ARTICLES AND REVIEWS
Here are some examples of typical Second Generation Voices Magazine articles and reviews. Click here to find out about contributing to Second Generation Voices.
“Gustav and Franziska”
Written by Jonathan Myerson. BBC Sounds, This is Your Country Now, Too series. First broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 8 December 2019
‘Chadwick did the more difficult and dangerous work after the Nazis invaded.…he deserves all praise.’ Sir Nicholas Winton.
Following the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Sir Nicholas Winton devised an evacuation scheme to rescue Jewish children by air and rail to England. Until the day World War II broke out this operation was led in Prague by Trevor Chadwick, Beatrice Wellington and colleagues. British school teacher Trevor Chadwick, named by Jewish News (5 December 2019) and The Guardian (3 July 2015) as an unsung or forgotten hero, is at the centre of this new radio drama.
The series This is Your Country Now, Too consists of seven separate accounts featuring child refugees. This first play connects the work of Chadwick, Wellington and Winton to the fate of two children Gustav and Franziska. The story opens with the dramatic announcement of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s guarantee to Czechoslovakia, being superseded by the Czech Prime Minister broadcasting in March 1939, placing the Czech nation in a Greater German Reich.
The children’s father tells them, ‘Things are different now… this isn’t Czechoslovakia any more’. They observe loutish crowds saluting the Nazi occupiers. Official and unofficial British committees in Prague, associated with Sir Nicholas, are depicted battling bureaucracy and chaos to secure the passage of children from Prague through the Netherlands to England.
With Winton in London, the lead character, Latin master Trevor Chadwick, takes real personal risks to secure places for the children on departing trains. Chadwick denounces Nazis as gangsters, out for money. Played with charm by Damien Lewis, he confronts the Gestapo with a weapon they cannot comprehend — British humour and understatement. This is more unsettling to them than actual violence. They are confused as to how to respond. Behind this ‘sporting British chap’ front is determination, bravery and, crucially, organisation.
Parallel to the battles of Chadwick and Wellington, the parents of nine-year old Gustav and his elder sister Franziska face their own decision. They learn of the scheme to take children to London. It is the only way to save them but they may never see them again. The life the children have known disintegrates. Friends join the Hitler Youth, neighbours are beaten up and medical treatment refused.
As the children take up their places on the train, Mama and Papa say, ‘Do as we say, you don’t have to know why’. They tell them, ‘We will join you soon’. On arrival in England they are met by their new parents and personally by Mr Winton, who explains, ‘I’m sorry we couldn’t keep you together’.
The Committee saved 669 children — ‘not nearly enough’ — and they are devastated as the war breaks out and the final train never leaves Prague. Aspects of this story will of course be familiar to many Second Generation listeners but perhaps the role and persona of Trevor Chadwick less so. In placing him centre stage we learn more of the Kindertransport story as a whole and the perspective of those active in driving the organisation in that critical time window in London and Prague.
“Berlin to London: An Emotional History of Two Refugees”
by Esther Saraga (2019, Vallentine Mitchell & Co)
There are many unusual features in this book. Firstly, there is a high degree of self-reflection, with the author commenting on her own feelings as the story unfolds; this will resonate especially with a Second Generation audience. Although the main narrative drive in the book is the story of her parents leaving Berlin and coming to London, Saraga is keen to insert herself into this story, to talk about her feelings as she grew up and focus on her changing reactions, as she gradually uncovers more about her parents’ story.
Saraga recovers an array of letters, documents and photos, strewn all over her parental home after her mother’s death. Yet, she needs to rearrange it all into some sort of order, partly chronological, partly thematical, not only to make sense of it all, but also to enable her to retell the story to a wider audience.
Having ordered her material, Saraga then adds another layer, seeking to view the material with a critical approach by providing further contextualisation: elucidating on what was happening in the wider society at the time, in Nazi Germany before her parents were able to leave, during their stay in war-time England including internment, their struggles after the war, trying to get a visa for the elderly grandparent to enter Britain, or trying to get restitution from the German government
The starting point for much of the narrative in Saraga’s book are the letters that her parents wrote to each other between May and August 1938 before they got married, when her father had arrived in Britain on a one-month temporary visa, whilst her mother was still stuck in Berlin, desperately seeking to obtain a visa. Some 90 such letters were found when the house was cleared.
What comes across so movingly in these letters is the amount of moral support as well as love and tenderness they were sending each other, with her father, Wolja, feeling increasingly lonely and isolated in London, endlessly applying for jobs and extensions to his visa, while Lotte carried on working in Berlin caring for her mother.
What also comes across is the frustration, longing, anxiety, even reproaches, as they are waiting to be reunited.
What these letters document, together with war-time letters and documents, is the manner in which the couple negotiated their way with officialdom, refugee organisations, the Academic Assistance Council, and a host of other organisations, in their struggles to survive, find employment, get the right papers, appeal against internment and seek release, even once they were both in England.
Indeed, this book beautifully illustrates through the in-depth case study of just one couple, all the various trials and tribulations refugees from Nazi territories faced in their search for refuge in this country, even after entry into Britain.
In this respect, Saraga’s book is a wonderful complement to Tony Kushner’s much broader survey of the very same issues concerning Jewish refugees seeking sanctuary from 1933 to 1947, in his book Journeys from the Abyss, also reviewed in this issue of Second Generation Voices.
“90 Years of Leadership: Wiener to Laqueur to Cesarani to Barkow and now to Simpson”
(Excerpt from article)
The transition from one generation to the next of the directorship at the Wiener Holocaust Library, London, an institution dating back to the 1930s and having only three previous directors (Dr Alfred Wiener, Walter Laqueur and David Cesarani) was marked on 4 October 2019. Ben Barkow has now handed the mantel of Director to Dr Toby Simpson. Both Directors come with a passion for the institution and both have been impacted personally by WWII. Both are male and neither is Jewish. Each has brought and brings a distinctive energy and drive to the continuity and development of the Library.
And what about the role of the Second Generation? Admittedly, it does not appear this question has been at the forefront of the Library’s consideration, but is an ever-present aura and one to be considered.
In 2011, Barkow stated:
The survivor generation who saw those events at first hand is fading away and there is a debate about what to do next. Should their descendants become surrogate survivors – it’s hard to see how that would work – or should the message now be evidence-based? This library is a goldmine of evidence. It can supply that basis. Cathcart, B. (2011).
The above quote illuminates the quandary for Second Generation and Barkow is clear that the Second Generation cannot just ‘slot in’ when the Survivors are no longer here to tell their stories. There must be another role.
Simpson is a very articulate and engaging individual with enthusiasm for the breadth of subject covered by the Wiener Library as well as commitment to working with the various local and topical communities. Since first working with Simpson in 2015 while organizing the Holocaust Generations Conference, I have found that Simpson has without question been supportive of the work relating to the Second Generation. Time permitting, he makes an effort to contribute in whatever way possible. Now that the Library has established itself as an important institution, through the guidance of Ben Barkow, the Library is fortunate to have Toby Simpson as Director as it navigates the demands and needs of the times.
Anita H. Grosz