Extracts from the Mar 2015 Journal

The joys of advertisements

Historians and others who study patterns of consumption have long been aware of the importance of advertisements as rich sources of material; Gideon Reuveni of the Centre for German-Jewish Studies at the University of Sussex, for example, has published fascinating work on the Jews of Germany as consumers in the pre-Hitler era. As I have myself learnt a great deal about the community of Jewish refugees from Nazism in Britain from the ads in the back issues of AJR Information, I was intrigued by recent letters to the editor referring to shops owned or managed by refugees on post-war Finchley Road, Hampstead. To the information provided by Frank Beck and Margarete Stern, I might for instance add that Norbert Cohn, the refugee optician at 20 Northways Parade, was not the only one in the area at the time: the ophthalmic optician A. Otten was initially located just along Finchley Road, at 3 Regency Parade.
Hampstead in north-west London was the principal area of settlement of the Jewish refugees in Britain and it contained the greatest concentration of institutions associated with the refugees. These included the Freud Museum at 20 Maresfield Gardens (previously Sigmund Freud’s last home); Belsize Square Synagogue (previously the New Liberal Jewish Congregation); the four offices occupied by the AJR until it decamped to Stanmore (at 279a Finchley Road, its founding address in 1941, from 1943 at 8 Fairfax Mansions, then at 9 Adamson Road, and finally at 1 Hampstead Gate, Frognal); and Otto Schiff House at 14 Netherhall Gardens, the first of the homes built in London for elderly refugees and jointly administered by the Central British Fund and the AJR.
Commercial enterprises founded by refugees also proliferated in this area, the best known being the Cosmo restaurant and café on Northways Parade. Many of the others advertised in AJR Information, for example the Dorice, another restaurant popular among refugees, located opposite the Cosmo at 169a Finchley Road, and Joseph Suschitzky’s bookshop Libris at 38 Boundary Road, a mecca for scholars and connoisseurs of German books. Well known in its time was the Blue Danube Club at 153 Finchley Road, where Peter Herz directed Continental-style reviews until he returned to his native Vienna in 1953; the Blue Danube Club was itself an offshoot of another Kleinkunstbühne, the small-stage cabaret theatre Das Laterndl (The Lantern), which had been set up at 69 Eton Avenue by the wartime Austrian Centre.
The distinctively Continental atmosphere of the Finchley Road area was in considerable measure food-based. Alongside the refugee-owned cafés and restaurants were shops that sold food products exotic by the standards of post-war Britain: Home Products Stores of 160 Finchley Road (on the corner of Frognal) specialised in ‘Continental Delicatessen’, while the butchers Rabenstein Ltd., of 5 Fairhazel Gardens, advertised as ‘Wholesalers and Retailers of first-class Continental Sausages’. The best known establishment in this field was that of Richard Mattes, scion of a Rhineland sausage-making family, at 122a Finchley Road; founded in 1947, this expanded under Mattes and his son Werner into Mattessons, a major enterprise that became a household name in Britain through the TV ads for its meat products. The longest-lived refugee business was Ackerman’s, at 9 Goldhurst Terrace, which sold chocolates. Werner Ackermann, a would-be actor turned chocolatier, opened his first shop in Kensington High Street; Ackerman’s was awarded the Royal Warrant in 1968. Its second branch, just off Finchley Road facing the side of what is now Waitrose John Barnes, opened in 1956 and survived into the 21st century.
Refugee businesses in this part of London catered to their clients’ needs across the board of everyday life. In the sphere of office equipment, A. Breuer of 43 Buckland Crescent specialised in the repair and maintenance of typewriters, while Ernst Rosenthal of 92 Eton Place, Eton College Road, offered ‘photocopies in the middle of Hampstead’. The jewellers J. Mount Ltd., of 17 Winchester Road, had formerly traded as Grubner & Neuman in Brünn (Brno, Czech Republic). Among those in the clothing trade was C. L. Ferber, of 17 Manor Mansions, Belsize Grove, specialising in hand-made lingerie and blouses; however, the best-known of such shops, Madame H. Lieberg, ‘the exclusive salon de corseterie’, was located some distance away, at 871 Finchley Road, in Golders Green.
West End Lane, the main thoroughfare in West Hampstead, played host to a large number of refugee shops and businesses. A guided tour some six decades ago might have started at the Patisserie Weil, at 221 West End Lane, where one could sample apple strudel, Zwetschenkuchen (plum cakes) or Mandelberg cheesecake. Stepping outside, one would immediately pass a carpenter’s workshop, F. Friedland, at number 227, and a firm of decorators, Brodecor Ltd., run by H. W. Oppenheimer, at number 229a (on the corner of Sumatra Road). Almost opposite, at number 176, was Mirro Furs Ltd. The manager was A. Spiegel, formerly of Berlin; German speakers will recognise the pun in the name ‘Mirro’, for Spiegel means ‘mirror’ in German. Further down West End Lane, at number 108 near West Hampstead tube station, was Otto Froehlich, a watchmaker and jeweller.
Just off West End Lane to the east, at 16 Fawley Road, was a reminder of more long-term considerations, Leo Horovitz, a sculptor and stonemason who advertised ‘memorials for all cemeteries’; and to the west, at 30 Dennington Park Road, was the painter and interior decorator M. G. Streat. (I am grateful to Professor Michael Streat for confirming that this was his uncle, the musician Max Streat, formerly Max Strietzel.) No tour of the area would be complete without a mention of the Rosemount boarding house, at 17 Parsifal Road, off Fortune Green Road, which advertised itself as ‘the boarding house with culture’ and was run by Mrs Rose Peiser, mother of the actress Lilli Palmer.
Some idea of the sheer number of refugee businesses all across Britain can be gained from the ads in two of the AJR’s publications: Britain’s New Citizens: The Story of the Refugees from Germany and Austria (1951) and Dispersion and Resettlement: The Story of the Jews from Central Europe (1955), which contained 17 and 25 pages of ads respectively, with up to ten ads per page (not all of them from refugee businesses). Firms in the textile trade clustering around the Oxford Circus area in central London included Schwarzschild Ochs Ltd., Hertie Ltd., W. Herz Ltd., H. Wertheim Ltd., Strauss & Co., Dick & Goldschmidt Ltd. and S. Bischheim & B. E. Beecham Ltd. Simon Bischheim was a member of the AJR’s executive and his son Richard Beecham was a co-founder of Dunbee-Combex, a plastics manufacturer that went on to be one of Britain’s most important toy manufacturers. [more...]

Exploring ways of commemorating the Holocaust for future generations: A historic intergenerational conference

One third of school students hugely underestimate the scale of the Holocaust, believing that the number killed was two million or less, with 10 per cent believing that 100,000 people were murdered. These were among the preliminary findings of ground-breaking research carried out and presented to a Holocaust Generations Conference earlier this year by Professor Stuart Foster, Paul Salmons and Ruth-Anne Lenga of the Institute of Education’s Centre for Holocaust Education. The Centre had surveyed over 8,000 pupils and held follow-up interviews with over 300 pupils across all years of secondary education in England.
Most young people, the researchers concluded, appeared mystified why the Holocaust had happened, beyond a vague idea of ‘hatred’ and ‘prejudice’. At the same time, less than one-third of pupils who had studied the Holocaust knew what anti-Semitism meant; this figure could be compared to over half who knew what ‘Islamophobia’ meant and over 90 per cent who understood the term ‘homophobia’.
This historic one-day inter-generational gathering of Holocaust refugees and survivors and their descendants, co-organised by the AJR, the Second Generation Network and the Kindertransport Association, was held in mid-January at University College London’s Institute of Education and attended by some 300 people. The aim of the conference was to explore ways of commemorating the Holocaust for future generations.
One of two keynote speakers, Lord Dubs, a former Labour Member of Parliament and a Kind who left Czechoslovakia on one of Sir Nicholas Winton’s trains, lit one of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s ’70 Candles for 70 Years’, designed by Sir Anish Kapoor in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Referring to current events, particularly in France - the murder of four Jews in a Paris kosher supermarket - but in Europe in general, Lord Dubs concluded that ‘we are failing’: prejudice was still around us everywhere.
The second keynote speaker, Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE, the daughter of a German refugee who arrived in the UK on a domestic visa, said that her experience as a ‘half’ Second Generation refugee had left her with a ‘very soft spot’ for refugees and asylum-seekers as well as for civil liberties and gay rights. Due to her background, she said, she never felt fully secure anywhere. She was, however, very proud of Britain’s reception of immigrants and stressed that more should be done to publicise the help given to Jewish refugees from the Nazis by UK diplomats such as Robert Smallbones.
At a fascinating Inter-generational Panel, Joanna Millan, a representative of the First Generation and an AJR Trustee, said she had very early memories of the Holocaust and these had influenced her to carry out family research; Philippe Sands, a Second Generation lawyer specialising in human rights and genocide issues, stated that according to his recollections ‘these things [matters pertaining to the Holocaust] were not really talked about’. Third Generation member Hannah Goldstone declared that she had picked up her knowledge about the Holocaust from her grandfather and that she saw herself as ‘a custodian of the truth of the Holocaust’ – ‘both a heavy responsibility and a necessary burden’.
Those in search of an interesting workshop were spoilt for choice, with 11 to choose from, including themes such as ‘Secret Listeners Who Bugged the Nazis in WWII’; ‘Anti-Semitism in Post-Holocaust Europe’; ‘Preserving and Accessing Our History’; and ‘Tracing Your Family Back to Before the Holocaust’.

Art Notes

The name Rubens equates with fleshy, voluptuous nudes. But, according to the Royal Academy’s current exhibition, Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne (to 10 April 2015), his influence stretched far wider - into landscape, nature, battle, and into every artist under the sun (well, perhaps not the Sun’s page 3!) who came after him. Really?
The Royal Academy considers Peter Paul Rubens, who lived and worked from the late 16th century, to be the most influential of Flemish painters, who made such a great mark on the future of painting that they include Van Dyck, Watteau, Turner, Delacroix, Manet, Cézanne, Renoir, Klimt and Picasso. The list goes on. The trouble is that in such a catch-all of an exhibition, it’s hard to focus on Rubens himself amid connections that seem at times almost spurious.
Rubens himself was patronised by the glitterati of his day, including several crowned heads of Europe. He developed his robust style from studying the great Italian masters, whose own influences drew him to paint altarpieces, portraits, idyllic landscapes and the mythological themes popular in his era, as evidenced by his Pan and Syrinx.
The Royal Academy has named six themes under which to place Rubens and his future disciples - Poetry, Elegance, Power, Lust, Compassion and Violence - beginning with his assistant Van Dyck and moving on to the greatest of artists 300 years in the future.
Rubens’s works graced many aristocratic homes, and followers tended to emulate the effect he achieved with raw, free brushstrokes. In Tiger, Lion and Leopard Hunt the battle between bearded, turbaned men killing ferocious lions and tigers is visually striking but completely bloodless – an attempt perhaps to show the Flemish artist’s obsession with muscularity or, at a deeper level, carnality in its most primitive form, expressing less the struggle than the connection between man and beast.
Artists of the 18th and 19th centuries like Watteau, Renoir and Cézanne were preoccupied with salon paintings and, while Rubens’s effect on Renoir is obvious, barely a noted painter is left out of his supposed influences. Turner is said to have been taken by Rubens’s depth of colour, such as in his many-peopled Garden of Love with its cuddly cherubs. Both Rubens and Van Dyck portrayed a Genoese noblewoman: the former shows her in delicate semi-profile with a dwarf, thus accentuating her cool beauty, while Van Dyck’s depiction of her with her son is more austere.
But the styles couldn’t be more different. In a room created by Royal Academician Jenny Saville, there are further responses to Rubens’s influence on 20th- and 21st-century art, including Picasso, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. While these artists clearly influence each other, again I find it whimsical to suggest that the work of each of the great painters in the entire exhibition derives from Rubens more than from any other great master. Saville suggests that Rubens’s influence ‘runs through the pathways of paintings. Like Warhol he changed the game of art.’ But physicality is one thing: but what about the essence of what Rubens is saying?

Biographical sketches of 300 Kinder

by Michele M. Gold
edited by Marian Lebor, illustrated by Gabriella Y. Karin
Kolarim International Publishing, 2014, 306 pp. paperback, available at amazon.co.uk, ISBN 978-965-7580-10-6
Not another book about the Kindertransport, you may mutter! Much research has been done on this subject, while the London premiere of The Last Train to Tomorrow, Carl Davis’s touching song cycle about the Kindertransportees, was recently performed in London’s Roundhouse under the aegis of the AJR. Well, this book is rather different from what has gone before.
Biographical sketches are given for some 300 Kinder, together with their childhood photographs, and the intention is therefore highly laudable. The author’s mother came to England on a Kindertransport and her grandparents perished in the Holocaust and that prompted her to compile this book. She moved from the UK to Los Angeles and her introduction, as well as the preface by Michael Berenbaum, Professor of Jewish Studies at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, and the foreword by the Czech filmmaker Matej Minac, are perhaps better suited to an American readership, which, I suspect, is less conversant with the Holocaust and the Kindertransport than its British counterpart.
Ms Gold does not explain just how she selected the 300-odd Kinder from the 10,000 who came to this country before the war. Was the choice random or entirely dependent on information readily available in Holocaust institutions in the USA and the Wiener Library in London? Although I published my autobiography in 2009 I am not included (naturally I don’t hold that against her!), nor are many friends of mine. Nor is the now almost iconic photograph of a group of children, myself among them, in the compartment of a German train after crossing the Dutch border; we were part of the first transport that left Berlin on 1 December 1938.
My main criticism is that the entries for different Kinder vary hugely in length. Some fill several pages, while many are confined to two or three sentences, merely stating the town of origin and the date of arrival in the UK, leaving the ultimate fate of the individuals in the air. The information is not always up-to-date, suggesting that it was gleaned from archives rather than from personal interviews. I was struck by the fact that quite a few children were eventually reunited with their parents, not always happily, and by the large number who moved on to the USA after the war. What also emerges clearly - and we knew this already from previous research - is that the great majority succeeded in carving out a successful career in their new environments and that most married and brought up children.
Whilst the majority stayed in the UK or emigrated to the USA, quite a few finished up in Palestine/Israel and in countries such as Australia, Canada, France, Belgium, Switzerland, South Africa, Sweden and New Zealand. About 16 came from Prague on one or other of the Nicholas Winton trains and Winton’s biographical details are set out. Bunce Court School, the German-Jewish co-educational boarding school brought to England in 1933 by Anna Essinger, who took in some 60 Kindertransport children, is barely mentioned and is described as a hostel. Among the Kinder I recognise are Ruth Barnett, Bertha Leverton, Hermann Hirschberger, Martha Blend, Sol Muller (a fellow pupil of mine in the Jewish Boys’ Orphanage in Berlin-Pankow who also appeared in that train photograph), Werner Krebs and Peter Wegner (both at Bunce Court School), Bernd Koschland (no mention of his role in the Kindertranport Association, a special interest group of the AJR), Otto Deutsch, Bea Green (I had no idea that among her other accomplishments she had been an opera singer), Dorrith Sim (no mention of her book), Frank Meisler (the creator of the many Kindertransport sculptures), and - most intriguingly for me - a sentence or two about Erich Goldstein, a fellow pupil at the Pankow orphanage who also appears in the train photograph. The entry merely states that ‘he became a famous violinist’. He did indeed play the fiddle well but he totally disappeared and I would love to hear from him!
One other point that struck me forcibly is that although we hear grumbles from time to time about the mistreatment of Kinder in the UK, we were undoubtedly the lucky ones. Some children were sent to Belgium, Holland or France and had the most gruelling experiences. Such a one was Eric Goldfarb. His family split up, his sister to the UK and his brother to Shanghai. He was sent to France to the Quincy-sous-Sénart chȃteau. When the Germans occupied France he and 15 other boys were sent to a French boarding school in Clamart. A few months later he was moved to an OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants) children’s home in Creuse, where he spent 18 months at school and learned the craft of leatherwork. In August 1942 the home was raided and he was sent to do agricultural work while others were arrested. He was provided with false papers and told to make his way to the Spanish border. Instead, he and some other OSE boys made their way to Lyon and tried to cross into Switzerland. A Swiss guard sent them back to France, where Eric eventually joined the Resistance and took part in the liberation of Lyon. On reaching the German border with the Free French Forces, he left and returned to Lyon. After further escapades he worked in a camp for Jewish orphans and finally went to Paris, where he met old friends and his future wife. What heroism!
Finally, a very special mention must be made of Gabriella Karin, who came originally from Bratislava and now lives in Los Angeles. Her numerous and very fine line drawings of scenes in many of the cities from which the Kinder came give the book a very special dimension.
Leslie Baruch Brent
A surprisingly hopeful book
by Merilyn Moos
Chronos Books, 2014, 364 pp., paperback, ISBN 978 1 78279 677 0 [more...]

Letters to the Editor

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