Feb 2014 Journal
Letters to the Editor
Sir - I was very interested to read Peter Phillips’s ‘Anglo-Jewry vs Continental Jewry: Time Heals’ in your last issue, although I don’t share his opinion that the ‘so-called animosity’ is over.
His article did, however, make me smile when he summed up ‘Was Anglo-Jewry welcoming to Continental Jewry? No. Was Continental Jewry arrogant towards Anglo-Jewry? Yes.’
My mother-in-law came from a very German middle-class, secular background only to discover, on her arrival in the UK as a political refugee in 1938, that she was looked down on by the Anglo-Jewish community. She never felt part of their ‘elite club’, always feeling like
Sir – So Peter Phillips agrees with me about the prejudice of English Jews regarding refugees from Germany. But he rather spoils it by ending his article stating that now, after many years, ‘we are all British Jews, living together in comparative harmony. Time heals.’
What rubbish! First of all his statement that we all live ‘in comparative harmony’ - either we live in harmony or we don’t! And as for his view that ‘time heals’ - I assume he means the Kinder. It’s fast becoming an academic matter for the last of us and it won’t be long before we have disappeared through the ravages of time – healed or not healed.
Sir - Might I suggest that Peter Phillips looks back at how German Jewry received the Ostjuden - like my own parents - who came to Germany after the First World War, without money or other worldly goods, in order to escape the anti-Semitism rampant in Poland and to create a better future for their children.
They certainly were not received with open arms, nor was help given to them by the long-established Jewish community, who professed to be Germans of Jewish persuasion. The Ostjuden managed to make their own way in life by working hard to create homes for their families and they made sure their children received the education which had been denied to them. They became good citizens, paid their taxes, and obeyed the laws of the land.
When, after my father’s deportation to Poland in October 1938, my elder sister attempted to get us onto a Kindertransport, she was told in no uncertain terms ‘We have to look after our own (German-Jewish) children first’ - something she has never forgotten. Incidentally, my father too was drafted into the Austrian-Hungarian army during the First World War – but, unlike Peter Phillips’s father, he was not presented with a silver beaker by his regiment.
In this instance, Hitler made sure there was ‘no time to heal’.
A TRULY MEMORABLE EVENT
Sir - The service in Hope Square on 1 December to commemorate the Kindertransport, all the children who did not get this chance and perished, and all the parents who were murdered, was a truly memorable event. My heartfelt thanks to the AJR and World Jewish Relief for organising it.
Some very moving and powerful words were expressed, especially by the Chief Rabbi and the organisers themselves. The speech by Communities and Local Government Minister Eric Pickles, read out by Henry Grunwald as the Minister was ill, was also moving.
I feel strongly that unless we learn from the tragedy of the massive loss incurred by the Holocaust to treat minorities justly today, those murdered millions will have died in vain.
Sir - Come on, Anthony Grenville (‘The Home Office and the Kindertransport Parents’, January)! Stop white-washing the British government over the failure to save the lives of parents of not just Kindertransport refugees but also of all other refugee children permitted entry.
Of course it was the declaration of war that put an end to the ability to get the parents out of Germany, Austria, etc, but anybody who wasn’t swept up in the fever of ‘peace in our time’ with worthless pieces of paper knew perfectly well that sooner or later - and likely sooner - there would be a war with Hitler. Churchill for starters knew this perfectly well even if the UK in March 1938 was not ready to fight a war. Yes, there was bureaucracy from the Nazis but the British Sir Humphreys were the prime contributors to what my late mother and many other refugee children had to live with for the rest of their lives.
Sadly, it is no different today, with what we are told is a war-fatigued USA under Obama’s leadership failing to stand up to Iran’s nuclear machinations - never mind the countless more Syrian and Lebanese citizens who will be killed in the next few years as a result.
Sir - The reason I was prompted to write was Ruth Barnett's review of the play Kindertransport in your January issue. As chair of Newcastle’s Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE), I discovered through a colleague that Kenton Academy, a local state school, has the play on the AS syllabus.
I offered to go in to talk to them as a second-generation AJR member and as I know the play quite well. I also shared my mother’s story: she came from Berlin to Newcastle around the time of the Kindertransport, though she was fortunate enough to have a sister here who could vouch for her.
It delights me that such a powerful play is on the AS English literature syllabus. The questions were intelligent and incisive. It also prompts me to ask how many other schools in the country are studying the text and how we could find out.
Incidentally, the school is hoping to take its students to see a performance of the play. Typically, the nearest venue is Derby - the North East is so often forgotten.
NO WISH TO RETURN TO VIENNA
Sir – I arrived in England on a Kindertransport in 1939 aged 13. My father was deported to Auschwitz in 1942. I didn’t return to Vienna until 1953. In 1954 I took my two daughters there to visit my maternal grandmother. Subsequently we went to Austria on skiing/summer holidays but not back to Vienna until last year. When the Austrians elected Waldheim as their president I decided never to set foot in the country again.
I am a great admirer of Rachel Whiteread’s sculptures and followed her long battle with the Austrian government over the acceptance of her Holocaust memorial. In 2000, after five years, the government finally agreed to its erection on Judenplatz in the Inner City! This was one of the reasons why I went to Vienna: I was very moved by the thoughtful simplicity and appropriateness of the design.
My youngest daughter, a historian, wanted to see where I came from, so I agreed to return to Vienna with her for a five-day visit last July. We were unanimous that we had no wish ever to go back there again.
A FIVE-MINUTE SLOT
Sir - A German friend (non-Jewish) in Munich sent me the following from Deutschland Funk: ‘Montag 2 Dezember 9.05, Kalenderblatt Vor 75 Jahren: Der erste Kindertransport zur Rettung jüdischer Kinder trifft in Großbritannien ein’ (Monday, 2 December, 9.05, Calendar Page 75 Years Ago: The First Kindertransport for the Rescue of Jewish Children Arrives in Great Britain). Admittedly it’s only a five-minute slot, nevertheless ….
MILIBAND AND THE MAIL
Sir - Anthony Grenville’s historical perspective on the workings of the British press (December 2013) surpasses even his customary excellence and has acquainted me - no babe-in-arms! - with skulduggery of which I had barely an inkling. I suppose trying to get this marvellous piece of journalism published in the national press might be too naïve?
The brief history of the Miliband family as refugees from the Nazis reminded me of the Guardian’s reaction to the Daily Mail’s attack in September 2013 on Ralph Miliband. Within a couple of days the big, bad Guardian published a long, closely reasoned accord with Ed Miliband’s anger, followed a few days later by similarly sympathetic comments on David Miliband’s defence of his father.
A member of the AJR whose staple newspaper diet is the Daily Mail read my letter on the subject of press bias in the last AJR Journal and announced that she had no idea what that letter was about. No wonder the press can get away with murder!
A QUESTION OF BIAS
Sir - Does Marc Schatzberger (December, Letters) really believe that The Guardian is still the most objective newspaper in this country? The fact that he has read it since it was called The Manchester Guardian is hardly evidence! Together with its sister paper, The Observer, it is the most anti-Israel newspaper of all and its views are very biased to the left. There is no doubt that whistleblower Edward Snowden is a traitor and it is typical of the Guardian to take up his nasty cause.
As for Mr Schatzberger’s attack on the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, whom he calls ‘inept’, has he looked at the worldwide ‘education’ league tables, printed recently, that show Britain near the bottom? Mr Gove is trying to restore our curriculum to what it was when we had O-Levels - when children weren’t given a triple choice of answers and didn’t have modules which parents could do for them. He wants to concentrate on the 3 Rs and return our standards to what they were when we had grammar schools and an educational system of which we were proud. Is Mr Gove ‘inept’ because the Guardian said so?
Professor Leslie Baruch Brent too considers the Guardian the ‘leading paper of the world for its investigative journalism’. As a scientist, surely he needs proof for a statement such as this? Or perhaps his evidence is that the Guardian printed Snowden’s secrets irrespective of the fact that it jeopardised our country? This is not investigative journalism - it is irresponsible journalism. Perhaps if someone as irresponsible as Edward Snowden had given the Guardian information about Bletchley Park during the Second World War it would have printed that too!
If the Professor abhors the Murdoch press and hates the Daily Mail - which I do too - may I suggest he tries the Daily Telegraph. It may have a right-wing bias but it does not lean to the right as far as the Guardian leans to the left. And most important, the Telegraph is unbiased about Israel.
Sir - I am writing in response to Kay Sharpe’s letter (January) to say how surprised I was that she believes ‘probably few others in the UK know about [the Stolpersteine] project.’ Not only have my children and I, as well as numerous friends of ours, known about the above for several years but we have participated in it, as has my partner, Dr Frank Beck.
Last April, my son and daughter attended a communal commemoration service outside the apartment block in Vienna’s 3rd District from which my late husband’s family were deported. There was an address (in three languages) by the Israeli ambassador as well as by local non-Jewish dignitaries. Similar ceremonies have taken place all over Vienna and are continuing, as Kay Sharpe is now aware. I should also mention that much of the funding for this work has come from non-Jewish sources, as we found out from talks at the Austrian Cultural Centre in London, where we met some of these dedicated fundraisers.
Furthermore, ever since June 2009 Frank has been involved in the translation into English of the leaflets which are periodically produced about the Stolpersteine project. This was after he had arranged for a plaque to be laid in the 9th District for his father, who was murdered in Auschwitz.
THE PAINTINGS OF ISIDOR KAUFMANN
Sir - An avid reader of your excellent magazine, I was delighted to see in the ‘Art Notes’ in your November issue an article about the National Gallery exhibition ‘Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1960’. The exhibition included a painting - Young Rabbi from N. - by Isidor Kaufmann - which was reproduced in your magazine.
Isidor Kaufmann was my grandfather. He was a very well-known painter of Jewish subjects, very much recognised in the art world. A retrospective exhibition of his works was held by the city of Vienna in April 1995 to which I and my nearest family were invited. Five of his paintings are also part of a current exhibition at the Israel Museum, and the Jewish Museum in New York too has some of his paintings. I possess a portfolio in which the afore-mentioned painting in London is included.
LONG LIVE AMÉLIE HOUSE!
Sir – We all knew it was only a matter of time. The attendance figures dropped, the expenses remained, the cost of continuing on that basis made the project too expensive to run – the Day Centre had to close. Now, it is more important than ever to remain optimistic and think positively. As I write, we are entering the New Year full of hope.
The Day Centre is closed – long live Amélie House!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at the AJR for having done an excellent job of running the Centre for many years and for now working with Jewish Care to continue to provide a social setting where we can enjoy activities, entertainment and good food.
A GREAT SUCCESS
Sir - I must compliment everyone responsible for the wonderful lunch and entertainment at the All-London Chanukah Party at Alyth Gardens on 17 December. Special thanks to Hazel Beiny, Esther Rinkoff and all the team of volunteers. A great success!
DOWN THE DANUBE TO PALESTINE
Sir – I refer to the letter by Carmel Page and Sue Pearson in your December issue.
A number of certificates were issued to the Jewish Agency in Berlin’s Meineckestrasse. These were intended for young people of 18 and upwards. Most, if not, all of these individuals were single but each certificate included the wife if the individual concerned was married. Thus the Jewish Agency insisted that each person receiving its certificate should be married so that in this way two people could enter (the then) Palestine instead of one, doubling the number of immigrants.
I suppose that once in Palestine many of the couples divorced but the object was achieved.
DOWN THE DANUBE TO PALESTINE
Sir - Your correspondent George Klein (January) describes an escape from Budapest to Haifa by river. A similar adventure, albeit with a tragic end, is described by the late Fanny Stang in her book Fräulein Doktor.
Fanny relates how her parents, the Knesbachs, took a boat from Vienna down the Danube when all other escape routes were closed. They were eventually trapped by winter ice somewhere in the Balkans and the Nazis finally caught up with them, with the inevitable consequence.
During their long and miserable ordeal, they were able to send the occasional letter to their daughter in England and she quotes these in her touching descriptions. The Knesbachs mention that they chose that particular boat because the alternative one, though cheaper, promised less comfort. In the event, the other boat made it all the way to Israel.