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Oct 2012 Journal

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A remarkable legacy: Seminar on the contribution of Jewish refugees from Hitler to life in Britain

A seminar entitled ‘German and Austrian Jewish Refugees: Their Impact and Legacy’ took place on 12-13 September 2012 at the London Jewish Cultural Centre (LJCC). It was held jointly by the LJCC, the University of Sussex’s Centre for German-Jewish Studies, and the AJR.

The purpose of the seminar was, pending the 80th anniversary of Hitler’s rise to power, to reflect on the lives of the German and Austrian Jewish refugees who had fled Nazism and to consider their remarkable contribution to life in Britain.

This highly successful, well-attended event began with a wide-ranging lecture by Dr Anthony Grenville, Consultant Editor of the AJR Journal, on the culture of Viennese Jewry before 1938. He was followed by Professor Edward Timms, founder of the German-Jewish Studies Centre, who explored the fascinating subject ‘Sigmund Freud and the Creative Circles of Vienna’.

In the afternoon, the LJCC’s Executive Director of Education and Holocaust Studies, Trudy Gold, gave an overview of Germany during the period 1919-1939. The day ended with a panel discussion by AJR ‘first generation’ members Edith Argy (born Vienna), Dr Edgar Feuchtwanger (born Munich) and Dorli Neale (born Innsbruck). The session, chaired by Rabbi Rodney Marriner, Emeritus Rabbi of Belsize Square Synagogue, gave the entranced audience a memorable insight into the refugee experience.

The second day of the seminar began with an especially topical lecture by Claudia Zimmerman (Sociology Department, Karl Franzens University, Graz) on the legacy of Ludwig ‘Poppa’ Guttmann, founder of what was to become the Paralympics. Patrick Bade, a senior tutor at Christie’s Education Department, played musical extracts and regaled the audience with anecdotes on some of the many musicians, including Hans Gal, Berthold Goldschmidt and Richard Tauber, who had brought a greater professionalism to musical life in Britain.

In a subsequent session, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg of the New North London Synagogue, in conversation with Dr Gideon Reuveni, Director of the German-Jewish Studies Centre, discussed the importance of ‘Bildung’ in pre-war German-Jewish life and declared his full support for multiculturalism in the UK.

In the final session, a panel discussion chaired by AJR Chief Executive Michael Newman and devoted to the ‘second generation’, Kit Plaschkes, daughter of Vienna Kindertransport refugee Otto Plaschkes, Allen Morgenthau, child of refugees from Nazi Germany, and Maya Jacobs, daughter of the Breslau-born cellist Anita Lasker Wallfisch, spoke emotionally of their sense of being different from other children, the feelings of guilt they had inherited from their parents and the difficulties of coming to terms with their past. Members of the audience contributed significantly to this sombre session, with the point being stressed that the experience of Holocaust survivors did not necessarily equate with that of refugees from Nazi occupation.


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