A simple piece of music telling a poignant tale. My mother Ruth departed to England on the Kindertransport in May 1939 and wrote to her parents Hans and Vera Neumeyer in Munich on arrival. She said she had settled in happily with the English family where she had been sent and was playing the recorder with her new friend Jane. Ruth never saw her parents again, as they ended their lives in concentration camps.
This news from England prompted Hans Neumeyer to compose two recorder duets for the two girls to play: the manuscript was sent to Ruth, and is now on display in the Holocaust Exhibition in the Imperial War Museum. The cover has a pen and ink drawing the two girls in a hammock playing the music – I am not sure who the artist was; it’s a rather idyllic dream of what her life in England was like, presumably as imagined by someone living in Munich.
A few years ago a Spanish composer, Sergio Lopez Figueroa, saw this music on display at the Imperial War Museum and was inspired to write a set of variations on one of the themes, for performance at the Holocaust/Kindertransport commemoration event performed by Preston Manor High School in Brent in 2008 – pity they didn’t realise Ruth was then alive and very well and would have loved to have attended the event.
And here’s another memento of Hans Neumeyer – I grew up with it and it was only recently that I recognised its significance: Ruth carved these wooden hands. She had produced numerous paintings when an art student but this is the only wood carving of hers that I ever saw. It seems to represent a state of security and sense of family: only a few years ago did I learn that they were based on Ruth’s memory of her father’s hands, tactile and pianistic.
You can hear Ruth’s interview with the Imperial War Museum by clicking here. Note that it’s in two 15-minute sections.
Words and photos © Tim Locke