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Newsletter #3: The Power of the Archive

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

In late July we were reminded once more of the power of our archive when, like many other accounts relating to Jewish history and experience, we observed a silence on social media to mark our discomfort with antisemitic posts on Twitter and Instagram and the amount of time it took for social media companies to take action. When we returned to social media our testimonies once more guided us. We featured these two quotes from interviewees Ernst Flesch and Klara Sharp that had a profound resonance:

Selma van de Perre

In early August, Archive Director Dr Bea Lewkowicz did a socially-distant garden interview with 98-year-old Dutch resistance fighter & Ravensbrück survivor Selma van de Perre. Selma's international bestseller My Name Is Selma will be published by Penguin Books in September 2020. You can read about it here.

Dr Lewkowicz will conduct a live Zoom talk with Selma about her book on Monday September 7 for the AJR's Book Club. You can reserve your (free) place here.

Dr Lewkowicz's blog about Selma, and about evolving best practise for oral history interviews during Covid, can be read here.

Renate Treitel

We were sad to hear of the death of our interviewee Renate Treitel, who came to the UK from Berlin in 1936. We are very grateful for her testimony.

75th Anniversaries: The Boys and VJ Day

Mid August marked two important 75th anniversaries. The first was the UK arrival of the child survivors known as 'The Boys' (though 200 were girls). Our interviewees Joanna Millan & Jackie Young were among them.

The second was VJ Day, which we commemorated by looking into the testimony of Freddie Boxer:

Three of our interviewees were interned in Shanghai and released on that day. You can see them all here.

AJR Kindertransport Podcast

The Association of Jewish Refugee's Kindertransport podcast came to an end with reflections on long-term impacts and a discussion featuring Barbara Winton. The podcast, hosted by the AJR's Alex Maws and featuring interviews from our archive, can be heard here. Here is interviewee Leslie Brent, who is featured in the podcast, on the first Kindertransport train. He is in the top row right in the centre of the picture and here is what he has to say about the picture:

"This was posed for a Dutch photographer. Despite the fact that we just crossed into safety, the German-Dutch border, I must say that I do look rather anxious & like a boy who doesn’t quite know what the future holds, which indeed I didn’t."

Social Media Round Up

Here are some highlights from our social media posts over the past few weeks. We enjoyed hearing about Ruth Webber's first family holiday after the war, financed by the sale of her grandmother's patterned china:

We identified with Ruth's desire to be normal:

We were fascinated by Bob Kirk's amazing photos, especially this one of him building an air raid shelter near Whipsnade Zoo:

And we loved Inge Ader's picture of her first day of school with her Schultüte. We will launch a small online exhibition of some of our interviewees with their Schultüte in early September.

Ursula Gilbert

Finally, we were proud of another of our contributions to the Board of Deputies's Hidden Treasures project: this video extract of Ursula Gilbert speaking for so many of our interviewees about the impact Nazism had on her life:


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