Saturday, 6 May 2017

Roots and Routes: They Come and Go...

This issue of the City of Culture: Roots and Routes blog looks at Hull as a route to a new life following the experience of WWII.

Theodor Plaut (1898-1948) is representative of one of the many academics fleeing Nazi oppression during WWII. He fled to England and came to work at Hull’s University College for a time. During this period he was helped by the Academic Assistance Council (AAC), later the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning (SPSL). This image, part of a form held at Oxford’s Bodleian Library (reference number MS. SPSL 237/2, fol. 33), is from the records of the SPSL. This sort of information was collected by the society when trying to find academics like Plaut a post. It records that he had been dismissed from his post in Germany because he was 'not considered politically reliable as of Jewish faith’. 

Part of the application form of Theodor Plaut, 1935 [C DJC/4/1/11]

The work of the former SPSL continues today as CARA, the Council for At-Risk Academics. It helps academics around the world who are being persecuted or who are caught up in conflict, for example those in Syria and Iraq.

In the late 1930s, meetings were held in the UK to protest against what was happening in Germany. Consideration was given to how best to help those wishing to leave the country at a time when extra restrictions were being put into place by the UK government. One of the biggest and latest projects was that of the Kindertransports. This was a scheme to bring to Britain by boat some 10,000 Jewish children without their parents, many of whom would later die in the gas chambers. The local Jewish community in Hull, as well as fund raising for the scheme, provided homes to some of these children.

Robert Rosner and Rudolph Wesseley were two such children. Rosner escaped from Vienna and was adopted by Leo Schultz (later a Lord Mayor of the city) and his wife, Kitty. Wesseley was born in Prague and was sent out on the last Kindertransport. Coming to Hull, he attended Riley High School, and would later fight for his newly adopted country in the Royal Navy.

Rudolph in service with the Royal Navy, c.1943-1945 [C DJC/4/1/11]

Just a few months after their escape from Germany, many of these children were rounded up and, along with adults, interned as enemy aliens on places such as the Isle of Man, although most were released after a few months. Two Jewish trainee midwives working in Hull were required to leave the area and return to London. They were classified as aliens and were therefore unable to stay in Hull, which was considered to be a restricted zone.

Hull City Council Reports, 1939 [C TCR/1/9/5]

The end of the war saw further arrivals in Hull, more people using the city as a route to a new life. With the headline ‘Frauleins meet ex-soldier sweethearts in Hull’, the Hull Daily Mail on Friday 14th March, 1947, reported on the arrival of 46 German women at the Alexandra Dock. Sailing on the SS Bury, these young women were to become the brides of British ex-servicemen whom they had met whilst the servicemen were on active service.

German brides arriving by boat, 14 Mar 1947 [Hull Daily Mail]

If these stories have piqued your interest, you can delve further here at the History Centre and uncover more stories, perhaps as yet undiscovered...

Paul Leaver, Archivist (Hull City Archives)

1 comment:

  1. and then there were the Spanish children leaving the Spanish civil war behind. I met a certain "Maria" in the 1990s, married, with grandchildren and by then a very poor spanish :)


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