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Jan 2008 Journal

Letters to the Editor

THE YOUNGEST KINDERTRANSPORT REFUGEE?

Sir - Re Erika Klausner’s letter ‘The youngest Kindertransport refugee?’ (December), according to the vague rules for permitting children to come to Britain from December 1938 till the outbreak of war, children were supposed to be over five. I know of two three-year-olds and two babies who arrived at Harwich. One of the former was Leah Roth from Borken. She came a few weeks before the war, aged three, with her sisters Hilde, seven, and Friedchen, five. Today, she is Leah Traub and lives in east or north-east London. She has nine children and 45 grandchildren. I saw her again, as an adult, when we held a reunion in London for our former refugee hostel (Windermere) in the summer of 1989. We were told that at the last minute the parents sent Leah instead of the older brother, as they feared England would not be orthodox enough for the boy. Remarkably, Leah’s father survived, a changed and physically damaged man; the mother, older brother and two tiny Roth siblings perished. Another friend is Ruth Schwiening (née Auerbach), who came from near Breslau on the KT aged 3. Today she lives in Market Bosworth, Leicestershire.
The two babies mentioned above were twins - Susi and Lotte Bechhöfer - whose desperate mother had put them on a train leaving Munich in a basket/cradle. Fostered by a Welsh Baptist minister and his wife, they knew nothing of their origins. Lotte died as an adolescent. Susi, living in Rugby today, heard by chance a broadcast in 1989 about the KT. She wondered, then investigated. The BBC helped her trace her origins. You can imagine the shock that the rest of us did not have to go through. I am glad to know Susi - an extraordinary woman.

Ruth L David and Ames, Iowa, USA

Sir - I believe I was younger than Erika Klausner as I arrived on 20 April 1939 at the age of 2 years, 10 months, my third birthday being 17 June.

We always look forward to the AJR magazine - such a well-informed and interesting read.
Helga Lazarus (née Singer), London N3

Sir – The youngest ‘Kind’ was four months old, according to Bertha Leverton’s records. I actually met her, and spoke to her, last summer in Hyde Park.

(Mrs) Annette Saville, London NW4

WHO IS A JEW?

Sir - Mr Phillips should have read my very brief discourse ‘On Being or Not Being a Jew’ with a little more attention to detail. I clearly state that the question as to who is and who is not a Jew is not a value-free judgement: it depends on who asks the question and who answers it. Although I am not quite sure what he means by ‘been brought up in the Jewish way of life’ (Hassidic? secular?), I am quite happy to accept the paternal line as equally valid for being Jewish - but then, I am also ready to accept ‘Jews for Jesus’ as being Jews. Hitler would not have disagreed with either proposition. Conversely, and I said so explicitly, if the answer depends on Halachic Law, then neither would qualify.
Mr Phillips refers vaguely to a ‘Muslim race’. If he means the Islamic Umah, then, generically, Jews are a ‘race’ by analogous definition. If, on the other hand, as I believe, race is defined by the DNA molecule, then Mr Phillips and I may be of the same race; our Ethiopian fellow-Jews, however, are not.

Harold Saunders, Manchester

KRISTALLNACHT COMEMMORATED IN KOSZALIN

Sir - I would like to draw your readers’ attention to an event that occurred in Koszalin, Poland, on 15 November - especially as, judging from previous correspondence, there are still some who are unwilling to recognise that the Poles are undergoing a profound change of attitude.
To commemorate Kristallnacht, a candlelight march was organised, and this was attended by some 140 people, including 30 youngsters from a local school. The organisers were Henryk Romanik, a Catholic priest, poet and local historian, and Zdzislaw Pacholski, a professional photographer. I have known these two for seven years and they have been responsible for other events that I have written about in the past in our Journal. They have become good friends of mine. Present, too, were the mayor’s wife, the head of the Jewish community in Szczeczin (formerly Stettin), the local bishop, a poet living some 100 km away and, significantly, several members of the local Jewish community who normally keep themselves to themselves.
The event began after dark in a small church, where Mr Pacholski described the significance of Kristallnacht and the catalytic role I had played in getting the town to remember its pre-war past. Prayers were said by the bishop and, in Hebrew, by the man from Szczeczin, and messages of support were read out from an Austrian journalist and writer (Ute Hoeschele) whose family had lived in the town before the war, as well as from me. The marchers then solemnly proceeded to several former Jewish sites, now marked with monuments of one kind or another - the synagogue, the old cemetery (rededicated two years ago and containing my great-uncle’s grave stone – see photograph), and what used to be the ‘new’ cemetery, now within the Technical University. This was the third annual march; the weather was reasonable for once but there was snow on the ground.
The Poles were clearly not responsible for Kristallnacht and its aftermath, yet they feel it appropriate to remember the event as a warning to future generations. Such acts of remembrance do occur all over Poland and it is important for us to acknowledge and welcome this. Significantly, as you will know, Warsaw is to have – at last – a Holocaust museum.

Leslie Baruch Brent, Emeritus Professor, London N19

AMSTERDAM STRIKE REMEMBERED

Sir - On 25 February 1941, under German occupation, a strike took place in Amsterdam protesting against the brutal Nazi treatment of Jews. The strikers were public transport and other municipal employees, workers in shipbuilding and steel, large stores and many shops and offices. Public transport in Amsterdam was halted for a whole day. The next day, other Dutch cities joined in. More details are to be found at http://www.februaristaking.nl/english.html
Please come and join me at the annual commemoration of these events, just after 4 pm on 25 February 2008 at the Jonas Daniel Meijerplein, very close to the Waterlooplein Metro station, Amsterdam. The mayor, the Israeli ambassador and Dutch Jewish groups will be there. Old and frail visitors will be looked after.

Nothing like this strike happened where we came from, which makes it all the more important for us to join in honouring those Dutch heroes. For more information, contact me at landers@heatherhouseoxford.com or at Skinner 58, Nea Chora, Chania 73100, Crete, Greece.

George Landers, Crete

AFTER ANNAPOLIS

Sir – Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are bound to take a long time and it is therefore necessary to take some small steps to alleviate the sufferings of the Palestinians, particularly the 30,000 Palestinians who live in the compound of Hebron ruled by the Israeli army. Its main street, Shuhuda Street, is reserved for Jews only, i.e, the 700 settlers who live above the town. Palestinians must climb with ladders on the roofs to get into their own homes. My daughter Alison was in Shuhuda Street on a study tour and, when she entered the market, she wondered why there were nets above the streets: the settlers regularly throw rubbish, stones and bottles from their homes onto the market and the nets prevented the rubbish from falling onto the stallholders and Palestinian shoppers.
Yehuda Shaul is a religious Jew who, on a visit to this country, told me that when he did his military service in Hebron he took off his yarmulka because he didn’t want the Palestinians to see that a religious Jew could tolerate such conditions. The settlers belong to the Kach group. Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Muslims praying in the Hebron mosque, belonged to this group, whose members the Israeli Government considers terrorists.


Peter Prager, Ilford, Essex

ANNA ESSINGER

Sir - I was delighted to see the piece about Anna Essinger in October’s journal. Anna Essinger was a relative of my dear late husband. He used to tell me about her school. I didn’t realise she was so well known or I would have paid more attention!

Mary D. Essinger, Leicester

MISSING THE POINT

Sir – Guy Bishop’s apocryphal anecdote (December, Letters) about my grandfather, Julius Fromm, unfortunately misses the point and does not make any sense as it stands, for the correct translation of Reklamationen is ‘complaints’, not ‘advertisements’ (Reklame). Thus the large group of children with which my grandfather is supposed to have been seen refers to faulty condoms, not to any marketing of the product he invented. Whilst on the subject of faulty or burst condoms - something that obviously never happened with a genuine Frommser - my grandfather would invariably shift such unfortunate occurrences on to the competition, when he said, equally apocryphally, ‘Die Konkurrenz soll platzen!’ It is hoped your readers will understand the dual meaning of ‘platzen’.


Ray Fromm, London NW7

NORTH AND SOUTH

Sir – I would like to thank everyone involved in the three-day trip to London in November. Special thanks must go to Susanne Green and Barbara Dresden Dorrity for their hard work and the professional manner in which they organised it.

The choice of venues was well thought out - from the tour of the Bevis Marks Synagogue to the tour of the Jewish East End. We were shown things too humorous to mention, with a tour guide so knowledgable and full of enthusiasm about his subject, and a lovely lunch, eaten on the go, from Rinkoff’s bakery.

When we had gathered our breath, we were taken to Belsize Square Synagogue for a first-class dinner and a talk by the vivacious and straight-talking Anna Raeburn. There was a trip to see the Wallace Collection of fine art. On our last day, we were taken to the AJR Centre for a very tasty lunch (thank you, chef!) and a very moving Kristallnacht service by Rabbi Rodney Mariner. Thank you all concerned! 

Liverpool
Mrs Sabine Barton and Mrs Ruth Eisikovits, Liverpool

Sir - Just want to thank Susanne (and all concerned) once more for the splendid time you gave us in London. Whenever I tell anyone about all we did, it leaves them speechless with admiration. Firstly, that we did it all and, secondly, how clever the organisers must have been to fit it all in! How true!

When you come to plan next year’s event, how about Liverpool, City of Culture! I can see there is going to be lots going on and I think it would make a splendid holiday. High time that the Londoners travelled north - and a bit west as well, don’t you think?

Dorothy Fleming, Sheffield

Sir - I believe I was younger than Erika Klausner as I arrived on 20 April 1939 at the age of 2 years, 10 months, my third birthday being 17 June.

 



Helga Lazarus (née Singer), London N3