The testimonies of 150 Holocaust survivors and refugees who fled to Britain from Nazi Europe have been brought together in a groundbreaking audio-visual archive.
“Refugee Voices” has been organised and produced by the Association of Jewish Refugees, which provides social and welfare services to Holocaust victims living in Britain.
AJR chairman Andrew Kaufman said: “Refugee Voices is a unique and rich archive, designed with the precise requirements of researchers and scholars in mind. As well as creating a legacy of the experiences of our members, this innovative and remarkable collection will advance and enhance Holocaust research.”
The AJR’s Michael Newman said the archive was the first to be time-coded, a process which will enable researchers to pinpoint parts of the 450 hours of film that they want.
He said: “This project was done for several reasons. There was the shrinking number of people who survived, and we wanted to make sure there was a legacy. Many of these people came here before the war and their story was relatively unknown and unreported.
“They talked about what happened to their families, their personal experiences, some came on Kindertransport, how this affected their everyday lives. Remember, Britain had declared war on their countries of birth, but they volunteered to fight for the UK.
“We have also set up the archive so that it can be searched through 44 categories of information, ranging from personal details to parents’ names, dates of birth, how they emigrated, ghettoes, camps and professions. The categories have also been linked to seminal events such as Kristallnach.
Voices from the past
The archive features people like Lilly Crewe (née Neustadtl), born in Hamburg in 1920. Lilly recalled going to a top theatre with her father when there was an announcement that “the Führer was coming to watch the performance, so all Jews out. My father took my hand. We waited until it was dark and then we left.”
Inge Adler was born in 1918 in Schwerin and spoke about visiting photographic studios in Hamburg for an apprenticeship. She arrived at one studio to find a woman with blonde hair and blue eyes — “very German-looking. I said, I’m looking for an apprenticeship, but I don’t think you will take me because I’m Jewish.
“The woman said ‘Are you really Jewish?’ Because I also had blonde hair. She said she would take me and I had the most wonderful apprenticeship.”
Max Abraham, born in Berlin in 1913, remembered his wedding in 1938. “We were allowed only 30 people at home. I had to go to the police to say there would be 30 people in our house. They made sure Jews didn’t congregate too much.”
Peter Pulzer remembered Kristallnacht, “when 10 or 12 Stormtroopers entered our flat. They looted everything, even to the extent of grabbing a necklace from my sister’s neck. Of course, they carried off my father and grandfather to the Gestapo HQ but fortunately they emerged unscathed.”
There is testimony from Arieh Handler, now the last living witness to the 1948 declaration of Israel’s independence. German-born Mr Handler described his pre-war mission to get Jews out of Europe when the Nazis were still prepared to let them go — and of the refusal by many to believe they were in danger until too late.