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Jan 2001 Journal

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Jawne – a rather special school

Housed in the grounds of the German school in Richmond, the Jawne exhibition – organised by the headmaster Gerd Köhncke and Irene Corbach – is the brainchild of the late Dieter Corbach, the synod’s representative for Christian-Jewish dialogue in Cologne. Photographs and documentation lovingly detail the life before, and destruction during, National Socialism, of the Jewish school and the attempts to save it. The exhibition will be made available to other English schools as a media resource.

The city of Jawne, which after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD developed into the spiritual centre for the revival and rise of Judaism, was to become the inspiration for the Cologne-based grammar school. Founded in 1919, the school was granted only 23 years before it fell victim to the National Socialist terror. Dr Erich Klibansky, whose father had been cantor of Frankfurt’s West End Synagogue for many years, became the school’s headmaster between 1929-1942. Aware of how fragile and dangerous the situation for Jews had and would become under Nazism, Klibansky established, already in June 1933, the Community of Interests of the Jewish secondary schools in Germany. By 1937, he had initiated steps to transfer the entire Jawne school to England and with the November Pogrom of 1938, took immediate action.

Four hundred pupils wanted to join Klibansky and have him arrange refuge for them in hostels and with families based in London, Liverpool, Brighton and Manchester. Between January and June 1939, Klibansky organised and accompanied four transports of Jawne pupils, saving the lives of one hundred and thirty children. In contrast, he was shot, with his wife Meta and 1164 deportees from Cologne, by an SS commando in Minsk in July 1942. One hundred and eighteen of the deportees were children under 10. On 28 November this year, Dr Erich Klibansky would have been one hundred years old.

Some eighty people, including a small group of former pupils and teachers of the Jawne Gymnasium, Cologne, attended the opening ceremony of the exhibition and heard Fritz Bauchwitz, a former Jawne pupil, summarise movingly: “We all love to reminisce about our youth, about our school days, but memories of the Jawne have two diametrically opposed aspects: the happy memories of a sheltered existence among friends and among teachers, whom we recognise in retrospect to have been outstanding personalities; and the memories of the utter destruction of an institution and of the loss of so many who had grown to be almost as close to us as our own families.”
Monica Lowenberg

previous article:Profile: Sir Claus Moser