It’s taking me a while to find my feet in terms of what span of documents are useful to this context, and in working out what stretches the focus of the project too thinly. It’s an ongoing learning process!
From time to time, something that another Kitchener descendant says or writes, however, highlights that I’m not the only one still trying to work out what’s useful and what adds to the project.
A week or two ago someone said – ‘Oh, yes, I’ve got my father’s German passport – but you already have some of those on the site – you won’t need any more.’
But on the German passports you have all kinds of useful information about individuals – not least they give the date on which that man applied to leave Germany, the date of consular stamps, when he arrived in the UK (a key piece of information being collected), and the length of time it took to process him through the UK.
So – all German passports are useful – and if a relative doesn’t want an image of it on their pages, for whatever reason, we would still be glad to receive these kinds of pieces of information from them.
It’s also worth knowing that when I get a date of arrival, these are being added into Phineas May’s diaries, which is fascinating to see in context, for all kinds of reasons.
There are some leaflets and documents that will have been common property among many of the men, and one of our Kitchener families has recently provided a large number of these, including the following advice from the War Savings Committee, which is a lovely little piece of historical ephemera, from the language, to the colour, to the print font.
Wolfgang Priester also kept his pamphlet on Guidance to Refugees, which those who have read Clare Ungerson’s book on Kitchener camp might recall her mentioning.
I have now uploaded Wolfgang’s copy to the site under the research pages. You will see that the text is in English and German, and observes, for example, “The British Government is very sympathetic to the tragedy of Refugees from Greater Germany and other countries. But you must please realise that the maintenance of the Refugees while they remain in Britain must be borne by the Jewish Community and not by the British taxpayer.”
It advises, “Try to observe and follow the manners and customs and habits of this country, in social and business relations”.
"In the interest of the whole Jewish community, please obey these rules in the spirit as well as in the letter."
And finally, in terms of how fascinating and useful the smallest items on our paperwork can be, Wolfgang Priester has written on his copy of Guidance to Refugees the following information –
There are two numbers here – Wolfgang’s Registration Number with Bloomsbury House (24,317), and another number – 1249.
Taken on its own, this latter number seems meaningless … until you take a look at some of the correspondence addressed to Wolfgang at Kitchener camp –
And at the bottom of the address, here and on other post he receives, is again this number – 1249.
This is Wolfgang’s refugee number!
Putting together some of these pieces of information, we now know that on 9th May (from his passport), Refugee number 1,249 arrived.
Which means that four months in, around a third of our assumed number of refugees had arrived in the camp.
That’s not a trivial thing to have been able to find out / confirm…
In light of this, if anyone has ‘bits’ of information that you have assumed would be irrelevant / unimportant /meaningless – or that you think will be unimportant because we have ‘other copies’, please do reconsider and check your documents and letters again. I’d much rather be sent something ‘irrelevant’ than miss out on something potentially historically significant.
We’re accumulating an amazing array of information – and the more we can bring together, the better – including apparently random and ‘uninteresting’ numbers and dates!