Sandwich family memories

Kurt Frankenstein, born 26 October 1907, in Hannover, Germany

Judith Jacobs: My early family history

Around 1560, Vincent Jacobsen, a Walloon, arrived in Sandwich, Kent, UK, as a migrant, with a group of persecuted Huguenots.  At this time the population of Sandwich was dominated by the mass arrival of immigrants from Holland, Flanders, Belgium and surrounding areas.  A massive (possibly 70,000) slaughter of Huguenots took place in Paris on 24th August 1572. 

Like many of the migrants, the Jacobsens were skilled artisans: Vincent was a linen weaver who soon became a successful businessman.  They were made welcome under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I at a time when England needed skilled workers. Generally, they were accepted by local people, who did not favour the French. Some of Vincent’s descendants still live in the ancient Cinque Port where I was born, coincidently, on 24th August 1932 -the anniversary of the 1572 slaughter in Paris, now known as St Bartholomew’s Day.

Over the years my ancestors changed our name from Jacobsen to Jacobb, then to Jacob, and much later to Jacobs. There was no mention of any Jews in then family, and the main affiliation was with the Baptist Church and St Peters in Market St – but who knows!


Sandwich: 1939

I was born in New Street, Sandwich. In 1938, I was six years old.   

4,000 Jewish men from  a German camp were offered safety in the Kitchener Camp on the outskirts of Sandwich. The camp had been used for training WWI  soldiers before they were shipped across the Channel. It was still more or less in tact and the new arrivals were talented, with various useful skills to transform the old buildings into liveable accommodation with chimneys and fireplaces, etc. They worked hard on local farms; and they formed music groups and other interest groups within the camp. At weekends when they had some free time the local townsfolk would invite them into their homes where they could relate their sad stories and remember the families they had left behind – some already slaughtered in concentration camps, who would never be seen again.

My parents would light a coal fire in the lounge and invite three men for afternoon tea on Sunday afternoons. My mother would make a delicious chocolate sponge cake with butter icing – my favourite!

One visitor in particular, I called Uncle Frank (real name Kurt Frankenstein). He had won a bronze medal for Germany in the 1936 Olympic Games in one of the running events. I cannot recall the names of the other two regular visitors. In 1939 when war was declared, Uncle Frank , with some help from my father I think, joined the Officer’s Corp and became a Major in the Eighth Army, finishing up as a skiing Major in Italy.

Uncle Frank adopted my family as his own, as none of his were left alive in Germany. He wrote to my mother on a weekly basis. His photographed Air Mail letters would arrive with almost unreadable small print. We knew he was alive and that was all. Once he turned up on leave without notice. My family had evacuated to Rotherfield in Sussex. Uncle Frank slept under the hedge because he did not want to wake us up in the middle of the night!

The war finished and Uncle Frank stayed with us for a while. We were in Stourmouth at this time, having moved there in August 1943. He wanted to go into business with my father and buy a local farm, but my father had businesses in Sandwich which he needed to expand and make viable again. By law, all of his previous employees who had been conscripted into various fighting forces had to be taken back into their previous positions.

Uncle Frank met Kathleen, a school teacher. They married and lived with us at Stourmouth until Uncle Frank found an opening in the building trade in Cornwall. He was very enterprising and developed a new style of quickly erecting buildings, with concrete slabs sliding into grooved concrete pillars. The company he formed was very successful. He had a son and a daughter.  He followed his athletic abilities, particularly tennis. He became an umpire at Wimbledon. In 1976 he collapsed and died during a tennis game at his local club.

He had changed his name to Frank Franklin.

Sandwich memories of Kitchener Camp, kindly submitted by Judith Jacobs

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Male enemy alien - Exemption from internment - Refugee  

Surname: Frankenstein
Forename: Kurt
Alias: -
Date and place of birth: 26/10/1907 in Hannover
Nationality: German
Police Regn. Cert. No.: 711 169 Home Office ref: C 13  
Address: Kitchener camp, Richborough, Sandwich, Kent
Normal occupation: Sports teacher
Present occupation: 
Name and address of employer: -
Decision of tribunal: Exempted "C" & 9A   Date 10.10.1939
Whether exempted from Article 6(A): Yes
Whether desires to be repatriated: No

Tribunal District: Richborough Camp Tribunal 2

Source: National Arrives, Home Office: Aliens Department: Internees Index, 1939-1947

The information in the record above for Kurt Frankenstein is held at the British National Archives (NA). We are not allowed to post NA records as images, but we are permitted to extract the information from the images, as shown.