Raimund Neumeyer’s story

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Throughout his life my uncle, Raymond Newland (born as Raimund Neumeyer), was haunted by the trauma of the Holocaust and the upheaval it caused his family.

He and his elder sister (my mother) Ruth were extremely close throughout their lives and only 15 months separated them in age. Yet their outlook and personalities were very different. Ruth I tend to remember as practical-minded and always seeing the positive side of everything. She seems to have grown up very quickly on leaving Germany and put a lot of the angst of those Holocaust years behind her, though I believe a lot simmered beneath the surface; she felt angry with her parents for failing to organise their own exit from Nazi Germany.  Raymond on the other hand was intellectual and intense. He acutely felt the hurt caused to his parents, and throughout his life felt guilty that he had escaped while his parents stayed behind. Raymond was a very young 14 when they arrived in England on the Kindertransport in May 1939. When the two siblings were separated some months later, he missed Ruth enormously.

Raymond and Ruth had learnt English from their mother, Vera. They both would escort their blind father when he was no longer allowed to have a guide dog, and Raymond’s widow Ingrid tells me that these little excursions were occasions he always sought to make the most of. He was hugely fond of his parents, in equal measures (equal being a hallmark of Raymond’s overwhelming fairness). He helped  Hans with braille and took music theory lessons from him, while Vera taught him piano. I always remember him as someone with an acute musical ear who liked improvising on the piano.

English schooling and flight from the farm: 1939-43

Raymond had a thirst for learning, but it wasn’t satisfied by the dismal standard of education he received at school in Dachau. In England, it was a different matter during his brief period at the private Strodes School in Egham. There he found a warm welcome among both teachers and pupils and he was never berated for being German. But within a few months circumstances force him to move on, first to a different family in Hanger Hill and then to work on a training farm in Hambledon in Buckinghamshire, as part of a scheme called ‘British Boys for British Farms’. Despite that name tag, all the other boys apart from one were foreigners.

registration document with photo page

Raymond’s registration document: the address shoown on 11 May 1939 (the day he and Ruth arrived from Germany) is The Lodge, Hanger Hill, Weybridge. As an ‘enemy  alien’ he was obliged to re-register each time he changed his address.

This life in  the country didn’t suit him one bit, and he ran away from the farm, much to the horror of Lady Simon, his sponsor. He fled on a bicycle, but was picked up by a policeman for having no lights. The policeman took him to his house, where his wife fed him, then the policeman lent Raymond a cycle light and told him to return to Birmingham. That act of kindness may have instilled Raymond’s high respect for the police.

He returned to Weybridge (1940-41) and found work in a radio shop, but in May 1941 the Refugee Committee required him to move to Birmingham and work in the machine shop of the Birmingham  Bicycle Company in Chiseland Street until December 1943, putting ball bearings into cycle mechanisms. He was a lot happier there, and found the company genial. Lunch of tea, bread and dripping was consumed communally on a heap of old tyres. The foreman, Mr Deedes, was according to Raymond a ‘true gentleman’. Nevertheless Raymond desperately wanted to study instead, and spent his Saturdays studying hard for qualifications to compensate the yawning holes in his schooling.

Return to Germany with the British army

As an ‘enemy alien’ Raymond was restricted to certain types of employment. At the end of 1943 he joined the British army as soon as he was eighteen, as a volunteer. He was bound initially for Burma but on his request was permitted to go to Germany.

registration card p14-15

The entry in red ink here on the left-hand page in Raymond’s registration document states ‘Exempt from Registration’, marking the date he joined the British army. This was the first time he felt accepted by his adopted country.

As soon as he joined he was given a telephone book and ordered to look through it and choose a new surname: if he had been caught on enemy soil with a German name it would have effectively been a death sentence. It was then that he changed his name from Raimund Neumeyer to Raymond Newland. He trained with the Shropshire Light Infantry during early 1944 and would have joined the D-Day landings were he not struck down by scarlet fever: that may have saved his life, for his unit was badly hit when landing in France. After that he always made a special point of remembering his colleagues on Remembrance Day.

In February 1945 he transferred to the Intelligence Corps in Brussels and Paris, then from October that year until August 1947 he worked as an interpreter for the Special Branch of the Military Police in Germany – including Bremen, Hamburg, Bad Oeynhausen, Goslar, Verden and Lüneburg. He said later on that he felt desperately lonely on VE Day.

Raymond with military police 88 SIS Hamburg spring 1947

Raymond (front row, first on the left) with his Military Police special investigation section, in Germany

Re-encountering Dachau in 1946

The army discouraged soldiers from travelling by themselves in Germany, but in 1946 Raymond managed to sneak away and pay a visit to Dachau. There he met the Steurers, who had been so friendly to his family, and who are described in an earlier post in this blog, and met up with the Wirschings, the family who lived in the Pollnhof in Dachau; Aranka and Otto Wirsching were artists, and their son Anselm was a vet who served in the German army and was held as a prisoner of war in Egypt up to 1947. I’ve recently found a stash of letters from Anselm to my mother, written from that POW camp during 1946 and 1947 and subsequently when he was back home in Dachau, and have yet to translate them – more to come, no doubt, on that in this blog.

Raymond went to the Neumeyer house for the first time since they were thrown out from it after Kristallnacht in 1938. The same tenant, who had been very unfriendly to the family, was still living in the basement and was alarmed to see Raymond.

Still furious at what had been done to his parents, Raymond found the Burgomeister of Dachau, Karl Dobler, SS-Sturmbannführer, who had thrown the family out of their house eight years earlier, and reported him to the authorities. Raymond wanted to appear in the court case but was barred from so doing, and gave a written statement instead. Justice won the day, and  the Burgomeister to lost his job. I have yet to find out what happened to Dobler subsequently.

Dobler denazification letter 1946

Raymond’s statement against Herr Dobler, the Burgomeister of Dachau, identifying him as the person who ordered the Neumeyers out of their house on 9 November 1938. Here he identifies Dobler as responsible for the expulsions of all Jewish families from the district of Dachau. ‘This was Herr Dobler’s own initiative. He gave each family the expulsion order, threatening them with imprisonment if the order was not followed. Dobler was a zealous Nazi in his entirety. For this reason he should be kept under constant observation and not given a position of public responsibility.’

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It must have been a haunting experience for Raymond to see the wreckage of postwar Germany. Photos from the family archive include him at Belsen concentration camp.

Raymond had a sense of adventure, and interest in travel, places and cultures. My earliest memories of him were of a family picnic somewhere in a forest near Canterbury, where we ended up spooning water out of a puddle to feed the boiled-over radiator of his Standard 10. A lot of these excursions were spur of the moment, inspired by Raymond’s love of spontaneity.

He loved nothing better than a really good argument, not because he wanted a fight but because he loved testing out ideas and saw interaction with other people as the best way to do this.

I first knew him as a typical bachelor but from this it was fascinating to watch his transformation into the caring and loving family man he became. In particular I have never forgotten my first trip across London in 1964 to visit Raymond and Ingrid in their newly acquired house in St Albans. His pride of ownership, and his commitment to setting up home, was palpable. Indeed he expressed his own sense of wonderment (with just a tiny trace of Raymondish irony) at having become a member of the ‘semi-detached class’.

Raymond was above all a man who was brilliantly perceptive of his own life, its ups and downs, and who in turn touched many others.

Stephen Locke (my brother), talking about Raymond at his funeral in 2011

The LSE and family life

Raymond’s career took a happier turn after being demobbed in 1947, when he resumed his studies and gained a place at the London School of Economics. He later took up teaching: while a teacher at Scarborough in 1952 he was called up for more military training and made a sergeant. He was not at all used to giving orders to other soldiers, and later cheerfully admitted he was hopeless at it, even falling flat on his face while attempting to salute others, but despite his many mishaps he was much liked by comrades. He now identified himself as British but retained a certain fairness to Germany.

Later he led ski groups for Erna Low holidays.

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He married Ingrid Netzbandt in 1963. She had come to our family as a language student. Her father was a high-ranking officer in the German Navy, and was Chief of Staff on the Bismark when it sank. His first wife was half Jewish; she died but had four children, who would barred from certain jobs in Nazi Germany.

Raymond and Ingrid lived in St Albans and had two sons: Tobias (born 1966) and Oliver (1969-88). While suffering dementia in his final years he repeatedly thought back to his Dachau childhood. He died in 2011. Ingrid still lives in the family house in St Albans.

It was a very happy marriage and also an extraordinary one – my mother coming from a German naval family and my father coming from a family persecuted by the Nazis. But I suppose looking back on it, it was a living and continuing example of reconciliation from the deep wounds inflicted on both of them by the Second World War.

Tobias Newland, speaking at Raymond’s funeral in 2011

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A desperate scramble for the exit: letters from Munich to England, 1939

I’m looking at a sheaf of letters from my grandparents written early in 1939 –  a time of frantic letter-writing and form-filling for the Neumeyers as they tried to get permissions to leave Germany before their world closed in on them.

Together they build up a picture of how they had hoped to come to the safety of England and settle permanently. The first letters are from the beginning of 1939. Later, tantalisingly, there’s news that permissions have been obtained for them to live in England; but it seems that they never got the required paperwork from the German authorities.

neumeyer letters1

Some of the letters sent by Hans and Vera Neumeyer to the Paishes in early 1939

Hans and Vera Neumeyer had met Frank and Beatrice Paish at the eurthymics school founded by Jacques Dalcroze at Hellerau near Dresden before the First World War. The Paishes and their extended family (the Eckhards and Stirlands) later became lifelong friends of Ruth and Raimund (my mother and uncle) and were known to them as Uncle Frank and Aunt Bea; both died in the 1980s. Frank Paish followed in his father’s footsteps to become an eminent economist: his theory of inflation popped up in the A level economics syllabus when I was at school.

The January 7 and January 8  letters: ‘our hearts are full of thankfulness towards you and your family’

The Neumeyers have evidently just received the very good news that the Paishes were willing to sponsor Ruth and Raimund by acting as guarantors. Hans, although blind, spells out his practical skills. Ruth confirmed to me that he was a very good cook (gnocchi was a speciality; Vera, on the other hand was hopeless and left all the cooking to him).

Vera hopes she can get a ‘domestic permit’, and fears the separation will be worse for her than the children.

Testimonials from Hans' musical contacts, including Jacques Dalcroze

Testimonials from Hans’ musical contacts, including Jacques Dalcroze

With this first missive Hans sent testimonials dated between 1934 and 1938. We have seven of them, typed and translated into English. They are from  Jacques Dalcroze (the pioneer of eurythmics – the music and movement discipline that Vera taught and Hans played music for); Gustav Guldenstein, Dr Ernst Mohr, Walter Muller and Dr R Edlinger (Academy of Music and Conservatoire, Basle); Aug. Schimid-Lindner and H W von Waltershausen (professors at the Royal Academy of Music); Anna Hirzel-Langenhat (Castle of Berg); and Prof Dr F Klose and Prof Theodor Kilian (Public Academy of Music in Munich; Kilian was teacher of violin).

There is also a certificate from the Royal Academy of Music in Munich attesting to his standards in musical composition, pianoforte, general musical doctrine and history of music, and his CV.

[From Hans, but written out by Vera]

January 7 1939

Dear Mrs. Paish

At last I find a quiet hour to thank you for your dear letters of Dec 29th and Jan 2nd. All my words are too feeble to tell you how much my wife as well as myself are touched by your goodness and readiness to help us, how our hearts are full of thankfulness towards you and your family.

We accept the noble-hearted offer of you brother and your sister-in-law with joyful relief. The contents of your last letter came to us as a light sent by God through the hopeless dark of the night around us. All we can do is to stretch out our hands to you, dear Mrs. Paish, as well as to your brother and his wife, to thank you and to pray to God that He may reward you for all your kindness.

We are including the required the certificates and photographs of the children, as well as a list of dates. If there is anything else we can do please write and we shall do it as quickly as possible.

We wrote several weeks ago to a Berlin committee which arranges the journey of non Aryan Christian children (Dr Spieron[?], Berlin, Brandenburgische Strasse 41), but we did not hear anything from it since then. I do not know if that Berlin committee is in connection with your English committee. But surely it will be best if the latter will arrange for the children to travel on one of the children’s trains. We know that if makes a great difference when the future residence of the children is guaranteed and that they are sure to come to your country sooner by this.

The informations we got here were rather different. Do you know if they need a passport and a visum? And is it true that they are allowed to take only one suit-case with them?

I am very thankful to you, too, for all that you try to find a possibility of existence for myself and my wife. I am sending you now my testimonials and recommendations translated into English.

Besides musical teaching (which includes the writing and reading of music in Braille – writing and stenography) I am able to teach blind people typewriting and other practical work as well. For instance I have a profound knowledge of handicraft work: electrical installation, upholstery, locksmith’s work, joinery and some book-binding. All these, if taught to blind people, want special knowledge and methods of working, and it is on account of my large practical experience that I should be able to give such practical teaching even more thoroughly than a seeing teacher. Or my experience and advice might be a useful help for a seeing teacher to whom I could give instructions how to organise such work at any institution or school for the blind. I am a good cook, too.

And I have gained a great experience with guide-dogs, an experience which might be useful for the blind in certain regards.

My wife as well as I quite understand that it will perhaps be necessary to go in separate places at first. If so, I might be accompanied by a friend of ours who is of Danish nationality and so with her passport might travel wherever it would be necessary.

Please excuse me for not answering before this. I had to wait for the translation of my testimonials which were in Berlin at the time when your letter arrived. I hope to hear from you soon.

With kind regards to yourself as well as your brother and your sister-in-law

Yrs thankful

Hans Neumeyer

Vera follows this up with a letter written a day later echoing Hans’ gratitude:

The Paishes' house at 86 Kingsley Way, London N2 as it is now

The Paishes’ house at 86 Kingsley Way, London N2 as it is now. Ruth and Raimund couldn’t stay there, though, and went to live with Bea’s brother, Oscar Eckard instead.

…they [the children] are brave and reasonable little souls and they both are looking forward to the new life, and I trust they will soon get accustomed to the new surroundings and the English language which they are already studying here. I think the separation will be harder for me than for them, but I do hope I shall soon be able to follow them, as I have already got a passport and so all I want is only to be required by some family or institution as a household-help or for the education of children, or as a lady companion… Later on, perhaps, it would be possible to do some rhythmic work or to combine my faculties with my knowledge of the French and Italian languages. But for the moment I am told the only way to come to your country is by a domestic permit’.

News from the Jewish Blind Society

The Neumeyers’ hopes must have been raised – in vain as it turned out – by the Jewish Blind Jewish Blind Soc lettersSociety, based in Fordwych Road, London NW2. In February, the Society wrote two letters to Beatrice Paish. On 5 February it is recorded that the organisation will ‘probably be willing to apply for Mr. Neuberger [sic] & his wife’. Another note three days later confirms the receipt of the doctor’s certificate for Mr Neumeyer, but asking for certificates for the rest of the family and the birth dates of the children. This if followed by a very hopeful letter on 16 March to Beatrice Paish, giving a tantalising promise of what life would be like for the Neumeyers in the safety of England:

On 22 February we applied for permission for you and your husband to enter this country, and I hope the necessary visas will be granted by the Home Office very shortly, although I cannot guarantee anything, nor do I know how long it will take. Without wishing to raise your hopes too much, I would say that up to now they have not taken a very long time, but there is no chance of urging them forward, and we must just wait until they come through.

When you and your husband arrive here, I propose to send you both to the Royal School for the Blind, Leatherhead, Surrey. This is a big place in the country, and not very far from London You will be put up there in dormitories, and naturally, you and your husband will not be allowed to share the same room. When you are once here we shall see what we can do for you. Possibly you will be able to get a domestic post quite independent of this Society, and if your husband has been trained for any work, such as basket-making or brush-making, then doubtless we shall be able to find him a position in one of the workshops for the Blind. I will inform you as soon as I have heard from the Home Office, and will then give you whatever further information is necessary.

Yours faithfully

Mr Herbert M Harris

Secretary

The final letter we have from the Society was sent on 22 March, confirming the receipt of the permit for ‘Mr & Mrs. Neumeyer from Munich’. But nothing ever came of it, and the whole thing simply fizzled out in the bureaucratic nightmare of those pre-war months.

More delay; ‘it will take about three months before the guarantees will be examined’

This letter concerns the transport of the children to England. There’s still a lot of uncertainty in the air, and all sorts of guarantees are required for things to proceed. Happily it worked – due I am sure in no small measure to the Paishes, and on 11 May Ruth and Raimund left Germany on the Kindertransport for a new life with a new family in England.

München

Thorwaldsentstr. 5

14 March 1939

My dear Mrs. Paish!

Permit me to answer the letter addressed to my wife, that she sent me in order to give me the opportunity to get in touch with the headquarters of the different committees that are here in Berlin where I am staying for a short time. You know how grateful we are for the interest you take in our affairs and the sympathy you are showing us. It oppresses me very much to think that we are forced to make use of your time and your kindness, you may find some excuse for it in the extreme difficulty of our situation.

To-day I went to inform me at the central bureau for the emigration of non-Aryan Christian children, Pfarrer Grueber , Berlin Oranienburgerstr. 20. The reporter Frau Studienrat Draeger told me

  1. The transports are not altogether stopped but delayed on account of several difficulties
  2. Until now one had to give the guarantees to the Home Office if one intended to send the children privately, but it is quite possible that one has to address oneself now to the Inter-aid Committee (Bloomsbury House), that means that one has to give the guarantees now to the inter-aid committee. In that case – Mrs Draeger told me – the guarantees have to be given to Miss Gerstley Bloomsbury House who would pass it on to the Home Office, that would communicate with the bureau of Pfarrer Grueber. One has to assure a guarantee:

a) for the financial support
b) for the family that is going to take the children, and
c) for the school that the children are going to be sent to.

It will take about three months till the guarantees will be examined. In case that the papers would not yet be at the Inter-aid committee I should be very much obliged to you if you could have that done as soon as possible.

At the committee here nothing is known about children coming to England privately being treated differently by the government from those that go with transports. There are no difficulties with the luggage, as each thing is taxed and sealed at home.

We think this photo of Raimund was sent in a letter to the Paishes

You mention that your brother might have to take a smaller house and then would not be in the position to take the children. I am very happy that in case you intend to take Ruth, that is very kind of you. But it is necessary that another suitable home for our boy should be found this has to be settled before giving the guarantees to the Inter-aid committee or else his permit would be made uncertain. Perhaps your brother might give the committee the assurance of taking the children to make things easier and meanwhile one could try to find another home for Raimund. Unfortunately we have scarcely any friends in England so that we cannot do much, would you have the great kindness to try if you can find somebody among your friends who could be of help. I’m sure you’ll understand, dear Mrs. Paish, how we feel about it, it’s so hard for the children to leave their parents and everything and it would be such a comfort for them if they could remain together or at least not too far apart. I feel so depressed about giving you so much trouble but all of this is of such importance for us and the children, so please pardon me.

Ever so many thanks for all you kindness and please give our thanks to Lady Simon and Miss Zimmern and to your brother.

Believe me, dear Mrs. Paish, to be

Yours truly

Hans Neumeyer.

 

This is followed up on 20 March 1939. Vera and Hans are still expecting to come, but nothing ever came of it:

Dear Mrs Paish

I have to thank you for three letters which you wrote to us. I am so sorry to cause you so much trouble just at a time where you are more than usually occupied because of your maid’s illness. We are absolutely convinced that everything that can be done has been done by you, and that under these circumstances it is useless at present to urge the Interaid to hurry.

We are very glad than our children will stay together in your brother’s family, after all.

I am sending you a copy of a letter which I got from the Jewish Society three days ago. You will see that their plans are not so favourable as the informations they gave to you, the latter being certainly preferable for us as a future perspective.

However, we share your and your husband’s opinion that the most important thing is to come, and that everything else will be settled afterwards.

In the meantime we must be patient.

With best greetings from us all,

Yrs,

V. Neumeyer

We have a large number of letters in German written to Ruth and Raimund from May 1939 until the end of the year. Thereafter, communications were restricted to much shorter Red Cross messages (the originals of which are now in the Imperial War Museum), which say very little. More about these on a future post.