Liverpool Street station, London, 11 May 1939. My mother Ruth and her brother Raimund arrived on their journey on a Kindertransport from Munich, leaving behind their parents, whom they would never see again. Waiting for the children were the couple who had agreed with their parents to take responsibility for them: Frank and Bea Paish greeted the Ruth and Raimund, and the young Neumeyers’ new lives began.
The Paishes were unable to accommodate the children themselves, so Ruth and Raimund (as Raymond was then called before he anglicised his name to Raymond Newland) went to live with relatives – Bea’s sister Doris and husband Oscar Eckhard in Weybridge – until July.
Oscar ran a grocery shop and wasn’t well off enough to be the sponsor to the children, so one Lady Simon (whom Raymond never met) sponsored Raymond; I don’t know who sponsored Ruth. Oscar and his wife Doris and their daughters Anne and Josie maintained a lifelong attachment to the Neumeyer children. The letter below was written by Oscar six days after Ruth and Raimund’s arrival:
I think we shall all be happy together, they are tiny for their ages, with sweet faces and charming manners. Miss Brooks is an angel, for she has evidently taken to Ruth, because she has taken her into the school and fitted her out with school clothes and arranged a special syllabus to get mostly English lessons – and all for nothing… We have not got a school for Raimund yet, Ottershaw College fell through, and county schools require an exam, which he cannot do as he knows very little English yet…
Ruth and Raimund were very close, and maintained that bond throughout their lives. Ruth stayed on with the Eckhards and extended family (the Stirlands), and spent most of her wartime years in Cambridge as housekeeper to Professor Ginsberg and his wife: she made friends easily and had a great social life – even with her alien status and the restrictions that this brought, it must have been a massive release from the hardships of the Third Reich persecutions. I think she rapidly put her life under the Third Reich behind her, for the time being at least.
The Welsh coast at the outbreak of war
During the summer holidays in 1939 the extended family took Ruth and Raimund to Pembrokeshire, where they stayed in Treginnis Farm on St David’s Head. It was while they were there that they heard war had broken out, on 3 September – Vera Neumeyer’s 46th birthday. Many years later, Raymond and his family revisited Pembrokeshire for numerous family holidays. In the summer of 1975 or 1976 they, my parents and I walked round St David’s Head with and found Treginnis Farm, little changed from the prewar visit.
Meanwhile, letters from the Neumeyer parents continued to pour in during 1939. Ruth very admirably kept them all throughout the rest of her life, and at some stage in the future I will look into what they say. This postcard sent by Vera on 10 August 1939 has the address of the farm:
Remarkably we have one letter written by Ruth and Raimund to their parents in Germany, and acknowledging the postcard shown above, and shows the children earnestly improving their English (which Hans and Vera Neumeyer themselves spoke very well). Clearly it was never sent as war was imminent:
Aunty Be [sic; actually Bea, short for Beatrice – Ruth called her Aunt Bea throughout her life] (Mrs P) [Paish] sayd that it is much better we write in English and very short. Now I wish Mutti many happy returns of the day. If there does not come a letter later I wish Vati many happy returns better now too [Hans’ birthday was on 13 September].
Thank you ever so much for the last postcard. It shall be little snow white on the picture.
We are all happy. We get now work to do from the farm people. Pumping water. Weeding in the vegetable garden, feeding chickens, sometimes milking cows. But all this began only today. Every day we find lots and lots of blackberries. Yesterday we had a lovely tart (blackberry tart), always with cream. I’ll fetch Mani [the family nickname for Raimund] who is mangling or weeding.
With lots of love, Ta [the family nickname for Ruth]
Today I’ll only write some greetings to Ruth’s letter. I am merry and so are all the others. I hope you are too. Helo Gruvo Rai means Best Greetings [presumably this was a brave attempt to say something in Welsh?]. From Raimund. I write more on your next letter day.
Ruth kept photos of the Paishes’ extended family in a dedicated album. Some of the leaves are shown here:
Her friend Jane Donaldson (nee Eckhard) clicked with Ruth immediately. She commented how family life had brightened up as Ruth immediately set about recreating the fun she’d had as a child during the better times at Dachau. It was with Jane that she is depicted on the ink drawing of two girls playing recorders in a hammock – click here to see the story; that drawing is on display at the Imperial War Museum. At Ruth’s funeral in 2012, Jane recalled:
In May 1939 Ruth and her brother Raymond arrived in London and became part of my Eckhard family. They were fleeing from the Nazi regime. Their parents remained in Germany. The connection was through my Aunt Bea, who had studied eurythmics in Germany before the 1914-18 War. Over that summer, Ruth came to know several of my cousins, staying in Weybridge and holidaying in Wales.
Then in September 1939 at the very beginning of he war, Ruth came to live with my family in Cambridge and settled in with my two brothers and my sister. Ruth was 15 – round-faced, rosy cheeked and with two long brown plaits. It must have been tough for her to be parted from her parents and friends, but I am ashamed to say that I don’t remember considering this – perhaps because she was always so cheerful. She was so full of ideas – games to play, songs to sing, and Christmas plays to act. She and I taught ourselves to play recorders. Our damp cellar became our air-raid shelter and we painted the walls and tried to make it comfortable, though it meant sleeping on shelves – but fortunately there were only two or three occasions when the air-raid sirens sounded at night, and we trooped down with our eiderdowns to try out our arrangements.
Ruth did not go to school, but I think she had some coaching. Now I wonder how she passed the time while we were all at school.
Her stay with us came to an end in 1941 when my family moved to Scotland (as the school my father taught in was evacuated to Pitlochry). Ruth remained in Cambridge and had some training for work with children.
My cousins and I meet regularly, and Ruth has always been included, as we feel she is an adopted cousin. We will all miss her cheerful presence.