Kurt Marx

Kurt Marx was born as the only son of Siegmund and Irma Marx, née Herz in Cologne on 31st August 1925. His mother worked for an Haute Couture company (Hirsch& Cie) as dress designer in Cologne and his father was the manager of a large mans’ outfitters store (Rubens & Co. in Brückenstr. 17) in Cologne. Life under the Nazi regime forced his father to start his own wholesale business and his mother taught women who were about to emigrate sewing. He remembers a happy childhood in Cologne with a large extended family. Sports played a major role in his young life and he was an avid member of Hakoah Koln (one of his uncles was the chairman). He thinks he was very sheltered because he doesn’t recall Anti-Semitism or even his parents worrying. Although his family wasn’t observant he attended a Jewish primary school and later the Jewish Jawne Gymnasium. After the November pogrom, the headteacher, Erich Klibansky, started organizing to get Jawne students on the Kindertransport to England. Kurt remembers himself and his family saying their good-byes in the believe that soon they would meet in England when his parents got the necessary documentation.


He arrived in England on 18th January 1939 and stayed at a hostel in London, sponsored by the Walm Lane Synagogue. After the beginning of the war he was evacuated to Bedford where he was taken in with another boy by the Allan family. After he finished school at the age of 15 he wanted to start working at a factory, but that was interrupted as first he had to be declared by a tribunal not to be an enemy alien. He started repairing radios in a music shop in Bedford and earned extra-money as an usher to BBC Symphonic Orchestra concerts (stationed in Bedford during the war) and also to bring tea to performers. He thinks this developed his love for classical music, which started with opera visits in Cologne and continued later in London in learning how to build instruments. He helped with the war effort on a farm in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire until the war ended and then started to polish diamonds in Hatton Garden. He met his wife, Ingrid, an Auschwitz survivor, at Bar Kochba, which he joined as he felt Maccabi was not keen on Continental Jewish members. 

Ingrid and Kurt married in 1948 in the Dollis Hill United Synagogue and in 1955 they went together for Kurt’s work to Tanzania. He evaluated and sorted diamonds, which were mined there. He remembers a diverse expat life in Accra. Shortly after the birth of his only son, Michael, the family returned to London where Kurt worked for the Tanzanian government in the diamond industry until he retired. 

After the war he tried to find out what had happened to his parents, whose last letter he received in autumn 1942 in which they talked about their impending departure in July 1942. Many years later he found out that they were deported to Minsk and shortly after murdered in the forests of Maly Trostenec [now Belarus]. Kurt is the only survivor of his maternal family but he reconnected with paternal relatives who are dispersed all over the world. The first time he returned to Cologne was in 1954 to see his uncle and then only a long time later to meet a gentleman who organized a trip to Maly Trostenec, on which he went. He never imagined connecting with Germans but says he now has German friends who belong to a different generation. He often returns to Cologne where he also speaks in schools. He identifies as British and Jewish and thinks the trauma of childhood shaped him but didn’t stop him from living his life and having a positive outlook towards life. He is worried what will happen when the contemporary witnesses have all gone and people might stop being interested in “these old stories”. He fears Anti-Semitism is returning and the only way to fight it is education. He hopes that people will learn to live in peace together and be tolerant because we are all the same: human beings.          




Additional Comments:

Mentions a German documentary “Die vergessenen Kinder von Köln“ – which is about the same transport to Minsk his parents were on. He also mentions a book  by Dieter Corbach, Die Jawne zu Köln: zur Geschichte des ersten jüdischen Gymnasiums im Rheinland und zum Gedächtnis an Erich Klibansky, 1900–1942. Scriba, Köln, 1990. ISBN 978-3-921232-42-2]


Key words:

Cologne. Jawne School. Klibansky. Feodore Kahn. Hakoah Koln. Kindertransport. Walm Lane Synagogue. Bedford. BBC Symphonic Orchestra. Newport Pagnell. Bar Kochba. Adi Manheimer. Dorice. Cosmo. Continental food. Tanzania. Diamond business. Maly Trostenec. Benno Marx (left winger uncle who founded the bank workers trade union in Germany, friends with Labour politicians Ellen Wilkinson, Aneurin Bavin, Ernest Bevin). Gudrun Hildebrandt (his uncle’s famous ballerina wife).Lisa Jura, née Golabek (whose daughter wrote the book ‘The children of Willsden Lane).  


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@ Refugee Voices 2019