To visit the main website, please click here
While we haven’t added much new information of late, that is only because we have been so busy behind the scenes.
We’ve had a series of extraordinary ‘finds’ – including the fact that one of the family who was presumed to have died in fact survived the war! We have also been contacted by a member of another branch of the family that we didn’t even know about until recently. And we have found quite a number of new certificates and documents …
I will be updating the site with this new information over the coming months. We are currently doing quite a lot of ‘back office’ work to make the site run a bit faster and to make it easier to add new information without the whole thing dropping out … we’re getting there, and thank you for your patience.
In the meantime, I’d like to tell you about a new project that we are about to start running concurrently with this one.
Please read on …
Kent, Summer 2017
In a small town in England recently there was a quietly remarkable meeting.
The group that met was formed of some descendants of German, Austrian, and Czech refugees who found safe haven in Britain in 1939.
The refugees – mostly Jewish men between the ages of 17 and 45 – survived the war because they had been allocated a much-coveted place at Kitchener ‘transit’ camp.
And in 2017 some of their descendants gathered together to commemorate this survival.
Over the short time it was open, from January 1939, Kitchener camp gradually housed up to 4,000 refugees – including my father, Werner Weissenberg.
After World War II began in September 1939, the camp was closed down.
Many of these refugees went on to join the Pioneer Corps, and they fought for the Allied forces throughout the remainder of the war.
Most would never see their families again.
However, the group of descendants who met in Kent is testament to a story of survival – albeit in the midst of incalculable loss. Because of the opportunity offered by the camp, new families were later formed – with wives, children, and grandchildren, and even some great-grandchildren by now, perhaps.
This meeting of our group of descendants gave me an idea – and a small group of us has since formed a steering committee to take this idea further.
You will have heard a lot about the Kindertransport rescue of Jewish children to Britain in the late 1930s.
But have you ever heard of Kitchener refugee camp in Kent?
After the Kindertransport, Kitchener camp provided the next most significant rescue of Jews in 1939, but almost nobody has heard about these events.
This is an important part of our history, and at the moment its documents and photographs are sitting in families’ cupboards, and in suitcases, and in files …
We would like to recruit your help in collecting together this important historical information about Kitchener camp and its refugees, which was in operation in Britain from January 1939 until after the outbreak of World War Two.
From the middle of October 2017, at www.kitchenercamp.co.uk we are going to gather together our Kitchener camp documents, letters, and photographs, as well as images of objects brought out of Germany, and memories and stories about the camp.
January 2019 is the 80th anniversary of the opening of the camp. The aim is to hold an exhibition and talks on Kitchener camp and its refugees, and to further mark the anniversary by handing over this important database of documents and images to an appropriate institution.
Obviously, there are a lot of families to reach, and by the nature of these events they are scattered all over the world. Please could we enlist your help in spreading the word that we are trying hard to reach every family, on every continent to which our refugees travelled both during and after the war.
Please help us to bring these documents and images together so that this story – our families’ story – can be a significant part of that history from which we still so badly need to learn.
The camp was also known as Richborough transit camp, and many families may not understand the significance of the photographs and documents they have at home. They may not understand what the camp was, where it was, nor the scope of what it achieved. There were many boys from the ORT in Kitchener camp as well, and we would also like to hear their stories. There may also have been some women from the Domestic Service Visa programme in Kitchener around the outbreak of the war, and again, if this is part of your family’s history, we would be very interested to hear about it.
Join us – the website is here at www.kitchenercamp.co.uk
Please help us spread the word.
Kitchener camp, 1939
Photographs, Documents, Letters, Objects, Memories
Opening in the middle of October 2017 – but there is already some information on the site that explains the context and what we hope to achieve.
See you over there!
This article (almost certainly in the Yorkshire Post, but I have yet to verify that) was written by the wife of a vicar, the Reverend John Steele, who took in my father and shared with him their English family life when he had no-one else left. This family looked after Werner for many years as one of their own, continuing to stay in touch throughout their life times.
The article relates more widely to the plight of Jewish refugees to Britain over these years.
If this call had been heeded – I thought, on re-reading this recently – our group meeting this summer might have been that much larger in terms of numbers of descendants …