Aug 2013 Journal
Letters to the Editor
KINDERTRANSPORT 75TH ANNIVERSARY
Sir - A Big Thank You to the AJR and everyone involved in making the 75th Anniversary of the Kindertransport happen. What an inspiring three days! All three days will long remain in my mind as they have given me so much to think about - memories to savour and treasure.
The main event at JFS was magnificent. Yes, it was crowded and there is always something to kvetch about - the lighting, the loos, whatever. But that it was a marvellous occasion cannot be in doubt. The reception at St James’s Palace could not have been more different - but what an experience! And the symposium at the German Historical Institute was very different again - a sort of looking beyond the ‘feel-good’ celebration at a more nuanced understanding of what was a major rescue operation - but at the same time could have been earlier, more extensive and not restricted to children.
But it simply can't stop here! The presence of so many people from the Second and Third Generations of the Kindertransport surely indicates the enthusiasm for this movement to continue - both in Holocaust education and commemoration. But please, AJR, don't wait five years - the US Kindertransport Association has a gathering every second year!
For the meantime, rest assured you did a wonderful job organising this triple commemoration.
Sir - I want to thank the AJR and all involved in organising the magnificent two days of celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Kindertransport.
The Sunday went off very well - indeed, it was marvellously organised. The timing was just right and the food plentiful. It was a great thrill to see so many ‘Kinder’, and in some cases their descendants, enjoying themselves and listening to the speeches by the various dignitaries who had given up their time to honour us with their presence. It was gratifying to see the ambassadors of Germany and Austria. David Miliband had come all the way from New York to speak to us about his father, who had also been a refugee from Nazi oppression.
Being 92 years of age, I had the support of my son Jonathan, who acted as my carer. I met people from my own town, Danzig. One lady told me she was born a few houses away from where we lived. Others too sought out Kinder from their home towns.
The reception at St James’s Palace was a once-in-a-lifetime event. The Prince of Wales took a genuine interest in the assembled Kinder and spoke to a large number of us. A member of the Prince’s staff ensured that the maximum number of assembled Kinder, and in some cases their families, had an opportunity to be addressed by him. I had my RAF tie and Arctic Circle badge signifying I had taken an active part in the war. I did this to show that we didn’t just take for granted the asylum given to us but that a number of us had demonstrated our gratitude by joining HM Forces. The Prince of course recognised the tie and the badge. He asked about my wartime activities as a pilot and whether I had been awarded the new Arctic Star, which I had. I know of a number who joined when their age permitted. I met at the reception one Kind who had been in the Royal Navy and also sported the rare Arctic badge. He had been on a warship guarding the convoys on the very dangerous route to Russia. Another Kind had also been a pilot in the RAF.
The atmosphere couldn’t have been more relaxed. The food offered was what we called in German ‘Gabelbissen’ - excellent quality and plentiful.
Time passed too quickly and my wife Esther and I left, as scheduled, at 4 pm. Thank you, AJR, for having asked me to attend.
Sir – A short note to thank all involved in the visit to St James’s Palace. It was a truly unusual and enjoyable experience. I’m sure all present felt the same – not many of us get to visit the Palace and I’m certain we will happily dine with family and friends relating our experience.
Sir - I would like to express my deep gratitude to all AJR staff who worked on the St James’s Palace reception. It was magnificent and, from my observations, went without a single hitch or hiccup. The two people I happen to know personally besides Michael Newman - Andrea Goodmaker and Susan Harrod - seem to have worked their socks off up to and including the day of the event and I would ask you to give them a special ‘thank you’ on my behalf. The catering was superb and it seemed to me that every one of those present had an exceptional and unforgettable experience.
Sir - Just a brief note to thank the AJR for the great work you did organising the reception with HRH The Prince of Wales. It was a splendid occasion in an impressive setting and, you know, I did get the impression that Prince Charles rather enjoyed it!!! He was probably aware that the first train full of Kindertransport kids left Germany 75 years ago and he expected to meet the ‘halt and the lame' but discovered that most of us ‘golden oldies’ are quite sprightly and on the ball!!! So, again, many thanks.
Sir - Elfriede and I would like to tell you how much we enjoyed the Kindertransport meeting. It was extremely well organised and proved to be a very moving experience. Please convey our thanks to all involved in making this such a successful event.
Sir - I was privileged to attend the 75th Anniversary of the Kindertransport at JFS. It was a most emotional and uplifting afternoon and I would like to thank everyone involved in the organisation for their hard work. It is most important that we never forget the reason why the Kindertransport was so vital and it is thanks to so many courageous people that so many people were able to attend and share their stories and memories.
Sir – I want to congratulate everyone at the AJR on the splendid 75th Anniversary Reunion. I attended Sunday and Monday with my daughter Janet and my brother Harry Heber. We all enjoyed it very much indeed. The organisation, the transport, the entertainment, the speakers – all were excellent. A memorable occasion. Many thanks.
Sir - When Prince Charles honoured us at our 70th Anniversary celebration, I said that I came from Vienna and worked in industry for 42 years as a Chartered Engineer, contributing to Britain by war work on shell-producing lathes; designing an instrument tracking the first British satellite, the Telstar, creating a multi-processing machine to operate on Rolls-Royce cylinder blocks, both forerunners of the computer; reading and sorting marked football pool coupons; supervising the design of the first automatic clutch for the Singer car and more, being awarded several patents. Lastly, helping exporters at BSI impacted positively on the British economy.
Only five years later I conversed with His Royal Highness again at our 75th Anniversary. Reminding him of the previous occasion, I showed him some 20 pence coins, saying that they, as well as the 50 pence coins, all bearing a picture of his mother, are carried in the pockets and handbags of all the people of the land. The coins have a similar, distinct shape, enabling them to be sorted and counted. I designed that shape. Prince Charles was visibly astonished and exclaimed ‘I’ll tell Mum’ and ‘Were you working in the Royal Mint?’ ‘No, but for it,’ I replied.
Sir - I am writing on behalf of my mother, Ann Cohen (formerly Hannelore Horn), and myself to tell you how much we enjoyed the Reunion. Everything was organised with the AJR’s usual efficiency and it was wonderful to see so many people supporting the event.
The guest speakers, notably David Miliband and Maureen Lipman, were most entertaining and the re-enacted debate by the JFS drama students was quite enlightening.
It was interesting to meet people who had shared the same experiences as my mother and to make new friends.
The reception at St James’s Palace hosted by Prince Charles was certainly memorable and impressive. The event held by the Second Generation group at the Wiener Library was also interesting and enjoyable.
As a result of our being at the Reunion, my mother was invited onto a local radio station to talk about her life and journey courtesy of the Kindertransport.
Keep up the good work, AJR, and we look forward to the 80th Reunion PG!
Sir - Thank you so much for the wonderful Kindertransport 75th Anniversary celebration. The whole day was perfect and reflected the joyful and sad memories of the past. It was a long day but a very happy one.
The re-enactment of the House of Commons debate was of particular interest to me. My parents, brothers and I were at Zbaszyn station to go to Russia and, just as the train came, a man for the camp came running and shouting, waving a white paper: ‘Margot, don't go on the train! I have your document to go to England!’ My parents and brothers, without a word to me, ran for the train and left me standing. The man took my hand and we went back to the camp. My life was saved.
My thanks also go to the young people from JFS for their lovely singing. One particular song touched my heart: ‘Bei Mir Bist Du Sheyn’ brought back memories of a time I was ‘in hospital’ at the camp and a doctor sang it to me in Yiddish.
To add to the 75th Kindertranport Anniversary was the reception given by HRH Prince Charles at St James’s Palace, which was very much appreciated.
Sir – Following my return to Germany from the Kindertransport Anniversary celebration, I found a TV documentary about my father (a Kind) and my grandfather on YouTube in a complete version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4w5LljZU8xM. This may interest other members of the AJR. Also, I would like to know if other members of the AJR were on the Europa on 13 June 1939 with my father Kurt Beckhardt and if they went to the Barham House boy’s camp near Ipswich?
WHO WAS HENRIETTE EISENBERG?
Sir – My wife’s aunt, Grete Reichl, was an escort on a Kindertransport which left Prague on 11 May 1939 and arrived in London on 13 May. Grete is no longer alive for us to ask her the following question.
In letters to Grete from her mother and aunt, still in Prague, in the summer of 1939, there are mentions of an American lady, Mrs Henriette Eisenberg, who apparently led that and some subsequent groups of children from Prague to Britain. Mentions of Mrs Eisenberg also appear in letters Grete Reichl’s mother wrote from occupied Prague to a cousin in Greece in 1941.
These mentions cease after the US entered the war late in 1941. We have tried to find out more about this American lady but have drawn a blank. Others involved, e.g. Nicholas Winton and Trevor Chadwick, get frequent mentions. Who was Henriette Eisenberg? She seems to have played an important - if unrecorded - role in rescuing children from Czechoslovakia. Perhaps her American nationality made it easier to travel to and fro between Prague and London. Do any Kinder recall her?
Ours may be a forlorn hope: the children involved, all sad at leaving their parents but some excited by the train and boat journey, may not have paid much attention to the adults in charge, who were probably not known to them. But one never knows.
Sir - Gloria Tessler (July 2013) reviewed a recent R. B. Kitaj exhibition at the London Jewish Museum. There were, in fact, two exhibitions of his work, which ran in parallel. The Jewish Museum entitled their exhibition ‘Obsessions - The Art of Identity’, whereas the Pallant Gallery in Chichester called their exhibition ‘Obsessions - Analyst for our Time’.
Perhaps naively, I had not realised until I was given the book R. B. Kitaj – Obsessions that these exhibitions were based on a single show curated by the Jewish Museum of Berlin in late 2012. Apparently someone decided, in their own artistic lunacy, to divide Kitaj’s work so that ‘art with a Jewish theme’ (whatever that means) went to London, whereas the ‘non-Jewish art’ (again whatever that means) went to Chichester.
This is particularly depressing and obtuse as Kitaj spent his whole life infusing his art with his sometimes combative but always perceptive concept of the ‘Diasporist Jew’. He wrote two books on the subject: First Diasporist Manifesto and Second Diasporist Manifesto. The following two quotations are illustrative: ‘The Diasporist lives or paints in two or more societies at once’; ‘My Jewish Art lives a more modernist secret life. The Jewish Diaspora is not the only one. It's just mine.’
King Solomon realised that two halves don’t make a whole and I believe that Kitaj would have been appalled by this arbitrary division of his work. However, on a positive note, the book produced by the Berlin Jewish Museum is superb.
THE MOST FAMOUS JEWISH FAMILY IN HAMBURG
Sir - Thanks for the latest AJR Journal - very interesting as usual.
Just a comment on the revue by Dorothea Shefer-Vanson of J. A.S. Grenville’s book on Hamburg. Probably the most famous Jewish family in Hamburg, though for a relatively short period and with a sad ending, was the Mendelssohn family. Moses Mendelssohn moved to the city, where he met and married Fromet Gugenheim. He had already established a significant reputation as a German as well as Jewish philosopher and writer of many books. He had six children, one of whom, Abraham, became the father of Felix, one of the world famous composers of the nineteenth century. I could write at length about both Moses and Felix but there is much information on the web.
THE FATE OF WALTER BENJAMIN
Sir - I was interested in the review by Henri Obstfeld of Cruel Crossing: Escaping Hitler across the Pyrenees. One of the famous cases was, of course, the Jewish philosopher, critic et al Walter Benjamin. He was fleeing from France to Spain, from where he hoped, like others before him, to make his way to Lisbon to reach the USA (not yet in the war) in the summer of 1940. He did make it across, but at a point when the Spaniards had agreed to return all escapees to the French police. Benjamin, fearing that the French - our allies - would hand him over to the Germans, committed suicide instead, by taking morphine tablets. And who knows, the French might indeed have handed him over!
GERMAN BOOKS - A GOOD HOME NEEDED
Sir - No doubt like many other members of the AJR, I am facing the problem of how to dispose of an accumulation of German books. These cover a great variety of types and topics, ranging from pre-1914 to the present day. In most cases, I just want to find a good home for them as I don't like the idea of books ending up on a skip. I would welcome any suggestions from readers!
RETURNING THE HELP
Sir - I read with interest the article in your June issue by John Goldsmith about his parents Ruth and Max (whom I knew as Mac) Goldsmith.
We were loosely related through marriage and my mother was a great friend of Ruth. They were a devout Jewish couple, as I recall from my mother. They lived in Leicester and on Friday evenings when they held Shabbat they would invite total strangers in to celebrate with them. This caused Ruth some anxious moments as some of the strangers looked far from desirable.
No doubt this reflects the gratitude Max and Ruth had for those ‘in power’ who helped them get out of Germany then as Max, who was head of Dunlop Rubber Co. as I recall, later returned the help given him in his hour of need.
AJR JOURNAL RECEIVED IN ISRAEL
Sir - Since making aliya in 1995, I've been fortunate enough to receive every AJR magazine sent to me by the late Stefan Simon and have always been most impressed with this high-quality and impressive journal, often delighted to read letters submitted by close friends e.g. Jo Kolman (Greenford) or Bettine le Beau.