Centre for German-Jewish Studies

Newsletter 14

Newsletter 14, September 2001

The 'Kindertransport' Children: Trauma, Adaptation and Identity

Drawing by a German child refugee, 1942

Drawing by a German child refugee, 1942

Between June 28 and July 1 the Centre for German-Jewish Studies and the Centre for Research into Antisemitism at the Technical University Berlin launched a major collaborative research project entitled 'The Acculturation of the Kindertransport Children' with a two-day workshop in Sussex, and a discussion forum at the Imperial War Museum in London. The workshop, organised by Andrea Hammel, served as an opportunity for the exchange of ideas and for the discussion of methodological questions and long-term aims. It was attended by researchers from the Centre and by a group of five scholars from Berlin, led by Professor Wolfgang Benz. Participants listened to an impressive range of papers on different aspects of the Kindertransport and the lives of the children who escaped from Germany during the 1930s. Mona Körte, for example, presented a paper on strategies of autobiographical narrative, and drew attention to the significance of treasured objects associated with parents and early childhood, such as jewellery and articles of clothing. This may well resonate with people who have to yet to record their stories. Other papers included discussions of class as a factor in the adaptation of refugees by Susan Kleinman, and of the experiences of former pupils of the Jawne Gymnasium of the ORT School by Monica Lowenberg; an assessment of the traumatising effects of separation from parents by Ute Benz; an account of her experience of working with Kindertransportees and their families from the psychotherapist Ruth Barnett; and a report of the achievements and failures of the Refugee Children's Movement in placing and caring for the children after their arrival in Britain by Claudia Curio. On this basis it was decided to give the project the working title 'The 'Kindertransport' Children: Trauma, Adaptation and the Construction of Identity'.

Drawing by a German child refugee, 1944

Drawing by a German child refugee, 1944

On Sunday July 1 a discussion forum was held at the Imperial War Museum in London to which a number of former Kindertransport children were invited, along with researchers, representatives from official AJR Special Interest Section, a curator from the Museum, and a number of other interested parties. The aim of the afternoon was to facilitate discussion and the exchange of ideas, and to develop good relations and communication with members of the Kindertransport generation. We hope that the planned research project will receive enthusiastic support from the very people whose lives it proposes to study. The Centre was very pleased to welcome guests not just from the London area but from across Britain. The afternoon was introduced by Professor Timms and Professor Benz, and James Taylor of the Museum spoke to participants about the Museum's collecting policies and its holdings relating to the Kindertransport. Following this, participants were privileged to be able to view a one-off screening of unused sequences from Sue Read's 2000 documentary about the Kindertransports, Children Who Cheated the Nazis. The film included interviews with former 'Kinder' in which they movingly discuss their lives following their escape from Germany. This provoked a lively discussion, in which there was general agreement about the traumatising effects of enforced emigration under the most stressful of circumstances. There was also consensus that the proposed research was long overdue. Some participants stressed the continuing relevance of the research, as refugee children continue to arrive, often unaccompanied, in Britain, whereas others expressed caution, and preferred to consider the children who escaped as lucky in comparison the many millions who died in the Holocaust. However, whilst acknowledging this fact, it remains the conviction of all involved with the project that the research should proceed, and indeed that now is the right time to do so. The Kindertransport generation, aged between sixty-five and seventy-five, is now at an age in which it tends towards reflection, and it seems logical to encourage their participation in the project.

Obituary: Professor Julius Carlebach

Julius Carlebach

Julius Carlebach at the Hochschule in Heidelberg

Professor Julius Carlebach, who was born in Hamburg on 28 December 1922 and died in Brighton on 16 April 2001, came to Britain as a refugee at the age of fifteen on the first \'Kindertransport\'. After serving in the Royal Navy he became Senior Housefather at the Jewish Children\'s Home in Norwood, and it was here that he met Myrna Landau, whom he married in 1959. Together they spent four years in Kenya, where their two sons were born. In addition to acting as Rabbi at the Nairobi Synagogue, he became President of the Child Welfare Society.

Returning to England in 1963 he took up a Research Fellowship in Criminology at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and during this period he undertook a systematic study of files relating to the experiences of the \'Kindertransport\' children. His interest in deprived children stimulated the pioneering research which he published under the title Caring for Children in Need. In 1968, after a short period at Bristol University, he began his long association with the University of Sussex, becoming first Lecturer and subsequently Reader in Sociology. He initiated an Israeli Studies programme, and his research on the history of ideas led to the publication of Karl Marx and the Radical Critique of Judaism. At Sussex, as at Bristol, he served as Jewish student chaplain, living for eight years in Hillel House, where he and Myrna extended a warm welcome to several generations of students.

Although Julius never studied Judaism as an academic subject, his remarkable erudition led to his appointment as co-editor of the Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook, the leading publication in the field of German-Jewish studies. In 1989, after his retirement from his Readership at Sussex, he was invited to take up a new appointment as Rektor of the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien in Heidelberg, where he was responsible for a remarkable revival of scholarship in the field of Judaism. When he finally retired, his services to Jewish education in Germany were acknowledged by the award of the Commander\'s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic, as well as the Grand Cross of Baden-Württemberg.

During his final years of retirement in Brighton he became closely associated with the newly established Centre for German-Jewish Studies and was awarded the title of Emeritus Professor of German-Jewish Studies. This reflected the enthusiasm and erudition with which he supported the research programme of the Centre. As a regular attender at the Research Colloquium he was characteristically the person to ask the first - and most searching - question. Even more inspiring was the judicious style in which he presided over the Reading Group on the Jewish Tradition in Germany, which was set up to guide a new generation of researchers through some of the most intricate political and theological discourses of the nineteenth century. In this way he was able to pay tribute to the tradition of combining sacred and secular knowledge - Torah im Derech Eretz - which had been pioneered by the generation of his father Dr Joseph Carlebach, who was Chief Rabbi in Hamburg until his deportation (with his wife and the three youngest children) and their deaths at the hands of Nazi execution squads in Riga. His memories of his parents and of Jewish family life in Hamburg during the 1920s and 1930s have fortunately been recorded in a series of Oral History interviews which are now being transcribed for publication. They will form a fitting tribute to the great tradition of German-Jewish culture which still lives on, despite the tragedy which overtook many of its eloquent representatives.

Julius Carlebach is one of that remarkable group of scholars whose careers are recorded in a fine publication entitled Out of the Third Reich: Refugee Historians in Post-war Britain, edited by Peter Alter (London: I. B. Tauris, 1998). The memoir by Carlebach which is given pride of place in this book includes further fascinating details about his career, including a fine description of the experiences at Norwood which inspired his life-long interest in the welfare of young people and determination to contribute to the raising of Jewish consciousness among students.

Recent Events

Sixty Years of AJR Information

On 7 June the Institute for Germanic Studies in London hosted an afternoon colloquium entitled 'Sixty Years of AJR Information: The Journal as a Resource for Research', co-organised by the Centre for German-Jewish Studies and the Association of Jewish Refugees. 2001 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the AJR. The Association's bulletin was first produced in 1941, was named AJR Information in 1946, and since then it has been published continuously. In January 2001 it was redesigned and renamed AJR Journal. The colloquium proved a great success, with over sixty people filling the venue in Russell Square, including many members of the AJR and several prominent scholars in the field of exile studies.

The emphasis during the afternoon was twofold: reflection on an impressive publishing achievement, and consideration of possible ways forward for the AJR and its journal. The colloquium was introduced by Professor Rüdiger Görner, director of the Institute, and Professor Edward Timms, both of whom stressed the desire to pay to tribute to the achievements of Jewish refugees in Britain, and to increase awareness of the journal's value as a primary resource for scholars.

The speakers included Sir Claus Moser, who paid tribute to what AJR Information has meant to him and his family over the years, Anthony Grenville, who has been systematically researching AJR Information, and Jon Hughes, who discussed AJR Information's early years in the context of German-language exile publishing until 1945. Dr Grenville emphasised the need for the creation of a full index of the journal, something which has never been undertaken. An enthusiastic debate on the future of the AJR and its journal concluded the afternoon. In the closing panel discussion a variety of opinions were expressed, both optimistic and pessimistic, but the consensus was that there is a future for AJR Journal, which, impressively, maintains a monthly circulation of over three thousand.

\'Guilty of Racism\': The Trial of Richard Wagner

Costume design for Siegfried (1876)

Costume design for Siegfried (1876)

The announcement that the \'Trial of Richard Wagner\' would be staged by the Centre in conjunction with the London Jewish Cultural Centre provoked a flurry of letters and e-mails among academics, some of them welcoming the project, others condemning it as fundamentally misguided. In the event, the large auditorium in Kidderpore Avenue was packed to capacity on Sunday 17 June when the High Court Judge, Sir Michael Burton, entered in his scarlet robes. The audience listened entranced as Dr Margaret Brearley, leading for the prosecution, reviewed Wagner\'s antisemitic writings, from the first publication of Das Judentum in der Musik in 1850 to the even more extreme comments which litter his later writings. Speaking for the defence, Dr Robert Cannon insisted that Wagner conceived music as a means of spiritual redemption, drawing on traditions established by the ancient Greeks. His comments on Jewish failings, Dr Cannon suggested, were designed to help Jews overcome the social disadvantages to which their alleged negative characteristics were due.

The witnesses called by Dr Brearley argued that antisemitic attitudes permeate not only Wagner\'s theoretical writings, but also the operas themselves. The relationship between Siegfried, the archetypal Germanic hero, and Mime the dwarf, provides a significant example. Contrasts were also drawn between the tendentiousness of Wagner\'s comments on the Jews, which lent themselves to exploitation by the Nazis, and the more discriminating position of Nietzsche. Dr Cannon responded by citing the testimony of Arnold Schoenberg in Wagner\'s defence.

In his magisterial summing-up, Sir Michael dismissed the allegation that the operas themselves encouraged racial antagonism. But he found Wagner guilty on the charge that his writings incited hostility towards Jews with the foreseeable consequence that they would be at risk of injury, loss and damage. He imposed a sentence of community service - to take all reasonable steps to assist in a change of management at Bayreuth.

New Research Project: Politics and Pictorial Narrative

The Centre has been awarded a generous three-year research grant by the Leverhulme Trust to conduct a study of \'Politics and Pictorial Narrative in the Nazi Period\' with reference to the work of three persecuted Jewish artists, Arnold Daghani, Felix Nussbaum and Charlotte Salomon. This investigation, which will begin in October 2001, will be led by Dr Deborah Schultz, currently cataloguer of the Daghani Collection, under the direction of Professor Edward Timms.

Conditions in the slave labour camps in the Ukraine, which shaped the paintings and writings of Daghani, will be contrasted with the experiences of exile in Belgium and France, which inspired Nussbaum and Salomon to produce work of such originality. By identifying the aesthetic principles underlying their work, the project will show how they developed new forms of pictorial narrative with an unmistakable political momentum. This project, which will involve cooperation with research centres in Germany, the Netherlands, Romania and Israel, will result in a book-length publication incorporating new insights into the relationship between art and politics.

A Legacy for Life

As a reader of this Newsletter, we know you value the importance of preserving for posterity the contribution made by German-speaking Jewish communities to modern European civilisation. This is not merely of historical, political or cultural interest; it has direct relevance in today\'s world in combating antisemitism and racial prejudice. But research projects, lectures, seminars and teaching a new generation about our rich heritage require financial resources.

We therefore appeal to you to join the ranks of those who support our efforts by a life-time donation or by a legacy in a Will or Codicil. In this way, you will ensure both that your name will be linked to the future of the Centre and that its work will continue to flourish. A solicitor from the London Support Group has offered to assist potential benefactors without charge. If you wish to receive further information or to arrange a meeting please call or e-mail Diana Franklin.