Regarding research on the Kitchener Camp (note correct spelling) in
Sandwich, UK, the ProQuest historical database provides many articles
on the origins and life in the camp >from newspapers like The
Manchester Guardian, The Observer, The New York Times, Baltimore Sun,
Times of India and the Atlanta Constitution. Historical newspaper
research is often the best window through which we can view the past.
ProQuest can usually be accessed for free through most universities
and public libraries. Microfilms >from these newspapers are also
available at most large public libraries. Here are a few samples of
the information contained in these articles. You can see that they
are not just facts and dates, but offer personal information that can
be of great genealogical value:
January 29, 1939 - The Observer - "British Camp for 3,500 Refugees:
To Cost L80,000 a Year" - discusses how the Council for German Jewry
has acquired the property to be run by the Jewish Lads Brigade, and
that after intensive training in agriculture, boat repairing and
tailoring the inhabitants will be "emigrated in due course and will be
no liability on the country."
April 8, 1939 , Manchester Guardian - "Camp for 3,000 Refugees"-
relates how 100 teachers >from the Isle of Thanet volunteered to teach
English to the expected Austrian and German refugees. The camp was
run by the Council of German Jewry and the Lord Baldwin Fund, and
would have a cinema, barbershop and hospital. They expect the refugees
(18 - 35) to be "eager and enthusiastic" pupils who intend to
immigrate to the States and English-speaking colonies.
April 17, 1939 - "Passover at Richborough: Life in a Refugee Camp" -
details the camp's synagogue, the work of the artisans, and the rich,
varied talent in the camp, including the anxiety over loved ones left
June 26, 1939 - Manchester Guardian - Under "Refugee Advertisments"
David Frostig, living at the camp, is seeking a position for a
"married couple" who can cook, run a house, etc. and are "willing to
July 19, 1939 - The Manchester Guardian - "Refugees in Camp - Work and
Play - Community Life at Richborough- Learning English" details the
daily activities of the 2,000 in habitants, with 200 a week arriving
until the total of 3,500 is set. It is a "lively, self-contained
community which is developing its own intellectual and artistic
life." What was once a "garish ruin" is now a place of lightness and
charm. Mr. Oscar Detsch of the Odean Theatres donated the cinema
apparatus for the 500 person theatre. It discusses the use of the
"liguaphone" in teaching phonetic English quickly and accurately,
supplementing the English language film screenings. Two of the
Viennese in the camp were with the Philharmonic Orchestra (and escaped
with their instruments) and two Hungarians >from Bohemia were prominent
entertainers. They participated in an evening's entertainment -- a
concert and lecture on the part that Jews played in Viennese music.
November 23, 1939 - "Refugees Here on Liner Georgic: Ship Painted
Black, New Camouflage Color" - tells of the Cunard White Star motor
ship which arrived with 46 German-Jewish refugees, including men who
had been interned in the Kitchener Camp. One was Eduard Kahn and his
wife, Greta, a singer, who has owned a textile firm in Vienna until
HItler took over Austria.
November 27, 1940 - The Atlanta Constitution - "Atlantan Spent 11
Months in Nazis' Camps: Memories Still Horrible to Clement Mokner,
Vienna Jeweler" - Details the experience of this "thin, bald young
man" who was born in Poland when it was Austria-Hungary. He lived
through two concentration camps before being allowed to leave with his
wife and child and found himself at the Kitchener Camp which he
praised. He entered the US via Halifax under the immigration quota
and was in New York before coming to Atlanta where he has met 100
refugees >from the Nazi terror.
June 29, 1996 - The Manchester Guardian - "Shelter >from the Storm" -
contains a letter to the editor >from Eileen Howarth, Grange Road,
London relating her story of contacting the Kitchener Camp to aid the
governments' efforts for UK citizens to befriend ("adopt") the
refugees. She provides a more sobering view of the camp's conditions
and the rather pitiful picnic she had with several of the residents in
May 1939 when she obtained a three-hour visitor's pass. She
corresponded with many of the residents and had life-long friendships
Note: She references an article circa 1939 in the "News Chronicle"
about the camp which should be findable.
The story of this camp is a little-known (and fascinating) one and
deserves more research.
Santa Monica, CA