Janni explains the long silence

I’m still unearthing bits of the archive I hadn’t noticed before. A letter from 1947 written by my great-aunt, Marianne Bisi, turns out to be the first correspondence with my mother Ruth after the war had ended.


Janni and Vera. Janni was the elder of the two sisters and I remember her very well from my childhood. She died in 1972.

Marianne – or Janni as everyone knew her – was an adored, charismatic figure during my childhood when she made annual summer visits to us in south London in the 1960s and early 1970s, but I wonder if there was a certain frostiness in relations in 1947.

She had been married to an Italian count but was divorced from him and later lived with and looked after a spinally-injured friend and his daughter in Bad Berka, near Weimar, which ended up in the Russian Zone after the war.

Certainly, this missive has an air of defensiveness about it: she explains why she wasn’t able to go to her sister Vera (Ruth’s mother) when Vera was faced with deportation. We don’t know why this is the first letter between them, as Ruth had been in contact with other family members in Germany since the war ended – perhaps Ruth felt awkward about renewing contact.

Click here to see the original letter in German.

Here is the letter in an English translation, passage by passage:

Marianne Bisi 9. April 1947

Am Adelsberg, Bad Berka , near Weimar, Thüringen

Russian Zone, Germany

My dear Ruthi!

I have long awaited  a letter for you, but none has come, so I am writing to you first. Maybe you don’t have my address? Vaio , who has finally landed happily in Rome and has returned to his old position, wrote to me that you often wrote to him in Palestine; Rena, too, has had news from you. Dodo [was in touch with Raimund, and recently your friend Güldenstein from Switzerland wrote to me too. So I constantly got news about you, but now I hope I can have direct contact with you and Raimund.

The family had a habit of using nicknames:

  • Vaio was Janni’s son Valerio. He was in the Italian army and captured, then held as a Prisoner of War in Egypt. As a civilian he worked with Italian Airlines.
  • Rena was Serena, Janni’s daughter, who lived in Berlin. She was raped by Russian soldiers in 1945.
  • Siggy was Sigrid, daughter of the man whom Janni lived with in Bad Berka, near Weimar.
  • Dodo was Dora, Janni and Vera’s sister, who spent the war and subsequent years in Dresden. Her story is here.
Valerio letter_20180208_0001

Valerio Bisi

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Letter from Janni’s son Valerio to Ruth in 1946, written in Haifa. In it he chronicles his military service years as a wireless operator in north Africa, then working on transports in Turin before returning to Africa in 1940 and getting captured in Egypt.

Serena, Janni (Marianne) and Sigrid in Berlin

Serena, Janni and Sigrid in Berlin after the war.

Janni’s letter continues:

I have lived here since  autumn 1938  in the “green heart of Germany”, in rich forests and hills, lovely Thuringia with very dear, faithful spirited friends. When I was still in Schreiberhau I met an accomplished flower artist, whose brother had lost his wife two years earlier and lived in Bad Berka with a little daughter in quite an extreme distress and helplessness (he was severely injured in a work accident). Since Nonno wanted to go to Berlin and Rena was already there, and Dora’s house had to be sold, I quickly decided to go to Thuringia and act as substitute mother to the child.

Nonno was Martin Ephraim, the father of Janni and Vera. I don’t know what motivated him to go to Berlin (he may have felt safer there), but I have found at the Wiener Library in London several postcards written by him from various Berlin addresses, including the extraordinary Jewish Hospital (which still exists) where some Jews managed to survive right up to liberation in 1945.

Haus Lindenfels Schreiberhau 1964_20171211_0001

Haus Lindenfels, the Ephraims’ home in Schreiberhau (Szklarska Poreba), in the mountains near Poland’s border with the Czech Republic. The house still exists and is now a guesthouse.

There follows the staggering revelation that Janni was due to be deported in 1944. This is the first time I have heard this news. As  women with a Jewish father but non-Jewish mother she and her sister Dora were not first in line for deportation (and Vera would have been in the same position had she not married a Jew) but clearly something was amiss. How she escaped her fate is a mystery:

I was infinitely grateful and joyfully received by dear people and, have here – despite the emergency and danger, in which I languished constantly as a half-Jewish woman – had protection from close friends. Nonno and your dear mother were here for a visit; time and again our friends, despite persecution by the Gestapo, house searches, etc., bravely proved their undying and loyal decency.

Because I was in the house, my foster-daughter Sigrid-Maria, who is now 20 years old, was barred by the Nazis from becoming a teacher. My passport, my only official ID, was taken away, so when we got your mother’s urgent telephone call from Munich to urging us to come to her aid, we were not for one moment allowed to make that trip, because without ID you could not even get from here to Weimar past the permanent checks.

It would also have been too late, because Dodo, who had travelled to my place [in Berlin], already arrived too late … It was made impossible for us to undertake any relief action. I counted as a Jewess under Italian law and was treated accordingly. In the autumn of 44 I was to be taken away by the Gestapo to a labour camp, never to be seen again; only through a miracle was I spared this fate! But I have been forbidden to practise any profession, and I have agonised greatly over Rena, who for the whole period was in terrible air raids and fighting in Berlin, over Vaio, from whom there was often no news from one year to the next, and above all over our beloved Nonno and my beloved little Vera. Oh, I hope even now that she will come back; I certainly believe that she is still alive! May God help to make this the reality!

Vera’s death, probably at Majdanek concentration camp, was never recorded by the Nazi authorities, but as early as 1945 Ruth wrote in her diary that “99% of hope is dead” on the basis of Red Cross information. It is striking that Janni believed Vera could still be alive in 1947.

I don’t know what documents and letters Janni is referring to in the next part of the letter, but it may include the Red Cross messages that were sent by Ruth and Raymond to their parents; these messages are now in the Imperial War Museum.

There is still the expectation that Ruth and Raymond will want to reclaim the family home in Dachau. That never happened, although the German government did eventually give some compensation for the losses incurred in the war:

Ruthi, I still have the last documents and letters here, all that she has kept for you in pictures and writings of the past. I am guarding everything carefully, and if you want, as soon as possible, I will send the items to you. Should I go to Rome, they will remain available to you here in a designated suitcase with your address. My landlady is Mrs. Gertrud Küchler, the address you see above.

Dora wrote to me saying that Raimund was in Dachau and you will probably get the house again. Quite right! I give you here the address of a couple living in Dachau, friends of our friend Elli Kindermann, The gentleman is working in a radio factory and would certainly be happy to take care of your interests, and also if you want he could live in the house and manage it for you, so long as eg Dodo cannot: Harald and Else Küffner, Dachau Obb., Bruker Str. 2. They should be very nice, completely reliable and decent people. If you need them and want to get in contact with them, you can always do so by citing Miss Kindermann and me.

And some general chitchat about Ruth’s work as a nursery teacher (one of the few professions available for her as an alien during the war). There’s also mention of a Christian contact of Janni, who was a vegetarian and pacifist:

I was very interested to hear about your work as a municipal kindergarten teacher in Cambridge. Do you remember that during 1928-32 there was in Dresden a “progressive private kindergarten” set up, built on completely new, original principles? The children had individual and collective gymnastics and learned English and French through play, were also trained manually in all kinds of handicrafts, and above all, had their more creative spirit  stimulated by inventing toys of their own imagination! I had 20 children to take care of, together with the ingenious artist and professional educator Herbert Küas. Have you been able to use Vera’s rhythmic song games in your kindergarten? “Now we shake out the bedding” .. “Rain, rain, little droplets” .. and so on? I have often used the lovely exercise games in my gymnastics lessons. Vera always wanted to translate them into English and have them printed in England. Could not you take that in hand now? Then I’ll send you what songs are here etc. It would be good to find a publisher and an illustrator who can add some pretty drawings.

As a little girl you also had a lovely talent for drawing. Did you develop that further? I would love to hear about what you are particularly interested in. And Raimund? He always wanted to be a film director, but had such a great gift for acting.

Do you have English nationality now and do you want to stay there? For now, it is certainly a good idea, until everything has become clearer and better sorted out, that you stay where you are. A very dear old man, priest of the New Catholic Church, who used to live in Edinburgh for a long time and has now lived in Cambridge for 14 years, recently wrote to me about a sought after book “The Gospel of the Holy Twelve,” which I wanted to translate. I replied to him and told you about you; it is now very likely that he will invite you to visit him. He seems to be a very cultured, kind person, probably a vegetarian and animal rights activist like me. Do give him my best wishes when you see him.

She enquires of Hans’ sister Betty and her son GustlBetty escaped from Germany in 1941 and spent the war years in Colombia with Gustl, who ran a bus company there; she returned to Germany after the war.

The list of clothing requests that follows paints a familiar picture. Ruth sent parcels to Janni and Dora in those postwar years, when life in the Russian Zone of a destroyed Germany must have been a barrel-scraping experience for many. In reciprocation, I remember on our first family holiday in Germany in 1966, Janni sent us a huge food parcel (below) – clearly those days of austerity had not been totally forgotten:

1967 berghausle (13)

If you have a picture of you and Raimund, please send it to me. You will also get some photos of us as soon as I know that this letter has reached you safely. And, dear child, please write often: I will be so glad if I can at least to a slight extent replace your beloved mother. She and your equally dear father. Do Aunt Betty and Gustel sometimes write? What is their address?

Ruthi, could you possible send me a parcel? We are  in dire need here, as you know … And as soon as possible, I’ll reimburse you. I need Stockings size 10, but not too thin, and also a pair of solid sports boots size 40/41 or loafers – at least used ones – if possible with leather soles and heels, also 1 pair of warm knickers, and for father Lüderitz, who is very weak (spine three times broken) 1 pair of warm trousers, about Nonnos size – medium. We don’t mind which colour. Also he really needs some strong shoes. He needs things so much … everything is needed, of course, if you could get it through friends.

We are all so woefully destitute and can buy nothing. Rena also wrote that she needed something to wear, but “only good quality, please, Mutti”. Shoes too, no. 41. I do not want to place heavy burdens on you. You can see if you can somehow find something for us poor persecutees of fascism. We would also be grateful for thin elastic, and size 2B stocking suspenders. I do not dare to ask you for extra food, because you also have a lack of it and you can only send it from your own food card.

All the best for now, my Ruthi, and write soon. Warmest greetings for you and Raimund and let’s hope soon for a happy reunion!

Always your faithful aunt Marianne


Raymond and Marianne (known by everyone as Tante Janni) in 1963, outside the south London house where I was born, in Charlecote Grove, Sydenham.



Janni with me (Tim, in Lederhosen), and my brothers Nic and Stephen, in 1964, at our house in Sydenham, south London.



Holocaust Memorial Day thoughts

As we approach 27 January 2018, Holocaust Memorial Day, some thoughts and updates on the Ephraim-Neumeyer story.

Hans Neumeyer commemorations

A couple of events in Germany are featuring Hans Neumeyer’s life. On 25 January in Munich, Die Zukunft der Erinnerung is a project run by BLLV (www.bllv.de) for Bavarian schools commemorating Bavarian Jewish teachers that were victims of the Holocaust. Hans is one of the teachers who will be highlighted in a talk given by a student, and his music will be played at the ceremony. Violinen der Hoffnung (Violins of Hope) is a concert of music at Dachau’s Schloss (17 February) played on violins from the Weinstein family collection: these were entrusted to the Weinsteins by musicians deported to concentration camps – some instruments were even used in the camps themselves – including in Dachau. The violins have been restored by the Weinsteins and two movements from Hans Neumeyer’s trio will be played in a programme featuring Beethoven, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Bloch, Zipper, Suppé, Dvorak and Schumann.  Below is my note about Hans in the programme.

Tim Locke's programme note from Violins of Hope  concert in Dachau February 2018Screen Shot 2018-01-20 at 10.34.55

The Power of Words

Each year the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust has a different theme. This year it’s The Power of Words. I’ve put together a little exhibition at Lewes Library (on until 9 February), highlighting words and phrases that tell the family story.


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The themes highlighted are:

If I knew the world would end tomorrow I would still plant my apple tree today.

This quote from Martin Luther was written on a scrap of paper by my great grandfather Martin. While incarcerated at Theresienstadt concentration camp, he gave it to his friend Walter, who survived; Martin did not. Walter was a lawyer and after liberation became a public prosecutor of Nazis. He visited Auschwitz in this role and wrote on the same scrap of paper ‘This helped at Auschwitz’.

apple tree quote by M Ephraim to W Hirschberg_20171211_0001I was born here. I will die here too.

Martin was a steadfast German. Very patriotic but also very stubborn. His son tried to persuade him to emigrate to America in the early Hitler years (around 1934) but Martin refused: “I was born here”. Even as things closed in around him he couldn’t believe it: ‘Germans would never do a thing like that!’ he exclaimed.

The seasons will come again and we shall forever be part of the seasons, but here in Theresienstadt this isn’t happening.

Hans Neumeyer’s words shortly before his death in Theresienstadt concentration camp. He was a blind composer and music teacher but survived two years in the camp, giving music lessons in exchange for food.

Going on journey

“Going on journey, but cheerful and happy, healthy. Father same. Keep happy! Mother”: the last Red Cross message from my grandmother Vera to her family. She was bound for a concentration camp (probably Majdanek) in Poland. Messages like this were censored and what you could say was highly restricted: “Going on journey” was a recognised way of saying “Deportation”.

red-cross_veras-last-message-09-07-1942.jpgFarewell, I am in good spirits and well prepared for whatever happens

The last line of a letter Vera wrote while on the train bound for the concentration camp in Poland. We never heard from her again. We don’t know how this letter got delivered.

How dare you enter the house of a Jew?

In 1937 my mother, uncle and other children from Dachau were performing a play in their house, with friends and neighbours watching. Suddenly there was a hammering at the door: “How dare you enter the house of a Jew?”. SS men trooped in and shouted these words at everyone. The lodger was arrested and sent to Dachau Concentration Camp for a short spell (he never spoke about it when he returned). My mother said ‘That was the end of our plays’. And it was the end of her childhood.

plays in photo album6+ 2 Kinder

On the list of Jewish families living in Dachau were typed the names of my grandfather and grandmother, Hans and Vera Neumeyer. Some official had scribbled in the margin: + 2 Kinder (‘and two children’) – thus making sure that my mother Ruth and uncle Raimund would not escape the Nazis’ attentions.

Dachau cutting 4


We accept the noble-hearted offer of you brother and your sister-in-law with joyful relief. The contents of your last letter came to us as a light sent by God through the hopeless dark of the night around us.

The words Vera Neumeyer wrote when the Paish family in England agreed to take in my mother and uncle who travelled there on the Kindertransport programme.


The first word of Ruth’s diary entry on arriving in England, 12 May 1939, recording her breakfast with her newly adopted English family in Weybridge. And the first word of English in the diary. No great thoughts about this tumultuous happening. Just ‘cornflakes’. And a new life begins.

Diary entries May 1939

The 1939 diary in which Ruth records her journey dates to England. Can anyone decipher the writing?

How often we talked about you and how you are, and if we’d ever see each other again. We spent so many wonderful hours together at your house. To think that your lovely parents were killed by those beastly SS men! 

Please don’t blame all the Germans! We couldn’t do anything – we took no part in what happened. There are still lots of good people. Please write soon!

Frau Steurer, a family friend of the Neumeyers, writing from Dachau to Ruth and Raymond in 1946. She and her daughters are overjoyed to find the Neumeyer children are safe in England and urge them to come back to Dachau.


Exempt from Registration

The entry in red ink here at the bottom of the page in Raymond’s registration document states ‘Exempt from Registration’, marking the date he joined the British army. This was the first time he felt accepted by his adopted country. Previously he had to register with police each time he changed address, even if only temporarily; the book is crammed full of police stamps.

registration card p14-15

Footnote: the Bear departs

And an update on the Imperial War Museum: last week Jess, Lucy and James from the museum came to look at the archive, which will be taken in its entirety into the museum.  They’ve measured up specific items for display in the remodelled World War II and Holocaust galleries (opening 2020) and taken them to the museum. Here’s the farewell pic of Ruth’s teddy, brought over on the Kindertransport on 10 May 1939. In the conservation department he’ll be freeze dried, to get rid of any resident bugs, but after this initial humiliation will have a privileged retirement that will probably outlive all of us.


Words and photos ©Tim Locke

After the Kindertransport: the view from Munich, May–June 1939

I have in front of me a substantial pile of letters – some dated, others not – from Vera and Hans Neumeyer to their children (from my grandparents to my mother and uncle), the latter newly arrived via Kindertransport and starting new lives in England. Most are written in Vera’s neat handwriting. A handful are typed by the blind Hans. His typewriter ribbon is getting fainter with each successive letter. On one letter there’s hardly a character legible.

Though the letters are 78 years old, they’re red-hot news. I’ve never till this week got round to reading them: it’s a slow process, but I’m starting on the translation, hugely  helped by Jürgen from Gross-Gerau (the father of my cousin’s cousin) who’s transcribing them one by one, and giving lots of useful advice. There are over fifty in total, and so far he has done the first eight that are dated.

I’ve had a look ahead to July and learn that Vera is planning an escape to England by car with the Ephraims: more on that in a future post.

envelope from Vera 5 June 1939Suddenly Vera and Hans have a voice: there’s a new dimension to the story and they’ve come to life. We get the picture of everyday life at the Neumeyers, and even hints of Ruth and Raymond’s lives in England – as so much of the content of the children’s letters is referred to.

Read the letters in the original German

A pdf of the originals of this batch of letters can be viewed here: Vera’s letters dated 01

Hans wrote far less often: all his letters can be viewed here: Hans Neumeyer letters to children 1939

So here are the letters and postcards from May and June, partly edited (there are other undated letters which I’ve yet to translate; some of these may well fit in here):

11 May 1939  – after the Kindertransport train rolled away

This is the date Ruth and Raymond arrived in England. We learn that after saying goodbye to the children at Munich’s railway station, Hans and Vera realised they had forgot to give them some bread rolls they had brought for their journey. Then they walked back home and had tea.

From Hans:

My dear children! So here is the first greeting to my long-travelled ones. So this is what happened! After your train rolled away, we rolled away too. We went home on foot. Then we drank a little tea – ‘of course’, Mani [Raymond] will say.

Wednesday did not go until Leo appeared at half past ten in the morning. In the afternoon, In the evening I spoke to Dela [Dela Blakmar, Hans’ secretary] in Lucerne on the phone. She was very happy about your disappearance – yes, we’ve let you go! We are glad that you are fine so far and are looking forward to your further reports. All the best, my dear little ones and keep happy.



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Hans, completely blind, typed all his letters and managed a squiggly signature.

From Vera; we do not know the identities of the friends referred to:

My beloved sparrows!

Now you have happily completed the great journey and are in the big country, where everything is new to you. Our thoughts are always with you. Today, your card came with the first post from Frankfurt and the second post brought your card from Cologne, as well as a letter from Käte Holler, in which she says how she was happy with you and how happy you are. She also sent enclosed greetings from Grossvati [Grandfather – Martin Ephraim], which he had sent to her to hand it to you; But that letter only arrived when she returned from the train, and so she sent it to me.

Mrs Nathan [presumably one of the Kindertransport administrators] phoned me to let me know that today you will have lunch at Harwich and arrive in London in the afternoon. I’m really looking forward to your reports. But first you have to sleep well!

This afternoon I will call you, then I go to the “Heidelinden”, to Mrs. Bergmann and to Helmuth.

I have a cold, otherwise all is fine. Yesterday, Leo came here to eat [more about Leo in the letter of 1 June 1939, when Vera reports that he’s going to Shanghai – so we can guess Leo was Jewish and had to flee]: we had scrambled eggs and salad, in the evening I ate the rest of the noodle soup, today we’re having rice with chives and in the evening whipped cream.

Yesterday I picked up my winter coat from the tailor who had done a good job on it.

When the train left I remembered I’d forgotten the rolls. I immediately thought that you would have got some fresh ones in Frankfurt.

A thousand greetings


13 May 1939: long-distance parenting

From Vera. The children are about to start school. There’s a reference to Clarisse and Walter, who we can assume were also children who had arrived on the Kindertransport. Lots of advice and long-distance parenting in evidence here:

My dear, good children!

I have received many messages from you; two arrived yesterday evening, and took less than 24 hours to get here; we’ve had one from Mrs Paish, who is very enthusiastic about you. You may already have news from Marie Oppenheim and Grete Marx; they would have liked to come to meet your train [the arrival of the Kindertransport at Liverpool Street], but it was only possible to get access with a special ID card, which is for guarantors only. Mrs Paish was told that that she should be at the train at 2.30: you had to wait quite a long time in the hall and hopefully did not get too hungry.

Good to hear that the luggage has come with you; so you have everything with you now. The strip on the big suitcase should soon be repositioned; it does not seem to last long.

Do not be shy and be prepared to talk! In 4 weeks you will be able to communicate well; but only if you really talk a lot and are not afraid of making mistakes.

Mrs Paish writes that the car unfortunately only drove through back streets of London; I am glad that you have already seen some of the famous buildings; surely you will soon see more of the city. I’ve also read the cards that Clarisse and Walter wrote home. The telegram that announced your happy arrival just arrived at when we were having our semolina soup on Thursday evening.

Too bad that I cannot get you any camera film. Can you get some there? How are you getting on sleeping in English beds? What is the food like?

Thank you very much for writing so nicely.  You do not need to write until Wednesday, then Mani can tell us about school and Ruthi about the lessons, etc. Do you get marks? In any case, I enclose a reply slip.

Always put your clothes and clothes neatly on the chair when you get undressed! If you do not need the new woollen blankets, please hand them over to Mrs. Eckhard for protection against moths.

A big kiss from me,

Your Mutti

Kindertransport suitcases

These cases travelled on the Kindertransport with Ruth and Raymond. Only recently did I notice remnants of luggage labels including the words ‘Hook [of Holland]’ and ‘Liverpool Street’

From Hans; the postal service between England and Germany was staggeringly fast in 1939 and was a source of wonderment:

We have been able to follow your journey very well. Your card, which arrived punctually, formed a lifeline that made us very happy. On Thursday evening, about half past nine we got the telegram of Mrs. Paish which brought great reassurance. We have now received a very loving and detailed letter from Mrs. P. and can now imagine a little how things are with you.

Your letter, which you sent to us on Thursday was a particularly nice surprise, because it came here so quickly  – as if it had known that it was so eagerly awaited; it arrived on Friday evening. Quite how that happened, I don’t understand.

So for now the sounds of English speech will be wafting across your peckers. Well, that will change soon enough. By the way, I can understand it very well, it would be no different for me either. I hope Raymond isn’t bursting because he wants to speak and nothing comes out. Dreadful, that sort of thing, isn’t it? 

It was nice of your luggage to follow in your footsteps. For that reason, you must handle your things well and be friendly with them. 

Here at home there is still nothing new, as the task of fishing out another part of my tooth is really nothing new at all – it belongs to the order of the day. But now it’s just once, and that’s it. Finish. I am very happy that I am not a shark, as I would be forced to tread all too often that lovely path to the ‘yanking animal’ [i.e. the dentist].

Dela has been back since yesterday afternoon and will prove it to you with a couple of handwritten lines. Goodbye my good people. Please greet your dear protectors and greetings to you.

From your Vati

15 May 1939: we can accompany you in spirit on your journey

From Vera (more marvelling at the speed of the post service; we learn that she is also sending over items such as an cake-icing syringe):

My beloved children! To think that your letter arrived on Sunday morning and was stamped in N. only on Saturday 4 clock in the afternoon)! This is faster than the post here goes from the suburbs to the city. The Doctor [one of several references to the ‘Doctor’ in these letters; maybe he was living with them?] thinks that all English mail is carried by plane (across the Channel), and otherwise this speed would be inexplicable. Anyway, I’m terribly happy that mail is arriving so quickly and I hope that this airmail letter will not be too long on the way.

Your reports are quite famous and have made us very happy. They have been read out at least four times, one has been forwarded by Grandfather to Tante Dodo and Tante Janni, one to Tante Betty, and Anna E. also read it at noon today. You write in such detail and so vividly that we can accompany you in spirit on your whole journey.

We see that everything went well on the way and that you had no opportunity to starve. The cabins must have been really nice, I can well imagine them according to your description and Ruth’s drawing. Why you’ve had to get up so early, when got off from the ship at 11.00, is not quite that strange to me. But the main thing is that you’re well rested and ready to face all the new, beautiful, if difficult, things with fresh energy. I know all these language difficulties from my own experience, but it will not be very long before it will be easier.

Am longing to know about the Eckhards and the beginning of the school!

Please tell me if you are given stamps.

I want you to keep in touch with the  Lesers [the family the Neumeyers lived with for a time in Munich; Ursula Leser was Ruth’s age and she,  her sister Annemie and her mother all came to England – Ursula and Ruth remained close friends throughout their lives] and Nathan. Just as I was with Helmuth today, the first letter from Walter and Clarisse came from P.

Incidentally, I address my letters alternately to each of you; of course, they are always meant for both of you.

It also seems to be pretty cold in England, because Ruthi had to warm her hands while writing.

It really surprised me that  you and all luggage fitted into a car. Have you taken any pictures yet? Yesterday I thought about you all the time, how you went to an English church for the first time. You need to get a hymn book. If you want anything or need anything translated, write to me.

I have found Ruthi’s cake icing syringe and the belt of her striped summer dress and send it to you. How many bars of chocolate have you eaten? And how are you getting on with English food?

Many thousands of greetings and kisses from Mutti.

Vera's signing off letter with a kiss

“Viele Küsse! Mutti” – Vera signs off a letter to the children with “lots of kisses”.


Anthony and Raymond 1939

Raymond (on the right) with Anthony Paish children in the garden of the Paish’s house, 86 Kingsley Way, Hampstead Garden Suburb. Anthony remembers Ruth and Raymond just after they arrived, both rather small and in Bavarian dress – Ruth in a Dirndl and Raymond in Lederhosen.

29 May 1939: visits to London, cookery ingredients and Dalcroze lessons

From Vera. There was an agreement between the parents and children to write twice a week, so that they could be reassured that all was well, but it was  evidently extremely worrying if post didn’t turn up. This letter was written 12 days since the previous one, so I assume that some of the undated letters – which I’ve yet to look at – intervened:

Dear Ruthi,

It was high time that your letter arrived. I almost sent a telegram, because I was very worried that you hadn’t written and I was thinking about what could have possibly happened. So, in the future, you’ll keep what we’ve agreed and divide the long letter on either Saturdays or Sundays, the shorter one (which may even be just a note) on Wednesday.

I was very glad to hear about your trip to London and that you have now experienced this interesting city. How are Paishes and their children? Mrs Eckhard has written me a nice little letter that everyone likes you very much and you are fine. She asks me to tell you that you would like to turn to her in confidence if you or Mani need something for example, if you are clogged up (“constipated’ in English). [there follows a list of ailments, translated into English]

Very surprised to hear that it’s so hot in England  and the sun shines until 9. Not the case here: it’s pouring and cold.

You should know that an English ounce = 28 grams. Now you can convert recipes.

There are certainly noodles over there, maybe they are called vermicelli. Otherwise you can make it easy yourself What is called bouillon cube, I do not know exactly. Anyway, Fleisch extract ] is called Extract of meat and Würfel is “Cube” . I will to see if I can send some; but it is easier if you look in Mr. Eckhard’s grocery store [the children were staying with Oscar Eckhard, who ran this shop, and helped him there], if he has none and ask him.

Paishes 1939

Ruth and Josie Eckhard outside Oscar Eckhard’s shop in Weybridge, 1939

Good to hear that the school is so nice. Everything you tell me is good news to me; also your lovely excursion with the churches and the windmill you drew.

Write what you do in your Dalcroze lessons! Of course I think it’s a good idea to change the black dress to a Dalcroze dress.[Ruth was learning Dalcroze eurythmics at the school; since Vera taught the Dalcroze method, she must have been very pleased about that.]

When is your performance? Do you understand A Midsummer Night’s Dream in English? How is cricket played? I do not know it. We played lacrosse with hard rubber balls caught in nets attached to bars. Is Mani playing tennis?

Does the girl whose mother knows Miss Hirst, Freeman?

I am very happy to hear about your pocket money.

Thanks for the nice house plan, I can now imagine everything well. Take care of the gas stove.

Where are Mani’s clothes and things kept? Do you have room for everything?

For today, darling. A kiss from your Mutti

P.S. Many greetings to the teddies.

How are you getting on with washing and ironing?

1 June 1939: “You are my beloved sparrows who happily trudge around the world and use your little wings”

From Vera:

My beloved children! Yesterday came your letter from London, which was opened this time by customs. It’s nice that you have spent those days in London. Your description of the house is so good that we can picture it perfectly. You are my beloved sparrows, and I am so glad when you so happily trudge around in the world and use your little wings. You are very independent and you are way ahead of others; you have learned that by traveling much earlier. It’s nice for Mutti as she can see the world completely fresh through your eyes.

So the underground or tube was so ghost-like! Yes, that must be strange when the stairs come rolling up with all those people reading their newspapers!

The Paishes’ garden must be beautiful, and the high rhododendrons in the new garden must be gorgeous.What do those very, very funny monkey-puzzle trees look like, Mani? And Ruthi, don’t keep saying “unfortunately”. Did you get the noodles I sent?

Ruth and Elizabeth Paish 1939

Elizabeth Paish and Ruth

I’m sitting in the sunshine with Frau Spielmann on her balcony on the 3rd floor. It’s lovely up here, you can see the hawthorn, the golden rain and the towers of the Paulskirche. It reminds me how beautiful St Paul’s Cathedral in London is – you have to see it. By the way, if you haven’t written to Rosie, please do so now; she wrote me a very nice letter and asks for your address, so she can visit you when she comes to England soon. Address: 150 Claremont Ave [this is in Manhattan, New York; they knew her as Tante Rosie but she seems to have been a family friend; we have four letters from 1941-43 from her, including two asking for news of Hans and Vera after their disappearance] .

Mrs. Paish sent a card with her house on it and wrote that she would like to send photos soon.

Ruth’s questionnaire idea is excellent and we’ll do that soon. So you two frogs have green school uniforms! I am so happy that you both are at school. Am terribly curious for more news about it. At Mani’s school, things will probably be very difficult at first, because I think English boys’ schools are very demanding. Don’t lose heart! You will get to like it over time. On Wednesday I went with Onki [Julius Kohn, the Neumeyer’s lodger and friend; he died in Auschwitz] to the cathedral for the last devotion of May, which was very nice.

Leo has had a letter returned that he sent to you but had misaddressed. So he’s really going to Shanghai.

That’s all for today.

Have a lovely weekend,


14 June 1939: party games, Shanghai and Woking

A postcard from Vera, suggesting party games for children, mentioning the departure of their friend Leo to Shanghai. and requesting photos of the children’s new family in England. She mentions Aranka: this is Aranka Wirsching, who lived at the Pollnhof at Dachau; the Aranka and Otto Wirsching were artist friends of the Neumeyers, and maintained contact after the war – her son Anselm wrote numerous letters to Ruth from a British Prisoner of War camp in Egypt during 1946-47; I have yet to translate them.

Dear children

Your letter arrived earlier, this time it took a bit longer because it had been opened by customs. I’m glad that you have the balance and can bake now. The birthday party should be fun. For games I suggest you play ‘grab the sausage’, climbing blindfolded over bottles, a sack race or a three-legged race (arms crossed), a sliding race or tying pairs of wrists together and getting each pair of children to untie themselves.

Anna is almost always there at noon. Today Aranka visited me. Unfortunately, you can not write to Leo here because he is leaving for Shanghai today; he will certainly write to you on the way. It must be nice in Woking! At noon there were strawberries with milk. There isn’t any cream. I hope we’ll get some pictures from you soon; don’t the Eckhards have any equipment? Your questions will be answered in the next letter.

1000 greetings!



Wartime Red Cross messages: fragments of news filter through from Germany

Red Cross letters grouped

After her journey on the Kindertransport  with her brother Raymond to England, my mother Ruth kept the correspondence from her parents, Vera and Hans, to her and Raymond. We have 57 letters from the parents from 1939–40 – all but eight of these are from Vera. Hans, being blind, typed his; in one letter his typewriter ribbon has hardly any ink so it’s virtually a blank page with illegible indentations. From Vera, 26 are dated (the last dated 5 March 1940) and 23 are undated or incomplete.

When writing from the UK to Germany in early 1940 letters had to be placed in an open unstamped envelope, within a stamped envelope posted to Thos. Cook & Son in Berkley Street, London W1, with a two-shilling postal order, the name and full address of the sender, and an open addressed envelope for the forwarding of a reply should one be received from the correspondent in Germany.

Specific rules about the contents of the letter were given:

Letters should be written in English or German without the address of the sender, and must contain nothing but matters of personal interest. No enclosure of the following nature is permitted – any printed matter, map, plan, sketch, drawing, print, photograph or other descriptive or pictorial representation , or postage or revenue stamp No reference should be made to any phase of the war. No mention may be made in such letters, of any office of Thos. Cook & Son Ltd. at home or abroad.

Once a month, 25 words maximum: the Red Cross messages

During 1940 it was no longer possible to send letters by mail. Instead the only way of making contact was through Red Cross messages. These were very limiting: a maximum of 25 words and a maximum of one message per month. They did however show the handwriting of the correspondents.

What particularly struck me this week as I typed these messages out in date order was the amount of waiting and uncertainty there must have between sending and receiving: they took weeks to get to Switzerland, then weeks more to get to their destination. And when they arrived, they reassured the recipient that the sender was still alive several weeks ago, but there’s no real news apart from the surreal announcements that one was well and happy, and life was normal – and both parties knew the truth was far from that.

It is remarkable that we have the messages died in concentration camps. These messages seem to have been passed to Dora (Vera’s sister), who spent the entire war in Dresden and later passed various items of correspondence to Ruth.

The earliest Red Cross message we have is from Ruth to her parents. It has the handwritten date 10 June 1940 but the official stamps 12 August 1940 and 23 September 1940 [the latter, presumably the date it was transmitted or received; the other messages Ruth sent similarly have handwritten and officially stamped dates.)

She mentions the ‘flute music’ – this would have been the recorder duets Hans composed for Ruth and her friend Jane.

The message is set out as follows (with printed material from the form in bold; each item is also translated into German):


[datestamp:]12 AUGUST 1940; 23 September 1940


Christian name Ruth

Address 71 Barton Road Cambridge

c/o Mrs Stirland

Relationship of Enquirer to Addressee Daughter

The Enquirer desires news of the Addressee and asks that the following message should be transmitted to him.


Date 10.6.1940





The addressee’s reply to be written overleaf.

The rest of the messages

Subsequent Red Cross messages are in the same format. Most sent from England have two rubberstamped dates (in addition to the handwritten one at the date of writing) – one showing the date it was received in Switzerland, the other showing the date it was received by the German Red Cross. Here are the messages with just the dates and message (Ruth’s are written in block capitals, but Vera wrote in cursive script or typed her messages; I have inserted some editorial full stops to ease reading):

From Ruth, date almost illegible but seems to be 22 July 1940, rubberstamped 23 August 1940 [Ruth is putting on plays – her favourite pastime, just like the Neumeyers did back in Dachau]


From Ruth, 23 July 1940, rubberstamped 23 August 1940 and 2 November 1942 [- does this really mean it was returned undelivered more than two years later? That would have been after Vera’s presumed death in a concentration camp.]


From Vera and Hans, 17 September 1940, rubberstamped 4 October 1940 [unfortunately none of the flute music referred to has survived, though he wrote his duo in August 1940 and his trio in 1939-4, both of which exist.]

Alle gesund. Mutti viele Stunden und Ausflüge Vati viele Flöten – und andere Stücke komponiert. Seid Ihr zusammen? Von Rosi Nachricht. Euch beiden immigste  Grüsse! Eltern

All well. Mother many hours and excursions. Father composes many flute and other pieces. Are you together? Best wishes to you both! Parents

From Vera and Hans, 25 September 1940, rubberstamped 15 October 1940: from parents [Raymond was no longer with Ruth; best wishes are from Hans, Martin Ephraim and Vera’s sisters Marianne and Dora].

Sehr erfreut über Deine Julibriefe. Wir sind alle gesund und denken an Euch. Wo ist Raimund? Innigste Grüsse, auch von Vati, Grossvati and deine Tanten. Mutti

Very glad to get your July letter. We are all well and thinking of you. Where is Raymond? Sincerest wishes, also from Father, Grandfather and your aunts. Mother

From Ruth, 24 September 1940, rubberstamped 3 December 1940 and 17 January 1941 [this hints at the slow arrival of the messages – Ruth gives birthday greetings and said she had a lovely birthday herself, but both her and her mother’s birthdays were in September]:


From Ruth, no handwritten date, rubberstamped 15 January 1941 and 25 February 1941:


From Ruth, 7 January 1941, rubberstamped 19 March 1941 and 6 June 1941:


From Hans and Vera, 4 February 1941 [from here onwards, their messages were written in English]:

Dearest Children,

All well, glad about your news. Had beautiful Christmas and snow excursions. Keep on working. All relations and friends send you love.


From Ruth, 4 May 1941, rubberstamped 2 May 1941 and 24 July 1941:


From Hans and Vera, 11 March 1941:

All well. Glad having got your news. Mother teaches, father composes. All friends and relatives send greetings.

Love to you both.


From Vera, 7 April 1941, rubberstamped 17 April 1941 and 25 April 1941 [this is the only Red Cross message from Vera to be on an official form with addresses of senders and recipients – all the others are just handwritten on paper with a rubberstamped date; the Neumeyers are still at Thorwaldsenstrasse 5, Munich; Raymond was by then working on a farm and not happy; the ‘servant Anna’ is I think Anna Kürzinger, whom Ruth described as her nanny/nurse – she survived the war and I remember visiting her with my parents in Dachau in 1966]:

Received Raimond’s farming greetings. Very glad. What about his confirmation? We all well and working. Our servant Anna married. I went to grandfather’s birthday. Mother.

From Ruth, 20 May 1941, rubberstamped 18 July 1941 and 2 December 1941:


Red Cross 20 5 1941From Vera and Hans, 19 June 1941 [Aunt Dodo/Tante Dodo – was Vera’s sister Dora, who lived in Dresden for the rest of her life; she refers to Betty, Hans’ sister, who has gone to Columbia to join her son Gustl (Gustav)]

All  well. Aunt Dodo was here, Aunt Betty has gone to Gustl. Mother works much. How are you both?

Love from all.


From Vera and Hans, 22 July 1941, rubberstamped 11 August 1941:

All well. Glad about your news. Do tell more about new home and Raymond. Mother likes gardening work. Best wishes for your Birthday, dear!


From Ruth, 3 September 1941, rubberstamped 18 November 1941:


From Vera and Hans, 26 November 1941, rubberstamped 15 December 1941:

All well, hoping same of you two. Working busily. Greetings from relations and friends. Best wishes for Xmas and Raimund’s birthday.


From Raymond, 10 February 1942, rubberstamped 2 March 1942 and 4 May 1942 [sent from Birmingham, where Raymond was working in a bicycle factory]:


From Vera, 25 January 1942, rubberstamped 18 February 1942:

Happy about your news. Hope all enjoyed your Xmas play. Did you spend holidays with brother? All well. Love from parents, grandfather, aunts and friends.

From Ruth, 17 March 1942, rubberstamped 10 April 1942 and 10 July 1942 [mention of nursery training she was then doing at Wellgarth, near Swindon]:


From Raymond, 31 March 1942, rubberstamped 19 June 1942:


From Vera and Hans to Raymond, 1 May 1942:

Very well and glad about your news. What work are you doing? Mother doing gardening-work. Do you meet Ruth often? Love to both!


From Vera, 17 June 1942, rubberstamped 31 July 1942 [only signed by her; presumably she was no longer with Hans]:

Very happy about your and Ruth’s messages. Sure you enjoyed Messiah as I did. Should like to hear about your work

Am healthy.

Love Mother

From Vera, 9 July 1942 [her last message, just before deportation to a concentration camp near Lublin (probably Madjanek), where she would have likely been murdered on arrival; to get past the censors she just says ‘going on journey’ rather than the actual truth; this was the last ever heard from her apart from her letter written on the train to the camp]:

Going on journey, but cheerful and happy, healthy. Father same.

Keep in touch with aunt Dora Böse, Dresden, Leipzigerstrasse 147.

Keep happy!


red-cross_veras-last-message-09-07-1942.jpgFrom Martin Ephraim, undated, rubberstamped 20 or 28 November 1942 [this is the only message sent by Martin; by then he was in the Jewish Hospital in Iranische Strasse, Berlin, before his deportation to Theresienstadt in January 1944]:

Dearest Ruthi

Received with pleasure your good news. Am quite well. Don’t know where parents are now. Many greetings.

Grandfather Martin.

From Raymond to Dora, 13 October 1942, rubberstamped 2 November 1942 and 28 December 1942 [Vera having been deported, Raymond now writes to his aunt Dora in Dresden]:



From Dora (Vera’s sister), 24 December 1942, rubberstamped 28 February 1943:

Received your news; Nonno[?] and we all are well. Our love to you and Ruthi. Keep cheerful both. Auntie Dora.

From Raymond to Dora, 5 January 1943, rubberstamped in Germany 2 June 1943:



From Dora, 31 May 1943, rubberstamped 30 June 1943 [the final message; total silence after that]:

Grandfather and we all in good health. Erik, Peter send love. Irmgard and myself going for long Sunday walks. Love to you both

Auntie Dora


Ruth tried in vain to get more news about her parents but this letter from the Red Cross shows they drew a blank:

Dear Madam,

In reply to your letter, we will do our best to find out about your parents, if you could first give us a little more information.

When did you last receive news of them, and how? What reason have you for thinking that they have been deported? Were you ever in touch with them through the Red Cross? If you could give us names and addresses of anybody in Munich who would be likely to keep in touch with them as far as possible, this would be a great help to us in making our enquiries. Please add the laces of birth of your parents, if you know this.

May I say how deeply we sympathise with you in your anxiety?

Yours truly,

for M. R. Carden

Red Cross_letter Aug 1943 about tracing parents

Copyright Tim Locke November 2017. Originals of all these Red Cross messages are in the Imperial War Museum, London.

New threads emerge: a miscellany

Since I’ve started this blog in May 2014, more and more material about the story of my mother’s family has come to light.

In recent months I’ve been keeping contact with the Imperial War Museum who are keen to feature the family story in the revamp of the Holocaust Gallery for 2020 (as part of the remodelling of the World War II galleries). They’ll be looking at the Neumeyers and Ephraims from the years before Hitler came to power to the post war years.

My brothers, cousin and I are delighted that they are taking over the entire Neumeyer/Ephraim archive, which will be kept permanently in IWM London. The famous teddy bear will be on display, and the numerous artefacts such as the letters and photographs will be accessible to researchers. There could well be copious material here for a PhD researcher (and any researchers are very welcome to contact me).

This post is a collection of bits and updates – some of which I’ve also added to the corresponding places in earlier posts.

Hans Neumeyer tributes

Hans Neumeyer Garmisch 1930s

Hans near his sister’s house at Garmisch, in the German Alps

Hans’ secretary Dela Blakmar kept in touch with my mother for some forty years after the war. In one of her letters she copied out notes from two men who knew Hans.

Dr Elias Manuelidis was a Yale Professor of Neurology at Yale. He died in 1992 aged 74. He wrote to Dela:

Munich 17 July 1947

Kurz nach dem Einmarsch der Amerikaner suchte ich Dr Spanier auf und von diesem erfuhr ich als erster das tragische Schicksal, das unsern lieben Hans getroffen hat. Die Nachtricht war für mich ganz besonders schmerzlich, weil ich in den letzten Kriegsmonaten mich ganz besonders auf ein baldiges Wiedersehen mit ihm freute.

Ich brauche Ihnen, liebe Dela, nicht zu betonen, dass Hans in meiner seelischen Entwicklung in meiner Studentenzeit die grösste Rolle gespiet hat. Das “Nicht Hassen” habe ich ihm zu verdanken. Ich erinnere mich oft an seine Worte, dass der Hass etwas Negatives kommnung und zu einer Produtivität im geistigen Gebiet Führe kann. Ich habe sehr viels miterlebt, jedoch an seine Worte muss ich immer denken.
“Shortly after the American invasion I visited Dr Spanier and from this I was the first to experience the tragic fate that has befallen our dear Hans. The nightmare was especially painful for me because in the last months of the war I was especially looking forward to seeing him again soon. I need hardly tell you, dear Dela, the major role Hans played in my development in my student days. I owe to him the principle “not to hate”. I often think of his words that hatred can lead to negativity and to productivity in the spiritual realm. I’ve been through a lot, and what he said is always dear to my heart .”

Alois Weiner, his friend, was with him in Theresienstadt concentration camp. Another letter from Alois has already been recorded in this blog.

12 September 1946

Der gute Hans ist tot. Zwei jahre lang war er eigentlich glücklicher als viel von uns, weil er einige Schüler hatte, hauptsäntlich junge Lehrer aus der Tchechoslovakei. Diese Schüler haben ihn verehrt und, was dort am wichtigsten war, haben ihn zusätzlich reichlich mit Lebensmittel versorgt, den sie bekamen im Gegensatz zu uns mehr und grössere Pakete. Dass er mit dem was er bekam nicht geizte, kann niemand besser bestätigen als ich und mir machte es wiederum Freude, wenn mir ein Päckchen zuflog, mit ihm zu teilen…. Kurz vor seinem Tod kam Ihr letztes Päckchen. Ich erinnere mich noch, dass es Oelsardinen waren und dass er mir eine davon unbedingt aufdrängte…

Aber eines Tage kam seine Krankheit zum Ausbruch und das Schlimme war, dass er in ein Krankenhaus eingeliefert wurde, aus dem er nie an die frische Luft herauskam, sondern immer in einem Zimmer mit etwa acht andern Leuten lag. Bedenkt man seine Blindheit ohnehin und dieses körperliche Leiden dazu, so hat er alles mit grösster Geduld getragen
“The good Hans is dead. For two years he was actually happier than many of us, because he had some students, mainly young teachers from Czechoslovakia. These disciples venerated him and, most importantly, provided him with plenty of food, which they got, unlike us, more and larger packages. No one could confirm better than I can how generous he was with  his share,, and I would chuck him a packet to share …. Shortly before his death came his last package. I still remember that they were sardines in oil and that he urged me on one of them … But one day there was an outbreak of illness and he was taken to a hospital from which he never came out into the fresh air; his fate was to spend all the time lying  in a room with about eight other people. Considering his blindness and suffering, he bore everything with great patience.”

Selected photographs

There are hundreds of historic photos in the archive. Here are a few that I’d like to highlight:

Evangelische Schule Dachau 1935 Ruth top row 5th from R, Raymond 2nd row 2nd from R

Evangelische Schule Dachau in 1935. Ruth is in the top row fifth from right, and Raymond is in the second row, second from right

Some snapshots of the Neumeyers’ normal family life:

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Julius Kohn

Julius Kohn, who lived with the Neumeyers in Dachau. He had no family and when the Nazis stormed into the house in 1939 to stop a children’s play being performed in front of friends and neighbours, he was arrested and taken to Dachau concentration camp for two weeks – he never spoke about his ordeal there. A kindly, somewhat mild-mannered man (nicknamed Onki), he died in Auschwitz.

Gold that somehow the Nazis never got hold of

Ephraim jewellery (2)

This beautiful gold locket bears the photo of Hildegard Ephraim (my mother’s maternal grandmother) on the back. The back panel has been removed, maybe deliberately – would have Martin Ephraim have taken it off (perhaps it was Hildegard’s and Martin’s  photo was inside the missing part) when Hildegard died in 1932? My mother Ruth never showed me this locket – we discovered it at the back of her wardrobe when we cleared out her house in Sydenham in 2013. But in her wedding photo of 1951 she is wearing this locket – possibly for the only time. We don’t know it got to Britain but assume one of Ruth’s aunts brought it over after the war.

The Ephraims’ car-rallying antics

On July 13-14 1909 Vera’s brother (my great uncle) Herbert Ephraim gained fourth  place in a field of 23 in the Ostdeutsche Tourenpreisfahrt, a rally in eastern Germany, driving an Opel.  Two years later he took part in The Prince Henry Tour, an automobile race between Britain and Germany in honour of George V’s coronation. It started from Homburg on 4 July 1911 and finished in London on 19 July, with the British team victors. One of the drivers racing for Britain was the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: the story of Conan Doyle’s participation is recounted here.

The Prince Henry Tour was an automobile race organised by Prince Henry (Prinz Albert Wilhelm Heinrich von Preußen, 1862-1929). This tour was a gesture of sporting good will in honour of King George V’s coronation. Prince Henry participated to the tour himself. The race featured 37 German cars from the Kaiserlichter Automobil-Klub (mostly Opel, Benz and Mercedes) versus 28 British cars from the Royal Automobile Club.

Motoring historian Anders Clausager has also contacted me with more information. in 1906 Martin Ephraim took part in the Herkomer Fahrt, a motor rally in Germany, driving a Daimler. Anders thought it was most unusual for a German to have owned an English car, but I’ve thus far drawn a blank why Martin had a Daimler.

Neumeyers in Herbert Ephraims car in Schreiberhau

Martin Ephraim in the front passenger seat of the family car at Schreiberhau. Behind them are Hans and Vera Neumeyer, clearly visible; the other passengers are unknown (as is the make of car).

Hans Neumeyer’s music gets more performances

There have been performances of Hans Neumeyer’s trio and duo in various places, including at a music festival in Murcia, Spain, and in Lewes and very soon in Dachau. There’s a complete recording on youtube of the Duo, recorded at a summer festival at the Waldheim Palace, performed by Oleg Fedchuk  (violin) and  Iakov Zats (viola).

Trio in Murcia playing Neumeyer trio 30 Jan 2015

A performance of Hans Neumeyer’s trio, January 2015 in Murcia

Raimund’s school report

My uncle Raymond (then called Raimund Neumeyer before he anglicised his name to Raymond Newland) had a huge thirst for learning when he arrived in England, as evidenced by this school report from the Strodes School, Egham:

Raymond school report Egham 1940

Raimund’s school report for 1940 shows encouraging signs, topping the class in physics and chemistry, and coming second in geography. Since he’d only been living in England for a year, he did remarkably well in English, too.

Munich, 1939: last months before the Kindertransport journey to England

I noticed today a set of photos which belong together – on some of them Ruth has annotated that they are of the Köbner family, and some are labelled ‘Munich, April 1939′, a month before Ruth and Raimund’s departure. The Neumeyers by then were living in Thorwaldsenstrasse, in central Munich. It may be that the Köbners were neighbours – we don’t have any details. The father was a doctor.

These are the pictures Raimund took when visiting as British army personnel just after the war, showing the Neumeyers’ lodging at 5 Thorwaldsenstrasse in ruins, and just round the corner the Bennokirche in what remained of Lorisstrasse. Both streets have since been completely rebuilt although the church still stands, presumably much repaired:

The photos of the Köbners themselves include their son Peter Klaus and infant daughter Beatrice. In the slideshow below  he is on his bicycle – the architecture looks quite similar to Thorwaldsenstrasse. The group photo is of the family dressed for  Fasching (Shrovetide carnival) costumes, presumably February 1939 (Ruth is far right; Raimund is wearing a hat and only half his face is visible):

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And finally: an extraordinary image

With very good reason, Ruth absolutely detested swastikas. My father had to cover up the spine of a novel that had a swastika on it to avoid offending her. So it’s particularly surprising to come across her design for this programme cover for an all-women play by Christa Winsloe called Children in Uniform. This was produced at Leavesden Green Emergency Teacher Training College, where she and my father met in 1949. She’s in the programme as playing ‘Her Excellency Von Ehrenhardt’. She must have been very uncomfortable about creating this cover: it’s not something she ever showed me.

Children in Uniform 1949 cover_20171104_0001

Text and images copyright Tim Locke November 2017






Summer 1939: all change in England after arrival on the Kindertransport

Liverpool Street station, London, 11 May 1939.  My mother Ruth and her brother Raimund arrived on their journey on a Kindertransport from Munich, leaving behind their parents, whom they would never see again. Waiting for the children were the couple who had agreed with their parents to take responsibility for them:  Frank and Bea Paish greeted the Ruth  and Raimund, and the young Neumeyers’ new lives began.

The Paishes were unable to accommodate the children themselves, so Ruth and Raimund (as Raymond was then called before he anglicised his name to Raymond Newland) went to live with relatives – Bea’s sister Doris and husband Oscar Eckhard in Weybridge – until July.

Oscar ran a grocery shop and wasn’t well off enough to be the sponsor to the children, so one Lady Simon (whom Raymond never met) sponsored Raymond; I  don’t know who sponsored Ruth. Oscar and his wife Doris and their daughters Anne and Josie maintained a lifelong attachment to the Neumeyer children. The letter below was written by Oscar six days after Ruth and Raimund’s arrival:

I think we shall all be happy together, they are tiny for their ages, with sweet faces and charming manners. Miss Brooks is an angel, for she has evidently  taken to Ruth, because she has taken her into the school and fitted her  out with school clothes and arranged a special syllabus to get mostly English lessons – and all for nothing… We have not got a school for Raimund yet, Ottershaw College fell through, and county schools require an exam, which he cannot do as he knows very little English yet…



Ruth and Raimund were very close, and maintained that bond throughout their lives. Ruth stayed on with the Eckhards and extended family (the Stirlands), and spent most of her wartime years in Cambridge as housekeeper to Professor Ginsberg and his wife: she made friends easily and had a great social life – even with her alien status and the restrictions that this brought, it must have been a massive release from the hardships of the Third Reich persecutions. I think she rapidly put her life under the Third Reich behind her, for the time being at least.

The Welsh coast at the outbreak of war

During the summer holidays in 1939 the extended family took Ruth and Raimund to Pembrokeshire, where they stayed in Treginnis Farm on St David’s Head. It was while they were there that they heard war had broken out, on 3 September – Vera Neumeyer’s 46th birthday. Many years later, Raymond and his family revisited Pembrokeshire for numerous family holidays. In the summer of 1975 or 1976 they, my parents and I walked round St David’s Head with and found Treginnis Farm, little changed from the prewar visit.

Meanwhile, letters from the Neumeyer parents continued to pour in during 1939. Ruth very admirably kept them all throughout the rest of her life, and at some stage in the future I will look into what they say. This postcard sent by Vera on 10 August 1939 has the address of the farm:

vera letter to R&R_20161020_0024vera letter to R&R_20161020_0023


Remarkably we have one letter written by Ruth and Raimund to their parents in Germany, and acknowledging the postcard shown above, and shows the children earnestly improving their English (which Hans and Vera Neumeyer themselves spoke very well). Clearly it was never sent as war was imminent:

Dear People!

Aunty Be [sic; actually Bea, short for Beatrice – Ruth called her Aunt Bea throughout her life] (Mrs P) [Paish] sayd that it is much better we write in English and very short. Now I wish Mutti many happy returns of the day. If there does not come a letter later I wish Vati many happy returns better now too [Hans’ birthday was on 13 September].

Thank you ever so much for the last postcard. It shall be little snow white on the picture.

We are all happy. We get now work to do from the farm people. Pumping water. Weeding in the vegetable garden, feeding chickens, sometimes milking cows. But all this began only today. Every day we find lots and lots of blackberries. Yesterday we had a lovely tart (blackberry tart), always with cream. I’ll fetch Mani [the family nickname for Raimund] who is mangling or weeding.

With lots of love, Ta [the family nickname for Ruth]

Today I’ll only write some greetings to Ruth’s letter. I am merry and so are all the others. I hope you are too. Helo Gruvo Rai means Best Greetings [presumably this was a brave attempt to say something in Welsh?]. From Raimund. I write more on your next letter day.

letter from Ruth and Raimund to parents just before 3 Sep 1939

Ruth kept photos of the Paishes’ extended family in a dedicated album. Some of the leaves are shown here:



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Her friend Jane Donaldson (nee Eckhard) clicked with Ruth immediately. She commented how family life had brightened up as Ruth immediately set about recreating the fun she’d had as a child during the better times at Dachau. It was with Jane that she is depicted on the ink drawing of two girls playing recorders in a hammock – click here to see the story; that drawing is on display at the Imperial War Museum. At Ruth’s funeral in 2012, Jane recalled:

In May 1939 Ruth and her brother Raymond arrived in London and became part of my Eckhard family. They were fleeing from the Nazi regime. Their parents remained in Germany. The connection was through my Aunt Bea, who had studied eurythmics in Germany before the 1914-18 War. Over that summer, Ruth came to know several of my cousins, staying in Weybridge and holidaying in Wales.

Then in September 1939 at the very beginning of he war, Ruth came to live with my family in Cambridge and settled in with my two brothers and my sister. Ruth was 15 – round-faced, rosy cheeked and with two long brown plaits. It must have been tough for her to be parted from her parents and friends, but I am ashamed to say that I don’t remember considering this – perhaps because she was always so cheerful. She was so full of ideas – games to play, songs to sing, and Christmas plays to act. She and I taught ourselves to play recorders. Our damp cellar became our air-raid shelter and we painted the walls and tried to make it comfortable, though it meant sleeping on shelves – but fortunately there were only two or three occasions when the air-raid sirens sounded at night, and we trooped down with our eiderdowns to try out our arrangements.

Ruth did not go to school, but I think she had some coaching. Now I wonder how she passed the time while we were all at school.

Her stay with us came to an end in 1941 when my family moved to Scotland (as the school my father taught in was evacuated to Pitlochry). Ruth remained in Cambridge and had some training for work with children.

My cousins and I meet regularly, and Ruth has always been included, as we feel she is an adopted cousin. We will all miss her cheerful presence.

Ruth's play at Paishes

Home-made Christmas entertainment: a play  – How it Happened – put on by Ruth and the Stirland and Paish children on Boxing Day (presumably 1939). R Neumeyer (Ruth and possibly Raimund – I am not sure where he was then) play the part of Snowflake, Cloud and Music and Dancing. Various Stirlands and Paishes play Raindrop, Moonbeam, Father Christmas, Moon, Devil and Mania. The play is handwritten by Beth Stirland: ‘Scene 1: a chair draped in white to represent a cloud. An Angel is sitting on the chair.’


Hans’ plea after Kristallnacht

The mass pogroms across Nazi Germany on the night of 9/10 November 1938 did not happen in Dachau town. There were few Jewish people living in town – a typed list of twelve families with their addresses summed up what the authorities deemed the complete catalogue of who should be removed.

No way out, but “that’s your problem”

One of those Jews on the list was Johanna Jaffe, who lived in Taubenbergstrasse in Dachau and had worked as a private secretary for two professional artists at a time when Dachau was a renowned artists’ colony. Her story is typical of how all twelve households would have been treated that night. She recalled a knock on the door shortly before midnight. She opened the door to find two men in brown SA uniforms, who said ‘Heil Hitler’ and read a document to her, saying that if she did not leave her house before sunrise she could reckon with imprisonment. She asked how she could do that at such short notice, given that there was no way out of Dachau at that time of night. They replied “That’s your problem.” She signed the document and went upstairs to dress and pack a suitcase with all her money and jewellery. A girl from the Wallachs – another Jewish family from town –  came round and offered her a lift  to Munich, where she spent the rest of the night. Some members of both families perished under the Nazis, though some managed to escape to a new life in England.

For my mother’s family, the Neumeyers, the situation was slightly different in that Hans was away in Berlin at the time, learning to make flutes. So it was wife Vera and their children Ruth and Raimund who had to respond to that fateful knock on the door – and leave before sunrise.

Click here to listen to Ruth describing how they were forced to leave their house after Kristallnacht.


Hans’ plea to the Gestapo


After the family’s departure to Munich, Hans wrote a letter to the Gestapo requesting access to his house. The Nazis complied and Ruth later accompanied him to the house to sort out some matters. He no longer had a guide dog – Jews were not allowed to own them. (His last two guide dogs had been Amsi – buried in the garden; a tombstone was installed for the purpose – and Thea). Getting around was difficult, for any Jew, let alone a blind one.

That was the last time Hans ever visited his home. Ruth did not see it again until 1952.

The letter below is held in the Munich state archive. It is recorded in this English translation in Hans-Günter Richardi’s book Dachau: A Guide to its Contemporary History:

According to decree given  to my wife during my absence on the evening of November 10 at about 8 PM, my wife and my two children were ordered to leave my house in Dachau at Hindenburgstrasse 10,  on November 11 by 5:45 AM at the latest, under the threat of imprisonment. This order was issued by three men with Party IDs, and they declared specifically that the decree been issued by a Sondergruppe (special police commission). The Kreiseleitung in Dachau  confirmed the accuracy of the decree. My wife was allowed to take clothing and undergarments for herself and the children with her, but since she was alone, she was  able only to pack the barest necessities for the children. My family left the apartment and that town at five in the morning and I have been told that the apartment was later sealed by the police.

I am turning to the Munich Gestapo with the humble request that I be allowed to return to my house, inhabited by me and my family, for a few days, for the following reasons:

1 To remove my certificates and documents, which I need urgently in order to continue the process of applying to immigration, as well as a series of written material and books in braille, which I depend on owing to my blindness.

2  To submit the documents requested by the Dachau tax office to determine the Jewish property tax, as indicated in the enclosed letter.

3 To pick up winter clothing for myself and my wife.

In the spring of 1938 I asked to Munich real estate agents sell my house, and I declare myself willing to accelerate the sale process. Therefore, I asked for permission to return temporarily to complete the sale of house.

In this connection, I ask that the police seal be removed or that I be allowed to remove it myself.

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The letter Hans Neumeyer sent to the Nazi authorities in order to gain access to the family’s house, 9 December 1938. Ruth accompanied him to the house.

the house 1926

Vera and Ruth on the steps of the house, 1926


Current-day view of the house, which is now divided into flats, with new houses built on part of the back garden (photo: Jürgen Müller-Hohagen, who lives in one of the new houses and whom I had the pleasure of meeting last year).

Dachau house Vera and Wolfgang's rose

Vera Gunkel, one of our German relatives from Dresden, and her husband Wolfgang, visited the house in Dachau in August 2017 and placed this rose on the Stolpersteine that commemorate the Neumeyers and their lodger Julius Kohn (‘Onki’, who died in Auschwitz). They also went into the house and spoke to one of the residents of the apartments within – they found a copy of the historic black and white photo shown above hangs on a wall.