May 1939: new light on the Kindertransport story

Recap: exactly six years ago, I wrote my first entry in this blog, on the 75th anniversary of the journey in England of my mother, Ruth Neuymeyer, and her brother Raimund on a Kindertransport from Munich, prompted by the discovery of her ferry ticket on the SS Amsterdam, 10 May 1939, a recorded interview with the Imperial War Museum about her experience, and the teddy bear and dressing gown that accompanied her on that trip.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve found out what happened to some of the others who were on that Kindertransport and the route it took.

I later spotted that some festering old bits of luggage in our loft were the very suitcases she and her brother brought with them:

We’d been using these tatty old suitcases for years -one I even took with me for a year in Japan when teaching English there – but only when I took them out of the loft for a production of the opera Mignon did I realise their significance. The director asked us in the chorus to source luggage for the set – old suitcases to evoke the Weimar Republic era. I noticed, dusting them down, that they had remnants of luggage labels with ‘Stück’ [item of luggage in German] ‘…Holland’ ‘Harw..’ ‘..pool Street’: the journey from Munich to London Liverpool Street via Hook of Holland to Harwich. Each child was allowed only one suitcase, but other luggage – presumably in the larger case at the bottom of this pile – was sent on a few days later.

Unlocking the puzzle

A few days ago I found out a few more things about her journey, partly thanks to this scrap of paper bearing her handwriting, which has been puzzling me for years.

The cryptic text has at last been deciphered, by a 92-year-old man who can read the old German handwriting.

We know now that was written on the Kindertransport journey. It’s only a fragment, as she is only recording the stage after they have left Germany. We presume that as she left at midnight she would have not begun writing straight away. Maybe when things relaxed after the Dutch border she felt able to start writing her impressions.

In German it seems to read:

…mit der Tram zum anderen Bahnhof. Mit schönen Ledersesseln nach Hook. Auf dem Weg Windmühlen zuleigen. In Hook in den Wartesall. Tee, Brot Nette. Unterhaltung 8.00 Uhr ins Schiff Kabine 304 mit Klarissa, Grete, Gündi. Stuard mit Keks. Lüftung Guoche[?] and der Wand bei Grack u. Ruth. Besuch bei Walter und Raimund eingetusselt am Bett. Abend mit Ruth. 5 3/4 (= 5.45) geweckt an Deck. Schiff besichtigen Einteilung langes Gewarte im Smoking, Hundemarke 46, Untersuchung nochmal gut. Essen Eierbrot zum Apfel wo Klaus…

And in English the nearest we can get is:

…with the tram to another station. In nice leather seats to Hook. On the way there are windmills. In Hook in the waiting room. Tea, bread. Nice conversation/talk. At 8h in cabin 304 of the ship together with Klarissa [Clarisse Nathan], Grete and Gundi. Steward brings cookies. Fresh air through a peephole towards Grack [? possibly Grete] and Ruth. Visit to Walter and Raimund dropping asleep near the bed. Evening with Ruth, wake up at 5.45am on deck. Visit the ship, a long wait in smoking [area?], dog tag 46, medical examination good again. A meal of eggy bread with apple, where Klaus…[text ends]

The dog tag was her identity label, so maybe 46 appeared on it, perhaps along with the four-figure number on the typed list shown further down in this post.

Who travelled with them

And recent online searches have revealed a bit more about who else was on that Kindertransport.

Clarisse and Walter Nathan knew the Neumeyers in Munich, and Ruth kept contact with them for many years after; I spoke to Clarisse and her husband in 2019 when writing a post for this blog about their war years, and their journey on the Kindertransport: click here for the story.

It was a very long journey. By the time we reached the ferry at the Hook of Holland there were about a hundred of us children, all with name tags around our necks. Daddy Bovey’s mother and his brother, Uncle Arthur, lived in London and were glad to be able to meet us. We were going to spend our first night in Mrs Bovey’s home in Chelsea. Uncle Arthur made a special detour pointing out to us some of the famous places in the capital.

Clarisse Delafield (Clarisse Nathan) describing her journey to England with her brother Walter and with the Neumeyer children, in May 1939.

The departure from Munich was at midnight, and other children were picked up from stations further on the route in the small hours of the morning. This seems to have been a deliberate policy of the Nazis – that the transports left in the middle of the night so that the rest of the population would not have to witness the tearful departures.

One of the other passengers on the train was Edith Rothschild (born 1925) from Frankfurt. In an interview with Lyn Smith of the Imperial War Museum, she recalls leaving Frankfurt with her father Gustav in tears and her mother Martha silent. Like Ruth, Raimund and so many other children, she was told by her parents that they would follow on. Gustav and Martha had tried unsuccessfully to emigrate to America, where they had a cousin. Her sister Trude left on an earlier Kindertransport.

On the train near the Dutch border, Edith recalled, some boys changed into shorts and came round giving everyone money but saying they would take it back later. Then SS officers came on board asking if they had any valuables to declare. As the train entered the Netherlands, everyone cheered and the boys in shorts changed back into their long trousers and took their money back. Edith then realised they were smuggling cameras as well as money, and they got away with it.

Edith herself smuggled her doll into her luggage – not because it was a forbidden item but because her parents thought she was too old for dolls. That object (shown here) is now at the Jewish Museum in London.

She remembers nothing of the rest of the journey until the ferry, when she had a cabin to herself, with two bunks, as the other girl wanted to be with friends; the tightly made bed of sheets and blankets mystified her, as she’d always slept under duvets, and in the morning the steward brought in tea with milk, which she found similarly unfamiliar and poured down the sink.

On boarding the train in Harwich there were men by the railway throwing sweets into the train. Like the Dutch women who brought cocoa and white bread on board earlier in the journey, they were very aware of the regular convoys of child refugees from Nazi Germany.

On arrival in London she was met by her grandparents, and she then travelled to Cambridge – where her sister Trude was – and went to live for two years with Professor and Mrs Bennett “near Newnham” – which would have been not far from Ruth in Adams Road; it is very possible their paths crossed. Later they heard of their mother had been deported, and Trude had a breakdown, while Edith tried to shut it all out of her mind.

Edith’s mother died at the hands of the Nazis but her father survived a concentration camp and he and Edith were reunited after the war.

A happier story surrounds the fates of the Katzenstein family from Bielefeld. Their daughters Marianne Adelheid (married name Marianne Bern) and Eva Susanne (married name Eve Roberts had two British-born cousins living in Portsmouth who had managed to find a family willing to give a home to Marianne but not to Eva – which meant their parents Willi and Selma would be unable to come too. Willi Katzenstein was a leading liberal Jewish lawyer.

But one day, their luck turned. The cousins were sitting in a café  with a friend, telling her about the desperate situation at having nobody willing to take Eva. A woman magistrate and a governor of a Girls’ Grammar School in Portsmouth who was also the widow of a lawyer happened to be sitting at the next table and overheard this conversation. She came over to tell them that she might be able to help; a sealing factor was that Willi Katzenstein was a lawyer too. She said the Grammar School would give Eva a place, and she would finance her keep. Travel arrangements were made: the girls came on the Kindertransport on 10 May 1939 while their parents travelled separately. And so the whole family was saved.

When we were leaving the Dutch border, we jumped in relief and shouted: “we are out!” 

Eva Katzensteine (Eve Roberts)

Marianne married in 1952. She worked at Cornell College and at the World Jewish Congress in London and Geneva, Switzerland. She later moved to Mount Vernon, Iowa.

Stolpersteine memorial plaques in Bielefeld outside the home the Katzensteins left in 1939: unusually none of them have the word ‘Deportiert’ (deported) or ‘Ermordert’ (murdered): just ‘Flucht 1939, England, Überlebt’ (Escaped 1939 to England, survived).

The first page of the list, and what it tells us about the others

Recently, this remarkable document turned up after an internet search. It is a list of the children on the same Kindertransport as Ruth and Raimund, and is headed lle Kindertransport van Duitschland naar England via Emmerich wo 10 Mai 1939 (“2nd Kindertransport from Germany to England via Emmerich Wednesday 10 May” – implying there was a first transport on this day):

The first page from the list of 41 children on the Kindertransport from Munich via Nuremberg and Mannheim, 9-10 May 1939. It appears that not all those listed would have travelled. The heading translates from Dutch as ‘Second Kindertransport from Germany to England Wed 9 May 1939’, implying that there was another Kindertransport on this date. The transport left Munich at midnight on 9 May, so most children joined it on 10 May.

The list is just the first page, but the names, addresses and birthdates are useful in googling a few details, although some what is typed is not clear.

So using these numbers as reference points, here’s what emerges:

1 Fritz Krebs, from Gaukönigshofen, born 18 February 1923. The US Holocaust Museum lists him as having emigrated to London on 9 June 1939, rather than 9/10 May. The discrepancy with dates indicates either the record is wrong, or he didn’t actually take this transport but travelled the following month. Three people from a Krebs family in Gaukönigshofen – Sigmund, his wife Sara and their infant child Seigbert – are recorded as being deported and murdered in 1942 – so far I haven’t been able to find out if they were related.

2&5 Walter and Clarisse Nathan (friends of Raimund and Ruth Neumeyer – see above).

3&6 Raimund and Ruth Neumeyer (my uncle and mother).

4 Günter Sturm, from 18 Bahnhofstrasse, Augsburg, born 13 March 1930. His family ran the major cloth store, Wimpfheimer & Cie, in southern Germany. It is reported that while his sister and brother went to England Günter went with his parents to New Jersey, and given that there is a line struck through his registration number on this list, it seems likely that he did not actual travel on this Kindertransport. The grandparents, feeling they were too old to attempt to escape from Germany, committed suicide. A commemorative event for the family was held in Augsburg in 2010; a report on his visit to his home town is here. Günter later changed his name to George Sturm. Photo: Jewish Museum, Augsburg.

7 Ruth Koschland (mistyped here as Kochland), of Karolinenstrasse 6, Fürth, born 19 November 1923. The travel companion of Eva Mosbach (see below) and quite possibly the “Ruth” mentioned on the scrap of paper that I describe at the beginning of this blog post.

Karolinenstrasse 6, Fürth, the former home of Ruth Koschland [Wiki Commons, cc-by-sa-3.0]
Andra Marx, niece of Suse Marx, with her husband on a visit to Schweinfurt in 2017, by the site of the Marx home in Rückertstrasse [Main Post]

8 Suse Marx came from Schweinfurt. A German newspaper, the Main Post, reported 78 years after her coming to England that her niece Andra Marx and her husband Mark Madonna paid a visit to the sites of where Suse and her father Helmut lived, in Rückertstrasse. Helmut managed to leave Schweinfurt just in time, in 1941, and emigrate to America, while Suse stayed in London until the end of the war. In 2014 Andra inherited from her father a mass of papers and photos relating to the family’s history.

9&10 Adolf and Herbert Birnbaum, Dennerstrasse 2, Nuremberg; Adolf born 6 May 1922, Herbert born 17 October 1926. Adolf’s number in the final column has been struck out: he had just reached his 17th birthday, so would not have been allowed to travel. No further details known.

11 Hans Heilbronner, Guntherstrasse 44, Nuremberg; born 6 January 1929. Three months after his brother Fritz (born in 1924) had left on a Kindertransport, Hans – son of Luise and Josef Heilbronner, joined this transport for England. The brothers’ school life became impossible in 1937 when gangs of Hitler Youth gathered at the school gates and beat up Jewish children, and on Kristallnacht in November 1938 while Hans lay ill with diptheria the house was vandalised by Brownshirt Nazis, who smashed and cut everything up, even the contents of cupboards and wardrobes. He spent a year in Kent before travelling to America in 1940; he changed his name to John, while Fritz became Fred. The family managed to regroup in New York, and ran a leather business. The full story with these photographs is on Jewishgen.org.

12 Inge Mohr of Virchowstrasse 9, Nuremberg; born 17 December 1928. The number in the final column is struck out, suggesting she did not travel. That I confirmed by looking on the website dokin.nl, which has details about child refugees from the Third Reich who came to the Netherlands after Kristallnacht. The date of birth and German address are the same on the Dokin record, which shows she had already left to England, on 9 January 1939. Her parents were Richard Mohr (born July 1897) and Maria Marzberg (born in Ramberg, June 1903). Her last known address was recorded for 13 December 1938, in the Netherlands: Rivierenhuis de Steeg, Hoofdstraat 10, Rheden. This was a former hotel and bathhouse, used for four months as a Koloniehuis – a sort of children’s home, run by kindly German-speaking nuns – for Jewish children; it could house 80 children but was not meant for orthodox Jews as the food was not kosher. Inge was one of the first group of 45 children to arrive here. The last children left on 19 April 1939.

The Koloniehuis in Rheden, in its days as the Hotel Quisisana. The building stood until 1977. [Dokin.nl]

13 Eva Mosbacher of Emlienstrasse 4, Nuremberg, born 22 October 1926. Thanks to an excellent online article (from which the picture here is taken), there is plenty known about the story of Eva and her family. In April 1939 the Nuremberg Jewish Congregation informed Dr Lindgren and Mrs Lavén in Cambridge, England who were to receive her that she should be ready to leave in early May. She was issued a passport on 29 April, and the date of her departure was set on 6 May: the train would leave from Nuremberg at 2.50am on 10 May.

Her parents informed the foster mother in Cambridge that “Eva is of course exceedingly happy, that she will soon be with you. The knowledge that she will receive a good warm-hearted reception relieves us at the time of our parting.” That night, the Mosbachers took their daughter to the station, not knowing if they would see her again; two boys and one other girl boarded with them.

Eva Mosbacher in 1938

Once on the train, their passports and identity cards were taken. Eva wrote of the chaperons “The girls are really very nice, and of course very determined and energetic.”

Eva began writing to her parents when the train was “between Dettelbach and Würzburg” that there was a baby on board, and that the average age of the convoy of over 40 children was about 13. The oldest were 17, and there was an equal number of boys and girls. One of her travelling companions was Ruth Koschland (number 7 on this list).

In Frankfurt they were joined by more children. “We saw a few goodbyes, which were awful.”

And Eva met Ruth, Raimund, and their friends Clarisse and Walter. “Some of them were siblings, like the 13-year-old twins Clarisse and Walter Nathan from Munich.” She remarked (about them) “There were “children from Munich, who spoke with quaint Munich accents”.

Eva wrote at length to her parents, to the bemusement of the others who wrote mostly just postcards. She gave her letter to the conductress in Emmerich, the last stop before the Dutch border. Out of the window she saw ‘alternately cows and windmills. Everything is absolutely marvellous.”

Eva went to Cambridge and became a nurse. Tragically depression overwhelmed her and she took her own life in a London hotel near Victoria station in 1963.

14 Luise Verhaus, of Zeltnerstrasse 30, Nuremberg; born 26 May 1923. No further information found.

15 Herbert Jauss of Pforzheim, born 3 October 1921. All I can find out about him is that he changed his name to Herbert Parker.

16 Gerhard Kuppenheim of Wilferdinger Strasse 20, Pforzheim, born November 1922, was from a family of noted silversmiths, which went into liquidation in 1939. The factory was founded by Louis Kuppenheim in 1857; after his death in 1889, the business passed to his three sons, Albert, Hugo (who has the same address as Gerhard, but Gerhard is not listed among his children; Hugo committed suicide in August 1938) and Moritz. The factory went into liquidation in 1939.

17 Inge Rosenberger, of Tullastrasse 10, Mannheim; born 21 November 1923. Travelled with her sister, Ruth (see below). No further details known.

18 Lore Baer, of R Wagnerstrasse 53, Mannheim; born 16 October 1928 to Hellmuth and Hedwig Baer. Hellmuth worked in a bank, while she attended a Jewish school in Mannheim; her brother Max was in Italy studying to be a chef. The family’s apartment was smashed up by SS officers on Kristallnacht, 10 November 1938, and Hellmuth was arrested and taken to Dachau concentration camp; Hedwig paid frequent visits to the police station enquiring after him and eventually managed to obtain his release; she then worked on getting the whole family out of Germany. Lore recalled ‘I never knew how she managed to get his release. He came home and was a totally destroyed man. He looked just terrible and his head was shaved.’ Hedwig looked for somewhere he could go and soon managed to get him to the Japanese sector in Shanghai, where visas were not required; meanwhile she arranged Lore’s Kindertransport. “My mother told me it was only going to be for a little while” said Lore.

Lore was taken in by a family in London’s east end; the only language they shared were some words of Yiddish. In 1940, Max was able to get to England and visited Lore, before being arrested as an enemy alien and sent to Australia. Two years later, Hedwig was deported to Drancy transit camp and died in Auschwitz-Birkenau on 2 September. Less than two months later, on 29 October 1942 Max was on board the unescorted passenger ship MV Abosso, sailing from Cape Town to Liverpool when a U-boat torpedo struck: he was among the 44 internees who perished in the attack. Hellmuth survived the war, but only just, dying of pleurisy in 1946.

Lore Baer (Lore Kirchheimer) giving a talk to schoolchildren in 2014 for the North Shore Congregation Israel in Illinois

Happily Lore had distant relatives, the Kirchheimers (from whom she took her new name), in the USA and through them obtained a visa. She sailed to New York, and to a new life, in 1946. She married another refugee, Harry Weiniger in 1949 and they had three children, settling near Chicago. She died in 2019.

A full account is given here on the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website. You can also see a one-hour presentation in English given by Lore in 2014 to schoolchildren.

19 Ruth Liebermensch, of Kirchenstrasse 4, Mannheim; born 6 February 1922. She and her sister Hanna both came to Britain before continuing to New York in May 1940. Outside their Mannheim home, a brass Stolperstein commemorates their father Samuel, who was deported to Gurs concentration camp in France and died in Auschwitz-Birkenau in September 1942. In 1944 Ruth married Richard Pfifferling, a Jewish refugee from Dresden, whose parents were unable to escape from Germany.

20 Ruth Rosenberger, of Tullastrasse 10, Mannheim; born 14 June 1925 or 1926. No further details known.

Charlotte Siesel (Amira Gezow)

21 Alice Rosa Siesel, of Mittelstrasse 10, Mannheim; born in Bad Honnef, 10 June 1925. Her parents Walter Samuel and Ida ran a laundry room across the street from their home, from 1934 until 1938 when the Nazis forced them to sell the business to an Aryan owner. Walter found some work with a construction company and when war broke out he helped establish a home for elderly Jews. He and Ida were taken to Gurs internment camp on 22 and were both killed in Auschwitz in 1942.

Alice’s sister Charlotte was helped by a Jewish aid organisation to cross into Switzerland, from where she went on to Israel and changed her name to Amira Gezow. Alice married and became Alice Alexander but I don’t have any further details of what happened to her.

Stolpesteine in the street outside the Mannheim residence of Alice Siesel’s parents

Where the journey went

During the night we must have slept a little bit and we were woken up once by some SS officials wanted to look at our papers and we thought probably something awful thing was going to happen but nothing happened luckily. In in the morning we arrived in Holland and were greeted with cocoa and white bread which was most unusual. I can’t remember the ship at all, but we must have got on a boat to Harwich and arrived in the afternoon. Then we went down by train to Liverpool Street and waited in the hall there to be collected.

Ruth’s recollections of the journey

From the list above we know a bit more about the journey, which took them from Munich to Pforzheim and Mannheim, and later travelled via Emmerich before crossing the border into the Netherlands. At Rotterdam they got off the train and took a tram to across the city to another railway station, before carrying on another train to the Hook of Holland. The ferry arrived at Harwich early in the morning.

Plotting these places on a map, it seems likely that the train from Munich went via Pforzheim and Mannheim to Frankfurt. Those coming from Nuremberg, including Eva, would have joined the train there, as she mentions having to change at Frankfurt. Then it continued via Bonn and Koblenz to Köln, through Essen and crossing the Dutch border after Emmerich, then on through Arnhem and Utrecht. Somewhere they took a tram to Rotterdam rail station and took another train to the Hook, where the ship SS Amsterdam left for Harwich.

SS Amsterdam: the ship used for this Kindertransport on 10-11 May 1939. Built in 1930 as a passenger and freight vessel for the London and North Eastern Railway, it was used the following year in the Dunkirk evacuation, and as a hospital ship in the Normandy landings in D-Day, when it struck a mine and blew up, with the loss of 109 lives.

From Harwich, some of the children – those who had not been placed with families – may have gone to Dovercourt, a holiday camp used to house many Kinder refugees. Ruth and the rest carried on to London. There in the station, children’s names were called out and there were people to meet them. In Edith Rothschild’s case, her grandparents were there, and she carried on by train to join her sisters in Cambridge.

Eva Mosbacher’s account mentions other places the train went through: Dettelbach, Würzburg, Frankfurt am Main (where they changed trains), Köln and Rotterdam (with a tram ride across the city for the final leg by rail to Hook of Holland).

As regards the Katzenstein sisters, I have not found a reference to the other children on their transport. Bielefeld is some way north of the main route shown on the map below, so they would have done at least part of the journey separately. Given that there may have been two transports on that date, if they were on the other one then the two would have joined presumably at Hook of Holland for the ferry crossing.

From the accounts of Ruth, Eva and Edith, this seems the likely route the Kindertransport took from Munich on 9 to 11 May 1939

For Ruth and Raimund, Frank and Beatrice Paish met them and drove them through central London and on to the family home in Weybridge, where they stayed for some weeks with Oscar and Doris Eckhard. Frank and Beatrice’s son Anthony told me recently that he could remember the children’s arrival in London – they were both in Bavarian clothes, Ruth in a dirndl and Raimund in lederhosen.

The people who took care of us were wonderful. I remember going in a taxi from Liverpool Street to I think it must have been Waterloo, because we went to Weybridge after that – and on the way we were shown the Bank of England and St Paul’s on the way, and Trafalgar Square.

They were very, very nice and when we arrived there was an enormous round table with all the family – two girls and all the parents, and masses of food – we’d never seen so much food: there were scones, and cake and jellies and salad and sausages. We had forgotten that in England when you are asked if you want any more you say ‘no thank you’ – we kept on saying ‘thank you’ and they gave us more and more! But we soon learned.

Ruth speaking about her arrival with her brother Raimund at the home of her new English family.

Lifelines as war approaches: family letters from Munich

In times of uncertainty leading up to the war and during it, letters were an essential communication for so many – and often the only way of telling that one’s family was still alive. My mother Ruth was a great  correspondent throughout her life, and apparently kept everything she received  from everyone she corresponded with, from the date of arriving in England with her brother Raymond on a Kindertransport 11 May 1939 up to the end of her life.

Ruth’s diary for 1939 ends: “Ende Schlaf – Good bye 1939” followed by a play on Auf wiedersehen “Auf nimmersehn” [“Hope never to see you again”].

 As soon as and Raymond arrived in England, they began a steady stream of correspondence with their parents Vera and Hans in Munich, writing twice a week. We have some fifty letters, all written in German, sent by Vera Neumeyer to her children and a few from Hans.

After war broke out between Germany and  the United  Kingdom on 3 September, it was no longer possible to send letters directly between the two countries. So instead the family posted mail to a contact, Gustav Güldenstern, in Switzerland. He was a fellow academic with Hans Neumeyer as well as a good family friend, and maintained close contact with Ruth and Raymond after the war.

The letters say little of the traumas that the parents and children were living through. Censorship prevented them divulging  too much, anyway, and the parents clearly wanted to keep everyone in as good spirits as possible. But they paint something of a picture of life in Munich for the Neumeyer parents – and Vera constantly refers to items in her children’s letters, so we get an idea of hint of the scene in England.

The letters may not have divulged much but they were much more than the stuttering arrival of Red Cross messages that followed – these messages took weeks or months to arrive and there was little to be gleaned from the 25-word maximum. To see the full Red Cross message correspondence, click here.

Read the letters in the original German

All the texts below are translations.

A folder of pdfs of the originals of all the letters can be viewed here: Vera’s letters in German

Hans, who was blind, wrote far less often: all his letters can be viewed in a single pdf here: Hans Neumeyer letters to children 1939

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 [translated]:

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.

Then on Wednesday 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 departures – 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.

Yours,

Vati

Hans Neumeyer
Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 12.56.25
Hans, completely blind, typed all his letters and managed a squiggly signature

From Vera [translated]:

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 [the mother of two twins, Walter and Clarisse, who travelled on the same transport as Ruth and Raymond to England on 9 May 1939; she and the older son, Helmuth, arrived separately later] 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 [Helmuth Nathan].

I have a cold, otherwise all is fine. Yesterday, Leo [Leo, a friend who left for the Jewish ghetto in Shanghai and probably died there four years later] came here to eat: 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,

Mutti

For the story of the Nathans, click here.

For the story of Leo Weil and his escape to Shanghai, click here.

Vera Neumeyer

May 1939: long-distance parenting

13 May 1939, from Vera. The children are about to start school. There’s a reference to Clarisse and Walter Nathan (see above). 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

Ruth and Raimund starting school in Weybridge.

From Hans; the postal service between England and Germany is staggeringly fast in 1939 and is 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 from 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 ears. 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. Period. I am very glad 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

27 May 1939: Raymond is about to attend the Hall School in Weybridge:

I will think of you very much when you have your first day at an English school. I think it will be very difficult, eg. you’ll have to get used to English and sport as well as the many new boys. But you’ll get through it over time. I would like to tell you even if the form of worship is different there, it is the same dear God to whom people serve.

I am so happy that you are so well and have a rich life filled with nice people, and there is no greater joy for me than to know that and to hear from your letters…. I thank God that you are well accommodated, busy and happy.

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):

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.

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 [Dr Köbner, with whom they were now staying; see below] 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 you got off from the ship at 11.00, is quite 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 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”.

Visits to London, cookery ingredients and Dalcroze lessons

Vera asks about one Gerhard Fritzler, whose maternal grandfather Leo was a cousin of Ruth and Raymond’s grandfather Martin Ephraim. Gerhard came over to England on a Kindertransport in December 1938 and changed his name to Gerald. His parents Walter and Agnes survived the war in Germany on false papers. He’s mentioned in letters Raymond wrote to Ruth at the end of the war, but I can find no trace of him thereafter.

Ruth, we learn from the comments in Vera’s letters, is practising the piano and rehearsing the role of Malcolm in Macbeth at school. The children are helping Oscar Eckhard (the brother of Beatrice Paish and Joan Stirland), with whom they are living, in his shop. Ruth has drawn a plan of the house for Vera and has made an acquaintance with cricket.

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

In June the children have evidently gone to London and travelled on the underground,  on “the ghost train with self-opening doors”.

29 May 1939, 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 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. 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?

I am very glad to hear about your pocket money.

Thanks for the nice plan of the house, 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?

That’s all for today, darling. A kiss from your Mutti

P.S. Many greetings to the teddies.

How are you getting on with washing and ironing?

“My beloved sparrows who happily trudge around the world”

1 June 1939, 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?

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.

Have a lovely weekend, Mutti.

Letter from Rosie Müller, a family friend or relative who got to New York. One of four letters from her we have; Vera refers to her several times in her letters to the children. Here she mentions Franz Wallach, who also escaped to England from Dachau town; he changed his name to Frank Wallace and later became Professor of Engineering at the University of Bath.
Ruth and Elizabeth Paish 1939
Elizabeth Paish and Ruth

Summer 1939: a failed plan to escape to England

Clearly Vera and Hans are trying to get to England, and Ruth and Raymond are expecting them. In addition to the usual queries and observations about the children’s home and school life in England, Vera outlines some family plans for escaping by car from Germany to England. It sounds like the permissions were sorted and a lot of form-filling was done. But they never came. Within six weeks, the war broke out between Germany and the UK.

In June Vera is organising what to bring: “Think about what gifts may be considered for Eckhards and their children, including the Maws and Paishes”; on 20 July: “Thank you very much for thinking about furniture storage. I think that will do all this and will at least on the furniture list, which I will have to fill in and submit until next week, perform everything that I need for 1-2 rooms over there later. Of course the wardrobe would be full and hopefully can stand in Ruthi’s room if it doesn’t work out with the Maws.”

26 July 1939: Vera writes to Ruth and Raymond (spelt Raimund until he anglicised his name in 1943, and nicknamed “Mani”). At that time the children had started the school holidays and were about to go with their new English family to St David’s in Pembrokeshire.

My beloved children! I can imagine how you look forward to the upcoming journey! So Ruthi’s holidays have already started today; Mani’s only in 1 week. Will you be picked up by the Paishes or will you meet them in London? Have a good think about what you may still need and what else I could bring; because I won’t be able to get anything later. I have almost finished packing the big box and am starting making lists.

It doesn’t matter if you sometimes only write cards; I understand very well that one does not always have desire and time to write letters and the main thing is that I know that you are happy and healthy. You are, aren’t you? If anything is wrong, always tell your Mutti.

I am so pleased Ruthi has written her card in such good English. We have also performed Robin Hood in our pension, with music [presumably Ruth and Raymond had put on home theatricals of the same piece]. Are you painted as red Indian?

Ruthi, do you think that Mrs Eckhard would like my sewing box (not the old, but the one with the pretty raffia pattern)? It is a bit too small for me and I could give it to her. Or do you think that she absolutely only likes one like yours? And should the clock for Anne be such a simple little bedside clock without an alarm clock? And what about Josie? Do you think Mrs Paish would enjoy some pretty cake plates? I have so many of them. And Mr Eckhard? He must be nice, always playing with you! Mrs Bayles wrote that she did not hear from you anymore; please write her a nice card during the holidays ; did you thank her for the sweets that she sent you some time ago? And please contact Grete Marx.

Both Mrs. N. and Helmuth [these are the Nathans from Munich] got their permit a few days ago, they are now waiting for the packing permit [this is the permit to pack furniture and household items for transit, which was made very expensive after assessment of the financial value by the tax authorities].

How far are we? Waiting for foreign currency and will soon have the lists prepared for submission. Whether we’ll get a lift depends on the Scheiberhauer [the Ephraims, who lived in the mountain resort of Schreiberhau, now usually known by its Polish name Szklarska Poręba].

It’s going to cost a lot of money. Otherwise you would just have to send a lot of cargo boxes and suitcases and no larger pieces of furniture.

Do not forget to pack Ruthi’s nightgown again! Would Mani like  a rain cape for school, with or without a hood? Does he carry his books in a nice folder? In general, you have never written to me what kind of textbooks, exercise books, etc. you have in your schools. I’m interested in everything. Does Ruthi also need a folder?

Now I have to go to sleep. I give you many kisses!

Your Mutti

Haus Lindenfels, the house of the Ephraims in Schreiberhau, around 2000. It was then in poor condition having been used as a house for children’s holidays in the Communist era. In 2014 it was converted into a pension.

The cost of the trip would have been high because of the Dego levy, a tax that was payable at the time of National Socialism in Germany on emigration to the Deutsche Golddiskontbank. This levy was first made on credits, which were booked because of the exchange control on blocked accounts. From mid-1938, the removal of goods to be moved abroad was restricted and in some cases subject to a high levy. Together with the Reichsfluchtsteuer, the Dego levy deprived the Jewish citizens forced to emigrate of large parts of their wealth. After the November pogroms of 1938, the Jewish capital tax was also charged. Some of the emigrants forced to leave could barely take more than four percent of their assets.

On 30 July things must have been getting desperate. Vera is trying to calm the situation: “The date of travel really cannot be fixed on, so please don’t worry about it and enjoy your holidays. You know, your Mutti is trying everything, but you have to be patient.”

Helmut Nathan, the brother of the children who travelled to England on the Kindertransport with Ruth and Raymond more than two months earlier, is due to leave with his mother soon after 30 July; happily they do in fact make it, which must have made the failure of the Neumeyer parents to get out in time all the more tantalising for Ruth and Raymond.

Then there’s a bit more dwindling hope on 12 August: “Be calm and happy: we just have to be patient now, because there’s nothing you can do about it.” In the next letter four days later Vera’s discussing sandals to send to Ruth and wants to know what colour/fabric of a Tyrolean jacket Oscar Eckhard would like as a present.

The final peacetime letter on 1 September mentions a slowing down of the postal service: the last letter took four days to arrive. “From now on write only postcards and if there is no communication from us write to Dr med M[eier] in Basel. Hans’s dental treatment went well.” We don’t know who the Basel contact is, but it is likely to be one of the parents’ music or eurythmics colleagues.

War breaks out two days later, 3 September, on Vera’s 46th birthday.

A doodled map of the Britain she would never reach, on a letter from Vera to her children in 1939.

Life goes on: a pastiche of normality

War has broken out but Vera is trying to reassure her children and keep things under control. They have a dog, Mucki, although the cat ran away. She’s visited the zoo and gone out for walks in the forest. She attends services at the Benno Kirche, near the apartment they’re staying in with the Köbners – whom she finds rather strange and hard to get on with. In November she visits Hans’s older sister Irma Kuhn at an old people’s home in Munich and reads the children’s letters to her. Irma is deported to Theresienstadt on 5 June 1942 and dies there on 15 May 1943.

Meanwhile Vera continues her role as mother, telling her children to practise the piano, to do eurythmics, to continue to improve their English and for Raymond to go to confirmation classes. They should write once a week and keep a diary. “Please be careful when cycling; and I do not want you to paddle on the Thames alone, only accompanied by adults who can understand it properly and get you out when you fall into the water, because the Thames is quite deep.”

Second page of a letter sent on 10 September 1939 from “Mutti” (Vera) with messages at the bottom from “Der Onki” (Julius Kohn) and the Köbner family with whom Vera and possibly Hans were staying.

In November Vera reports “Grandfather has sent me the game of Monopoly – it is exciting and difficult. I recently heard a wonderful Mozart Mass. Afterwards I fed a beautiful squirrel in the park.” Meanwhile Ruth has been knitting a jumper and they are now going to make a theatre for the Kasperl puppets that were sent from Munich. Vera encourages Raymond’s piano playing: “I quite understand why you like Bach; are you playing the short preludes?”

At Christmas, the children make a crib and write a Christmas play, with clouds as scenery. Raymond went carol singing.

Christmas 1939. Hans sends Raymond a Christmas song he has composed for him. The Neumeyers stayed with Vera’s father Martin, presumably in Berlin, and her sisters Marianne (“Tante Janni”) and Dora (“Tante Dodo”) were with them, and they visit other relatives, including Janni’s daughter Serena and Martin’s sister Tante Ida.

The best gift that we and this year can give to Christ is knowing that we are healthy and thinking of each other, and that we let the love we have for each other radiate to the people around us as a beautiful warm light. I’m going to be with Grossvati, first with Tante Janni, then with him, Tante Dodo is coming too. Your letters will also be read by everyone, everyone is looking forward to it. It does not matter if the presents don’t play such a big role this time around, and besides, we had such overabundance of it last Christmas that we’ve been able to stock up a bit.

Vera’s presents are a thermos (that may well have been the one she took with her when she was deported in July 1942), stockings, honey, books, soap, stationery, Eau de Cologne and liqueur.

She stays on after Christmas as Tante Ida is ill; Ida dies on 4 January, aged 84, fortunately spared whatever fate the Nazis otherwise had in mind for her. Tante Dodo and Tante Janni attend the funeral.

Later that month Vera is in Bad Kreuzberg and spends time with Hans’ sister Betty, who has been forced out of her house in Garmisch and works looking after twelve old ladies. “She is on the go all day, only after dinner and in the evening can we sit quietly together, talk to each other (of course I have your letters to read to her) and play patience.”

Betty Braun, Hans Neumeyer’s sister, at Bad Kreuzberg in 1938.

On March 23 1940 Martin turns 80: Vera reminds Ruth and Raymond to send him a birthday letter. She is planning to be with him: “I will stay with Aunt Edith, who now lives in the same city. Now I’m working hard to earn the money for the trip, because it’s pretty expensive.”

The final letters trickle through around Easter 1940. Vera writes “How nice that Ta [her nickname for Ruth] was able to buy the beautiful recorder and so diligently practise with her little girlfriend; under the blossoming almond tree must be much nicer than in the damp cellar.” This confirms that the recorder duets Hans wrote for them were composed after this date, as the pen drawing on the cover of the music depicts Ruth and her friend Jane playing the recorders in a hammock strung up between trees.

The cover of Hans Neumeyer’s recorder duets, composed for Ruth in 1940. The illustration is probably by Vera Neumeyer, referring to Ruth’s description that she is enjoying playing the recorder by the almond trees with her friend Jane. Staff at the Imperial War Museum say this is one of their favourite artefacts in the entire museum.

Thereafter, nothing but monthly Red Cross messages are allowed, maximum 25 words. Indeed, in a Red Cross message later that year, Ruth says she has received the “flute” music.

We don’t know if the Neumeyers spent Christmas 1940 together, with or without Martin, Dora and Janni. Certainly in 1941 Vera and Hans were divorced, although we don’t know whether this was in an attempt to save Vera or because their marriage was in trouble. By July 1942 both Vera and Hans were deported to Nazi camps, and no more was heard from them.

I am so happy that you are so well and have a rich life filled with nice people, and there is no greater joy for me than to know that and to hear from your letters…. I thank God that you are well accommodated, busy and happy.

Vera, writing in May 1939

What the Neumeyers’ house was like

It was – and still is – a quirky gingerbread house that rather suited the bohemian lifestyles of its former residents, the Neumeyers. Here under its spreading roofs my mother’s family lived from 1920 to 1938, when the Nazi authorties evicted them on Kristallnacht. The house’s original owner was one of Dachau’s notable artistic community: Max von Seydewitz built it in 1898, with timber-clad upper storeys and a Moorish, three-arched window. A calvary bas relief adorned one of the outside walls. Von Seydewitz had a separate studio in the garden, which then ran down to the stream.

The garden has now been partly built over, and the ornamental bargeboards and some other external features have disappeared but the house, divided into apartments, is still instantly recognisable and is now a listed building.

Half a century on: room by room

My mother Ruth retained a sharp recall of the interior, and thanks to a letter she wrote in 1989 to its owner – Niels-Rüdiger Schwarz (whose wife still owns the block) describing in detail each room.

To see the original letter in German, click here.

From her description, I learn that her mother had a darkroom and developed photographs there. This explains why even in the dark, deprived days of the Third Reich the Neumeyers were still able to record things on camera. (It also explains why Ruth knew how to set up a dark room in our childhood home in Sydenham.)

We get a vivid impression of the interior. And Ruth has even supplied floor plans.

We start on the ground floor (basement). Opposite the garden gate, stone stairs led to the basement entrance. The coal cellar was on the right and the larder on the left. Straight ahead was the door to the kitchen – very old-fashioned and dark, mainly because the window was overshadowed by the balcony above. The fittings were really primitive. A coal-fired stove of uncertain age, a high-set dishwashing sink fed by cold water, a giant table in the window, kitchen cupboard, a side table and a two-burner gas cooker. Tiled floor and a serving window to the Bauernzimmer (“peasant room”).

My plan is only very approximate. The Bauernzimmer was at the back of the house, with windows to the garden and the side of the house. Next to the door was a large dark yellow tiled stove with a bench round it. It was a pretty, light room.

The scullery was at the end of the short corridor, with a coal stove for laundry. Major washes were done once a month. Later on the scullery was hardly used.

The main entrance, as now, was on the garden side, up steps. First one reached a vestibule with a place to put coats and umbrellas, with the doorway to the entrance hall. On the left, a door led to a dark corridor, from which you accessed on the left a baking room with a giant wood-fired stove, and straight ahead there was the tenants’ (Baumgartmers’) kitchen. The Baumgartners had three rooms, the living room next to the kitchen, and diagonally opposite was the bedroom.

At this point on the first floor landing there were about five further steps that led to the top storey. This consisted only of the washroom with the linen cupboard, and my mother’s Mädchenzimmer (girl’s room), with a little balcony on the street side of the house. You could get to this room from two sides. It was a very pretty room, with white furniture, light blue decorations and a thick red carpet.

The interesting thing about the washroom was that after you had gone up some steps to reach there were steps down out of the far side. These steps were very dark but they led to a secret “tea salon”. To the right of the steps was another store cupboard, quite gloomy with suitcases, baskets and theatre costumes. A tiny window to the tea salon was covered with a small picture, except at Christmas. Only then was the picture taken away, and the space was filled with a fairytale Christmas crib.

One of the crib scenes in the house, described by Ruth

In the hallway stood a beautiful old peasant cupboard, greeny blue with sheep scenes. Opposite the stairs a door lead to the large studio with a grand piano and a balcony on the street side the house. In this room a lot of family life took place. My mother’s music and dance classes also took place there, as well as the all-year theatre performances to which about 40 spectators were invited.

The children’s room was in front of you as seen from the hallway entrance, next to the studio, reached through a doorway from there, or through a door from the hallway. From the studio there was access to a darkroom, under the sloping roof of the balcony below, in which my mother developed her photos herself. Then came the garden bedroom from which there was a door, leading out to the verandah.

The stairs led to the upper floor, with a crown glass window on the right-hand side. Three quarters of the way up came a small room, the Rollzimmer, which had a large laundry roller and a bed.

On the left there was a door to a two-part store room (with lots of spiders) and a tiny window.

The tea room was painted gentian blue, and was heated by a low yellow tiled stove. Along the sloping wall there was a cupboard.

The peasant room had shutters by its windows looking to the garden. At the back of the house, over the main entrance the wall under the verandah window has been altered. If you have seen the picture in the catalogue you’ll already have established this yourself. In addition, these windows seem once to have consisted of three bays, even though one of these only opened to the little lavatory window. On the gables there have also been changes, with the removal of various wooden decorations. The whole of the right side of the house looks really stark and somewhat gloomy – the results of the disappeared half-timbering.

Inside the Neumeyer house in 2018: the layout has completely changed (and the staircase is new) but the Moorish window on the left is extant

Some of the contents described

Raymond recalled certain details when dealing with the postwar compensation claim. He is responding to his aunt’s detailed letter to the lawyer in which she describes what was in each room. We don’t have that letter unfortunately, but we can guess there would have been paintings and items from Vera’s wealthy parents. Ironically the person after whom their street has been renamed as Hermann Stockmann Strasse was responsible for helping Nazis select which paintings were valuable enough to be worth removing from Jewish people’s properties.

To see the original letter in German, click here.

One of the two grand pianos stood and in our last apartment in Munich (Thorwaldsenstrasse 5). The fate of these two instruments is not known to us.

The living room furniture was according to our best recollection made of lemonwood or inlaid with lemonwood. A significant proportion of the furniture was most probably bought new by my parents in the 1920s and 1930s, but there was also a large number of antique items – notably the showcase, the sideboard, the writing table, and various chests and cupboards.

The Mädchenzimmer owed its name not to the fact of being inhabited by our maid but to the fact that our mother had owned some of the furniture when she was younger, and brought it with her when she got married. Bedroom furniture included a small table and a writing desk; these items were in the Biedermeier style, though I can’t say whether they were genuine or copies.

We had two French mantel clocks in the Louis XV style and at least one stone sculpture about 25cm high that stood on a base in the studio room. My mother had a liking for polished glass – in the sideboard were a large number of conical wine and liqueur glasses, as well as carafes etc. Blown and coloured glass in the Venetian style was also plentiful – I particularly remember coloured vases and a magnificent blue sugar bowl.

Both parents originated from decidedly wealthy backgrounds and brought a lot with them when they got married; and later acquired more things when the households of their grandparents were liquidated. On top of this comes the artistic disposition, particularly my mother had virtually nothing without aesthetic value.

Some items from the house inventory were left in the final apartment in Munich (Thorwaldsenstrasse 5), from where my parents were deported in 1942. The rest was, to the best of our knowledge, placed with various acquaintances, but once war broke out it was impossible for our parents to let us know where everything was. In the years after the war, 1946-52, we retrieved a small number of items of clothing, books and music scores at the homes of those acquaintances whose addresses we had.

This wooden statuette of St Francis was one of the few ornaments from the house to survive. We had it in our house in Sydenham and it is now with a family member in New York.

Books and music

The books and other items that Raymond mentioned our family retrieving after the war stayed in my mother’s house until her death in 2012. Among them several dozen music scores, several of which my brother Stephen and I used when learning the piano.

In the hall of our house in Sydenham were these books from Dachau

Hans Neumeyer’s music compositions were not among them – apart from a single page Christmas song he’d evidently written for Raymond in December 1939. But there were several music manuscript books used by Vera and filled with notes and music used for her eurythmic studies.

The printed scores give some idea of the scope of the music the Neumeyers had in their lives. There were two large tomes of German folk songs, but most of it was classical repertoire: Schumann, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Grieg and so on. They were used by Vera, although she didn’t write any notes or fingering in any of them. Hans, a very competent blind pianist, learnt all the music he played by ear – presumably by Vera or his secretary Dela playing to him.

Some scores Vera used for eurythmics – there’s mention of Gluck’s opera Orfeo e Eurydice being used at Hellerau, the institution near Dresden where Vera and Hans met in the 1910s while studying eurythmics and the Dalcroze method.

Here are a few examples, many of which have Vera’s name on them, and some have a rubberstamp from the music book dealer in Görlitz from where they were bought:

The end

The Neumeyers lost their home on Kristallnacht, 9 November 1938 when they were ordered to leave their house before sunrise or else be put in a concentration camp.

Thereafter they moved to Munich, living in attics at first, then eventually with the Köbner family in Thorwaldsenstrasse.

Virtually all their possessions were presumably stolen by the Nazis apart from the few items that were stored with friends for safe keeping – and only some of those things ever came back to the family. My mother told me they had been particularly fond of a magnificent model train carriage with opening doors and seats – larger than a conventional toy but too small for a child to get inside; she had no idea where it came from. I have wondered if it was an exhibition piece made by the Ephraim railway works in Görlitz – the industrial empire her grandfather had owned.

Tenants moved into the house, and the Neumeyers were forced to pay for extensive repairs. There was then a compulsory sale (“Steuereinheitswert”), where the price was well below the market rate. Much of the proceeds were used to pay off the mortgage the Neumeyers had been obliged to take out because of their state of poverty caused by the race laws. Hans was allowed to withdraw small sums from the blocked account (“Sperrkonto”).

A few weeks before Christmas 1938, Ruth accompanied Hans back for one final visit to the sealed-off house to settle his tax affairs. More on that story here.

There are few clear images of the interior of the house. However the slide show below gives some impressions of how some of it looked inside and out.

Cameos of life under the Nazis: seen through the eyes of Dachau friends

My mother Ruth never severed links entirely with her home town, Dachau. As well as the Steurer family, she kept a steady flow of correspondence with numerous childhood friends, some of whom had performed in the plays at the Neumeyers’ house. One of them, Hans Engl, restored contact in old age when Ruth visited Dachau: they had performed in a nativity play at the house some 70 years before. He introduced himself simply as ‘I am the Holy Joseph’ and she instantly realised who he was.

Anna Kürzinger

Anna was a maid to the Neumeyer family (my mother’s family), as well as a close family friend. After the war, Christmas cards were exchanged yearly and in 1966 our family visited her at her house in Dachau.

The only letter we have from her was sent in July 1946 to Ruth in Adams Road, Cambridge, explaining that she obtained her address from the Steurer family, and that there isn’t a day that goes by when she doesn’t think about the Neumeyers. She also mentions that Frau Baumgartner, who is now living in the house, is worried about Raymond coming – and presumably having to confront him about what has happened. Raymond eventually obtained permission from the army to visit Dachau later that year. More about that in a future post.

A postcard from Anna Kürzinger, the Neumeyer’s maid and friend, to Ruth in July 1946. “Your mother was always so brave.” It bears the US Civil Censor’s rubberstamp.
Anna Kürzinger_20181215_0001
Anna Kürzinger (Anna Ell) with her son, in their garden at Gröbenrieder Strasse, Dachau

Vera’s letter to Anna

Apart from Red Cross messages to the children, this one of the last surviving letters from my grandmother Vera Neumeyer, ten months before she was deported. She is more frank than she could be in her censored letters to England, and still believes she will see her children again.

30.9.1941

Ruth is at a nice domestic science school with 18 other German girls and is very happy there. Raimund has at last been confirmed. Although I deeply feel the separation from the children I am glad that they do not have to experience what is happening here. Just imagine, I too have to have to wear a yellow star on my coat. I’ve spent the last four months on compulsory work in a market garden and work eight hours a day in Neubiberg and am away from home from seven in the morning until seven at night. I had to give up most of my teaching because there’s no time for it. I only manage a few private lessons on Saturdays and Sundays.

I don’t like going out any more with the [yellow] star, so a public meeting place is out of the question. I’m sure you understand.

Ruth is 18 now, can you believe it? I shall hardly be able to recognise the children when I see them again.

But Vera never did see her children again.

Anni Broschart

Anna Broschart confirmation photo Robert Kochstr 1
Anni Broschart at her confirmation

One of Ruth’s closest friends in Dachau, Anni Broschart also corresponded with her for many years after the war.

In a letter of 9 May 1946 – seven years to the day after Ruth and Raimund left Germany, she wrote:

By chance I was at the Steurers. Had a lovely time talking about the old days. I often think about it. I think about your mother above all, because of the way she gave me a love of music. I’ve been taking violin and organ lessons, and it means a lot to me. In the final weeks when your mother was in Munich she gave me a volume of Edvard Grieg and it has a place of honour in my house.

My fiancé is still somewhere in Russia.

We’ve seen two operas in Dachau Castle: Hansel and Gretel, and an opera by Lörtzing.

children in the Dachau house Anni Broschart standing, R&R seated to right
A rare view inside the Neumeyers’ house in Dachau, probably around 1935: Anni Broschart is standing and serving soup from a tureen. Ruth and Raimund are to the right.

Rosel Kirchhoff

Rosel was a classmate of Ruth in Dachau, and both her daughters stayed with us in London back in the 1970s. An article by Tony Barta [After Nazism: Antifascism and Democracy in Dachau, 1945] records that during 1944-45, as a student in Stuttgart, she helped serve food to survivors of the comprehensive Allied bombing raids. “She noticed that the people no longer cried as they took their food amid the rubble and watched the bodies of their sisters or their parents being dug out. They were no longer capable of responding with grief, and they did not care about defeat.” Hitching back to Dachau in April 1945, she found the town virtually unscathed physically, as if the war had never happened.

Rosel wrote an autobiographical novel about growing up in Dachau, titled Am Lagertor (‘By the Camp Gates’), published in 1974. She sent a copy to Ruth and signed it, saying that the passage on page 87 is her memory of Ruth (presumably around 1938). It’s a short passage, but revealing Ruth’s feelings in a way I have never encountered before:

A classmate, a dainty thing with dark, shiny braids and soft eyes, invites me to play in her home. The parents are away, and she covers the tea table in the dark living room with the shutters closed.

Then she tells of the fear with which her family lives, of wincing at every knock at the door and ringing of the bell. My hostess whispers that she prefers to hide in the closet and pull the door shut from the inside. “In my dreams, I often pack myself in a box and this again in a larger box and so on – I carefully tie each box together,” she continues.

Almost noiselessly, the gentle-eyed girl scurries across the room, trembling, pouring the tea. You wonder whether she is ill or simply mistaken. Does anyone else cringe in a closet or slip into boxes or twitch at each and every knocking sound?

A short time later, my classmate’s desk is empty. She has travelled abroad with her parents, says the teacher.

We find out the reason for the trip later: the grandparents of the dark-eyed girl are Jewish.

The teacher is misinformed or telling a lie: the Neumeyer family did not go abroad that year, but were thrown out of town and ended up in Munich. Meanwhile Ruth hid herself away in a make-believe box: that I can certainly believe.

The IWM tape: the full transcript

When in 2012 we were clearing the house my mother Ruth had lived in since 1956 – and where I was born – I spotted an untitled audio cassette tape lying in on a stool in the breakfast room. I played it, and to my immense surprise found that it was an hour-long interview with an archivist from the Imperial War Museum (IWM) about her experiences during the Hitler years in Dachau and her wartime in England. She had never told me about this.

Ruth around the time she gave this interview

I’ve listened through it several times over the past few years and edited extracts for this blog. Recently I renewed my acquaintance with it and realised the small details I’d missed or forgotten. So here is the full transcript, with my notes – they bring so much to light, but curiously what she doesn’t say also hints at more.

Her style of answering is vintage Ruth. She launches into anecdotes and has a brilliantly clear memory for certain events; but then she mentions people’s names without really describing who they are, and mentions other people without giving their names. She sticks to the story she wants to tell and skirts round the more uncomfortable bits. I love to hear her voice again, but there’s something about the way she holds information back that frustrates me too.

You can hear the entire interview on the IWM’s website at https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80025041. The interview is in two parts, each lasting just under 30 minutes – scroll down to the bottom of the page and you’ll see two boxes: the one you are listening two has red lines around three sides.

The interviewer is Lyn Smith, who has done many oral history recordings for the IWM.

[My comments are in square brackets and in italics.]

The interview: tape 1

Tell me something about your family background – where were you born and when?

I was born in Dachau on 17 September 1923.

What sort of family were you born into?

That’s very complicated. My mother came from Silesia and she was born in Görlitz. My father was from Munich where his parents had a factory for clothes in Munich and my father became blind when he was 14 and then studied music. He went to Hellerau which is a school for Dalcroze with eurythmics and music and he was a teacher there in harmony training and ear training. My mother went to the same school later on and that’s where she met him.

Did you have any brothers and sisters?

I had one brother

Was he older than you?

No he was younger?

What was his name?

He was called Raymond.

That’s a very English name

Well in German it is Raimund.

So what was your childhood like?

We had a very good childhood. My mother was very keen for us to join her classes in eurythmics. She gave many classes, quite a few in our house for adults and for children. She went to various schools and convent schools to teach the nuns how to teach eurythmics to young children, and she organised plays in our house once a year around Christmas time and a lot of children from school or her classes took part in it.

[Ruth at this point jumps ahead to the most significant event of her childhood when living in Dachau, a story she told us many times:]

We did a very lovely nativity play round about 1936 which attracted a lot of attention but on another occasion probably about a year later we had a different sort of play and everything was ready, and we had about 40 people watching and about 15 children in the play when we heard the doorbell, and up came two SS people who shouted at everybody how they dared to go into the house of a Jew and took all their names down and addresses, and the children all cried and were all sent home.

And a sort of uncle who was helping us was taken and sent to prison because he was helping all the children and girls and calmed them down. And they thought that wasn’t the sort of thing to do for a man.

And that was really the end of our plays. That was I think in 1937.

[Actually more likely to be 1938, according to information I have subsequently uncovered. The ‘uncle’ was Julius Kohn (‘Onki’), the lodger; he was sent to Dachau concentration camp for two weeks after this event, and never spoke about it. In 1943 he was deported to Auschwitz. More about him here.]

Could I ask you about the religion of your parents?

My father was Jewish but not orthodox or anything, and didn’t go to anything. My mother was Protestant.

Were you brought up in either of those faiths?

Yes, as a Protestant. In that again I was an outsider because most of the people in our class were Catholics and there were only four Protestants so we were always sent out when there was religious instruction.

So that made you an outsider?

I was always an outsider. We had no links with Judaism at all. Very first time I went to synagogue what about two weeks ago when we had this Holocaust Memorial Day in Lewisham.

Was there anything in the home that related to Jewish culture?

Not as far as I know. We didn’t know that we had some sort of Jewish background until I was about 12 when all the BDM [Bund Deutscher Mädel – the equivalent of Hitler Youth, for girls] and Hitler Youth started and they said why don’t you come but of course we couldn’t.

[This seems surprising considering that Ruth’s father and his family were Jewish and her mother’s father, Martin Ephraim, had been a prominent Jewish industrialist. More on the family’s Jewish businesses here.]

Was that a shock when you realised the situation and how you related to it?

We suddenly realised we were different.

[I think Ruth is keeping a lot back here; Lyn, the interviewer is delving gently and expertly.]

That was when you were twelve years old?

Yes, about that.

Ruth (right) with a friend in Dachau in the early 1930s

So what did it mean to you when you were accused of being Jewish? I wonder what you felt about that or what you knew about Jewish people?

We didn’t know anything except they were jolly rotten people and called saujüde. We knew very little about it [Judaism]. I think it was the sort of time when parents really kept children innocent and they didn’t really share their troubles, not like Anne Frank who always shared her troubles with adults. We were rather sheltered and our mother always tried to do beautiful things with us like plays and dances and outings to the mountains, and long walks and that kind of thing.

[Does Ruth get her words in a tangle here or is she describing what she was told about the Jews at school?]

Hitler came to power of course in 1933. Apart from the play in around 1937, when did it start to impinge on you? Can you remember the early events?

I think it was, I can’t remember the date, but it was in this Protestant school and they were trying to do this Christmas play and they thought it would be safer not to include us, and they apologised. We didn’t quite understand it but we thought it was a silly play, anyway. And that was it.

It is extraordinary how children really are very resilient. We still had one or two friends from school who didn’t seem to mind. We had some very loyal friends there in Dachau, actually. There was an artist woman who was a great friend of my mother, very supportive. We had very simple people, lots of peasant people who came and helped and occasionally we went to their house and they gave us a wonderful meal or they gave us some extra fruit – that sort of thing.

[The artist woman was Aranka Wirsching (1887-1956), whose son Anselm was taken as a prisoner of war by the British and wrote to Ruth from a POW camp in Egypt during 1946-47. The ‘peasant people’ may have been the Steurers, who feature elsewhere in this blog.]

Ruth (far right), with Raimund and a friend called Anna Jais outside the Neumeyers’ house in Dachau, spring 1938. Hans Neumeyer is behind, at the foot of the steps.

Did it affect your living standards?

I think it must have done because we had very little money. My father wasn’t allowed to earn through his music and my mother gave language lessons and eurythmic lessons in different places. I think she was the main earner.

You would have been known as Mischeling, being half Jewish.

Probably.

Did that come into it at all?

No I don’t think so.

Yet you seemed to have the full extent of discrimination – is that right?

Yes, probably. I was actually confirmed in Dachau. We had a little Protestant chapel.

[For more on her confirmation, see here.]

So you felt Christian, did you?

Yes, I felt very Christian.

[Christianity was hugely important to Ruth during the war years in particular. I don’t think she ever lost her faith but the intensity seemed to fade later on, perhaps when she discovered her parents had died in Nazi camps.]

How about your education? How was that affected?

Education was pretty awful because the usual way was that children of families who were more educated in Dachau – most of them were actually quite simple children of cobblers, farmers and so on – were sent to Munich, to a grammar school. But my family couldn’t afford that. We didn’t know that but we couldn’t afford it, so we stayed all the time in ordinary secondary schools.

I was wondering if anything happened before then [Kristallnacht] that was significant to you. Were you aware of the growing strength of Hitler and the impact of Nazism? What was Dachau itself like as a town at that time? And how compliant it was and whether there would have been banners about?

There would have been banners about, and when Hitler came to power there was quite a nice Burgomaster, and he said ‘Just roll up your Bavarian flags, keep them in the loft, and you’ll be able to use them again soon’. After that there were of course flags all over the place and processions. It’s difficult to remember all these things.

Dachau was made into a town some time in ‘37 or ‘36 which meant it had 8000 inhabitants – and there was a great big festival with flags. We took part in that, a bit  gingerly, but we did and it seemed to be all right. But after that people did make a nuisance of themselves and quite often they threw stones at us and shouted ‘saujüde’ and so on.

[Dachau actually became a town in 1933, when the Nazis came to power. She may be confusing this with the ceremony in 1935 for the opening of the new section of the town hall .]

This is the only one of Ruth’s family’s photos that actually shows an event. The archivist in Dachau said that it is likely to be the town hall inauguration during 31 August to 2 September 1935, with the Jakobskirche in the background – and not the town-making ceremony of 1933, when all the girls wore white dresses. Here, most of the children are carrying Bavarian flags but a couple have Nazi flags with swastikas. The nun on the left gives a clue that they are girls of the Klosterschule, which Ruth attended.

Did you know anything about the camp?

The camp was very hush hush. It was quite a way out of Dachau. The old town is situated on a hill and farming land around it. And round that is flat moorland which created beautiful light and a lot of artists settled there and painted – Dachau is quite well known for artists and they still send me very nice calendars of different artists every year.

[Ruth really didn’t want to talk much about the camp, and always maintained that Dachau was primarily an artists’ community. So at home we had lovely books on Dachau artists, and a Dachau Sparkasse art calendar hanging up in the loo, where there was also a decorative tile of Dachau. And by her bed was a picture frame with photos of her mother and Dachau’s old town – the castle and Jakobskirche.]

But when you went for walks and got anywhere near this camp, no one said anything – they said it was a powder factory and some people get sent there – no one spoke about it but you knew there was something sinister behind those walls. But it didn’t really start to be really awful till much later, when dreadful things happened.

Um, what else? Yes, I think it was in ‘37 when we weren’t allowed to go to school any more. It didn’t affect us. We were quite glad. We thought it safer not to go to school. But we never understood why my parents didn’t decide to leave Germany. They could have done – they had contacts in Switzerland and in Sweden,  in Italy – well Italy wouldn’t have been any good either.

It wasn’t until my father remembered  a pupil he had from England in the Dalcroze school in Hellerau that they started to write to ask whether they could find guarantors for us to come over, because that was after we had been thrown out of our house, after the Kristallnacht, and we were in semi-hiding in Munich for some time. The correspondence then started with this family in London who were very, very kind and found funding for us two – my brother and myself – to come to England. My parents were hoping to come and follow us, after they had settled their affairs – they had to do something about the house in Dachau and some personal things I don’t know [about], but of course they didn’t manage it.

What was your experience of Kristallnacht? Could you take me through that? This would have been in Dachau?

In Dachau, yes. We just come back from a holiday in Italy. My father was in Berlin learning how to make flutes and my mother and the two of us were alone in the house, when about 8 o’clock two people from Dachau town hall including the burgomaster arrived to say we would have to leave the house at sunrise the next morning or else be sent to prison.

My poor mother didn’t know what to do and asked the Protestant vicar and asked him for some help. He said he couldn’t do anything for us should just go so we packed a case and left before sunrise and went to Munich, to the station there. We had a yoghurt in the Molkerei and for some reason people guessed we were a bit odd arriving with case early in the morning and said they didn’t want us in the station.

[Hans, Ruth’s father, was a practical man but a flautist friend has told me it would have been extremely challenging for him as a blind man to make flutes. Hans seems to have gone to Berlin quite a bit – he must have been escorted there, perhaps by his friend and colleague Dela Blakmar.]

Luckily my mother had quite a lot of pupils in Munich and managed to get us into the loft of one of her pupils where we stayed for some days until some alternatives were found and my brother and I were sent to different people. I went to a family in Munich who were also Jewish and had two girls; I don’t really know where my brother went. But eventually after some weeks a Jewish doctor let us have two rooms in his flat and we stayed there until we came to England.

And my father came back from Berlin, and they allowed us to go to Dachau to settle his affairs with the banks and so on. The house was sealed up, and I think they were allowed to organise where the all things were going to go, and that was it.

[Ruth didn’t remember all the places they stayed at, and to what extent they were in hiding is not clear. From later in this interview it transpires that the first family they stayed with was the Lesers; Frau Leser and her daughters later escaped to England, and Ruth kept up with them for many years afterwards. The ‘doctor’ was Dr Köbner – Ruth’s mother Vera reports in her letters that she finds them difficult to get on with, though her husband Hans and his friend and colleague Dela like them.]

Celebrating Fasching at the Köbners in 1939 – Ruth is far right and Raimund in the middle with a hat.

Did you see any signs on Kristallnacht, because after all you would have been travelling through the night, of what had happened, of any destruction?

Now we didn’t but it was only 12 miles from Munich and it was all countryside really.

[We understand that the expulsion of Ruth’s family happened a day earlier than Kristallnacht, which would mean that the Neumeyers – Vera, Ruth and Raimund – were in a friend’s attic in Munich when Kristallnacht happened. Presumably they saw and heard nothing there.]

Had anything happened around you? Were there other Jewish families living in Dachau?

There were only two other families in Dachau. There was one family lived near us  – they had the same fate – it’s in this [Hans Holzhaider’s book about the Jewish families of Dachau – Vor Sonnen Aufgang. She is talking about the Wallach family, who owned a textile factory nearby. Their son Franz Wallach escaped to England where he changed his name to Frank Wallace].

There were very few of them?

Oh very few. Just one family and one or two individuals. There were no more than about 10 or 11 people from Dachau that they had the pleasure to send away, but there were five people who were affected by this who later on died in concentration camps, and these were the people I wanted to have commemorated by the town of Dachau rather than by the camp, because it had nothing to do with the camp.

Eventually the burgomaster of Dachau agreed to put a plaque up with the names for this five citizens of Dachau for the opening of this exhibition. And from then on they have a memorial service every November 9 – they put a wreath down and they have schoolchildren sometimes taking part in it – which I think is very good, and I’ve been sending messages to them quite often on this occasion.

[The exhibition was in 1988 in Dachau town hall: the plaque was Ruth’s initiative, though it needed some coercion from Hans Holzhaider.]

It’s very interesting in that your mother was not Jewish.

Half Jewish.

[Her father was Jewish, her mother was not.]

Oh I see. Although she was Protestant by religion, and your father was Jewish. Did they give you any category for that degree of Jewishness so far as you knew? Would have you been more than a Mischeling?

We would have been three-quarters, my brother and I.

What were you thinking all this time that all this was happening to you, because you were identified as being Jewish? Because you were a young woman, fourteen or fifteen?

I knew we were three-quarters Jewish, but it wasn’t called Jewish – it was called ‘non-Aryan’, which is a little bit different – ‘nicht arisch’ they used to call it.

And did you understand that term?

Yes. Only occasionally this ‘saujüde’ came out – and that of course was silly people who couldn’t distinguish between religions and so on.

Were you concerned that you are an Aryan-looking person – did you feel any different from the others?

No, I didn’t feel different. In Bavaria you get lots of dark-haired children and brown-eyed children, probably more than the fair ones, because there are all the Prussians up there. Anything north of the Danube was foreign to us. We were very silly, I think!

[Ruth always retained a sort of ironic snootiness to ‘hoch Deutsch’ and anything ‘up north’.]

How was it that your father managed to get you on to the Kindertransport?

How that was actually arranged I don’t know. All I know is that we got our different papers which took ages to get with lots of queueing up at offices and then your passport. Then you had to take to take a photograph of your left ear, of one of your ears showing. We had to have everything we want to take out of the country displayed. One evening an official came to make sure we were not taking too much out of the country.

We were allowed to take two forks, two knives and two spoons of silver with us. [These was monogrammed silver cutlery bearing ‘MHE’ — the initials of Martin and Hildegard Ephraim, Ruth’s maternal grandparents. We used this cutlery in London for decades. There was also a silver christening spoon engraved ‘Ruth’ , which we rather rashly gave away to someone.]

Monogrammed Ephraim family silverware which Ruth and Raimund brought with them to England on their journey in May 1939

My mother had bought me a new dressing gown made of towelling. It was red with white dots on it and she thought ‘just to make sure that they don’t think it is new I shall soak it in water’ and there was this thing in the bath of water when the man came to see if it was okay. And I’ve still got this dressing gown. We sometimes used it for Father Christmas because it was red!

We were allowed to take a trunk and a case each and were just told you’re going on this train which will go to Holland and from Holland to England. Your new people be collecting you at Liverpool Street. The night we were leaving we were feeling very mixed and sad, and the middle of the night was even worse. Our parents came with us to the station.

In some ways we were fortunate because we were travelling with two friends my mother managed to introduce us two, two young children who were coming on the same transport. So we were together all the time in the compartment and we didn’t really notice much else, which was lucky.

[These children were Walter and Clarisse Nathan, who went to live with the Bovey family in Paisley: click here for their story, which includes reminiscences from Clarisse about the Kindertransport journey.]

During the night we must have slept a little bit and we were woken up once by some SS officials wanted to look at our papers and we thought probably something awful thing was going to happen but nothing happened luckily. In in the morning we arrived in Holland and were greeted with cocoa and white bread which was most unusual. I can’t remember the ship at all, but we must have got on a boat to Harwich and arrived in the afternoon. Then we went down by train to Liverpool Street and waited in the hall there to be collected, which was very lucky.

We know from Ruth’s ferry ticket that this was the ship, SS Amsterdam, on which she and Raimund sailed from Hook of Holland to Harwich on 10/11 May 1939. The following year this ship was used as a hospital vessel in the Dunkirk rescue, and in 1944 it was employed for the D-Day landings but was blown up.

The people of course who took care of us were wonderful. I remember going in a taxi from Liverpool Street to I think it must have been Waterloo, because we went to Weybridge after that – and on the way we were shown the Bank of England and St Paul’s on the way, and Trafalgar Square. My brother went to a different family but the people where we stayed with in Weybridge were relations of the pupil of my father’. We were there – my brother went to a different school and I went to the Hall School, which was a wonderful private school in Weybridge. It was the first time I ever enjoyed being in a school.

[Frank and Beatrice Paish met them at the station; they were the guarantors – Beatrice was the connection, having studied eurythmics with Vera and Hans many years before. Ruth and Raimund went to stay with Oscar (Beatrice’s brother) and Doris Eckhard in Weybridge.]

From an album of photos of Ruth and Raimund’s life with their new adoptive family in England

How about your language? Did you speak English at all?

No, I think my mother tried to teach us a few words of English, so we could say a few sentences, and we tried to practise them. We looked in a very old dictionary or phrasebook – there were some phrases of endearment, and we thought we’d better learn some. There was a very stupid one which said ‘Hullo, how are you, old horse?’ – that was supposed to be a term of endearment – it must have been from the 18th century or something!

[Ruth used to say that she didn’t remember making a conscious effort to learn English – it just happened. Her mother’s English, though, was very good and I would have thought she must have taught her children a little in the weeks before they came over. She didn’t really have a German accent, though there is a hint of something discernibly different that comes over on this recording. Raymond, on the other hand, never lost his German accent.]

They were very, very nice and when we arrived there was an enormous round table with all the family – two girls and all the parents, and masses of food – we’d never seen so much food: there were scones, and cake and jellies and salad and sausages. We had forgotten that in England when you are asked if you want any more you say ‘no thank you’ – we kept on saying ‘thank you’ and they gave us more and more! But we soon learned.

[Ruth loved the ceremony of a communal meal together – not the ostentation of the cooking but the fact that there was plenty and everyone was there. In my childhood I remember her telling us to lay an extra place at table ‘for the unknown soldier’ – in case anyone else unexpectedly turned up.]

The interview: tape 2

I suppose culturally there was a lot to learn, wasn’t there?

There was an enormous lot to learn. My education had been really terrible up to then. I found that the school I went to was a revelation. It was free, it was quite small, we did the most wonderful things, history was fun, mathematics was quite good, English you had to learn a poem straight away and recite it in the hall and had to take part in a play, Macbeth.

The art was absolutely fantastic: instead of doing little drawings with a little flower standing in it you had a big sheet of paper and powder paint, and for homework you had to produce a big painting. On Monday morning they were all pinned up on the wall and we criticised each other’s pictures. One suddenly learned to live and it was absolutely wonderful.

[Ruth attended art college in Canterbury in 1950, studying under Eric Hurren. While on the course she created a wooden sculpture of hands which she said was the memory of her father’s hands.]

Painted by Ruth in the 1950s or 1960s, this has something of the look and character of Dachau’s old town

And they also had a marvellous Dalcroze teacher. They performed a Bach fugue with three girls and it was absolutely lovely. Unfortunately the war broke out, the school evacuated to the country, my family had to stay behind because they had a little shop there and had to look after that.

[Dalcroze was a method of eurythmics – a discipline connecting music, movement mind and body, and designed to foster ear-training, improvisation and music improvisation — which Ruth’s mother Vera had taught. Dalcroze courses are still held in Britain.]

But the other part of the family who initiated all this asked us to come with them to Wales. We spent the whole summer there and were there when the war broke out. We were told ‘it won’t last long and your parents will be all right’. We had to stay in Wales a bit longer because the husband , Professor Frank Paish, was at the LSE, which evacuated to Cambridge.

It was Mrs Beatrice Paish who was a pupil of my father’s. So they said ‘would you like to evacuate with the school to the country or come with us to Cambridge, because we have some more relations there and you can stay with those relations?’ So I said I would like to go to Cambridge  and had got to know those people because while we were in Wales and we had performed a little play, Hänsel and Gretel and all the children there  – there were lots of people, all the family, camping and so on – and I had the most marvellous time in Cambridge with this other family. We wrote our own plays and produced things, and made a thousand and one things all over the house. I started to learn a little more – botany, English and history – but then everything was changed.

Vera Neumeyer’s notes on Hansel and Gretel, a children’s play with music that she probably would have organised at the family home in Dachau during the 1930s

Ruth’s illustration for a children’s project on Hansel and Gretel when doing teaching practice in 1949. The fairytale evidently struck a deep chord with her. Her mother had produced the play-with-music in the Neumeyer house in the 1930s and when I was a child she got my brothers and neighbours’ children to perform it in our house in London in the early 1960s, with one or two songs from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, her favourite opera. The story of two children lost in a threatening forest, defeating the evil witch and finding their long-lost parents has somewhat uncannily close parallels with Ruth and Raymond’s experience.

In Cambridge, did you meet other refugee children?

Not at that time.

I understand there was quote an organisation in Cambridge – Mrs Burkill – do you know her?

Yes, but not at that time. The family I was stayed with was attached to the Lees School – he [John Stirland] was a senior master there. The Lees School evacuated to Scotland and it was more important for me to stay on in Cambridge and learn a bit more, then Mrs Burkill  and the Refugee Committee  started coming in with all these things, and they had a hostel for all these refugee girls to learn domestics so they could at least do something useful and didn’t get sent to the Isle of Man.

[Many refugees were sent to a camp on the Isle of Man during the war, but fortunately Ruth avoided this bleak hardship.]

So I was in this hostel for six months and we learned how to iron handkerchiefs, how to wash up and how to cook things and so on and so forth. Then the Refugee Committee asked me if I would like to learn something else and what I would like to do. I gave them the alternatives: I would love to paint stage scenery or else I could work with children. It was decided it was safer bread and butter to work with children, so I was sent to Wellgarth Training College – it used to be in Hampstead, but it had been evacuated to a country house near Swindon.

Your time in Cambridge and the Refugee Committee – was that a good, tight organisation?

I think it was, but I didn’t have very much to do with it.

What about Mrs Burkill – what did you think of her?

I didn’t come across her very often, but she was very nice, very excitable, a little bit bossy. I think she did a lot for us all – there was this club, the 55 Club I believe, that was for refugees, but I didn’t go there very often.

But after this training at Wellgarth, where they were supposed to find wonderful jobs for us and I insisted I didn’t want any of their jobs as I was going to find my own in Cambridge again. I came back to Cambridge, and after that I saw the 55 Club people a bit more often. There was of course a wonderful clergyman called Pastor Franz Hildebrandt who used to hold Anglo-German services at Christ’s College Chapel every so often. All the girls I knew were very keen on going there – he was a rather smashing sort of a person, very good to talk to  – he had something to do with Pastor Niemoller.

Pastor Franz Hildebrandt

[Pastor Hildebrandt was a Lutheran of Jewish descent. He was a friend of Pastor Martin Niemöller – both men set up an organisations in Nazi Germany to help pastors affected by the Aryan Paragraph. Both men were arrested by the Nazis and Niemoller was interned during the war in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. Hildebrandt was released and came to Cambridge where he was instrumental in building up the Protestant congregation. He presided over the wedding of my parents Ruth and Ronald in 1951.]

So he attracted young ladies to his services?

No, there were not many people who were Protestant and Jewish and living in Cambridge.

Had you had contact with your parents at this time? Leaving on the Kindertransport, what was it like leaving your parents on the station? Did you have any idea that you might not see them again?

I had no idea – we were quite certain we would see them again.

Were you in touch with them subsequently?

We wrote letters until the war broke out and they wrote letters to us, and told us what was happening, but they always covered up any awful things. Later on there were the Red Cross messages that one was allowed to send once a month with 20 words [actually 25 words], and they went via Switzerland and the answer then came back a few months later. They went on – I’ve still got them here actually  – until 1942 when they were deported. They just said they were ‘going away’, and that was that.

And did you have any idea where they might be?

No. We thought my mother might have to go to a work camp – that’s what it was called. I didn’t know until after the war that my father was in Theresienstadt and my mother was somewhere in Poland – one of those concentration camps there.

[There’s plenty elsewhere in this blog about her parents’ fates: Hans in Theresienstadt, and Vera in eastern Poland.]

The crematorium oven at Theresienstadt, on my visit in 2001 when I lit candles

Was your father ever sent to the Dachau camp?

No, we had nothing to do with Dachau at all.

[Ruth revisited Dachau several times after the war, to see friends and attend commemorative events in the town, but apart from an event in the chapel there she never visited the concentration camp memorial.]

I understand he composed a piece of music?

He composed lots of music, but all of it got destroyed and there were only two little works which a friend of his, a colleague of his, who was Swedish, had – she was a viola player – she sent them to us a long time after the war. One is a duet for violin and viola, and the other is a trio for violin, viola and cello. They still exist and I hope we will do something about it one day. I have got a recording of it which some pupils did at Trinity School of Music with Bernard Keeffe – he tried to do it on a tape – it gets interrupted by a police siren and they start again – I thought it was rather typical!

[Ruth would have been pleased to know that the surviving music of Hans Neumeyer has in the past few years been played at numerous concerts and events in several countries.]

Did he compose them specially for you?

No. He composed them for his pupils. He had a flat in Munich, and a grand piano there (as in Dachau), and taught in Munich privately.

I have heard he composed a tune specially for you after he had left?

Yes, I’ve got that here. It came via Switzerland and I got it in Cambridge when I learned to play the recorder with one of the girls [Jane Stirland] in the household there, and we used to play duets  a lot – anything we could find – and he must have heard about these in the Red Cross messages – and he composed these two little pieces, sent them to a friend in Switzerland, who was a musicologist, who managed to send them to us. We got them during the war somehow.

[The musicologist was Gustav Güldenstein (1888-1972) from the Basel Music Academy. He taught rhythm, solfège, harmony and improvisation there from 1921 until his retirement in 1953. He was a colleague of Hans, and a family friend who kept in contact after the war and wrote a letter to Ruth about what he thought had happened to Hans. We think it likely that all the letters sent after the outbreak of war between the Neumeyer parents and Ruth and Raimund went via him in Riehen, Switzerland. ]

Gustav Güldenstein, with pupils at the Basel Academy of Music

That must have been very precious to have had something specially composed for you, for your recorder?

Yes. The timing of this music is very difficult, but I’m hoping someone will do it properly with two recorders, then it will be nice – then you can have it.

[I first heard it performed by children on 22 June 2016 at North Herts Music School. To see the story, click here.]

So their letters were cheerful to you, were they?

Yes, they were always hiding the awful things – I think people always did that. It wasn’t the generation when adults talked to children much and worried them with their problems.

[And Ruth certainly kept the worst of it from me and my two brothers during our childhood and afterwards. She never really let on to us how it had affected her.]

Were you having any problems at all – from what you’ve been describing, everything seems to have been going very  well. But were you feeling homesick?

I wasn’t feeling homesick at all because I must have felt the oppression in Germany and I also found that there was tension between my parents at that time. And I felt so relieved to leave everything behind. That seems quite awful.

It must have been a very strainful, stressful time for parents, with things deteriorating so much, and particularly as you say hiding from you?

Yes, it’s very strange because my mother had two sisters who had survived the war in Germany. One had married an Italian and she would have been half Jewish, and the other one just survived. They were both in the northern part of Germany, and I think they felt very guilty. My mother before she was deported had sent a telegram to one of her sisters saying ‘please come to Munich, I may have to leave’ but her sister wired back to say ‘I haven’t got a travel permit, I can’t come’. But one of the first things one of these aunts said to me when they came here once was ‘I couldn’t help it, I couldn’t get a travel permit, I couldn’t help your mother’. It must have been very awful for her. She always said ‘I think she’s still alive somewhere’ but we never found her.

[She is referring here to Janni, her aunt, whose letter confirms this story.]

When war started in September 1939 was that a big blow for you?

Yes, it was a big blow, but Mrs Paish was very nice – she came and sat on my bed, and said ‘It won’t be long, your parents will be all right and we’ll look after you.’ We were comforted and we were at a time when lots of new impressions come into your life. Everything was very positive.

Were British people kind to you?

Yes, very kind. People were very kind – I really did feel at home, especially the two girls I lived with in Cambridge, we did so much together. One of them once wrote to me and said ‘we didn’t know how nice life could be until you came’. That was really nice! And I’m still very much in touch with all this family and go to their family ‘cousin’ reunions.’

Ruth (far left) with fellow refugees Trude, Johannes and Ossy in Cambridge

How about your work situation? You were saying when you left your training you were determined to find your own job. How easy was that? You were trained to look after young children, were you?

Yes, it was very easy. There were war nurseries – I got a job in a very nice war nursery and I stayed there for quite a long time until I did my teacher training.

Were these nurseries specially set up for women working in the war effort?

Yes. They were from 8 o clock to either 6 or 8 o’clock at night and the children were there all day, the children slept there and had their meals.

Was that a government-run scheme?

Yes. First we weren’t allowed to own a bicycle or leave the town without police permission for more than 5 miles radius.

Is that because you were a so-called enemy alien?

Yes. I soon discovered when I came back to Cambridge in 1943 that if you offered to do fire-watching you were allowed to be out at night and have a bicycle, which I did, fire watching from the roof of a church [Great St Mary’s] in the middle of Cambridge, which was very exciting.

Were there some raids?

There were some raids but nothing very much. We had a sort of cellar with bunks in it in the first house. Some windows were blown in in some of the colleges.

How about your brother? Did you have contact with him?

Yes, I had contact but his life was very different. I don’t know if I should say this really but his guardian didn’t really care very much about him, which was a pity. He did very well at school but was told to leave as he was going to be sixteen soon and it would be better to work on the land. He absolutely hated farming and ran away twice. He eventually landed up in Birmingham at a bicycle factory, where he did his Matric, then he joined the army. He had to change his name.

By the time he was actually posted somewhere it was the end of the war and he was in Germany in the occupation force and had a lot to do with the intelligence corps.

[For more on Raymond’s story, see here.]

Raymond on the banks of the Elbe in December 1946 or January 1947

Did you want to go into the forces?

No. I think I did my war work in the war nurseries.

Did you get to meet the mothers of the children?

Yes, I got to meet the mothers. They were working in factories mostly, or [doing] anything that was short of manpower. It was very nice for them to have the children completely looked after. They [the children] were fed, and washed, and all had little beds, had their rest, had stories read to them, were taken for walks. This must have been all free. I think our pay was £2.10s per week – I paid 10s for my accommodation. I had a room in Professor Ginsberg’s house in Cambridge, which was absolutely lovely, they were very nice people and I had quite a lot of freedom there. He was also at the LSE of course. I suppose Cambridge was really the background to my younger life.

[For more on Ruth’s Cambridge years, click here.]

Did you have a good social life?

We knew quite a lot of people

Were there a many young refugees?

Yes, there were a few, especially some twins who I am in contact with – they’re still in Cambridge. There was a group of singing people and we got together and sang opera in the Refugee Club. We did a little bit of the Freischutz and a little bit of Carmen, which was quite nice. I tried to learn the piano but I wasn’t very clever.

Cambridge Refugee Club production of Bizet’s Carmen in October 1945. Ruth is seated, far right

What is your memory of VE Day?

I had got to know someone [Leon Long] who had got engaged to a German girl. She had to go back to Germany. At the end of the war the whole of Cambridge was celebrating and we were just very glad that the borders might be open again and we might find my parents again. My brother was in Germany and managed to contact his [Leon’s] fiancée. So they got together. After that I went into teacher training.

[Leon Long and his brother Denys were both very close to Ruth. From letters it seems they both had romantic attachments to her. However, while stationed with the British army in Germany in 1946 Raymond sought out Leon’s fiancée Maria, who had got engaged to him before the war, and brought the couple back together. They married soon after, and Ruth was a bridesmaid at the wedding. It was a curious set-up, and I never worked out what Ruth made of it, or if she was by then closer to Denys or to someone else. For more about her time at VE Day, click here.]

Leon and Denys Long

When did you find out about your parents?

It was in 1945 in September. It came via my brother and the Red Cross – he made some enquiries where they had died.

Did you know anything then about the reality of the Holocaust?

No. Not really, it came much, much slower. My brother had to go to some kind of denazification court and also there was something in Dachau where people had to state that they knew us – and we were supposed to be ready to answer questions. We had a pupil of my mother’s who was actually in my class once, and she was so worn out by this that she fainted in this court case. But there was something about our house of course – we were trying to get our house back again.

[The people in Dachau were the Wirschings. Ruth and Raymond were asked by Aranka Wirsching after the war to write to the authorities to confirm that her son Anselm, who had served in the German army, was not a Nazi.]

Anselm Wirsching (far right) while being held at a British Prisoner of War camp in Egypt, April 1947

Did you manage to do that?

After a long, long time we managed to get the person (who actually bought it) under pressure to pay some more money – and she paid us some more money over about seven years of about £500, no about 500 marks. But we didn’t want to worry about it, we didn’t really want this house it was far too big, old. It was a very nice house.

Did you have any intention of returning to Germany after the war?

No, not at all. We felt in some ways very antagonistic towards Germany.

Do you still feel that?

I have mixed feelings. The only thing I really like about Germany is the mountains  – and that’s right down in the Alps – and you get mountains in the Dolomites, in Switzerland and in Austria too.

[Ruth retained an ambivalence towards Germany until the end of her life. There were German books, pictures, letters and more all over the house in London, and German music and art were very important to her, but there was always something simmering just beneath the surface.]

German books from the Neumeyer house in Dachau, sent over after the war by a friend who had been looking after possessions. This bookcase stood in the hall of the family home in Sydenham, London, until 2013.

Do you have any contact with the Kindertransport reunions or the people?

No, I don’t know anything about them.

It seems from your experience that you were very much on your own, very individual.

Yes.

Are you interested in being in contact with them?

Well, I met one or two people here at the Imperial War Museum – I met Bea Green and briefly met Anita Wallfisch, but otherwise I haven’t really – no one else from the Kindertransport. I know one friend very well – who lives in Nottingham – she was also in Munich. She was actually in Munich where I stayed for three weeks in hiding, and she came to Cambridge as well, before me.

[The friend in Nottingham was Ursula Leser, married name Leonard. They kept in close contact for the rest of their lives.]

Well thank you very much indeed, Ruth, for coming along today and telling me about your experiences, and I do hope that something happens with your father’s tune.

Yes, that would be nice. I don’t suppose this is very useful to you as I can’t really say very much.

[Classic Ruth understatement. She actually had an amazing amount of information and memories, but for a long time thought no one else would be remotely interested in any of it.]

Oh no, it’s most interesting, thank you very much indeed.

Lyn Smith’s book on people she has interviewed for the IWM Sound Archive

Our family archive destined for the Imperial War Museum

When my mother Ruth Locke (née Neumeyer) died in 2012, we cleared out the house our family had lived in since 1956 and found scattered around in trunks, bookshelves and desk drawers a remarkably intact archive relating to her life and her family’s.

The entire collection is being donated to the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in London, who have described this as “an extremely rich and interesting archive”. I’ve been busy over recent weeks cataloguing the whole lot. Below is the list I will be sending them. The list of photographs I have done separately as an Excel document. The museum already has numerous items donated previously – including Ruth’s teddy bear, her dressing gown, luggage she and her brother brought on the Kindertransport, a family photo album, Red Cross messages to and from the parents, and letters from the parents to the children’s host family in England.

What’s going to the IWM

There were hundreds of photos of her upbringing in Dachau in the 1920s and 1930s, her wartime days in Cambridge and even a few of the family’s earlier life before the First World War.

Letters clearly played a hugely important role during the wartime in many people’s lives, as the only link between displaced family and friends. Ruth wrote letters frequently, throughout her life, and does not appear to have discarded any of those she received. I sifted out those

She was a conscientious diary writer, and apart from 1938 there’s something from every year, some with scant information, others tricky to read but quite a few copiously descriptive – including the date in 1939 she and her brother left to England on a Kindertransport and the diary entry in 1945 when she realised her mother had perished in the Holocaust.

Then there are all sorts of other items, such as her school notebooks from the 1930s, her mother’s notes on performing plays and running music and rhythm classes (‘eurythmics’) for children, a file relating to the long, drawn-out legal claim in the 1950s and 1960s for compensation for the loss of the family house in Dachau, and an autograph album begun in Dachau in 1935 but with entries after she had arrived in England.

Items already given to the IWM include those listed here on their website (some other items, such as family silver, luggages and the teddy bear don’t appear here yet):

The complete list of the archives

This is the list I’ve created, subject to some further tweaks and edits. Much of it has been covered in entries on this blog, although there’s still a lot that I’ve yet to feature.

Photos

These I have listed separately in an Excel spreadsheet with numerous cells (date, inscriptions on the back, who wrote the inscriptions, who is in the photo, who took the photo, etc). There are over 300 photos; the IWM already has a photo album containing 600 more, and some loose photos. Here’s just a tiny bit of it from a screenshot:

Letters

Letters between members of the Neumeyer/Ephraim families

*124 letters from Raimund Neumeyer (Raymond Newland) to Ruth Neumeyer December 1941 to May 1948, including his period working in the British Army (December 1943 to August 1947), most of it as a German interpreter for the Military Police in Germany. Written in English and German. There is also a summary in English of all the letters, in date order.

4 letters in English from Rosie Müller (‘Tante Rosie’), thought to be a relative of the Neumeyers, to Ruth; written August 1941 to October 1945 in New York, plus one undated postcard in German.

*Letter in German from Marianne Bisi (‘Tante Janni’) 9 April 1947 to Ruth Neumeyer, in German, describing events in her life during the war, her inability to help Vera Neumeyer from being deported, and her need for food and other supplies at the time of writing.

Story typed out by Vera Neumeyer with annotation in pencil at the end in 1939 or 1940, and sent to her children Ruth and Raimund in England. The story may have been written by the family’s friend and lodger Julius Kohn, who often entertained the children with his own stories.

*46 letters in German from Vera Neumeyer in Munich to her children, Ruth and Raimund in Weybridge, from 11 May 1939 to spring 1940; some letters are undated but are from this period.

*Typed letter from Dela Blakmar (secretary and friend of Hans Neumeyer) at foot of three transcribed letters from Vera Neumeyer shortly before Vera’s deportation and written on the train while being deported to an unknown destination in Poland. In German. July 1942.

Letter written by Raimund Neumeyer in August or early September 1939 to his parents Hans and Vera in Munich, but never sent.

Letter from Martin Ephraim in Berlin to Ruth and Raimund in Weybridge, 14 June 1939.

4 letters from Valerio Bisi to his cousin Ruth Neumeyer, written in English from British POW camp in Haifa, January 1945 to November 1946, plus letter from Rome March 1947.

2 letters and postcard in German from Gustav Güldenstein in Riehen, Switzerland. December 1939; May and November 1945, concerning whereabouts of Hans Neumeyer.

36 letters and postcards from Dora Böse (Dora Schweig; nicknamed “Tante Dodo”) to her niece and nephew Ruth Neumeyer and Raymond Newland, December 1945 to February 1953.

Dora in 1938

Postcard from Betty Braun in Bad Kreuznach to her niece and nephew Ruth and Raimund Neumeyer in England, 14 January 1940.

4 letters from Ruth Neumeyer (nicknamed “Ta”) to her brother Raymond Neumeyer (Raymond Newland; nicknamed “Mani”), in German and English, January 1940 June 1945.

36 letters and postcards from Dora Böse (Dora Schweig; nicknamed “Tante Dodo”) to her niece and nephew Ruth Neumeyer and Raymond Newland, December 1945 to February 1953.

Postcard from Betty Braun in Bad Kreuznach to her niece and nephew Ruth and Raimund Neumeyer in England, 14 January 1940.

4 letters from Ruth Neumeyer (nicknamed “Ta”) to her brother Raymond Neumeyer (Raymond Newland; nicknamed “Mani”), in German and English, January 1940 June 1945.

4 letters in German from Julius Kohn (“Onki”), the lodger of the Neumeyers, to Ruth and Raimund Neumeyer, May to June 1939.

6 letters in German from Hans Neumeyer to his children (in England), Ruth and Raimund, May to July 1939.

Letter (unsent) from Ruth Neumeyer in England to parents Hans and Vera Neumeyer in Munich, in German; written between May 1939 and spring 1940.

Typed letter dated 9 May 1938 from Speyer, signed by matron Schw. Gerarder [?] to Vera Neumeyer thanking her for her work doing rhythmic exercises and games with a children’s group.

Letters from German friends 1938-1947

13 cards from friends and relatives congratulating Ruth Neumeyer on her Confirmation in the Lutheran Church in Dachau, April 1938.

Letter from Anni Siebley in German, 22 December 1953, passing on papers to Ruth Locke from her maternal aunt Dora Böse.

*2 photocopied accounts of life in Theresienstadt, including meeting Martin Ephraim and Hans Neumeyer, written by Walter Hirschberg, incarcerated there February 1944 and May 1945. To unknown recipient(s), probably Dora Böse.

*Letter from Alois Wiener to an unknown recipient, in German, about meeting Hans Neumeyer in Theresienstadt. Dated 25 July 1946.

*Note of 12 September 1946 typed out by Dela Blakmar, secretary and friend of Hans Neumeyer, from Alois Wiener about Hans Neumeyer’s death.

*Letter of 17 July 1947 typed out by Dela Blakmar, secretary and friend of Hans Neumeyer, sent to her by Elias Manuelidis in memory of his friend and teacher Hans Neumeyer.

*[1 letter not translated] 4 letters from Steurer family, in German, January to May 1946, from Dachau to their friends Ruth Neumeyer and Raymond Newland.

Letter from Anni Broschart from Dachau, to Ruth Neumeyer in England, in German, dated 9 May 1946.

Letter from Margaret Morse in German, 12 May 1939 welcoming Ruth and Raimund Neumeyer to England; Ruth and Raimund had arrived the previous day on a Kindertransport from Munich.

Postcard dated 17 July 1946 from Dachau from Anna Kurzinger, maid to the Neumeyer family in Dachau up to 1938, to Neumeyer and Raymond Newland. In German.

*6 letters from Dela Blakmar to Ruth Neumeyer (Ruth Locke)/Raymond Newland, June 1939 to January 1960, regarding Hans Neumeyer and the Neumeyers’ house in Dachau etc.

*7 letters from Aranka Wirsching in Dachau to Ruth Neumeyer and Raymond Neumeyer (Raymond Newland), December 1946 to January 1948.

*[some translated] 29 letters from Anselm Wirsching, 25 of which from POW camp in Egypt then 4 of which from 9 September 1947 in Dachau, to Ruth Neumeyer, in German (1 in English), November 1946 to February 1948.

Letters to and from Paish/Eckhard family

3 letters and a postcard in English, from Vera and Hans Neumeyer in Munich to Beatrice and Frank Paish in London, early 1939, in preparation for the Neumeyer children, Ruth and Raimund, to travel on a Kindertransport to England, to stay with Beatrice Paish’s brother in Weybridge.

Typed letter on headed notepaper from Oscar Eckhard, brother of Beatrice Paish, to his mother after taking in Ruth and Raimund Neumeyer as Kindertransport refugees, six days after the children’s arrival in England. In English. Dated 17 May 1939.

4 letters from the Jewish Blind Society to Beatrice Paish, concerning the possible placement of Hans Neumeyer (mistyped as Neuberger) in England. In English, February and March 1939.

Letter in English from Ruth Neumeyer when staying with the Eckhards in Surrey, to unknown people, probably the Paishes or Stirlands, 8 January 1940.

Typed transcriptions of letters written during evacuation to Lockeridge (Wiltshire) in June and July 1940, to John Stirland from his children and wife, and from Ruth Neumeyer who was living with them.

Early letters to  Neumeyers/Ephraims (pre 1935)

Postcard and letter from Timm Kröger, an author from Kiel, to Vera Ephraim in 1911; the postcard depicts his house.

Postcard from unknown person writing from Görlitz to Dora Böse, 28 September 1929.

Envelope addressed to Vera Ephraim in Görlitz (1922 or earlier), from Austria.

Postcard dated 9 September 1934 from Luis Trenker in Berlin to Vera Neumeyer in Dachau.

Postcard dated 2 July 1915 from Prof. Dr Stieg to Vera Ephraim, while a student of eurythmics at Hellerau, near Dresden, where she met Hans Neumeyer.

Postcard from Görlitz, c. 1920-1930, to Vera Neumeyer (not usual Neumeyer address in Dachau); text includes a pumpkin recipe.

Letters during Ruth Neumeyer’s time in Cambridge/Wellgarth

17 letters in English from Denys Long to Ruth Neumeyer, January 1945 to January 1947.

4 letters in English from ES Long to Ruth Neumeyer, January to December 1945.

9 letters in English from Leon Long and 1 in German from Leon and Maria Long to Ruth Neumeyer, November 1944 to July 1948.

Leon and Denys Long with Ruth Neumeyer, Cambridge, c.1944

32 letters in English from other students at Wellgarth Nursery Training College to Ruth Neumeyer, plus one group letter, 1942-1944.

Incomplete letter in English from Ruth Neumeyer to her former Wellgarth colleagues (trainee nursery students), 29 April 1943.

10 letters in German from unknown people to Ruth Neumeyer in Cambridge: 3 from Wheely’s Rd, Birmingham (February to March 1943; 2 incomplete), 4 from Franz, St Harry’s Rd, Birmingham (March to June 1944), 1 unknown (4 February 1948), 1 from Fritz from Hamburg-Bahrenfeld (7 November 1947), 1 from Eberhard (Christian International Service, Cambridge (undated).

9 letters in English from friends she knew at Cambridge to Ruth Neumeyer in Cambridge: 2 from Cyril (July 1945 and  January 1946), 2 from Keith (July and September 1944), 3 from Mercer (June to October 1948), 2 from Joyce (August and December 1943).

Letters from/concerning other refugees

Letter from Lily Nathan with notes from her children Walter and Clarisse to Ruth Neumeyer, in German, 19 December 1939; Walter, Clarisse, Ruth and her brother Raimund travelled on a Kindertransport together on 9 May 1939 and Lily followed later.

Letter from Mrs Bovey (family that took in Walter and Clarisse Nathan as refugees) to Ruth Neumeyer, c.1939-1941.

20 letters (1 incomplete, some undated) from Clarisse Nathan to Ruth and Raimund Neumeyer, in German and English, December 1940 to c.1945.

19 letters (1 incomplete) from Helmut (Alex) Nathan to Ruth Neumeyer, in German and English, January 1942 to July 1945.

Letter (not sent) from Ruth Neumeyer to Helmut (Alex) Nathan, 16 January 1944.

Letter from Christian Council for Refugees from Germany and Central Europe to Ruth Neumeyer (mistyped as Neumann) regarding whereabouts of Helmut Nathan and Gerhard Fritzler, 17 October 1941.

*14 letters from Walter Nathan to Ruth and Raimund Neumeyer, in German and English, November 1939 to November 1946.

*4 postcards and a letter, in German, from Leo Weil in Shanghai (1 from Brindisi en route to Shanghai) to Vera Neumeyer in Munich, June to November 1939.

*12 letters from Lore Weiss to Ruth Neumeyer, in German, December 1941 to June 1945.

Part of letter from Lore Weiss to Ruth Neumeyer, in English, mentioning Theresienstadt, 1945 or 1946.

7 letters in German from John Beer (a refugee, originally Johannes, writing in German), Queens’ College, Cambridge, to Ruth Neumeyer in Cambridge, April to September 1948.

3 letters in English from Erika Weiss (refugee from Vienna living with her twin sister Lore) to Ruth Neumeyer in Cambridge (September 1944 and June 1945, plus one undated).

2 letters from Werner Simonson, Ridley Hall, Cambridge (January and September 1942; Jewish parentage, German judge until 1933, left Germany for Britain March 1939 and later became an Anglican minister).

Official letters concerning Nazi period

6 letters relating to Denazification and prosecution of former Sturmbahnfuhrer Karl Dobler of Dachau, including letter from Raymond Newland 19 November 1946 and correspondence from Military Government Liaison and Security Office of Landkries Dachau to Ruth Newland, February to March 1948.

Copy of letter, in German, now in Munich State Archives from Hans Neumeyer to the Politische Polizei requesting permission to re-enter his house in Dachau to sort out some financial matters, 11 December 1938.

Letter from unknown person, written in German, to Raimund Neumeyer, 5 January 1941.

School exercise books

School folder of Ruth Neumeyer from Dachau in 1930s, with her name on cover, and containing 17 loose essay sheets illustrated by her. Ruth went to the Convent School (Klosterschule) until 1934 when Protestant children were compulsorily segregated from the Roman Catholic children and put together in a Protestant school; they then went for a year to a school in Obermenzing but in 1936–37 went back to the cellar in the Thoma-Schule, where there were some 30 Protestant pupils, and later returned to the Klosterschule.

Student essay written in German by Ruth Neumeyer when in England, and titled ‘Eine erfunden Geschichte’.

3 school exercise books with blue covers bearing handwritten name of Ruth Neumeyer, and containing her work in German on arithmetic, history and biology. Ruth went to the Convent School (Klosterschule) in Dachau until 1934 when Protestant children were compulsorily segregated from the Roman Catholic children and put together in a Protestant school; they then went for a year to a school in Obermenzing but in 1936–37 went back to the cellar in the Thoma-Schule, where there were some 30 Protestant pupils, and later returned to the Klosterschule.

School exercise book with black cover bearing handwritten name of Ruth Neumeyer, and containing her work in German on science. Ruth went to the Convent School (Klosterschule) in Dachau until 1934 when Protestant children were compulsorily segregated from the Roman Catholic children and put together in a Protestant school; they then went for a year to a school in Obermenzing but in 1936–37 went back to the cellar in the Thoma-Schule, where there were some 30 Protestant pupils, and later returned to the Klosterschule. AT the back of the book are notes in English on botany dating from after she arrived in England in May 1939. She attended the Hall School in Weybridge, and later was given private lessons in botany and other subjects by Joan Stirland, part of the family who took care of her and her brother Raimund.

School exercise book with blue cover bearing initials ‘RN’, with her schoolwork in English and German, and teachers’ marks in those respective languages indicating that the book was used in Dachau and later in England; at the back a schedule of day’s work when nursery training at Wellgarth (1942). Ruth went to the Convent School (Klosterschule) in Dachau until 1934 when Protestant children were compulsorily segregated from the Roman Catholic children and put together in a Protestant school; they then went for a year to a school in Obermenzing but in 1936–37 went back to the cellar in the Thoma-Schule, where there were some 30 Protestant pupils, and later returned to the Klosterschule.

Various

Red Cross message from Raymond Neumeyer (Raymond Newland) to his aunt in Dresden, Dora Böse, sent 26 October 1943 and stamped in Germany 15 August 1944.

Note in German written by Ruth Neumeyer May 1939 describing her journey on the Kindertransport, 9-11 May 1939 from Munich to London via the Hook of Holland.

File of correspondence between lawyers and Raymond Newland and Ruth Locke, including statements from relatives and friends, relating to compensation from Bavarian government for the confiscation of the Neumeyers’ house in Dachau by Nazi authorities in November 1938.

4 manuscripts of poems, probably in Vera Ephraim’s handwriting, c.1910-1925[?].

2 printed walking maps of Austrian alps, where the Neumeyers had a holiday in 1938.

Autograph album formerly belonging to Ruth Neumeyer, brown leather cover inscribed ‘Poesie’, with opening page written in manuscript ‘Dies Büchlien gehört Ruth Neumeyer/This book belongs to Ruth N’ and dated 1935. Inside are quotations and short poems in German with signatures written by friends and relatives, and cut-out flower pictures etc, with dates from December 1935 to April 1938; and later pages with English inscriptions from August to October 1941, indicating this book was in the trunk of belongings sent from Munich to England shortly after Ruth’s departure on a Kindertransport in May 1939, or even carried on the Kindertransport itself.

Photo album formerly belonging to Raymond Newland, with ‘Snapshots’ embossed on a grey cover. 9 pages of photos of his life during 1944-1946 in the British army in Belgium and Germany (Louvain, Bad-Oeynhausen, Goslar and Lüneburg), mostly with captions.

Exam paper for Royal Sanitary Institute and the Association of Nursery Training Colleges nursery nurses’ exam, taken by Ruth Neumeyer, 29 January 1943.

Coverless notebook formerly belonging to Ruth Neumeyer, with notes about Martin Luther; also a hymns and prayers possibly for her to read out at a service, dated 15 November 1942.

Censurbuch (school marks book) for Hildegard Rauthe (wife of Martin Ephraim and grandmother of Ruth and Raimund Neumeyer), dated 1873.

Handwritten funeral tribute to Ruth Locke by Jane Donaldson (née Stirland), December 2012. Jane’s family took Ruth in as a refugee; she became a close friend of Ruth and played recorder duets and organised plays with her.

List of 1930s classmates of Ruth Neumeyer, with addresses as of 13 October 1974.

Vera Neumeyer’s eurythmics (Dalcroze method) studies and work with children

Eurythmics textbook titled ‘Die Schulfeste der Bildungsanstalt Jaques-Dalcroze Dresden-Hellerau’ used by Vera Neumeyer when studying there; a programme for the school dated 28 June- 11 July 1912 is folded inside.

Black-covered notebook c.1910-1920 with Vera Ephraim’s name handwritten on cover, containing manuscript of various poems and literary works copied out by her. Includes essays about eurythmics/Dalcroze, which she studied for 3 years c.1912 at Hellerau near Dresden.

4 music manuscript books (c.1912) formerly belonging to Vera Ephraim (married name Vera Neumeyer) with her musical notations on solfegi exercises for eurythmics. She studied eurythmics at Hellerau near Dresden for 3 years c.1912, where she met her future husband Hans Neumeyer. In Dachau she taught eurythmics.

Various loose handwritten sheets with notes on rhythm and musical notation, by Vera Ephraim (married name Vera Neumeyer). c.1912-1937, used for study or teaching notes for music or eurythmics while studying in Hellerau or teaching in Dachau; includes music manuscript for a piece titled ‘Verduronette’ and ‘Le Jandinet’.

3 black-covered notebooks formerly belonging to Vera Ephraim (married name Vera Neumeyer); opening page of one notebook is headed ‘Rhythmische Gymnastik’, and the second is headed ‘Plastik’. Containing notes and musical annotations on eurythmics. She studied eurythmics at Hellerau near Dresden for 3 years c.1912, from when this notebook probably dates; at Hellerau she met her future husband Hans Neumeyer. In Dachau she taught eurythmics.

Printed textbook by Otto Blensdorf, formerly belonging to Vera Neumeyer, on eurythmics and title ‘Praxis der Rhythmik und Körpertechnik in Schule und Haus’ (1926). She studied eurythmics at Hellerau near Dresden for 3 years c.1912, and after her marriage to Hans Neumeyer in 1920 moved to Dachau where she taught eurythmics.

Hansel and Gretel: notes for a play, including musical annotations, written out by Vera Neumeyer, who directed her children and other children to perform plays in the Neumeyer house in Dachau during c.1928-1938.

Plays

Manuscript of a children’s play performed by Ruth Neumeyer with members of the Stirland, Paish and Matthews families (the relatives who adopted Ruth and Raimund as refugees from Nazi Germany), written by Beth Stirland, with cover title ‘The Brejap Theatre, How It Happened on December 26’. Very likely performed at one of the family’s houses; Christmas 1939. Described by Ruth with illustrations in an essay in a school exercise book dated 1940. The role of Father Christmas would have used Ruth’s dressing gown, brought from Dachau on the Kindertransport.

Play programme for ‘Children in Uniform’, with cover designed by Ruth Neumeyer depicting five women beneath a crowned eagle against a stylised swastika. Performed at Leavesden teacher training college in 1949. Ruth also played the part of ‘Her Excellency von Ehrenhardt’.

Stage manager notes, photos and poster for ‘Storm in a Teacup’, performed at the Cambridge Amateur Dramatic Club in January 1942. Ruth Neumeyer was the stage manager.

Music manuscripts

Music manuscript book formerly belonging to Vera Ephraim (married name Vera Neumeyer) with her musical notations of music and songs; possibly used for children’s plays performed in the family house in Dachau. c.1920-1937.

Music manuscript book with handwritten title ‘Chorgesänge” formerly belonging to Vera Ephraim (married name Vera Neumeyer) with choral songs, possibly used for music teaching. c.1920-1937.

Weihnachtslied (Christmas song) composed by Hans Neumeyer as Christmas present for Raimund Neumeyer, 1939 (voice part only); written in Vera Neumeyer’s handwriting, as Hans was blind. Vera mentions this song in a Christmas letter written in Munich to her children in England.

Single sheet of manuscript music with manuscript notation by Vera Neumeyer of various songs, including Sven von Rosenhof; possibly used for children’s plays performed in the family house in Dachau. c.1920-1937.

Coverless exercise book with manuscript notes by Ruth Neumeyer (marked by her ‘Cambridge 1940’), containing English and history lessons, with teacher’s annotations; it includes a description and drawings of the Christmas play performed on 26 December 1939.

Recipe books

Notebook containing handwritten and printed recipes, formerly belonging to Hildegard Ephraim (née Rauthe; wife of Martin Ephraim and grandmother of Ruth and Raimund Neumeyer), giving her address as Haus Lindenfels, Schreiberhau, where she lived from 1922 to 1933.

Coverless notebook formerly belonging to Vera Neumeyer with handwritten recipes, and dating from c.1920-1938, with additions at various periods and some printed recipes. Vera herself was not a good cook and according to her daughter Ruth her blind husband Hans did most of the cooking. Her daughter Ruth Locke kept this book in her kitchen in London until her death in 2012.

Postcard dated 28 September 1938 written by the owner of a café in Bad Kreuznach where the Neumeyer family had visited from Dachau and eaten some cake; the owner sent them this card with the recipe, signing it off with ‘Heil Hitler!’. Despite this, her daughter Ruth Locke kept this postcard in her kitchen in London until her death in 2012.

Printed recipe book ‘Dr Oetkers Schul-Kochbuch’ given by Betty Braun to her sister–in-law Vera Neumeyer in on St Nicholas’ Day 1935, with inscription in inside front cover ‘der tüchtigen “Vera” (wenns jetzt nix wird, kommt der Nicolaus mit der Rote), 6 December 35, Die Garmischer’. Vera’s daughter Ruth Locke kept this book in her kitchen in London until her death in 2012, and annotated it herself.

Diaries

Black-covered notebook with printed calendar for 1937 on opening page, used by Ruth Neumeyer as a diary from 24.7.1937 to 3.8.1937 (in German), then 22.6.1940 and 16.7.1940 while being evacuated from Cambridge to Lockeridge and back (in English), and a holiday from 29.9.1945 to 6.10.1945 (in German and English).

Black-covered notebook adapted into diary of Ruth Neumeyer from 17.8.1940 to 25.12.1940, entirely handwritten in pencil, in German. Inside front cover bears the words ‘Ruth Neumeyer Tagebuch Diary 1940’.

Floral covered notebook bearing handwritten date 1940 and containing the diary of Ruth Neumeyer from 1.1.1940 to 16.8.1940, entirely handwritten in pencil, in German.

‘Young Folks Diary for Boys & Girls, Scouts & Guides 1944’ used as diary by Ruth Neumeyer, writing in ink, in English.

‘Collins Royal Diary 1937’, a red-covered desk diary used by Ruth Neumeyer as a diary for 1941. Written in pencil, in German.

Black-covered notebook with red spine, lined paper, used as diary by Ruth Neumeyer from 30.1.1942 to 25.12.1942 (while studying nursery care in Wiltshire and later back in Cambridge). Inside cover is written ‘Diary of the year 1942’. Entirely handwritten in pen and pencil, in German and English.

‘Roneo Indexed Diary 1940’ a blue-covered desk diary used by Ruth Neumeyer as diary from 1.1.1943 to 17.9.1945, then one note added 7.7.1946, and two notes in 1948. Written in ink in German and English. The entry for 17.9.1945 records the discovery that her mother Vera was a part of Poland ‘from which there is little news’ and Ruth realises that Vera was by then probably dead.

Red-covered pocket diary for 1945, used by Raymond Newland while serving in the British army. Includes addresses and lists of correspondence, and some details of where he was posted. In ink and pencil, in English.

Black-covered pocket diary for 1946, used by Raymond Newland while serving in the British army. Includes addresses and lists of correspondence, and some details of where he was posted. In ink and pencil, in English.

Leather-covered ‘Collins Diamond Diary 1947’, used by Raymond Newland while serving in the British army. Includes addresses and lists of correspondence, and some details of where he was posted. In ink, in English. Inside cover inscribed in German by fellow Holocaust refugee Erika Weiss, who gave it to him as a present.

Papers relating to Hans Neumeyer

Curriculum Vitae, in English, of Hans Neumeyer, dated 31 July 1937, describing his musical career after under Nazi orders he had lost his academic job in the Royal Academy of Music in Munich.

Certificate from Royal Academy of Music in Munich for Hans Neumeyer, listing his exam results in music in 1909; English translation copy of c.1934-1938 of original certificate of 14 July 1909.

8 testimonials dating from 1934 to October 1938, in English, for Hans Neumeyer from music academics, describing his musical and academic achievements after under Nazi orders he had lost his academic job in the Royal Academy of Music in Munich. The referees (mostly based in Basel and Munich) are Anna Hirsel, Dr F. Klose, Theodor Kilian, Aug. Schmid-Lindner, H.W. von Waltershausen, Gustav Güldenstein, Dr Ernst Mohr, Walter Müller, Dr R. Edlinger and Jacques Dalcroze.

Headed notepaper for Münchener Dalcroze-Kurse, Hans Neumeyer – Valerie Kratina, annotated on the back by Vera Neumeyer, including reference to a work published in 1931. Kratina was teh woman with whom he ran the Dalcroze school in Munich.

Newspaper and magazine articles

‘Zuhause im Exil’ article from Dachauer SZ 18 November 2005 on installation of Stolpersteine outside former Neumeyer house (Hermann-Stockmann Str 10) in Dachau, at ceremony attended by Ruth Locke.

‘Die Namenstafel feht noch’ article in Dachauer Neuste 27 February 1989 about Raymond Newland’s visit to Dachau.

‘Unterrich im Kontrapunkt für eine Scheibe Brot’ article in Süddeutsche Zeitung 21 July 1984 about the Neuemeyers in pre-war Dachau.

‘Das Ende enies Taperen – Erinnerung an Hans Neumeyer’ typed article for publication in Süddeutsche Zeitung on Thomas Mandl’s memories of Hans Neumeyer in Theresienstadt, written by Hans Holzhaider.

‘Man spürt das Bemühe um Offenheit’ article in Süddeutsche Zeitung 15 November 1988 on Ruth Locke’s visit to Dachau for 50th commemoration of Kristallnacht.

‘Vor Sonnenaufgang’ article in Süddeutsche Zeitung 19 December 1983 from material from Hans Holhzaider’s book  Vor Sonnenaufgang, on fates in Nazi death camps of Dachau Jews, including Hans and Vera Neumeyer, Julius Kohn, Max and Melly Wach, and Alice Jaffé.

‘Vor Sonnenaufgang’ article in Süddeutsche Zeitung 23 November 1983 from material from Hans Holhzaider’s book  Vor Sonnenaufgang on story of the Neumeyers and  ‘Onkel Kohn’ (Julius Kohn).

‘A candle for each person expelled’ article in English from Dachauer SZ 10 November 2005 about Ruth Locke’s attendance at Stolpersteine ceremony outside former Neumeyer house (Hermann-Stockmann Str 10) in Dachau.

‘At home in exile’ article from Dachauer SZ 18 November 2005 about Ruth Locke’s and Frank Wallace’s expulsion from Dachau and their new lives in Britain.

‘Die Kirstallnacht 1938 im Landkreis Dachau’ Kristallnacht in Dachau’, article in Amperland 1999, including what happened to the Neumeyers and other Jewish families on the night of 9 November 1938.

‘Kommerzienrat Martin Ephraim 70 Jahre’ article in unknown Görlitz newspaper marking Martin Ephraim’s 70th birthday in 1930.

’80 years on from the fateful night of broken glass’ article in Sussex Express, 2 November 2018, about Tim Locke’s and Stephen Locke’s forthcoming visit to Dachau for the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Documents

Wellgarth Nursery Training College of the Women’s Industrial Council certificate in the form of a book, for Ruth Neumeyer’s completion of a year’s training, dated 22 February 1942; with reports from assessors.

Typescript and family tree of family history of Neumeyer and Ephraim families, written by Tobias Newland in November 1996 with assistance from his father Raymond Newland.

Marriage certificate of Martin Ludwig Ephraim and Hildegard Rauthe, married 1 September 1884; certificate issued with Nazi stamp in Görlitz on 16 January 1940.

Lebenslauf (resumé) of Vera Neumeyer, undated but from November 1938 to 1939 when living at Thorwaldsenstrasse 5, Munich. In German.

Geburtsurkunde (birth certificate) issued in Dachau of Ruth Neumeyer, born 17 September 1923 but birth date erroneously given as 18 September 1923; certificate dated 20 December 1938, and with Nazi stamp.

Geburtsurkunde (birth certificate) issued in Dachau of Ruth Neumeyer, born 17 September 1923; certificate dated 25 August 1948.

Testimonial in German on behalf of Ruth Neumeyer, dated November 1938 and signed by Ludwig Landsberg expressing Ruth’s abilities in the household.

Bestätigung (confirmation) in German, on behalf of Ruth Neumeyer handwritten and dated 6 December 1938, signed by M. Sittler.

Erbschein (certificate of inheritance) showing deceased as Hans Neumeyer, died in Theresienstadt, issued on behalf of Raymond Newland and Ruth Neumeyer, dated 19 February 1952.

Sterbeurkunde (death certificate) of Hans Neumeyer, with death shown as 19 May 1944 at Theresienstadt; certificate dated 16 November 1951.

Certificate of nursery work carried out by Ruth Neumeyer between April 1943 and September 1946, dated 7 March 1950 and issued by T.F. Foreman, Borough Education Officer for Cambridge.

Examination card for the Royal Sanitary Institute and the Association of Nursery Training Colleges at Wellgarth, issued to Ruth Neumeyer, 29 January 1943.

Tauf Bescheinigung (christening certificate) of Vera Charlotte Ephraim, christened 23 November 1893; certificate issued 23 May 1940 and bearing stamp of a church in her birthplace city of Görlitz.

Exhibition booklet for 1988 commemoration of Kristallnacht in Dachau, when memorial was installed at the town hall to 12 Jewish families living in the town were expelled by the Nazis.

Confirmation certificate issued 1909 for Vera Ephraim at Peterskirche (Pfarrkirche St Peter und St Paul), Görlitz.

Naturalisation certificate for Raymond Newland for British nationality, sworn before commissioner of oaths in Cambridge on 29 August 1947 and registered 25 August 1947.

Birth certificate of Raimund Neumeyer, born 20 December 1924, issued in Dachau 20 January 1961.

List of Ephraim family members from 1732 to 1869, manuscript written by Martin Ephraim (1860-1944).

Bescheinigung der Eheschließung (marriage certificate) of Hans Neumeyer and Vera Ephraim, dated 12 July 1920.

Naturalisation certificate for Ruth Neumeyer, sworn before commissioner of oaths in Hertfordshire on 23 April 1949 and registered 5 May 1949.

Piaski, Auschwitz, Warsaw… where did Vera Neumeyer die?

Vera’s photo in her identity pass, 1939. It is the last photo known to exist of her.

Quite where Vera Neumeyer, my grandmother, ended up is a mystery.

On 17 September 1945 my mother writes in her diary that she has heard news about her mother:

She was deported to Poland in 1942 and is at a place from where there is little news (Lublin). 99% of hope is dead.

Lublin is in the far east of Poland, close to Piaski. It is to Piaski that Vera was said to have been deported in postwar correspondence within the family. There was a ghetto in the town, and close by Lublin was Majdanek concentration camp – the first Nazi concentration camp to have been liberated, by the Russians in July 1944. The camp, including its gas chambers, survived intact, giving the allies first-hand evidence of the scale and method of the Nazi’s mass exterminations.

And until very recently that was the story  I believed to be true.

It may indeed be what happened to Vera, but recently I have unearthed new evidence that indicates she may have died elsewhere.

The decisive date: 13 July 1942

For a start, it seems that she was due to be deported from Munich to Piaski in April 1942. But she appealed against the deportation order, and correspondence shows that her deportation was delayed until July 1942.

Telegram, July 1942: Dela (Hans’ secretary and friend) to Dora (Vera’s sister): ‘Please come with a copy of the request. I will wait at the station.’ This presumably refers to the request to cancel the deportation order.
Telegram, July 1942, Marianne (sister of Dora and Vera) to Dora. explaining that Vera had telephoned and that Dela must to come to Munich immediately, as Vera must depart urgently, as the abridged copy of the request could not prevent this from happening.
(Not easy to translate, as German words are missing. The text seems to be: Vera telefonierte, Dora. Sofort [nach] München [muss] Dela kommen, da [Vera] dringend abreisen muss, falls [die] Eingabeabschriftsabgabe dies noch nicht verhindern könnte.)

According to lists of deportations, there was a transport from Munich to Piaksi in April, but not in July.  It is possible, however, that her train was diverted.

The final Red Cross message from Vera to the family was on 9 July 1942:

Going on journey, but cheerful and happy, healthy. Father same. Keep in touch with aunt Dora Böse, Dresden, Leipzigerstrasse 147.

Keep happy!

Mother

Piaski had been a closed ghetto from June 1941 to March 1942, then played a major role in Operation Reinhard, the secret plan to exterminate Jews. On 6 April 1942, 989 Jews from Munich arrived there, on a transport on which Vera was originally destined to come. However after that, there do not appear to be any further records of transports from Munich, and by June transports of West European Jews went directly to the Nazi death camps at Belzec and Sobibor. For more about the history of Piaski visit the Holocaust Historical Society website.

We know that Vera’s deportation started on 13 July 1942. The deportation list from Germany for that date shows a consignment of 99 passengers coming from Stuttgart via Munich to Auschwitz; however there is a comment in German alongside this entry that the destination is uncertain and could be Warsaw instead: “Das lässt sich noch nicht konkret festlegen; als Bestimmungsort is auch Warschau möglich“.

A list of the 50 passengers who joined at Munich, bound apparently for Auschwitz, is published online. I have checked them all against the archive in the United States Holocaust Museum. This archive is based on records from the German Federal Archives Memorial book (Gedenkbuch), but does not seem to be reliable. While 22 of them do not give details about their destination (and the record gives Vera Neumeyer’s deportation date as 4 April 1942 to Piaski, which we know is incorrect), the remaining 28 were, according to this archive, transported to Theresienstadt. Of those, 11 died in Theresienstadt, three at Auschwitz and the remaining 14 are ‘date and place of death unknown’.

Below is the list (3 pages), with Vera appearing on the second page, taken from the Historical Archives of the Commerzbank. Further information about this deportation together with this list is given here.

The evidence from the letters

In an earlier post on this blog I have given a translation of an extraordinary letter Vera wrote on the train while being deported. She doesn’t know the destination, or if she does she doesn’t give it, but the letter tells us three things that help narrow it down:

We have the precise date of departure. The letter is dated 14 July 1942. They had to get up at 5am on the previous day and travel in a van to the station in Munich.

We have details of the type of train and some of the places it went through. It was an ordinary third-class train rather than a cattle truck. It went through Regensburg and Dresden, where they had to change. At 6am on the 14 July the train passed through Görlitz, where she saw her childhood house (which still stands) from the window. She is writing the letter near Leignitz (Legnica). This is some way east of Theresienstadt, which is southeast of Dresden, so it is most unlikely the train would have ended there as it would have been far quicker to have gone an alternative route, perhaps via Prague. Also, in a letter of 10 July Vera says she is learning Polish from the other girls – as Theresienstadt was in Czechosklovakia rather than Poland it tends to confirm her destination, if she knew it at that stage, was Polish – so that looks more like Auschwitz, Warsaw or another camp in the east of Nazi-occupied Poland.

The Ephraim family villa, built 1905, in Goethestrasse, Görlitz. It was owned by the Ephraims until 1922. Vera glimpsed it from the train when being deported in 1942. The villa still stands and is now a youth hostel.

She mentions three people who were on the train.I occupied a corner place next to the dear Frau Professor Prosche, the widow of a well-known painter, a cultivated and very nice Austrian who attached herself to me on the first day.” I think whoever retyped this letter (the original no longer exists) mistyped Porsche as Prosche – as one of the passengers was Malwine Porsche. Opposite her sat a married couple, the Samsons.

How it ties up: route and possible destinations

The route and possible destinations are shown on this map:

Vera Neumeyer’s deportation: starting point (Munich), route taken (Regensburg, Dresden, Görlitz and Liegnitz) and possible destinations (Auschwitz, Warsaw, Treblinka and Lublin/Piaski/Majdanek). Although Theresienstadt is given in the German Federal Archives Memorial Book as the destination for the passengers it does not fit with this route or with other evidence.

It is stated in the Yad Vashem archive in Israel that in July 1942 there were eleven relatively small transports from Munich to Theresienstadt of 550 elderly Jews in total. Vera was at that time 48, but there were indeed many elderly people on her train. The day of deportation, however, is given as 15 July, which does not tally with the dates of her letters.

When I visited Theresienstadt in 2001 staff at the museum said they had no record of Vera Neumeyer having been there. However they do have cremation records on the card index of her husband Hans and her father Martin, who both died in Theresienstadt.

I have looked through the card index online to see if any of the other 50 deportees who were on that transport from Munich are shown as having died in Theresienstadt, but have drawn a blank.

Dela’s letter, written on the day of Vera’s deportation

My mother Ruth donated this letter to the Imperial War Museum (the only letter she gave the museum, although I will eventually donate the entire archive, which consists of several hundred more). Written hastily and difficult to read, it struck me as obviously of great importance. Someone has pencilled the date 13.7.42 at the top.

The writer is Dela Blakmar, the secretary and close friend of Hans Neumeyer. She was evidently close to the rest of the family, and in the letter tells Vera’s sister Dora of the grave news that the attempts to stop Vera being deported have failed. This in spite of the fact that Vera – a Mischling (mixed-race Jew, with a non-Jewish mother) had divorced her Jewish husband Hans the year before. Her sisters Dora and Marianne were never deported, although Marianne reported after the war that she narrowly escaped that fate.

Click here for the text of the letter in the original German. Or to see a transcription of the handwritten letter, with rough translation alongside, click here.

Monday 13. 7. 1942

Dear Dora
So everything has been to no avail. The departure took place this morning. I spoke today to two people who have also been with her a lot – she has been brave and collected throughout. But it’s hard, very difficult, harder than it was then! but do not say that to your father. She has sent me two more letters – I will enclose a copy with you and also send copies to your father and sister.

Your journey to Munich, though unsuccessful, was not in vain. Vera knows you’ve tried everything and that certainly means a lot to her. Right now we don’t yet know where the journey is going, but I’ll have that as soon as possible and will of course let you know straight away. And there are very nice people here who will not forget her. As soon as you know the address, we will send all her packages and if I am not here anymore, we’ll made sure that friends will take care of it.

Mr. W. will leave on Thursday, and I will not be able to see him any more [this may refer to Alois Weiner, a merchant from Moosburg, who was sent to Theresienstadt but survived; see “A note from Alois Weiner” at the end of this earlier post], nor will my friend, who has become dear to our hearts.

She and Vera were the two people here who were close to me.

Mr. W. and my friend will probably come home – as well as Rebekkus.

It has certainly been awful for her to go all alone.

But I have been told that some excellent people are there – they will find each other.

In addition, the gentleman who accompanied her to the train said to me that he made sure that she drove with nice people together in the compartment.

Dear Ms Dora, now we can do nothing – for the moment at least – wait and hope that God will not forget and leave them and all of us.

Cordially yours, Dela

Vera in the 1930s

Conclusion?

This is so far a journey without an end. I have looked extensively online for answers but many records are missing, either through deliberate destruction by the Nazis or by accident. What I do now know is that Vera did not go to Theresienstadt, as her train went far beyond that place, and that Piaski/Lublin seem unlikely, particularly in the light of the fact that by July 1942 the Piaski ghetto was no more and Jews were being sent to Belzec or Sobibor instead, though she may have gone to Majdanek (near Piaski). Auschwitz or the Warsaw ghetto seem very possible, although Auschwitz was in summer 1942 running at capacity levels and deportations were often routed elsewhere. And from Warsaw on 22 July mass deportations began to the extermination camp of Treblinka, 100km northeast – in all 750,000 were murdered there, making it the largest Nazi death camp after Auschwitz.

Wherever she ended up, it seems likely as a middle-aged woman she may have been killed very soon after arrival.

But overall: destination unknown; fate unknown.

Text and photos copyright Tim Locke 2019