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Inga Joseph

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
21 June 1939
Interview number:


Dr Anthony Grenville

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

In 1944, having passed her School Certificate, she and her sister were sent to Oxford to take a secretarial course, but she soon abandoned this for a career involving books, first at Oxford City Library, then at the noted university bookshop Parkers’, and finally at the internationally known antiquarian booksellers A. Rosenthal. She became close to Albi Rosenthal and to his associate, Maurice Ettinghausen, and moved in refugee circles where she encountered numerous distinguished figures, including Karl Popper and Hugo von Hoffmannsthal’s widow. In Oxford, she met her husband, Stan Joseph (Stanislaus Tkaczyk), a Pole (non-Jewish) who worked in the department of human biology. He had been arrested and deported by the Soviets early in the war, was released after June 1941, joined the Free Polish Army in the Middle East and then came to Britain. They married, with some difficulty, as he first had to divorce his first wife, whom he had not seen since 1939, and who was living in Communist Poland. They had one son, Julian (named after Albi Rosenthal’s son), and two granddaughters. They moved to Sheffield when Stan took up a position at the university there. Inga took a degree in Modern Languages and worked as a teacher in comprehensive schools in Sheffield, where she still lives, now widowed.

Born in Vienna in 1927, the daughter of Walther Pollak and Emma Pollak, née Guttmann, Inga Joseph grew up in a very assimilated, middle-class household; her father was a businessman dealing in textiles. She had an older sister, Lieselotte. She was educated at the progressive Schwarzwaldschule, favoured by assimilated Jewish parents with educational aspirations for their daughters. Her parents’ marriage was unhappy. This was exacerbated for her by the fact that her mother, unable to leave Vienna, died in the Holocaust, whereas her father escaped via Paris to Britain. The memory of her mother and her deportation to Minsk remained with her for life, while her relationship with her father in Britain was never close.


Inga remembers her excitement at leaving Vienna on a Kindertransport in June 1939 for Britain. She and her sister arrived in London via Harwich and were sent straight to their foster parents, Mr and Mrs Robbins, in Falmouth, Cornwall, who proved unable to provide them with a happy home. The sisters were taken in by the Misses Davis, who ran a home for children – otherwise exclusively British – whose parents were abroad on war service or the like. She was very happy at St Joseph’s, which she came to see as her home. She was educated at Falmouth County High School, the local girls’ grammar school, where she was well integrated and had many friends. She spent the war years until autumn 1944 in Falmouth, experiencing air raids (on the port) and observing the American servicemen who came to the town to be transported to Normandy.


Full Interview


I just remember [leaving on the Kindertransport]... when my grandmother was looking out of the [taxi's] window and waving us, “Goodbye ”. As we came…the taxi- the time- I’d hardly ever been in a taxi, and by taxi to the station. I remember looking out of the window and waving goodbye to us. And all I could eat was an apple. I think I mentioned that in the diary. I didn’t- I couldn't eat anything. That was the way children- if they were very excited they couldn't eat, could they? And that was a typical example. Yes.

There was a little girl [on the Kindertransport] who was in absolutely frantic, because she'd lost a case of- it was clear [key] to her suitcase. I mean, whether she ever found it or not, remains one of the unanswered questions in my life. She was in a terrible state about that, and my sister was very good to her.

He [her father] was in France. And then France fell but- and he caught the last boat, I seem to remember. To Plymouth. And he had nothing except the clothes he stood up in. We [she and her sister] had to give him- I remember out of our pocket money we had the buy him brush and comb and handkerchiefs and he had nothing - absolutely nothing.

Of course we did [search for her mother after the war]. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack...We just got to find- that she was sent to Minsk...And we did- when we went to Vienna, with my husband, some years ago, a lot- much later, somebody- the caretaker where we lived in the Wipplingerstraße, he showed us where they were made to line up. ...It just seemed so- it makes me so angry now! ...It doesn't make me want to cry. It just makes me so angry! That this was allowed to happen...[Her mother was deported to Minsk] With some others, yes, and we don't know. We have no idea what happened. Never been able to- could I still find out? I – I also wrote that place beginning with ‘A’ [Bad Arolsen Archives, International Centre on Nazi Persecution]. ...They couldn't help me either...We tried our level best. We tried so hard to find her. It was impossible.

Forever [losing her mother in the Holocaust cast a dark shadow over her whole life]. It makes me wish really what Heine [Heinrich Heine] said: “Better never to have been born.” You know when Heine said: ...”Sleeping is good, dying is better. Better never to have been born.” And I wholly agree with that.

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