Extracts from the Oct 2004 Journal

The Treason of Clerks (editorial)

This is the title of the post-WWI book in which Julien Benda accused intellectuals of shirking their duty to society through non-participation in its affairs. The author used the word 'clerk' as understood in the Middle Ages, when it connoted a member of the clergy, whose knowledge of reading and writing set them apart from the illiterate mass of the population. [more...]

Total strangers with identical DNA

I have a weakness for the rather ridiculous notion of the transmigration of souls (readers may remember me fancifully describing Malcolm Muggeridge as a latter-day Jonathan Swift, and Michael Foot as William Hazlitt re-incarnate). [more...]

A game of (dire - if unintended) consequences

Earlier this year a Chinese judge, acting as collegiate spokesman for the International Court of Justice, declared Israel's 'security fence' illegal. This brought to mind the 1930s joke pronouncement by the appointee of a regime to which the notion of a separation of powers between executive and judiciary - the foundation of law since Solomon's time - is quite alien. A foreign visitor to Berne notices a building called Ministry of the Navy and expressing his surprise at this to a local is told: 'If Germany can have a Ministry of Justice, and Italy a Ministry of Finance, then Switzerland can have a Ministry of the Navy.' [more...]

Recreation of Kindertransport journey planned for young children at Beth Shalom

Plans are well advanced at the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire for the creation of a new exhibition narrating the story of the 10,000 children of the Kindertransport. Aimed at primary school children, this unique 'Primary Learning Centre', which, it is hoped, will open in autumn next year, may well be the largest permanent exhibition of its kind. [more...]

'German-Jewish Refugees around the World': A Berlin Jewish Museum project

The Jewish Museum of Berlin is planning for 2006 an exhibition on Jewish emigrants who left Germany between 1933 and 1941. The more than 400,000 German and Austrian Jews who began a new life after an often difficult emigration became immigrants in many countries. We will be focusing on the everyday life of these immigrants in the years following their arrival in a foreign country. We will, of course, be dealing with countries such as Israel, the USA and Argentina, but we are also keenly interested in countries such as India and Kenya.

Before emigration

From which town did your family come and what was your parents' occupation? Did Jewish religion play a role in your family life? Was there an immediate cause that made you decide to leave Germany? Was it difficult to organise the emigration? How did you choose your country of refuge? Did you/your parents prepare for the emigration with special training? Which possessions were you able to take with you? How did your flight and arrival proceed?

Life as a refugee/ immigrant

Where and how did your family live after the arrival? Was your country of refuge as you expected it to be? Which jobs did you/your parents do after the arrival? Were you supported by relief organisations? Did your parents try to help relatives get out of Germany or Austria? What experiences did you have as a refugee or 'enemy alien'?

Everyday life until around 1950

When did your country of immigration become a new 'Heimat' for you? Were there things/habits in your new country which you liked very much (for instance, food, landscape, music)? Were there things/habits from Germany which you missed? Were you more in contact with the local people than with other refugees? Did your family become active in a German-Jewish organisation or a synagogue community? [more...]

Art notes

As the synagogues of the old Jewish East End opened to the public last month for Jewish Heritage Day, visitors pored over the old marriage books, vivid with social history. Jewish names appeared beside Jewish trades: tailors, buttonhole-makers, carpenters. This Jewish immigrant history is personified by a painting in Ben Uri's exhibition Rediscovering Wolmark, which continues until November. Alfred Wolmark's depiction of The Carpenter, created in the tradition of the Old Masters, shows a middle-aged man sitting beside a heavy, wooden table strewn with wood shavings, his eyes burning with Torah wisdom as he studies the holy book in his free moments. His face is full of tender refinement, but his hands are swollen from the work. Beside him is his son or grandson. The arresting thing about this painting is not simply the heritage point, but the fact that the table contains as much life as the man's face and, while his expression seems comfortable with hard work and study, the child's face is already bright with the hope of a different - perhaps more secular - future. [more...]

Central Office for Holocaust Claims

Bank commission refunds

As has been mentioned previously in this column, it is now possible to receive a refund of the British bank commissions levied on Holocaust reparations. The British Bankers' Association (BBA) has issued specific guidance notes advising British banks on how to respond to this problem. [more...]