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Apr 2008 Journal

Letters to the Editor

THE YOUNGEST KINDERTRANSPORT REFUGEE?

Sir – I endorse Gerda Meyer’s letter (March). It is historically and humanly important that we pay tribute to all the people who rescued us. In Vera Gissing and Muriel Emanuel’s Nicholas Winton and the Rescued Generation and my own memoir Lifesaving Letters (under my birth name Milena Roth), we give, as best as we can, an account of the work in the Prague refugee office in 1938-39.

It is without detriment to Winton’s (and his mother’s) vital work that we remember his colleagues. There was not only Trevor Chadwick but also Martin Blake (Winton’s friend, who initially called on Winton to help) as well as Bill Barazetti, Dorothy Warriner and two young volunteers, Beatrice Wellington and Josephine Pike.

These people all remained in Prague in danger to themselves, under the threat of the Gestapo (in at least one case suffering lengthy interrogations), preparing the papers that both German and British governments demanded, thus enabling as many children as time allowed to leave. They all performed many brave deeds and kindnesses and only just got out in time themselves.

One of my mother’s 1939 letters describes her repeated queuing to see ‘Miss Wellington’ to try to secure my freedom. She wrote ‘they are all overworked’.

I have long thought it sad and unjust that these people, who risked their lives for us, have not also received the public tribute they deserve.


Milenka Jackson, Eastbourne

FIRST KINDERTRANSPORT

Sir – Could anyone who came over to Dovercourt on the first transport arriving 1 December 1938 please contact me via the Journal.

 

 

 

Herbert Goldschmidt, London NW2

VOYAGE OF THE DUNERA

Sir – I refer to the letter concerning the Dunera by Frank Berg (formerly Franz Juliusberg) which appeared in your March issue. According to my records, the officer in charge of the guards on the Dunera was Captain John O’Neill V.C., who was subsequently court-martialled and relieved of his Victoria Cross, and his wife was denied a military pension following his death due to a heart attack.

Also, in 1941 two of the NCOs of the Pioneer Corps appeared before a court martial accused of 21 charges of stealing internees’ belongings on board the Dunera. They were RSM Charles Albert Bowles and Sergeant Arthur Helliwell. Unfortunately, I have no information on their fate. 

Peter Schwab (Internee No. 39246), London NW8

EXPERIENCES OF INTERNMENT

 Sir – Re the articles on the Isle of Man (February and March), my father arrived in the UK at the turn of the century from what was then part of Austria. My mother, who came from a similar area, met and married my father in London. They settled in London and had two children, my brother and sister.

At the outbreak of the First World War, my father was interned as an enemy alien and sent to the Isle of Man. In 1917 my mother was offered an exchange passage to Austria organised by the Red Cross. This was to include my father. My mother accepted the offer. Alas, my father was not released until after 1918.

I was born in Vienna in 1923. Having many relatives in England, we had no real problems in getting to the UK in 1939. My brother and sister had already left for England to further their education some years earlier.

In June 1940 the police came to intern me. My father insisted that it was meant for him but this was to no avail – he was not taken. I was interned in Huyton near Liverpool.

My brother, who was already an officer in the British army, came to visit me in the camp. This must have made history. I was released one or two weeks later and was free to volunteer for the army.
Robert Acker Holt, London NW3

BACK TO VIENNA

Sir – George Vulkan’s mention of Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg (March, p. 4) brings to mind a verse chanted by schoolchildren in 1938-39: ‘Heil Schuschnigg unser Führer, wir werden immer dürrer, die Juden immer fetter, d’rum Hitler unser Retter.’ Does anyone else remember this?

About four years ago I took my younger son to Linz. I showed him the house where my parents and I had lived. It was well maintained with an intercom system on the front door. I rang one of the bells, explaining that my son would very much like to see the flat where his grandparents had lived. I told the lady who answered that my parents had been forced to move out in 1939. Suddenly, she became quite pleasant and asked us in. In the living room, to my amazement, hung a large portrait of her father in full Nazi uniform. We couldn’t believe our eyes. Should they not have removed this painting long ago or were they unaware of the implications of leaving it dominating their living room? 

Helga Zitcer, London NW3

FOR THE RECORD

Sir – Many readers may not have been aware of the recent, very moving ‘6 Million plus’ exhibition at Brent Cross in north-west London. This was a display using buttons, leaflets, etc originally designed for Kirklees (Yorkshire) Community Education Project by Leeds-based Jewish artist Antonia Stowe.

This display was lent to Barnet Council for the weeks before and after Holocaust Memorial Day. As exhibition volunteer helpers in a small way, we wish to put on record our appreciation of, and gratitude to, Rachel and her team – all non-Jewish – from Barnet Council who volunteered to organise and staff the display for long hours each day, including two weekends. They dealt sensibly and knowledgeably with queries and comments, mostly positive but also a few negative ones.

Understandably, many emotions were stirred by the exhibition. Without the altruistic people from Barnet Council, the exhibition may well not have been possible. 

Sylvia and Josef Winroope, Radlett, Herts

‘PEACE FOR OUR TIME’

 Sir - Philip Goldsmith’s crude misrepresentation of the EU (February) would be laughable were it not repeated day in day out in the red-top press.

Surely your readers are aware that there are no unelected bureaucrats in Brussels with power to dictate to us! The Commission alone proposes legislation, but the final law-making body is the Council of Ministers. In a few areas - to be expanded if the Lisbon Treaty is approved - there is co-decision-making, when the Euro-Parliament has an equal say with the Council. Conversely in Foreign Affairs, Security, Immigration, and similar, the Parliament has no say. The Commission has very little say - and no right to propose. This too will be democratised if Lisbon is approved.

Perhaps a subtler rebuttal comes when one draws attention to the fact that the bulk of EU legislation is in ‘outline’ directives. These merely set out the objectives to be achieved, and the main conditions to be applied, but leave it to the member-states to fill in the locally applicable details.

It may be difficult to love a unit of 450 million people but, if we believe that Britain is frequently (not always) a beneficial influence in world affairs, than let us be glad that it is still a major regional power able to exercise a leading role in the EU. The EU is big enough not to be ignored and - after Lisbon has been approved - can be expected to conduct a more active foreign policy. 

Francis Deutsch, Saffron Walden

AFTER ANNAPOLIS

Sir – Has Peter Prager (January) not heard that by the time the 1929 Hebron massacre ended, 67 Jews lay dead, 60 more were injured, and those still alive had fled to Jerusalem. Hebron had been made judenrein for the first time in hundreds of years and remained so until the great victory of 1967. It is the Arabs who are the Zugereiste. Since the Oslo agreement, the small Hebron Jewish community has been subjected to suicide bombings, stabbings and thousands of rounds of rifle fire. Twelve Israelis were killed in an ambush on the way to the Cave of the Patriarchs, an infant was killed by a sniper, and quite recently two Israelis were shot dead.

 

Frank Bright, Ipswich

Sir - As I write, Qassam rockets are raining down randomly on Israel, killing civilians. Israel’s army retaliates, killing not only Palestinian militants but civilians and children. Hamas, whether we like it or not, is the democratically elected government of the Palestinians. The present peace negotiations are going nowhere.
The British government talked to the IRA and thereby solved the Northern Irish problem. So why not talk to Hamas?



 

Inge Trott, Cheam, Surrey

‘PALESTINE’ AND ‘PALESTINIANS’

Sir – Mr Storz (February) raises interesting historical points but – ‘official’ or otherwise – the practice of so naming the geographical area long predates the First World War. Herzl himself used the term. Furthermore, the argument that Arabs elsewhere should accommodate their unfortunate brethren is devoid of morality and downright cynical. Above all, the distinction between sovereignty over land and property rights within it must not be overlooked. The latter is every bit as important as the former. In addition to Herzl and the Balfour Declaration, London University was in the late 1940s offering a course on Palestinian law, a concept which, alone, rebuts the suggestion that ‘Palestine’ was a more recent idea.

 

Alan S. Kaye, Marlow, Bucks


Sir – As a postscript to my article about Palestinians in the February edition, I refer to an article in the Jewish Chronicle on 1 February 2008 under the heading ‘Yep, they still hate us’. This quotes instances in the Arab media sourced and translated by BBC Monitoring in which the Palestinians are referred to as Arabs. For example, a Lebanese TV channel said that the Jewish state endangers Arabs living in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948.

I believe Golda Meir once said that there is no Palestinian race. I assume she meant there is no separate or distinct Palestinian people, as they are part of the Arab nation - which is more or less what I suggested in my article. 

Mendel Storz, London N16

Sir - Would a population exchange similar to what happened in India (Muslims and Hindus) and French North Africa, or the resettlement of Germans from Czechoslovakia (Sudetenland) or Poland etc not be an answer? Instead of keeping the Palestine problem as a permanent red herring, why not arrange resettlement in the vastness of the Arab world?

 

Anthony Goldsmith, Wembley, Middx

WHAT IS A JEW?

Sir - I agree with Harold Saunders (March). If he still feels there is a comparison between ‘Jews for Jesus’ and Progressive Judaism - even if it is only on whether Judaism can pass through the paternal line - there is no point in continuing any correspondence with him.

More interesting are the views of Mrs Margarete Stern. She believes that the Liberal and Reform movements ‘are doing their very best to undermine [Judaism]’, both as a race and a religion. Without the Progressive side of Judaism, we would be left with only the Hassidim and the Traditionalists. Judaism in both the United States and the United Kingdom would then be in danger of disappearing, certainly as we know it.

Perhaps Mrs Stern believes that only the ‘Frummers’ have a right to be called Jews. It is a view, but one with which I disagree vehemently. I am a Jew racially. I am also a Jew religiously because I do not believe any religion makes more sense than Progressive Judaism. If it did not exist, I would still be a Jew racially, but certainly not one through religious belief. I would have to call myself a theist or even an agnostic. Mrs Stern is very knowledgeable on the derivation of the words Islam and Muslim. Perhaps she should be more practical in her thinking on today’s Judaism.

Peter Phillips, Loudwater, Herts

‘MUSINGS IN THE DEPARTURE LOUNGE’

Sir – Just back from a winter cruise, and no Victor Ross in January or February. Have you sacked him? A mistake! Or has his flight been called? He could make my husband smile and that takes some doing!

I am delighted that Victor Ross is back this month and writing better than ever – Exec. Ed.

Elizabeth Tennor, Tonbridge, Kent

TWO RUSSIAN-JEWISH PAINTERS

 Sir - In her article on the From Russia exhibition (March), Gloria Tessler omitted to mention two of the Russian-Jewish painters who also feature. As the magazine is aimed at Jewish readers, I believe this should be rectified. Look out for the portrait of Diaghilev by Leon Bakst and the portrait of Anna Akhmatova by Nathan Altman. Akhmatova was a close friend of the murdered Jewish poet Osip Mandelstam and his wife.


Janos Fisher, Bushey Heath, Herts

FROM MINOR TO MAJOR

 Sir – HS [Exec. Ed. Howard Spier], who puts the symphonies of Sibelius on a par with the greats (February), is wide of the mark! Many of us would sooner be on a desert island with the Brahms 4th, let alone several of those by Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, etc.

As I learned at the excellently presented recent talk by Gerald Holm at Club 43, Sibelius himself would hardly have agreed with the claim. He destroyed his 8th and wrote little during his last 30 years because of, doubtless, a feeling that he had come to the end of his creative powers. We would do him a disservice by overrating his symphonies, fine though they are, especially No. 6.


L. D. Wiseman, Loughton, Essex

Sir – I was intrigued to note the disagreement between Mr Holm and some of his Club 43 audience regarding Sibelius’s status as a symphonic composer. Whilst acknowledging the pre-eminence of Beethoven, may I suggest that we refrain from creating a ranking order for the great composers as if they were football teams in a league competition?

For example, one can admire the taut construction and individuality of each of Brahms’s symphonies without diminishing one’s respect for Bruckner’s expansive, but less varied compositions, each one resembling a different perspective on a sublime alpine landscape. As for Sibelius, the austere beauty of his symphonies and symphonic poems is unique in Western music. We should cherish them.

 

James Betts, New Malden, Surrey