Oct 2013 Journal
'Remember the past - but go forward!'
The AJR, the London Jewish Cultural Centre (LJCC) and Sussex University’s Centre for German-Jewish Studies came together in September for a two-day seminar: ‘German and Austrian Jewish Refugees: Their Impact and Personal Legacy'. Held at the LJCC’s Ivy House, the seminar, built on presentations, discussions and lectures over the past two years, was very well attended, with the presence in the audience of many ‘Second’ and ‘Third Generation’ members together with a number of Israelis.
In the opening session, ‘First Generation’ refugees Bea Green, Edgar Feuchtwanger, Ruth Jacobs, William Kaczynski and Clemens Nathan reflected on their experiences of fleeing from their home countries and settling in Britain and the effect this had had on their families, culture and heritage.
In the following session, Professor Peter Pulzer, himself a former refugee, looked back on ‘A Year of Anniversaries’, specifically those of Hitler's appointment as Chancellor and Kristallnacht. Professor Pulzer stressed that for the Nazis terror was not a means but an end in itself.
A ‘Second Generation’ panel comprising Diana Franklin, AJR Trustee Frank Harding, Allan Morgenthau and Melissa Rosenbaum reflected on the impact their coming from a refugee family had had on their upbringing, education and family lives.
Rev Bernd Koschland, his daughter Beth and grandson Sammy, members of an ‘Intergenerational’ panel, discussed the impact of the refugee experience on each of the generations. The 1989 Kindertransport Reunion had been a turning point. It was important to ‘get on with living’, they concluded.
Illustrator John Minnion gave a multi-media presentation based on his ironically entitled book Hitler’s List: An Illustrated Guide to Degenerates: Jews, Bolshevists and Other Undesirable Geniuses.
Professor Edward Timms gave an illustrated talk on the often neglected contribution of women - among them Anna Freud, Hilde Spiel and Marie-Louise von Motesiczky - to pre-war Viennese culture as well as to refugee culture in London.
A ‘Third Generation’ panel - Hannah Bowers, Laurence Field, Alisa Franklin and Michael Newman - discussed what some saw as the ‘burden’ of Jewish identity.
In the final session, Nicky Gavron, the former Deputy Mayor of London, said that her mother, prevented from taking part in the 1936 Berlin Olympics due to her being Jewish, had fled to the UK. Praising London's ‘diversity’, she contrasted the Berlin Olympics with last year’s London Olympics.
The seminar was brought to an end by AJR-Kindertransport Chairman Sir Erich Reich. Putting the Kindertransport into historical context, Sir Erich expressed gratitude to the British Government: while ‘more could have been done’, he said, the UK had nevertheless done more than anyone else. Emphasising the refugees’ contribution to British society, his conclusion was ‘Remember the past - but go forward!’