Anyway – as you all know, we Kitchener Kids don’t have much left that tells us about the day-to-day workings, or organisation, of the camp, so we have to make what we can of what we can collect together.

And, as I mentioned at the start of this post, today’s apparently ordinary book – a German-English dictionary – has in fact proven to be a real ‘find’.

Because inside is not only the name of the man whose book it is, but some numbers, which probably meant little to the family who have cared for this item through all these decades.

And why would a few apparently random numbers written inside a book mean much? Certainly, they’d have meant nothing to me 18 months ago.

Now, however, we can see with great interest that our Kitchener refugee wrote inside his book his hut number – Hut 10/II – and his camp number – 1806.

When I have time I will take a look at the instances where we know a man’s camp number and his arrival date – and from this we will be able to work out the approximate date when our book owner, Nuchim, arrived.

Also sent in with this wonderful Kitchener book are two group photographs. Do take a look. Because if your father or grandfather is in this typical ‘Hut Group’ photograph, you’ll now know he was almost certainly in Hut 10/II as well.

This is what I mean when I talk about the importance of gradually building up lots of small pieces of seemingly ordinary information.

From such precious items and materials, we are gradually creating a substantial bank of knowledge.

Nuchim Kürschner, German-English Dictionary
Nuchim Kürschner, German-English Dictionary

Leave to Land: The Kitchener Camp Rescue, 1939

A new mobile exhibition - opening event 1st September 2019

Tickets are now available for the opening event for the Kitchener camp mobile exhibition –

“Leave to Land: The Kitchener Camp Rescue, 1939″



1st September 2019, from 10am to 5pm


The Kitchener exhibition will be held in the auditorium of the Jewish Museum in London


“Leave to Land: The Kitchener Camp Rescue, 1939”

In the morning, the ten ‘travelling exhibition’ banners will be free to view and open to the general public

The auditorium will close around 12pm for a short time while the museum sets up a simple buffet lunch

There will then be a ticket-only event in the afternoon for Kitchener families who would like to join us for lunch, as well as talks/workshops about Kitchener camp and related subjects

We would be delighted to see you at one or both parts of this special day

The Link to Tickets and more information follows below.


Below is the link to tickets for our new travelling exhibition about the Kitchener camp rescue. 

This link is the only way to purchase tickets for the opening day.

Link to Tickets:

The Jewish Museum auditorium has a maximum capacity of 80 people. 

Therefore, there is a maximum of two adult tickets and two student / child tickets per booking for the time being. 

It might be possible to open this out further, but we hope you understand that our priority must be Kitchener families and contributors.

Please note: The afternoon event is not really aimed at children, so please do take this into consideration when booking. Older children might be interested in talks and workshops, but younger ones may be more interested in the free-to-view morning exhibition only.


The Kitchener exhibition will be set up in the auditorium of the Jewish Museum in London. 

It will be free to view in the morning and open to the general public.

You do not need to purchase a ticket to view the exhibition in the morning – this is open to the public, and no ticket is needed. Tickets are only required if you wish to stay for the lunch, talks, and workshops.

Hope to see lots of you there at some point in the day!

B’nai B’rith article on Kitchener camp

A wonderful article has just been released in the B’nai B’rith international magazine, Summer 2019.

Thanks so very much to the descendant who organised all this, as well as to writer Linda Topping Streitfeld and Editor Gene Meyer – who have given our history and project so much space and time.

This kind of thorough, wide-ranging article helps so much with the ‘get out the word’ work we badly need if we are to keep reaching Kitchener descendants – wherever they may live.

The Kitchener camp article starts on Page 17, but please do support B’nai B’rith with us in reading around about the work they do.

The full article can be read at the following link:

Kitchener camp, B'nai B'rith article by Linda Topping Streitfeld
Kitchener camp, B’nai B’rith article by Linda Topping Streitfeld

Kitchener updates

Kitchener exhibition fundraising link below:

Many apologies for having been absent for a while – the exhibition planning is taking far more work than I ever anticipated.

I have SO much newfound respect for the curators, historians, and archivists who do this for a living! Creating a meaningful history in 200 words per panel is actually incredibly tricky…

We almost have a first draft of the ten banners ready – working in tandem with the design company. Currently waiting for feedback from the experts before, no doubt, some re-drafting will need to be done.

I know some families are waiting patiently to have their project pages updated or started, and I will get to this as soon as I can. Just for the time being, I have to prioritise the exhibition materials, as the schedule for production and printing waits for no wo/man …

Thank you all so very much for your kind patience.


There have been so many generous donations to the fundraiser now – towards the exhibition costs – and it occurred to us that you might want to know more about where your money is going. So, I have put together a quick summary, below.

Please note – none of the money raised goes to any of the committee members – myself included. All the fundraising goes to the design and printing companies, and to the Jewish Museum for the hire of the event space.

Design company, printing company, and postage costs

10 single-sided banners – £1,287.50

1 aerial image – £75

Poles (5) – £100

Delivery of above – £50

‘Newspaper’ (5 copies) – £226.30

Delivery of newspaper – £25

Design of concept – £900

Design of 10 panels – £2,900

Artwork and print management – £260

= £5,823.80

VAT at 20% = £1,164.76

= £6,988.56

Afternoon room hire – Jewish Museum

£650 (lunch is extra and will be paid for through the tickets for the event)

Event insurance


Total so far: £7,938.56

Half the total amount has been applied for in a formal ‘funding’ round, which is the maximum we are allowed to apply for.

Anything not covered by the formal funding and by our own fundraiser (link above) has been guaranteed by a handful of kindly folk.


I must get back to the exhibition materials next – but I finally got hold of a few of the books I’ve been meaning to look at for a while now, and I’d recommend them to anyone wanting to know more about how the Kitchener rescue was perceived in earlier days. They also have some useful info on the Pioneer Corps, for those interested in knowing a bit more about that part of the history. I note that a number of the ‘facts and figures’ are inaccurate – when one has the opportunity to bring the records together – but these nevertheless form a fascinating account and help in their own ways to round out the history and some of the ways in which it was perceived by those involved in the administration.

R H Henriques (ed.) EMJ: The man and his work (Valentine, Mitchell, London, 1962)

N Bentwich, They Found Refuge (Cresset Press, 1956)

N Bentwich, Wanderer in War (Victor Gollancz 1946)

N Bentwich, I Understand the Risks (Victor Gollancz 1950)


Fundraising towards exhibition costs

We’re doing incredibly well with the fundraising – thank you so much!

We’re nearly halfway to our target already: we have 24 more days to go.

Crowdfunding is always most successful when we can get the link around as many people as possible.

If you – or your family – are on relevant and appropriate Facebook or other social media sites, please could we ask you to share the link and see if some more folk will be happy to contribute something.

You never know – perhaps someone will go down a traditional route of a cake bake or similar!

Many thanks!

Kitchener Kids in New York

Last night, the evening of May 22, 12 family groups,  descendants of 13 Kitchener men, gathered at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York – the first gathering of Kitchener descendants in the US. I think I speak for the entire group when I say the gathering was a joy. 

Family members traveled from as far away as San Francisco, North Carolina, Baltimore, and Massachusetts for the gathering. We had two sets of cousins among our Kitchener men and the gathering prompted at least one mini family reunion.  

We shared the stories of our Kitchener men and the women in their lives – some of whom were saved because of Kitchener, others who facilitated their husband’s rescue through Kitchener but made it out by other means. Three family members were born in Europe, and Kitchener was one piece of their own emigration story.  Many of us viewed the Kindertransport exhibit at Leo Baeck before the meeting. One Kitchener descendant’s mother had been on the Kindertransport and had met his father after both immigrated to New York.

Dr Clare Weissenberg recently posted that she has found the names of 600 Kitchener men who emigrated to the US in 1940. Our small group represented 10 of those men. Three of the men departed England on May 22, 1940, exactly 79 years ago. Two of the men sailed on the same ship, one with his wife and two daughters – both of whom attended our gathering.

Our Kitchener men were representative of the types of men admitted to Kitchener. Six were German and seven Austrian. They included one of the youngest men, age 16, and one of the oldest, age 40. Three had been in concentrations camps prior to coming to Kitchener. Some were professionals, including a doctor and a lawyer turned businessman when he could no longer practice law. There were three students, a clerk, a tailor, a furrier, a house painter and a gardener who became a farmer at Kitchener.

After Kitchener closed, two of the men were interned, one in Canada and one on the Isle of Man. One joined the Pioneer Corp of the British military.  Three served in the US military in WWII.  

We shared our personal journeys. Some had heard stories of Kitchener directly from their Kitchener relative while others had not. Several had found diaries, pictures, or troves of documents after their Kitchener relative had died. Some shared love letters written by Kitchener men to the wives they were missing. Others shared photos and letters between Kitchener men and Sandwich residents who welcomed them with caring and kindness. One showed pictures of he and his wife’s visit to Sandwich where they were welcomed and guided by the two Clares who have been so central to the Kitchener descendants project.

Thanks to Ronnie Wolf for taking the lead in organizing this gathering and to Frank Mecklenburg, Chief Archivist at Leo Baeck for securing the space and making the evening possible. Frank addressed the group at the beginning of our gathering and I am sure many of us will be in touch as we further our research and try to decide what to do with the precious photos and documents we have inherited. Thanks to Henry Frisch for organizing the fabulous food and to Sally Carroll, Frank’s assistant, who helped make the sharing of our images seamless. 

Frank Mecklenburg addresses Kitchener camp descendants at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York - May 2019
Frank Mecklenburg addresses Kitchener camp descendants at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York – May 2019

And a special thanks to the two Clares in England – Clare Ungerson for bringing this history to light and Dr Clare Weissenberg for creating the website and spearheading the descendants group that brought us together.

Ann Rolett – 22 May 2019

Lord Baldwin Fund for Refugees

We have been given kind permission by the EMI Archive Trust to reproduce here the start of one of the main fundraising drives for the Kitchener camp and other refugee rescues in 1938-1939.

In December 1938, Stanley Baldwin’s Fund for Refugees was launched during the British Broadcasting Company radio broadcast that can be heard in this clip.

By July 1939, The Lord Baldwin Fund had raised over £500,000, as recorded in here in Hansard:

A number of families have sent in a photograph that seems to have been distributed quite widely – of Jonas May, Kitchener camp Director, accompanying then-Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Lang.

Kitchener camp, Archbishop of Canterbury and Jonas May, Kitchener camp director, 1939
Kitchener camp, Archbishop of Canterbury and Jonas May, Kitchener camp director, 1939

The archbishop visited Kitchener camp and gave a speech to the refugees, which – from accounts in diaries and letters received by this project – made a great impression on the men.

Archbishop Lang also gave a broadcast in support of Baldwin’s fundraising drive, which can be heard in British Pathé footage – for which, please follow the link below.

Kitchener camp, Peter Weiss, Autobiography, Archbishop of Canterbury visit
Kitchener camp, Peter Weiss, Visit and speech by the Archbishop of Canterbury

Some extracts from letters and diaries sent in to the project – which describe and comment on the visit by the Archbishop – are extracted below.

From the diary of Moshe Chaim Grünbaum
From the collected letters of Werner Gembicki
“On Monday the Archbishop of Canterbury is coming to see us, a great honour for the camp.”
From the collected letters of Werner Gembicki
“I have great difficulties in the conversation with the English people … Good speakers like Lord Reading, Mr May or the Archbishop of Canterbury I can understand very well.”

May 22nd – the first gathering of US Kitchener descendants

Dear all –

A note of warm wishes to US Kitchener descendants meeting today at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York

Centre for Jewish History, NY – home of the Leo Baeck Institute

Chief archivist and Director of Research Frank Mecklenburg ( will be giving a talk about the Kitchener rescue

The US KDG (Kitchener Descendant Group) will each say something about their family history, there will be a group photograph, and a blog will follow to tell the rest of us ‘Kitchener Kids’ all about this amazing event

We wish we could be with you (of course!) – but instead, I’m sending a terribly un-British HUGE HUG from Blighty to America!

Clare x


Kitchener descendants in North America

I have mentioned recently that in any spare moment I am going through the many ships’ passenger lists, line by line, trying to find out how many Kitchener men (and their families in some instances) managed to successfully transmigrate.

If I tell you that we have already passed the logging of 600 successful transmigrations – you’ll start to understand one reason why today’s meeting is so significant – both to those families involved, but also to our wider Kitchener camp project.

Links for research

A researcher at the Wiener Library very kindly sent this through to me a couple of weeks ago – for circulation to Kitchener camp families.

I hope you find it useful – it’s an incredibly helpful set of resources.

General links/International






Czech Republic














Soviet Union


Concentration Camps










You might want to take a look at the holdings at USHMM on Kitchener camp, by the way.

I uploaded a page of links to these some time ago, and more have probably been uploaded since then. They have an excellent collection of digitized Kitchener images.

Please see the link to the PDF, below –

Kitchener camp exhibition

I have been asked to post the link to our fundraising page – so here it is:

Extraordinarily, we’ve already raised a quarter of our target in just a few days. Thank you so very much everyone!

We are applying for formal funding towards the exhibition costs, but must raise half the amount ourselves – hence the link above.

No-one should feel under any pressure to contribute, and it won’t make any difference as to what goes into the exhibition: our professional designer will be making those choices – not the committee.

If you would like to be involved in the fundraising, please do pass the link around and see if you can persuade friends and colleagues to chip in: every £5 helps towards the target.


Everyone who has sent in materials to this project should now have received an email with a new permission letter – specifically for the exhibition.

If you haven’t yet received the exhibition letter, please forgive me – it’s simply a sign of how busy things have been here recently.

I have now uploaded a copy of the letter onto the website, so if I have missed you, please just download from here and send it to me at the usual email address.

The link is here:


I spent a fascinating afternoon at the Wiener Library a couple of weeks ago, being given privileged access for this project to view the Kitchener camp Visitor Book. The book has not yet been catalogued, so I was not able to take photographs of it, but I was allowed to make notes and will be uploading these as soon as I can clear some desk space.

The book was very kindly donated to the library by the family of Jonas May, who was the Director of Kitchener camp.


In the meantime, I am still wading through ship lists.

If only they had been digitised at the level of ‘previous address’ … but sadly they were not.

So, the task is to find every ship that sailed out of Liverpool between around April 1939 and summer 1940 and to note wherever possible that the ‘previous address’ is given as Kitchener camp, Richborough. I then make a note of the man’s name (and those of his family, where applicable) and other details, and cross-check the information with other sources.

If I tell you that I passed the 500 figure some time ago, you may gain some idea of the scale of the task.

It’s well worth it, however, because this research will enable me to work out how many of the men transmigrated successfully in the end.

It will also fill in some names we have no other source for at present.

The 1939 Register wasn’t taken until September ’39, so men who migrated onwards before that date will not be on that list. Neither will they be on our other chief source for camp names – the Exemption from Internment cards.

Thus, in a few cases, these ship lists may provide the only proof that a particular man was rescued at Kitchener, which will enable us ultimately to provide a more complete list of Kitchener men – although it can never be fully ‘complete’, given the incomplete nature of the extant records.


Kitchener camp exhibition

It has always been our intention to create an exhibition from the Kitchener camp project – to commemorate 80 years since the 1939 rescue to Britain of our fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and other relatives and friends.

We are now pleased to announce that the exhibition opening will take place on 1st September 2019 at the Jewish Museum in London.


The Kitchener exhibition will mark the donation of the project to the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust. Having the project under the care of this esteemed institution will future-proof our materials, our findings, and our history.

To all Kitchener families – thank you for your patience while we have worked out the details of the exhibition with the institutions involved.


Why this date?

In writing and thinking about the Kitchener history there is a careful line to tread between the narratives of those who were ‘rescued’, and the reality that so many were not.

Many Kitchener men’s families did not make it through the Shoah, and all our forebears in this context will have experienced varying degrees of loss – of language, community, culture, country, and citizenship.

As well as family and friends, the Kitchener refugees were forced to leave behind homes, hard-earned businesses, personal possessions, known environments, and whatever had been their hopes and dreams for their future – and that of their families – in their countries of origin.

The men’s experiences of the 1930s and 1940s seem to have resulted in a majority being unable or unwilling to communicate the scale of their loss to postwar families in Britain, Canada, Australia, the USA, Latin America, Israel, and beyond.

It’s difficult to encompass a series of events that could be so terrible that a collective silence could befall so many. And yet – this is what so many of us have experienced at the heart of our families.


Two days ago, Monica Lowenberg spoke movingly about the Kitchener camp rescue at Yom HaShoah in Hyde Park, London – in the context of her father, who was one of the Berlin ORT boys. She observed that the first transport from Berlin comprised the older pupils: the second was to have rescued the younger boys and the rest of the staff.

The second transport was due to leave Berlin on 3rd September, but war between Britain and Germany was declared that day, and the remaining staff and younger boys did not make it to safety.

It is believed that most of these boys were killed in the Shoah.


The Kitchener history more broadly has many such narratives – of children and wives, of mothers, fathers, and grandparents who were killed when time ran out for further rescues.

Thus, the history of the Berlin ORT serves as a reminder that while ‘four thousand men’ were indeed rescued through the Kitchener scheme, their fellow concentration camp detainees were not.


I draw this analogy because Kitchener camp was initially discussed by the Council for German Jewry as a means to rescue the 30,000 men who had been incarcerated during the events of November 1938 – but lack of funds meant that the number was fast whittled down: instead, 3,000 men were to transmigrate though the camp, and as one batch moved on to settle elsewhere, the next 3,000 would be brought out to safety.

We start to appreciate then, that the outbreak of war in September 1939 meant that tens of thousands of men were in a similar position to those younger boys of the Berlin ORT.

In terms of the Kitchener rescue, the period to the date war was declared was simply too short for this ongoing transmigration to be ‘successful’ – for most. And although by summer 1940 many hundreds of Kitchener refugees had made it to Canada and the USA, the rescue of the majority of the 30,000 from continental Europe was cut short.

Thus, while the exhibition acknowledges the truly extraordinary rescue that was ‘Kitchener camp’ – and we will without doubt gain much from this opportunity to gather together as ‘Kitchener descendants’ – the chosen date also acknowledges the context – of the many tens of thousands who were not rescued in time.

Please save the date: 1st September 2019


The location

We always intended that the opening day of the exhibition should be more than ‘just’ an exhibition, and provide something of an ‘event day’, giving us the time and opportunity to meet with and chat to fellow ‘Kitchener Kids’ and their families.

The Jewish Museum provides the space to hold talks and workshops; it also has a history that is interesting in our context – because the original museum was located in Woburn House (see link below).

The Jewish Museum is located in Camden, a fascinating area of London: details about how to find it are here:


Further details

You will appreciate that there is a lot to do to pull this together – and we’re volunteers with busy lives, so please bear with us.

As and when more details are confirmed, we will share them with you.

The event will be ticketed: we will let you know here when the tickets go ‘live’ from the Jewish Museum.


As yet, we have no formal funding for the exhibition costs, although we are working on it. Some families have very kindly offered a donation towards costs, and while no-one should feel under any obligation to do so, if you would like to contribute, the link to our crowd-funding page is below. You can remain anonymous on there if you wish to do so – just look for the appropriate setting:

Please pass on this link if you know someone who might be interested in supporting our exhibition costs.

Acknowledgement will be given at the exhibition to donors who are happy for their names to be made public.

Please note – we are NOT a registered charity. If you need to do so, you should consult with your accountant.