Jun 2012 Journal
Letters to the Editor
REFUGEES IN SOUTH WALES
Sir – Your journal is a veritable treasure trove, with articles of personal interest in practically every issue. The April issue was no exception.
The letter headed ‘Refugees in South Wales’ by Anne Marx (née Kohnstamm) gave me an opportunity to hear in a sort of roundabout way from a friend of some 70 years ago. And yet, how clearly I remember it all!
Anne’s paternal grandparents were staying in Boarding House Sachs (‘Pension Sachs’, as it was known in refugee circles) at 4 Adamson Road, London NW3, where my grandmother was living till her death in November 1955 and where my parents and I were staying for many months towards the end of the war.
Anne Marx, then known as Anne Marie Kohnstamm, was the middle one of three sisters. The oldest of them was Hannelore, and their grandmother – a real character – used to refer to her as ‘die Hannelore der Soldat’ – though I never saw her in uniform. The youngest she would refer to as ‘das Gretele’.
Whenever she spoke of the family’s stay in South Wales, she never put it as simply as ‘in Abergavenny’, but invariably ‘in Abergavenny, da wo wir waren’ (where we were), which she pronounced in her Franconian accent ‘da wo wir waan.’ Even now, after all these years, I might still call it that!
We all came from the same region in Germany. In fact, it transpired that in her youth she had lived in the same house in Nuremberg as my father’s maternal grandparents and known the family intimately well, thus being able to provide us with lots of interesting background information.
I recall moreover that Anne Marie was working at a London insurance company where she was expected to do all her calculations twice over, ie both with and without a calculator.
I would also like to refer to the letter, also in the April issue, by Gerald Leyens about the Jawne in Cologne. This would have been of interest to my late husband, a former pupil there.
KEEPING THE MEMORY ALIVE
Sir - May I congratulate you and your team on the April issue of the AJR Journal, which once again contained many interesting articles.
I was particularly moved by Monica Lowenberg’s account of her search for her uncle Paul Loewenberg in Latvia and I am indebted to her for quoting the inscription to be found on a plaque in the Venice ghetto - the oldest ghetto in the world - which reads ‘Perche le nostre memorie sono la vostra unica tomba’ (For our memories are your only grave).
It is the duty of those of us who have survived to keep alive the memory of the six million who were murdered and have no known graves, among whom was my own beloved father z.l., and to pass their memory on to the next generations whenever and wherever we can.
GERMAN-JEWISH VETERANS, 1914-18
Sir – My grandfather, Max Behr, served (rank unknown) in the Imperial field artillery. I was only about five when my parents fled after the Machtergreifung by the Nazis so I did not realise until much later that his habit of washing his hair every single day must have derived from the trenches!
The noteworthy thing is that in September 1935, over two years later, he was notified (in a citation printed on very flimsy paper) that he had been awarded an Ehrenkreuz medal for his service.
Fortunately, grandfather died not long after of natural causes and did not witness the degradation of what he had fought for.
Sir - Your correspondent Dr Frank is (almost) right when he writes that ‘the journal is entirely about German-speaking refugees from Hitler.’
What about the Danish, Dutch, Flemish, Walloon, French, Polish and Russian speakers? Also note that not all AJR members are refugees and that some belong to the Second Generation.
AT HOME IN ISRAEL
Sir – I’ve been absent from your columns for some time - this is partly due to health problems and also because no one raised my ire sufficiently as to make me want to put pen to paper. Lo and behold, up pops my favourite adversary, Peter Phillips, with his long list of pet dislikes, mainly about Israel but also about Jews generally!
He doesn’t think we integrate sufficiently into British society. It obviously hasn’t occurred to him that as hard as he tries to assimilate and act the Engländer, to those around him we will always remain Jews - and foreigners to boot. Anyway, I thought that multiculturalism is now celebrated in this country. He also doesn’t approve of Jewish faith schools, never mind that other faiths have their schools too. And before he dismisses me as what he calls a ‘frummer’, I would point out that I never sent my children to a Jewish school, nor do my grandchildren attend one, though they all went to good private schools - perhaps he is against that too. To me, what really matters after the Shoah is to uphold our Jewish heritage, imbued with a love of Zion – that’s how I was raised.
I am pleased to see that Peter felt ‘curiously’ at home in Israel, but he has nothing positive to add about the place. He also has it wrong about Tzipi Livni. He would not approve of her if only he knew her pedigree: her father was high up in the Irgun! This helped her climb the political ladder. When the horse-trading began after the election, Tzipi would not consider joining a coalition with the Likud - which would have been natural as Kadima is a breakaway from the Likud - unless she got the No.1 slot, ie Bibi’s job no less. Displaying her usual pouting frown, she would not settle for the No. 2 foreign ministry slot. Had she been more amenable and thought of her country first, it would have kept the ‘frummers’ out of government and made Peter Phillips happy! She might even have been a successful foreign minister, but she miscalculated. The fact is, Tzipi was a failure as leader of Kadima. She ran a negative campaign and the electorate realised this. She has since been ousted as leader by her own party. Sad really.
Sir - I share Peter Phillips’s concern with the stranglehold the Orthodox parties in Israel have on the formation of governments due to the system of proportional representation. Small extremist parties can subvert the will of the majority. A constituency-based system would be quite feasible. The often advanced argument that it would not be feasible in a small country is mistaken. Greater London, with about the same population, is divided into council constituencies for elections to the London Assembly.
As to the majority of Hasidim not doing their military service, their stand should be accepted on one condition: in an emergency they would have no right to be defended by those who perform military service. Those who refuse to stand by Israel cannot expect its protection.
Music of the future? We can but hope.
PS The news from Israel on the formation of a new coalition government – especially its purported programme – is very welcome.
MOVING WITH THE TIMES
Sir - Peter Phillips writes that the Christian religions have moved with the times and that I should too. But the Catholics have not moved from their dogma - only adopted the vernacular instead of Latin. Among Protestants, the Amish are even stricter than the Hasidim.
Several great nations of 2,000 years ago have disappeared. But, despite severe persecution, the Jews have survived because they did not abandon their faith and are now the modernity.
Sir – Regarding Anthony Grenville’s recent article on Club 43, whatever the right answer, the question of the timing of a ‘second front’ can hardly be regarded as ‘no business’ of refugees, themselves part of European society and of the world, in 1942.
There were those who believed that a defeat by Hitler of Soviet Communism would be preferable to the reverse – and probably some who hoped both might, if left to themselves, fight to mutual exhaustion and collapse. You tell us only Alfred Unger’s negative thinking.
In retrospect, and apparently at the time, attacking the European underbelly after victory in north Africa was no bad strategy. The USA had its own Far Eastern problem, in 1942 and thereafter. What do military historians have to say?
DARK SIDE TO BAEDEKER
Sir – I possess a fascinating collection of over 70 Baedeker guide books, some in German, some in English, and one or two even in French. They interest me as a mine of outdated information and geographical knowledge. I am also a keen student of maps and town plans.
However, there is a dark side to Baedeker: after the Nazis came to power, Baedeker was a staunch supporter of the regime. I also have a volume on the ‘Generalgouvernement’ (mainly Poland), in which Baedeker seeks to give the impression that life is running its normal course. The date is 1943. Baedekers Autoführer Deutsches Reich (Grossdeutschland) 1939 has an introductory page in praise of Hitler.
These guides were produced at the time of the death camps. They look so civilised.