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Jewish Historical Studies, volume 41, 2007
Kindertransport: Tylers Green Hostel for young Jewish refugees*
This article describes two wartime hostels for young refugees who arrived in Britain under the auspices of the Refugee Children's Movement. One hostel was in Tylers Green, a village near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and the other in Great Chesterford, Essex, ten miles south of Cambridge. Also mentioned is the postwar Freshwater Hostel at 833 Finchley Road, Golders Green, London NW1 1. Tylers Green will be the main focus, however, since this is where the author lived from 1941 till its closure in 1947. The archives of the Committee, now my possession, consist of the minute book, in which the first entry is dated 24 January 1940, and other documents including letters and financial statements beginning in 1941 and concluding in 1946. These will eventually be deposited for preservation in an appropriate institution.
More than 9000 youngsters arrived in Britain between the end of 1938 and the outbreak of War under the generic title of the Kindertransport. Each child was required to have a guarantor or sponsor for £50 and provision for emigration to another country.1 Some went directly to hostels, as I did, while others were taken to holding camps, such as Dovercourt, before moving on to families or hostels.2 A few children were picked out by host families in what Bertha Leverton has called, in connection with Dovercourt, 'a cattle market'. It felt to some more like a slave market.
Those involved in bringing children to the United Kingdom included the Chief Rabbi's Religious Emergency Council run by Rabbi Dr Solomon Schonfeld, the B'nai B'rith Care Committee for Refugee Children (my own sponsors), Youth Aliyah and Sir Nicholas Winton, who brought children from Czechoslovakia. The operation was coordinated at Bloomsbury House, (Bloomsbury Street, WC1) by the Jewish Refugee Committee (closed in January 2005) and its sub-committees (such as in Oxford or
* Paper presented to the Society on 8 June 2006.
1 Bertha Leverton and Bea Green (eds) Kindertransport, 60th Anniversary Book (London 1999) 23;
see also Martin Gilbert, Kristallnacht, Prelude to Disaster (London 2006) 186—7.
2 David Cesarani, Into the Arms of Strangers (London 2000) 15.
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Nottingham), as well as by the Central Jewish Committee for Problems of Evacuation and the Refugee Children's Movement. At the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Right Hon. Lord Gorell, CBE, MC,3 headed the Refugee Children's Movement and later became the legal guardian of children under the Committee's care. The Revd Ephraim Levine, Minister of the New West End Synagogue, accepted the guardianship of refugee children in the post-war era, as long as such a guardianship was needed. Other committees referred to in the Hostel correspondence include the Chief Rabbi's Kosher Canteen Committee, Passover Committee for Evacuees and the Hostels Committee for Evacuated Children (all three were located in Woburn House, Upper Woburn Place, WC1), which seem at times to have been at loggerheads with each other on a number of issues.
The Refugee Children's Movement regarded the 'spiritual life of the child as the foundation of its well-being' and despite criticism took steps to ensure this.4 But it has been estimated that only some 35 per cent of Kindertransport children remain actively Jewish in this country.5 Evidence of low attachment to Judaism is clear also from autobiographies of Kindertransportees.6
There were several reception areas apart from Dovercourt, including Barham House in Claydon, near Ipswich, and Broadread in Selsey-on-Sea (West Sussex). Sources I have collated identify some sixty-six wartime hostels in the United Kingdom,7 some of which remained open only for a limited period. Those in London or at the seaside where eventually evacuated - I was moved from Margate - and others concerned the fostering of young children, who would later move to other hostels. Occasionally hostels were defined as 'orphanages', such as that in Northampton; although my late wife, who visited it frequently, as her family were evacuated to the town, regarded it as a normal hostel. An article in the Jewish Chronicle questioned the need of hostels,8 but this was rebutted in a letter by the hostel committee which was not published.9
Hostels are referred to as having been located, with varying degrees of
3 The third baron, 1893-1963.
4 Leverton and Green (see n. 1) 24.
5 Arieh Handler in a private communication.
6 For instance in Bertha Leverton and Shmuel Lowensohn (eds) I Came Alone: The Stories of the
Kindertransports (Sussex 1990); Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen, Children ofWillesden Lane:
Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memoir of Music (New York 2002); Annette Saville, Only a
Transportee (London 2002).
7 Leverton and Lowensohn (see n. 6); sources including Tylers Green material; oral communica-
8 20 September 1941.
9 Hostel minutes.
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precision, in Bedford, Belfast, Ealing (8 Montpelier Road, W5), Minster Road (Willesden, London), Sellatyn (Shropshire), Tunbridge Wells, Nottingham,10 Withington (Manchester), Leeds (Stainbeck Lane, Chapeltown)11 and Glasgow. They appear to have allowed for varying degrees of Jewish observance. Some might have prepared boys for Barmitzvah, while others may have had only basic Jewish instruction and others none at all.
In some cases these hostels were maintained or organized by local Jewish communities, such as Ealing and Cricklewood in London, or Middlesborough. Refugee committees were organized, for example, in Northwood, Croydon, Ealing and Acton in London, or in Leeds, Oxford and Swanage (Dorset) among other places. Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, home of Baron James de Rothschild, took in twenty-six boys, while others were placed in the Jewish Orphanage then in Norwood. The Jews' Free School, evacuated from Bell Lane, E1, also accepted youngsters not from the school,12 while the Jews' Temporary Shelter, then in Mansell Street, E1, absorbed some, although in one case it had no room for a group of Kindertransportees, who eventually found temporary home in Rowdon House, Fieldgate Street, E1.13 The Hampstead Garden Suburb Appeals Committee and the Sir Alfred Levy Benevolent Fund refused requests for help, as did the New West End Synagogue, St Petersburgh Place, W2 because they were funding a nearby hostel.14 Non-Jewish groupings such as Quakers and Christadelphians either supported or opened hostels.15
Some Jews wished to ensure that Jewish homes were available to refugee children. The Revd Lou Rosenberg, Minister of Staines Synagogue, appealed to the Tylers Green Committee to take four children on these grounds: 'I do not know the best way to open the eyes of the Anglo-Jewish public to the danger; Jewish children in non-Jewish homes, increases daily'.16 Mrs Rosenfelder, Hon. Secretary of the Tylers Green Hostel Committee, wrote to the Jewish Chronicle that 'I have now ascertained ... the approximate number of children (under 18) still living in non-Jewish homes is 3200; the approximate number of vacancies in Jewish hostels is 50.'17
10 Letter from Revd Dr S. Goldman to Mrs Rosenfelder, 23 January 1944.
11 Gideon Behrendt, The Long Road Home (Netanya: private publication, 1999).
12 Gerry Black,J.F.S.: A History of the Jews' Free School, London, Since 1732 (London 1998) 178.
13 A hostel for the elderly and the destitute. Kindertransport Newsletter, Association of Jewish
Refugees, special interest section, London, October 2005.
14 Tylers Green archives.
15 It appears both groups assisted the Refugee Committee in finding homes for refugee young
sters. Communicated orally by Leo Citron who lived with Christadelphians for a time.
16 3 February1943.
17 17 March 1943.
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In some cases homes were found for older teenagers on Hachsharah, training farms for those intending to live in then Palestine. Such farms were run by the Mizrachi18 at Thaxted (Essex) and Buckingham, while that of Habonim19 was at Bromsgrove (north of Worcester). In 1944 the Tylers Green Committee was in correspondence with Bachad, an acronym for Brit Chalutzim Dati'im, originally a Mizrachi movement for young adults, to establish a Bet Chalutzim, 'Pioneers' House', with space reserved for Tylers Green boys, but this came to nothing. It was also proposed that the committee itself open hostels in conjunction with Bachad, but Rabbi Eli Munk of the Hostel Committee felt this was premature.
Some youngsters, as they grew older, were interned or even transported. Some left for Australia on the Troopship Dunera in July 1940 together with more than 2500 German internees. Those who appealed for a nineteen-year-old to be brought from internment abroad were told that this would be accepted only if he volunteered for the Pioneer Corps.20
I arrived in England from Fürth, Bavaria, Germany, aged just over eight, and went to a hostel in Margate organized by B'nai B'rith, located at 13 Third Avenue, Cliftonville, Margate, which housed sixty boys aged between eight and sixteen. I learned my first smattering of English in the hostel. There was little awareness of Jewish practice or instruction, and this lessened still further when the hostel closed to evacuate children away from the coast, and I, with Joseph Fertig also from the Margate Hostel, were placed with a non-Jewish family, the Cotterells, in Hammerwich, Staffordshire.21I was transferred to the Hostel in Tylers Green in 1941. B'nai B'rith continued to pay for my lodgings and clothing until after the war. They unfortunately failed to preserve their hostel records.22 The records of many hostels have been lost over the years. Beyond Kindertransportees' own recollections of their hostels, little seems to survive in documentary form. Much information is, however, scattered in biographical books or articles.
I discovered my parents' fate only in 1945, having tried but failed to contact them through the Red Cross. They had been deported from their home in Fürth to Riga and Izbika (Latvia), and then killed, as my sister Ruth heard from a survivor who had been with them. The parents of a few
A religious Zionist movement founded in 1902; Bachad and Bnei Akiva are constituent organizations.
Established in 1929 in the East End of London as a Zionist youth movement. Refugee Children's Movement to Mrs Rosenfelder, 18 February 1941.
They were kind and looked after us extremely well, had an outside toilet and no electricity or bathroom, but a fine garden with chickens.
Hermann Hirschberger, Chairman of Kindertransport Association UK, was in the same Margate hostel.
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Tylers Green children survived and were reunited with their children after the War. But three brothers' hopes were dashed when the adults thought to be their parents turned out to be people with an identical surname and to have come from the same region.23
The origins of the hostel can be traced back to a note from the Hon. Secretary, Mrs Cissi Z. Rosenfelder (née Rau): 'It was in the late thirties that Rabbi Dr Eliyahu (Eli) Munk, felt that our Kehilah (Golders Green Beth Hamidrash, also known as Munk's Shul) whose members included a large number of refugees, should form an aid committee to help those who were still left in Germany or Austria. It was a task with which we could not really cope, as children were coming under the auspices of the Refugee Children's Movement. Files have come into my hands containing pitiful letters from parents begging us to bring their children out of Germany.'24In 1939 Rabbi Munk and some key members of his congregation, faced with the plight of refugee children arriving from Germany and Austria without parents, decided to open a hostel.
On 24 January 1940 a Hostel Committee was formed under the chairmanship of Jacob Feuchtwanger. The Rabbinical Advisor was Rabbi Eli Munk, the Treasurers Arthur Feuchtwanger and Menki Zimmer (a distant relative of mine from Fürth) and the Hon. Secretary Mrs Cissi Z. Rosenfelder. Other members were Alexander (later Rabbi) Carlebach, Hermann Schwab, J. Hirsch and four ladies: Mrs (Heinrich) Munk, Mrs (Henry) Minden, Mrs Rosenblatt and Jenny Zimmer. All were people whom I and the other boys knew and respected.
Their German origins would at times cause problems due to restrictions on the movement of enemy aliens, especially as High Wycombe, the nearest town to Tylers Green, was in a protected area. The Committee applied for the release from internment of their Chairman, which was granted. Help was received from various charitable and public bodies, as well as from the Home Office and Ministry of Health.
Rabbi Munk is shown by surviving correspondence to have played a leading role in the hostel management and to have maintained personal contact with the children. After the War he went as an emissary to Europe, bringing relief to survivors of the camps for some eighteen months. His biographer describes how 'He was particularly admired by the youngsters of Tylers Green where he always made himself available to individual pupils, though he did not take individual classes. The impact of these personal contacts on these students persisted long after they had left the hostel (in my own case until well after I was married). The respect accorded
23 Personal recollection.
24 Golders Green Beth Hamidrash Bulletin, 4 (July 1985).
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him reflected the genuine interest that he took in their welfare - material as well as spiritual; to him they were not cases but individual human beings with individual problems, and to them he was not a remote benefactor but a palpable and caring presence.'25
Mrs Rosenfelder, the Hon. Secretary, gave of herself to the organization well beyond the remit of her duties, taking care of us not only in the hostel, but even long after its dissolution; she was looked up to as a mother-figure. Cissi Rosenfelder was born in London in 1900 to German-Jewish parents, went to North London Collegiate School26 and then worked with Rabbi Dr Victor Schonfeld and the Mizrachi movement. After her marriage she moved to Cologne, returning to London when the Nazis came to power. She was a member of the Golders Green Beth Hamidrash when Rabbi Munk set up the Refugee Committee, and with the outbreak of War became the Hon. Secretary of the Tylers Green Hostel Committee until its dissolution. The correspondence and notes she produced are voluminous, but her other interests included Youth Aliyah and the Jews' Temporary Shelter. When I joined the Council of the latter in the 1970s she was the Chairman of the House Committee and later a Vice-President. She was helped by her husband Max in enabling many refugees to build new lives.27
Among the final postwar entries in the committee's minute book are references to a Board of Religious Hostels. In October 1945 the committee agreed to join the board, as long as it was 'accepted as a charitable institution'. The three sets of minutes of that Board that survive show its Hon. Officers, who seem to have met for the first time in August 1945 at the Bachad Offices. They were Oscar Philipps, Chairman, Rabbi Dr Solomon Schonfeld and J. Feuchtwanger (Tylers Green Hostel), Vice-Chairmen, Menki Zimmer (Tylers Green Hostel) and Arieh Handler, Treasurers, Mrs Cissi Z. Rosenfelder and Revd Shea Abramovitch (Bachad) Hon. Secretaries. Additional members were Dr Judith Grunfeld28 and one representative each from the Refugee Children's Movement (Mrs Dorothy Hardisty) and the Jewish Refugee Committee.29 The Board's constitution stated that it was to be an umbrella organization designed to appeal for funds and then distribute them equitably, as well as receiving regular reports from individual hostel committees. Mr Highton (probably a
25 L. Gerber et al., Blessings of Elijah: Essays Dedicated to the Memory of Rabbi Dr Eliyahu Munk
(London: Golders Green Beth Hamidrash 1982) 39.
26 Then in Camden Town, NW5; founded by Frances Mary Buss in 1850.
27 Information based on a note from her daughter, Carmel Gradenwitz, and on personal recollec
28 A noted educationalist and one time head of the Avigdor Primary School, see [author
unnamed], Queen ofBais Yaakov, Story of Dr Judith Grunfeld (New York 2001), and Miriam
Dansky, Rebbetzin Grunfeld (New York 2002).
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Government official) pointed out the need to submit monthly statements to the Government regarding expenditure and that it would not pay for 'teachers of religious instruction', although when the Tylers Green Hostel moved to London after the war such payment was made. Two other hostels which came under the scrutiny of the Board were in Woodberry Down (Finsbury Park, North London) and the other in Dorking, the latter run by Rabbi Kon, who later relocated it to London.
Mrs Rosenfelder was reminded, in a letter written after the War, that the Home Office 'requires, under penalty, certain particulars regarding Voluntary Homes to be notified to the Home Office. A "Voluntary Home" for the purposes of the Act means any home or institution for the boarding, care and maintenance of poor children or young people by voluntary contributions.'30 The letter explains that this applies to children and young people under seventeen and that replies must be sent annually to the Home Office.
The first minutes of the hostel committee are concerned with its membership, the appointment of officers and arrangements for a bank account and for contact with the landlord of the Old Vicarage, Tylers Green, a former boarding school, where the hostel was located, with vast gardens that were ideal for building secret hideaways or just peace and quiet. The religious set-up of was established by the decision not to accept any boy who worked on Shabbat. It was also decided not to accept children unless a minimum of £1 1s per week was received from relatives or supporting organizations. The new hostel would take over the effects of that of the Croydon Refugee Aid Society (Croydon Hebrew Congregation).
A number of approaches were made to the Ministry of Health for the supply of certain items, but these were not always given. Appeals to the Priority Section of the Ministry to speed up supplies again were also not always successful. Towards the end of 1942 the Army threatened to requisition the house, but fortunately this never happened.31
The hostel opened in February 1940, with places for a maximum of 25 boys. Vacancies were quickly filled, and applications for new admissions frequent. Applications might be rejected because of lack of space or because the child was too young or not orthodox enough. My sister obtained my admission with the help of B'nai B'rith on the grounds that I might get lost as a Jew in the village where I was evacuated. A fellow billettee told me that most of the eight Jewish boys from Margate in our village remained Jewish. Conditions for my acceptance were that the Committee would receive maintenance, which it did through a private donor, and also billeting money
30 The Children and Young Persons Act 1935, Part 5.
31 Considerable correspondence exists on this attempt at requisition.
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from Government sources. The minutes record how 'Bernd Koschland, now living with non-Jewish people, had been chosen to come to Tylers Green'.
There were difficulties initially in enlisting and retaining staff, resulting in several changes of warden, teachers and assistants during the first year. When the hostel opened there were four members of staff, including a couple who served as wardens, but who soon resigned to move to the USA. From May 1940 to January 1941 the committee could find no-one permanent, although several applied. One man who was accepted was promptly interned and did not take up the post on his release. Another appointee left after a short time because he could not keep discipline. One couple had to be dismissed. Mr and Mrs Max Baer were appointed on 6 January 194132and stayed until the War in Europe ended, after which they emigrated to the United States. He and his wife proved excellent and had a lasting influence on many of us. Mrs Rosenfelder noted 'how very well Mr and Mrs Baer manage the boys, the house - and the present time'. Mr Baer, who had taught at a hostel in Margate, was little changed when I visited him in 1974 in a retirement home near New York.
The problem of finding a suitable teacher was resolved in March 1942 with the appointment of Mr and Mrs Woolf. The Ministry of Health, which seemed to have overall responsibility for the hostel, fixed a wage of £6 per week, of which the committee would pay 30s and the Refugee Committee the rest; Mrs Woolf would earn separately 22s per week for outside work. I likewise visited them in New York in 1974. Applications for the post of teacher from Rabbi Dr Naftali Wieder, later of Jews' College, University College London and Bar-Ilan University, and from Dr Siegfried Stein, later of University College London, were turned down. Both were felt to be unsuitable for teaching children. The Revd Joseph Halpern, later Head of Department at JFS Comprehensive School,33 was retained as an adviser.
The hostel at Great Chesterford, Essex, also had difficulty finding staff until Mr and Mrs Shapiro arrived in January 1943. They resigned in June 1944 when Mr Shapiro became headmaster of the new Menorah Primary School in Golders Green. Those who replaced him were dismissed after six months, but their successors, Revd and Mrs B. Wreschner, remained after the hostel was handed over to Bachad and until it closed.
The problems of finding suitable staff were compounded by the fact that people of German or Austrian origin were classed as enemy aliens and had to obtain Home Office permission to work. They also needed to register
32 Hostel minutes for that date.
33 As the reestablished Jews' Free School was called in postwar years.
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with the police. Furthermore, Tylers Green was a protected area and thus two of the boys who were over sixteen had to leave because they were enemy aliens without permission to remain in the area. Both were interned but later released. Boys under sixteen were not affected. A journey from Tylers Green to High Wycombe also meant entering a protected area, requiring police permission.34 A further issue was the Registration for Employment Order 1941, which stated that women could be required to join women's services for National Service or expand war production by the Ministry of Labour. A Government Employment Order also prevented the movement of nurses, but people holding special qualifications or occupying pivotal positions were exempted, making it possible for a nurse to be appointed.
A Mrs Smith was employed to help with cleaning for five days a week, correspondence with the Evacuation Department of Wycombe Rural District Council giving permission to raise her wages from 14s 3d for part of the week to 25s for two whole and three half-days.
The Tylers Green and Great Chesterford hostels were visited regularly by committee members, some of whom who lived outside London, as well as by others who would report back to the committee. Mrs Rosenfelder, who felt that her work should be done by someone who lived in London, whereas she had a house in Oxford, offered her resignation on 6 January 1941, but the issue was fortunately resolved. The minutes record how 'a motion was passed ... to thank several members who had gone to Tylers Green to regain order after the incumbent Wardens ... had left.' They had in fact been dismissed in 1941. The committee was active in raising funds and also interacted with the Home Office, Ministry of Health and local government offices, as well as with the Revd Gerald Hayward, the local Vicar who was also the local Billeting Officer, suppliers and builders. They dealt in addition with problems relating to individual boys. Most of this work was done by Mrs Rosenfelder.
Orthodox religious practice was central to the ethos of the hostel and was expected of boys and staff irrespective of their previous religious experiences. As Mrs Rosenfelder reported to Mr J. Feuchtwanger: 'It was gratifying to hear how this Committee, as well as Mrs Dorothy Hardisty [Secretary of Refugee Children's Movement] urge the necessity of a Jewish upbringing for every Jewish child'. Prayers were conducted three times daily by the boys themselves, including reading from the Torah, a useful preparation for adult life and an influence on my becoming a Minister. Servicemen and others from the area would join us for services especially on Sabbaths and festivals, since we were the nearest 'synagogue' Jewish
34 Chief Constable of Chepping Wycombe to Mrs Rosenfelder, 21 August 1942.
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studies took place daily, and on Sabbath for three hours Rabbi Munk's reasonable approach made our life enjoyable. This was a major factor in ensuring that uprooted Kindertransport children remained practising Jews rather than being lost to the community, as were many Kindertransportees. Our experiences prepared us to participate, without embarrassment, in the religious life of communities in which we later lived.
Some boys took part in Hebrew for All, a correspondence course for Modern Hebrew devised by Harold Levy which eventually became a popular text book.35 A committee set up by the Home Office selected a few boys to go to Yeshivah. Many went to summer camps run by the Ezra Poalei Agudat Israel or Bnei Akiva youth groups, even though Ezra camp involved potato picking in addition to religious studies.
A minute recording that a boy who had left the hostel was no longer frum, 'orthodox', and that another who had gone home to his mother had been given non-kosher food, states that whether or not interest was taken in the religious life of boys after leaving the hostel and whether or not parents were impressed with the kind of education the children received, 'parents had to fall in with this'.36 It was agreed that parents had to be informed of the religious character of the hostel and their need to adhere to it. A letter of 23 October 1943 from the Jewish Refugees Committee refers to a parent withdrawing her application for her son as she is not orthodox 'and it would complicate matters if she sent Robert'. Mr Shapiro, warden of Great Chesterford, expressed concern on 12 September 1943 about a girl who was receiving instruction in Christianity at school and said the Lord's Prayer daily.
Movement of boys or girls, whether for work or for holidays, had to have the approval of the organisation initially responsible for them, such as the Refugee Children's Movement or B'nai B'rith. Boys would not generally be allowed to go away for a festival such as Passover. My sister, staying with a family in South London,37 invited me to come for Passover in 1943, but correspondence indicates the reluctance of the committee and warden to let me go, since they viewed the family as not fully observant. The husband arranged for my Barmitsvah to take place in Brixton Synagogue in January 1944, whose Minister was Rabbi (later Dayan) Moshe Swift; a small tea was arranged on Sunday.
Jewish Education in Great Chesterford under Mr Shapiro was good, several letters suggest. A parent, writing to Mr Shapiro on 2 July 1943, said 'Now I must tell you that our whole Familie [sic] and Friends are delighted
35 Harold Levy, Hebrew for All( Central Council of Jewish Education in the UK and Eire; 2nd ed. London: Vallentine Mitchell 1970).
36 27 December 1944.
37 For personal reasons I refrain from revealing the name.
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with the children the way Mr Shapiro has taught them their Hebrew & Jewish customs its a pleasure to listen to everything & we are proud of them...'.
Those children, such as myself, who attended the local Royal Grammar School at High Wycombe were excused lessons on Shabbat morning by the intervention of Rabbi Munk and the committee. His letter to the Chairman of Governors38 cited examples of British legislation recognizing the right for Jews to observe the Sabbath on Saturday.39 The Headmaster, Mr E. R. Tucker, responded in a letter to Mrs Rosenfelder of 28 Novemebr 1944 that 'I think you would be interested to know that the Ministry certainly would not want to support any compulsion on the part of a Headmaster which would react unfavourably upon boys of Jewish religion who require to withdraw on Saturday mornings on religious grounds. As you know we left it that I would take no action regarding these boys if you insisted on keeping them home.' Mr Baer, the warden, was concerned also that children should not walk further than the permitted distance on the Sabbath.
Observance of the dietary laws posed particular problems. Rabbi Munk wrote to the Ministry of Food on 15 December 1942 to say that the Tylers Green Hostel could not purchase kosher meat in High Wycombe, since the hostel was under his religious auspices and he ruled that meat had to be under the supervision of Kedassia or Machzike Hadath. The hostel therefore purchased meat from Messrs Frohwein of Golders Green, who were, and remain, under Kedassia supervision. The Ministry accepted this. Meat was normally sent by train or occasionally fetched by boys. If it ever went astray, meatless days followed.
Minutes refer to difficulties in obtaining matsot, which were on rationing points. Selfridges were not able to obtain any in 1945, for instance, citing uncertainties about supplies. Yet some were always procured, frequently with the help of generous donors, as minutes and letters indicate.
The standards set at the hostel would not always be easy to maintain in later life. Chanoch Lerner, then aged fifteen, who wanted to be an engineer, reported sadly on 3 December 1941 how, 'On [sic] my stay in London for the holidays, I was summoned to Bloomsbury House to talk things over. They told me, that it would be a very hard job for me not to work on Saturday in the engineering trade. Besides Col Levy [of the ORT-OSE School], who seems to be in charge in Leeds, doesn't want to take very orthodox boys for that reason. I quite understand it will be difficult for me.'
The financial organization of the hostels, carefully documented up to June 1943 and thereafter spasmodically till the final entry in the minute
38 20 September 1944.
39 Factory Act; Sunday Trading Act; LCC regulations.
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book of February 1947, shows that the committee worked on a tight budget. Besides payments from the Government and from organizations responsible for boys and girls or from their parents, they relied on donors and voluntary subscriptions, mainly from members of the Golders Green Beth Hamidrash. Once the Tylers Green Hostel had been set up, attempts were made to firm up household expenses with the help of the wardens. From the Government's billeting allowances each evacuee child was allocated 1s 4d weekly, comprising 6d pocket money including stamps, 1d haircutting and 9d shoe repairs. Within about six months pocket money went up by 1d because of a rise in postage. The Government allowed 10s per child per year for medical attention and medicines, but the local doctor was unhappy and further payments were later agreed. The first Passover was estimated to cost a further £5or £6 for utensils and £4 or £5 for matzot. By October 1940 the bank account stood £25 and a call went out for sponsors. It was suggested that costs could be cut by bulk buying from the local Co-Op store in High Wycombe, but this was not done. The few boys who worked, of whom there were four in October 1940, were allowed 5s for pocket money and 3s for clothing, and contrinuted the rest of their wages for board. Mr and Mrs Baer were paid £3 weekly from when they started, on 6 January 1941, two lady helpers £1 each and the domestic help initially just under 15s, although the latter was refunded by the Government. A letter from the Refugee Children's Committee, dated 12 October 1945, takes the committee to task for a rise in the wages bill for Tylers Green from £237 in June 1943 to £426 in December 1944, which might have affected the financial relationship with the Refugee Children's Movement. The danger was averted.
Budgeting was further complicated by the need for all kinds of permits and priority permits, such as for goods, repairs and the transfer of boys to Tylers Green.40 Billeting allowances could vary according to status, and the Ministry of Health did not regard Tylers Green as an entirely evacuee hostel. Payments for evacuees were mostly 25s to 30s per week for the individual. But because of the mixture of evacuee and non-evacuee children the Ministry of Health refused to supply the three beds and a bread-cutting machine which had been requested by the Committee, although in one instance it granted an extra 5s for a teacher of religion. Parents were not allowed to pay anything additional to billeting money.
The first full financial statement, of 13 February 1940, makes stark reading for a hostel housing seventeen boys. There was £14 17s 0d in hand, which included monies received from Croydon Refugee Aid Society and a shilling collection from the Golders Green Beth Hamidrash members
40 Lodging Restrictions, Wycombe Rural Area 1941.
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which totalled £2 2s 0d. Approximately £100 was given for moving into and fitting out the hostel, for which £120 was paid in rent, presumably per annum. The suggested weekly outlay was £10 10s 8d, including rent and wages, plus 15s 4d for pocket money, shoe repairs and travelling. In addition there was £8 10s for food, at a rate of 10s per head. The total expenditure was thus £19 0s 8d, with a small added reserve of 19s 4d to make up £20. Taking in a further eight boys could reduce costs, provided the Refugee Committee at Bloomsbury House agreed to pay 18s per child per week. An approach was to be made to Mrs Dolly de Rothschild for £100,41either as a donation or funds she held in trust for such an occasion. One proposal, abandoned for lack of available space, was to take in girl trainees. The archives preserve many statements of account sent by wardens to the committee, identifying each last lAd. One included 6d for a Sabbath 'boy' at Tylers Green.
Budgets eventually rose as the number of boys and staff increased. On 17 February 1941 expenditure was shown as £27 10s 6d per week, but a few months later, on 7 March 1941, it was £32. Costs rose further also because allocated funds per boy increased. In March 1942, for instance, it was £1 10s 4d, and by September 1945 it was £2 4s, giving a deficit of £8 to £10, despite £1 16s received per child from the Refugee movement. A further financial strain was placed on funds by the opening of a girls' hostel in Great Chesterford. For the first six months donations would go towards the new hostel, after which, monetary gifts would be shared between the two hostels.
Since income was lost when boys left the hostel, it was vital to have a full complement of residents. Appeals for clothing were made to the Jewish community, and some organizations or private individuals accepted responsibility for a particular boy or girl. In my own case, B'nai B'rith was approached through Mrs Olga Epstein several times. As late as 1947-8 I cycled from North London to the home of Mortimer and Olga Epstein in Christchurch Road, Brondesbury, NW6, to pick up clothes. The Refugee Children's Committee paid for those who had no guarantor. To save money, socks were darned in the hostel from November 1943, rather than by outsiders. The Great Chesterford Warden, Mr Shapiro, wrote on one occasion that the girls did not have shoes for going to school because the Refugee Children's Movement was tardy in its help.
Donations were often in kind rather than financial, and in the form of furniture, radios, books, magazines,42 games, treats or outings. Tylers Green was given three new bicycles, for example, which had also to be
41 Additional information supplied by Elaine Penn, Assistant Archivist, Rothschild Archive.
42 Letter from Miss Joan Harmiston of the British Council, 14 December 1942.
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maintained, a useful skill later in life when my only mode of transport was a bicycle.
Various communities and organizations are recorded in the archives as donors. The local Beaconsfield United Synagogue and the High Wycombe community gave assistance and treats, and Great Chesterford enjoyed help from the Cambridge community. Local Borough Councils and official bodies such as the Ministry of Health and Work helped on several occasions. Individual donors from the Jewish and non-Jewish communities included James de Rothschild in 1945 and Lady Rayleigh, OBE, on 17 May 1943.43 Some of the expenses for my schooling came from a generous donor, Kurt Lissauer, who sadly passed away before I discovered his name.
The archives record other details about myself that I never knew. B'nai B'rith had informed to Mrs Rosenfelder on 4 February 1941 that 'If Bernd it [sic] placed with a non-Jewish family it is unfortunate, but, he shares the fate of all the English Jewish children, and, we feel, that is a matter for the Jewish Community to see that the right Jewish influence is brought into the lives of these children.' The transfer was agreed once financial terms had been arranged, such as billeting money, funds for clothing (provided by B'nai B'rith) and other expenses (contributed by the hostel committee). Ruth, my sister, was also behind my move. Other entries refer to a gentleman44 who wanted me to live with him permanently and perhaps adopt me. But his proposal was not accepted by the committee and the matter was dropped.
Close attention was paid to boys' and girls' welfare, especially in helping them to find work. Sigi Liker worked with the Jewish Chronicle, then located in High Wycombe, from 16 October 1942, and letters from the editor, Ivan Greenberg, to the Hostel Committee indicate his active concern, especially when the hostel moved to London after the War while the Jewish Chronicle remained in High Wycombe. Another boy was found work in a local grocery store. Henry Kreisel, who in October 1942 left Tylers Green to work as a cabinet maker in London earning £2 per week, had expenses of £2 16s 10d, consisting of board £2 5s 0d, fares 2s 6d, teas 2s 6d, insurance 4d, savings 6d and personal expenses 1s. The difference was paid by the committee and the Refugee Children's Movement. A letter of 29 December 1944 from him shows his unhappiness at living with a family in which Sabbath and Kashrut were not fully observed. 'The Committee brought me into a non-kosher home', he commented. A similar note states that the boys of the family with whom he was staying 'were easy going', implying they were not up to the correspondent's standard of Judaism. A few boys went on to Hachsharah and some were registered with Youth
43 Lady Ursula Mary Rayleigh, wife of the fifth Baron Rayleigh (John Arthur Strutt).
44 See n. 37 above.
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Aliyah, as I was, although I let my registration lapse. The committee continued on 6 January 1944 to be concerned about Harry Dux, who had medical problems and went to live with an older brother and sister in London, even though he was no longer in the hostel.
Education features many times in the archival material. Boys attended local primary and secondary schools as well as technical colleges, as did girls in Great Chesterford some of whom attended the Clapton Secondary School evacuated nearby. One of its teachers, Mrs Zara Herman, later Headmistress of the Hasmonean Girls School, was very helpful. There was a desire by Mr Shapiro, quoting an unnamed teacher, to allow one girl to return to London with the Clapton school, so as not to endanger her success in the School Certificate.45 Where evacuated schools used the same premises as local ones, lessons could sometimes be organized only for the afternoon. Since at the High Wycombe Royal Grammar School, which I attended, it was Friday, valuable time was lost in winter.
Children from the hostel would not automatically be accepted at the local Royal Grammar School. Even after passing the eleven-plus examination, Buckinghamshire Education Committee insisted that fees be paid, that aliens be allocated to classes according not only to their age, but their command of English, and that no English boy would not be excluded at the expense of an alien.46 Four children from my Primary School passed the eleven-plus, two of them local, a third from London, and myself, but only once the conditions had been met. Several Tylers Green boys eventually went to the school, but funding remained a problem for the committee.
The Royal Grammar School offered an excellent education, although the regular staff were away in the Forces. Kennedy's Latin Primer is still embedded in my mind, and I participated in the Army Cadets (I can still feel the weight of the Lee Enfield .303 rifle) and the Aircraft Spotters Club (we aspired to distinguish a Heinkel from a Hurricane) and learned to play fives according to the Eton Rules.47 We had jam sandwiches for lunch in which the jam had soaked into the bread.
Entry to technical schools and colleges proved more difficult; a note from the Education Office of the London County Council (LCC), from whose area several of the boys had been evacuated, set out the rules for 'admission of alien children to secondary and technical schools'.48 A maximum of sixty children per annum were allowed to take up vacancies 'after all British children had been accommodated'. Senior County Awards would normally not be considered.
45 Taken at the age of sixteen.
46 Mr Tucker, Headmaster, to Mrs Rosenfelder, 27 May 1944.
47 As distinct from the Rugby Rules.
48 Approved by the LCC Education Committee, 3 December 1941.
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Encouragement was given to take part in local primary-school activities, such as a poster competitions on behalf of 'Wings for Victory' or 'Warship Week', with prizes ranging from 1s to 11s. A Koschland warship with upturned saucepans for guns even won a prize. Termly and shorter fortnightly49 school reports were carefully examined by Mr Baer, who reported back to the committee.
While a hostel could barely replace a normal home, it was the nearest thing available under the circumstances. Long after the War, in a letter to Paula, the daughter of Walter Falk (a boy from Tylers Green), Mrs Rosenfelder wrote: 'I think your father will confirm when I say that the atmosphere was one of a home, not just a hostel, in which we endeavoured to compensate the boys for the loss of their own home and for the loss of their parents.'50 Norms have changed and some punishments would be unacceptable today, such as Mr Baer's Ohrfeige, 'boxing of the ears'. On birthdays and Barmitsvahs gifts were given: my own gift from the Baers for the latter was a Tikkun (a volume containing the unpointed Hebrew text of the Torah for preparing the Reading of Torah in synagogue), inscribed 'Take to heart its contents', echoing my father's message inscribed in a Chumash he gave me. There were treats on Sabbath and festivals, and a highlight of the week was the sweet ration, sometimes withheld as a punishment. Letters express concern over illness or emotional and social difficulties. Attempts were made to help one older boy who caused severe discipline problems, even after he had left.51 Some found it difficult to adjust, not just because they were refugees or evacuees, but because of problems in a child's home. Letters report how one parent might be in the Forces and the other unwell, or both in the Forces, or one in the Forces and the other on war work, leaving no one to care for a child. In one case, both parents were mentally unwell. Problems were caused also by divorce, a rarity in the preserved materials.
Correspondence with parents, the Children's Refugee Committee and others reflects careful planning for the children's future, for appropriate schooling during and after the War and for the need to provide proper training for future careers. In some instances full training was discussed as a preparation for Aliyah.
A statistical summary from Great Chesterford, dated October 1945, illustrates possible problems for children. The hostel housed 18 youngsters, comprising 15 girls and 3 boys aged between 15 and 8 years, of whom 13
49 The Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, issued short reports including marks, class posi
tion, late arrivals and detentions every two to three weeks which had to be signed by a parent or
50 14 April 1985.
51 To protect his identity no name is given.
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were under the legal care of various committees and 3 under the care of parents. Many had changed home between 2 and 9 times, the majority between 4 and 6 times, with an average of 6 moves back and forth between parental and foster homes and hostels. In some cases one or both parents were missing in Europe or only one had survived. In others one or other parent was invalid or had died, or was living abroad or serving in the Forces. I myself moved eight times since leaving Germany, including twice for a few weeks only. My last move, prior to living independently, was to people who were related to me and whom I regarded as foster parents: Nathan and Fini Zimmer of Brownswood Road, N4.
Chief Rabbi J. H. Hertz,52 in a note to Mrs Rosenfelder regarding a High Court case, in which she was appointed a Guardian, expressed his 'appreciation of the excellent work of your hostel', commending her on how well the hostel provided a 'home from home'.
Life at the Hostel was as normal as circumstances allowed. The ample grounds of the Old Vicarage at Tylers Green provided room for football, cricket and wide games (tolerated on Shabbat by Rabbi Munk). There were also indoor games, as well as books and magazines. Boys helped with washing up and took turns peeling potatoes for the week into a large zinc bath. There was time for reading, writing letters, preparing for the services and socializing, and rotas were arranged for weekly baths and more occasional haircuts at the local barber. With the change of Tylers Green staff in 1945, when Mr and Mrs Baer and Mr and Mrs Woolf left, older boys were asked to help Matron as much as possible, and Sigi Liker (who worked for the Jewish Chronicle) was named 'senior boy'.
Frequent visits from families or friends made us feel less isolated, and from early in 1944, visitors were no longer required to have permits for coming to Tylers Green. Rules for visitors to Great Chesterford, laid down by the Hostels Committee for Evacuated Jewish Children, may have applied also to Tylers Green, although I do not recall them ever being applied. Visiting hours were from 2 pm to 6 pm, with only two people visiting any child at one time. Visitors should not be younger than fourteen years old. In view of rationing, no meals would be served in the hostel, but a cup of tea would be obtainable at about 4.30. Visitors could bring food with them.
Closure was inevitable as the end of the war in Europe approached, and with the departure of Mr and Mrs Baer and of Mr and Mrs Woolf in May 1945. Mrs Rosenfelder sent us the following letter on 26 July 1945:
Letter from Rabbi Dr Hertz to Mrs Rosenfelder, 13 June 1943, relating to a case in Hig Court, Chancery Judge Uthwatt, 1943, document 104.
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This is your last Shabbat at Tylers Green. Don't just take it for granted. Think back over the years you have spent at the Old Vicarage and remember with gratitude that you have spent these days of war in peace and harmony, and those with whom you have lived there have done so very much to try replace your own homes and the care of your parents, of which you have been deprived.
I hope you will remember Tylers Green and all that it stands for all your lives and wherever you may be in later years, let the years 1940-1945 have a place in your minds.
I am looking forward to welcome you down in London Shabbat Shalom to you all
Mrs C. Z. Rosenfelder
Tylers Green closed on 30 July 1945 and the children transferred to London, initially into temporary accommodation. Attempts to locate property had failed, as a suitable house in Hendon turned out not to be available; the Ministry of Health wrote to say that they could derequisition houses only to owner-occupiers, and not for purposes such as a hostel or business. Buildings in Priory Road and Netherhall Gardens in Hampstead were refused consent by the London County Council on the grounds that these streets were 'tentatively zoned for single-family dwelling houses and the proposed use would not conform to this zoning'.53 A request to keep Tylers Green for a further year was not accepted as it had already been let to another organization. Ministry of Health had been notified of closure. Letters were sent to parents and relatives asking them to take children home, even if only temporarily, although this might cause strain on families. But 'those who are alone will remain with us', wrote Cissi Rosenfelder to the Refugee Committee. Some, like me, went to Great Chesterford for a short period, certainly over the summer holidays and partly to summer camps. But Great Chesterford closed shortly afterwards, despite protests by the warden and Refugee Committees.
Letters indicate the problem of finding appropriate schooling for returnees at the beginning of the new term. Hendon Junior Technical School of Engineering was filled with returning evacuees and was unable to find a place for a particular Tylers Green boy.54 I and another boy were lodged temporarily in the Abba Myers Centre, Hendon, the boarding
53 LCC to Mrs Rosenfelder, 25 June 1945 and 14 September 1945.
54 Middlesex County Council Education Committee to Mrs Rosenfelder, 28 August 1945.
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department of the new Hasmonean Grammar School,55 where several hostel boys were accepted to study at a specially reduced rate of 6 guineas per term. But the move from the Royal Grammar School to the Hasmonean's first fifth form of seven boys and two girls came as an academic shock. Some of us were found a further temporary home in the Sunshine Hostel, 3 Callcott Road, NW6. The committee finally found premises in 159 Queen's Drive, N4, which they bought for £3500. The new hostel opened its doors on 30 October 1945 to sixteen boys, although some twenty-two boys and girls were under the care of the hostel committee. Four girls moved in when Great Chesterford closed. The matron, who had joined the staff in 1943 as a cook, remained until the hostel closed, although there were several changes of warden.
The Golders Green Hostels Committee (as the Hostel Committee was known post-war) opened another hostel, the Osias Freshwater Hostel at 833 Finchley Road, Golders Green, for boys coming from war-ravaged Europe. Mr Osias Freshwater was a member of the Committee. There were problems of discipline, as some boys failed to settle down, and there was difficulty finding a warden. Mr Shapiro, formerly of Great Chesterford, applied for the post, and was rejected as he could not serve both as warden and as headmaster of Menorah Primary School. An approach was to be made, via Rabbi Louis Jacobs, then of the Golders Green Beth Hamidrash, to invite Major the Revd Maurice Jaffe of Manchester, Chaplain to the Forces. The minutes do not record a decision, but it is thought he did not take the position.
Bachad suggested that only religious boys be placed in the Freshwater Hostel and provided Herbert Laster (killed in 1955 when an El Al plane was shot down over Bulgaria) as a teacher. Mr Freshwater later complained in a letter to the committee that this had not been complied with. In June 1946 there were eleven boys over seventeen and two who were younger. It closed in 1951. Late in 1945 Great Chesterford was taken over for a period by Bachad for youngsters coming from the horrors of Europe, and in January 1946 there were eleven children from Belsen.
Life in London was very different from the quiet of the countryside, especially with the daily trips to school by bus and Underground from Finsbury Park to Golders Green. Being situated in North London, enabled us to participate in the Ezra Youth Group and occasionally in Bnei Akiva. I passed the School Certificate with Matriculation exemption in January 1947, to the surprise of Walter Stanton, Headmaster of the Hasmonean.
55 Currently part of the Hasmonean Primary School, Shirehall Lane, Hendon, where a plaque over the front door bears the inscription 'Abba Myers Centre', named after a generous patron of Rabbi Dr Solomon Schonfeld, the school's founder and principal.
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Since there was as yet no Sixth Form, I and two or three others joined the Yeshivah College which had just been started by Rabbi Dr Solomon Schonfeld. Half the day was spent on Jewish Studies and the rest on secular matters, in order to provide older teenagers with a balanced Jewish and secular education, as Dr Schonfeld outlined in his book on Jewish education.56 It closed down in 1949 with the departure of the last student, myself. Its last teacher of Jewish Studies, Dr Abraham Levine,57 gave me a love for Hebrew and Jewish studies which helped prepare me for Jews' College where, on the suggestion of Mrs Rosenfelder, I went to be trained for a possible career. Besides holding services in the hostel, we visited other synagogues in the area, especially the North London Adath (corner of Green Lanes and Burma Road, N16), whose Rabbi was Dr Schonfeld. My greatest joy on Rosh Hashanah 1946 was the rediscovery of Auntie Fini, a distant relative who had been my Kindergarten teacher from Fürth, and who lived just half a mile away from the Hostel. She and her husband Nathan became my foster parents, as already mentioned above.
When the hostel closed in 1947, the few boys and girls still left found homes, some leaving for the USA or elsewhere to rejoin families, and others taking up jobs or further study. I stayed with a family, the Warhaftigs, in 18 Alba Gardens, Golders Green, for a year. The committee still took an interest in us despite our dispersal. I and others benefitted from Mrs Rosenfelder's sage advice and friendship, which lasted many years, an example of the success of the local community in helping young refugees to rebuild their lives. A few former Tylers Green 'boys,' now grandparents, still meet occasionally, or maintain contact with those abroad by email. The experience of Tylers Green formed a strong bond that has survived the years. For this we are grateful to the Golders Green Beth Hamidrash and its committee, to the staff that cared for us and also to the various other committees and individuals involved in our welfare.
Mrs Rosenfelder did not exaggerate when she wrote in a letter of March 1942: 'I think that our object, to achieve a real home for these boys has been achieved'. That was true right up to the end of the Hostel.
56 Solomon Schonfeld, Jewish Religious Education (London 1943).
57 Previously co-headteacher with Dr Judith Grunfeld of the Avigdor Grammar School.