Sep 2013 Journal
Letters to the Editor
KINDERTRANSPORT REUNION ‘A GREAT EXPERIENCE’
Sir - I fell ill on my return from the Reunion and had no chance of writing or thanking anybody for the magnificent organisation.
I am writing to you now to thank you, also in the name of my daughter Franziska, for the great, great deal of work you and your colleagues put in to make the Reunion such a success: the organising of finding a venue and seats for us all; the lunch and later the dinner; the excellent speakers; the brochure (what a document!); and, later, the reception at St James’s Palace. It all went so smoothly. I am most impressed and I want to thank all those involved. It was a great experience and I am most grateful. With many good wishes for your further work.
Sir - May I, through your pages, thank HRH Prince Charles for his most kind hospitality to the former Kindertransportees on 24 June. A great experience!
SAYINGS FOR OCCASIONS
Sir – My mother too had many pithy sayings, including the three in Meta Roseneil’s letter (July). Many were parodies of quotations from Schiller, e.g. ‘Oh dass sie ewig grün bliebe, die Wurzel mit der gelben Rübe.’ This should be ‘die schöne Zeit der jungen Liebe’ - ‘Would that it could remain green forever, the root with the yellow carrot’ – instead of ‘the beautiful time of young love’.
One of my prized possessions is a book called Worte von Juden, Worte für Juden by Eugen Tannenbaum, who collected and classified many sayings that used to belong to the everyday conversation of German Jews. If Mrs Roseneil and I ever get a chance to meet up I will show it to her.
Sir – My sister and I have been remembering and writing down our mother’s sayings - I have to confess, in my not very correct written German! For instance ‘Wenn schon, denn schon’; ‘Wie schön muss das Arbeiten sein wenn das Zuschauen so schön ist.’ It would be great to edit a collection so that ‘second’ and ‘third’ generation members don’t completely lose their German knowledge!
Sir - My mother, daughter of a cattle dealer in Oberhausen (Ruhr district of Germany), overheard a customer complaining to her dad: ‘Ich hab jetzt die Nase voll’ (I’m fed up). Fascinated, she asked the customer: ‘Kann ich mal sehen ob Ihre Nase voll ist?’ (Can I see if your nose is full?) We both laughed at this reminiscence from an innocent little girl.
I was an anxious child, sensing the problems of the world tumbling around me. Maybe I was seven years old when our good old cook Ida noticed my worried countenance. She tried to reassure me, saying ‘Nichts wird so heiss gegessen als es gekocht wird’ (No need to eat your meal till it’s cooled down).
I also remember hearing the expression ‘Papier ist geduldig’ (i.e. on paper you can say what you like). For once, the English saying ‘Actions speak louder than words’ is longer but apt.
Sir – Theobald Speyer (1872-1956) was a wise and successful German-Jewish lawyer. On Kristallnacht the front door of his private home was forced open by a gang of uniformed SA and he was taken to Buchenwald. He managed to escape to England almost penniless in May 1939 and was able to return to his wife and home only in 1948, having been blitzed twice in London. He led a charmed life - not so his sisters, Clara Speyer and Lina Schwabe, the last of his six siblings, who were deported in 1942 to Theresienstadt and effectively murdered.
It is apt to remember Theobald’s sometimes philosophical sayings such as ‘Erstens kommt es anders – Zweitens als man denkt!’ (First, things turn out differently - second, than you think they will!).
Sir – My mother, whenever asked to do someone a favour she considered unwarranted, would say ‘Hätt’st mi’ vorig’s Jahr dunga, wär’ i’ heuer dei’ Maad’ (standard German: Hättest du mich voriges Jahr gedungen, wäre ich heuer deine Magd; English: Had you hired me last year, this year I would be your maid).
The list of sayings I can think of is endless but I’ll close with an example of what can happen when proverbs are translated incorrectly. ‘I am walking on my hind legs’ is what my mother once said in Slovene to a friend of my sister, meaning ‘on my last legs’ (auf meinen letzten Beinen). She was surprised by the puzzled look she was met with.
‘DEGENERATE ART’ EXHIBITION
Sir - I work for the radio programme Witness at the BBC World Service, telling the stories of historical events through interviews with the people who were there. Recently I’ve been looking into a programme about the ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition staged by the Nazis in 1937.
Is there anyone connected with the AJR who might have seen the exhibition or be in some way connected with it? Maybe their parents were artists whose art was confiscated, maybe they or their parents bought something from the auction which followed, or maybe they’re not connected to it themselves but they know someone who was.
If anyone can suggest any leads I’d be very grateful – they can reach me on tel 020 361 41900 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sir – Anthony Grenville’s article ‘Across the divide to Eastern Europe’ was, as usual, well researched, informative and enjoyable. I wonder if he has ever heard of Berlinchen/Neumark, now known as Balinek? When I lived there in the 1930s it boasted 8,000 inhabitants, including five or six Jewish families. It wasn’t a particularly pretty place but it was situated by a magnificent lake and a beautiful forest of spruce and oak. It also had a famous Jewish resident named Emanuel Lasker, who, at the time, was the world chess champion. My friends always think the name Berlinchen is a joke – well, now they know!
EASTBOURNE ‘A WONDERFUL HOLIDAY’
Sir – Due to my protracted medical condition, my wife and I were unable to have a holiday for four years until Carol, Andrea and Annie organised a most memorable holiday in Eastbourne. The weather was good and the company outstanding. Nothing was too much for these three wonderful ladies to do for us to make it a wonderful holiday. On Friday night candles were lit by the ladies, appropriate songs were sung, and Kiddush was recited by myself.
My wife and I are looking forward to a similar holiday next year and to meeting again the friends we made on this holiday.
Sir – We just thought we’d drop you a line to tell you how much we enjoyed the holiday in Eastbourne. It was all beautifully organised and Carol, Andrea and Annie did a terrific job with everything - including the weather. We also had a lovely room.
It was the first time we had come with the AJR to Eastbourne. We hope to come again next year. Again, many thanks.
Sir –I feel I must write to thank AJR staff for the wonderful way you organised our week’s holiday in Eastbourne. I really enjoyed the time spent there and the company and fully appreciate the work and nervous energy you put in to make it such a success.
Having organised communal functions and arrangements all my professional life, I know what is involved and I quite like being organised for a change!
Sir – We would like to say a very big THANK YOU to Carol, Andrea and Annie, who did a fantastic job of caring and looking after our group of over 30 ‘oldies’. Not always an easy task! We had good company, a lovely location and glorious weather. What more could one ask! Thank you again.
Sir - More German towns appear to be showing interest in laying Stolpersteine in memory of their deported citizens, but they are not always making contact with descendants, particularly if they have changed their names as we discovered recently.
May I suggest that you google the name of your town to check if stones have already been laid or if there is a programme for the future. Ceremonies can be found when you google ‘Stolpersteine-ceremonies’, where there are a number of YouTube videos to watch.
The countries and their towns with Stolpersteine are listed on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolperstein or google ‘stolpersteine in (your town)’.
The names frequently have very well researched personal histories, which could be very interesting for emigrants who may have been too young to learn family histories. Some of my family will soon be taking part in the ceremonial laying of four stones for my immediate family and several more for deported cousins.
DOES ANYONE REMEMBER?
Sir – I read the review of The Jews and Germans of Hamburg (July) with great interest.
My grandmother, Hedwig Weiss, was sent to Riga in December 1941. Frau Johannsen, our middle-aged ‘sewing’ lady, accompanied her as far as possible in Hamburg; for her trouble she was incarcerated for two days.
On 16 January 1939 my brother Hans and I left for England on the Kindertransport and landed at Southampton after travelling on the Normandie. I have never seen any reference to this voyage although I believe there were 186 ‘Kinder’ on the ship. Does anyone remember the Kindertransport on the Normandie which arrived in Southampton on 17 January 1939?
We were sent to the small, lovely Carmel Court school in Birchington. I was very happy there. Sadly our ‘posh’ guarantors moved us to a very oppressive school nearby. Does anyone remember those days?
GERMAN BOOKS – A GOOD HOME NEEDED
Sir - George Vulkan (August, Letters) won’t find it easy to dispose of his German books. When I tried to downsize my library by 2,000 volumes, from standard 19th-century fare in collected editions to 20th-century non-fiction, many of them inscribed to me, I drew blanks - both stares and potential takers. The experience with Sussex University's German Department, one of the biggest in the country, was painful. The first person I talked to hadn’t heard of Thomas Mann; moving up the ladder, I discovered that the library was short of space and, anyway, few students (and not all teachers) were able to read old-style gothic type.
I fared little better in the trade. Dealers were willing to pick out the raisins - signed Mann, Hauptmann, Hofmannsthal, Freud, etc - but for the rest, the skip loomed. Mr Vulkan could try the Wiener Library with Judaica or the Freud Museum with relevant works. If all else fails, I am still in the market for the occasional pearl: 20th-century showbiz, politics, biography, if signed by author or subject.
KEMPINSKI RESTAURANT PLAQUE
Sir - On a recent visit to Berlin, I saw (again) the large brass plaque outside the Kempinski Hotel on the corner of Kurfürstendamm and Fasanenstrasse which reads ‘On this spot a Kempinski Restaurant stood from 1928. It was a symbol of the widely known Berlin hospitality. Because the owners were Jewish this famous establishment was ‘arianised’ and in 1937 sold under duress. Members of the Kempinski family were murdered; others were able to escape. The Bristol Hotel Kempinski, which opened in 1952, desires that the fate of the original family should not be forgotten.’
My visit was in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the re-opening of the Jewish secondary school in the Grosse Hamburger Strasse - it was closed in 1942 and reopened after the Wende in 1993. It was recently renamed the Moses Mendelssohn Gymnasium. Moses’s grave is adjacent to the school in a small cemetery devastated by the Germans but now beautifully restored. I also gave a workshop in the Jewish Museum, which has two artefacts of mine on permanent display and many on occasional exhibition, as well as many papers.
BERLIN SCHOOL REUNION
Sir – I recently attended a reunion of my Jewish school in Berlin’s Grosse Hamburger Strasse, which was founded by Moses Mendelssohn in 1778 and closed in 1942, when students and teachers were sent to Auschwitz.
It was reopened 20 years ago as the first Jewish grammar school in Germany since the war and renamed Jüdisches Gymnasium Moses Mendelssohn. I was informed that a Stolperstein was to be erected to commemorate the last headmaster in 1942. Seeing his name, I realised he had signed my leaving report.
I left the school in 1938. The Jewish Museum in Berlin was delighted to add my leaving report to its archives. I am still in touch with one school friend in Israel who survived Auschwitz. Why? Due to the music teacher making her practise the piano, in Auschwitz she found pieces of paper, wrote music and formed an orchestra.
BRINGING BACK MEMORIES
Sir - Margarete Stern’s letter ‘The Spirit of Swiss Cottage’ (June) brought back memories. I lived at 120 Goldhurst Terrace and Broadhurst Gardens from 1938 to 1940. I wonder whether anybody remembers Sewek Tykocinski, Pinkusiewicz, the late Matti Spiegelman, Larry Licht Koppelmanas - all refugees.
HUNGARY AND THE HOLOCAUST
Sir – Contrary to an assertion by your correspondent Francis Steiner (February 2013, Letters), my article on anti-Semitism in Hungary does not contain ‘a statement that appears to make Admiral Horthy solely responsible for wiping out Hungary’s Jews.’ What I say is that Horthy was more responsible for mass murder than most other Hungarian politicians.
Steiner is right that there were many perpetrators. Most of them were acting under the authority of the state. The head of state was Horthy. Steiner is wrong to claim that the Admiral intervened too late – in fact, he actively facilitated the delivery of Hungarian Jews in the countryside to the gas chambers. He did eventually stop the deportations from Budapest in response to Western diplomatic pressure that included a personal threat from Roosevelt. That is how he just managed to escape the gallows after the war. But his belated gesture to halt the deportation trains demonstrates that he had had sufficient freedom of action under the German occupation to save the hundreds of thousands of provincial Jews murdered in Auschwitz.
Further, Hungary under Horthy was the only power in the Second World War to deploy its own citizens – Jewish men – as slave labourers on the battlefield, tens of thousands of whom perished. Horthy’s Hungary leased thousands of others to Germany to work the copper mines of neighbouring occupied Serbia under Hungarian guard, many of whom ended up on a ‘death march’ (a form of mass murder).
But all this is old hat. Seven decades after the Holocaust, the issue is not what actually happened but the inability of the abused Hungarian public now to acknowledge the truth.
Sir – Regarding Peter Seglow’s amusing letter in your July issue, years ago we were on holiday, in Austria I think. In a restaurant there were two doors to toilets: ‘Damen’ and ‘Herren’. When one walked through, there was only one toilet!
As a Kindertransportee I was in 1942-45 in a very nice boys’ hostel in Northampton run by the admirable Mr Marx. However, I and another of the boys elected to do ‘firewatching’ in a house further along the road requisitioned by the Food Office. We slept on the floor alongside trestle tables loaded with ration books - primarily so as to shirk Morning and Evening Service!