Re: Search: ALTSCHUL, VERSTAENDIG, KANTUREK #austria-czech

Richard Gaskell <rgaskell@...>

Amira asked for information about ALTSCHUL/VERSTAENDIG/KANTUREK
relatives in the UK around the time of WW2. Although I have no
family connection, for the last few years I've been looking at
the subject of Czechoslovaks in Britain during WW2 (both civilian
refugees and military personnel), mostly archive material held at
the National Archives (Public Record Office - PRO) at Kew in London.
A page on my web site has links to other pages with lists with
almost 20,000 names.

Normally I would respond to Amira's request directly, but this case covers
so many different aspects that I thought it might be useful for
others whose relatives came to Britain to see what kind of
information could be available.

About 13,400 of the names on the site come >from the numerical case index
list of the organisation originally called the "British Committee for
Refugees >from Czechoslovakia" (BCRC), later renamed the "Czech Refugee Trust
Fund" (CRTF). Just a few basic details of each person are recorded on the
case index list. Only 2% of the wartime case files have been saved complete
as specimens. For the other 98% of cases the main registration cards for
each person were removed (when all other documentation >from the files was
destroyed) and saved in batches. These batches, and the complete specimen
files, are currently subject to a 50 year closure period >from the date of
the last item in ANY of the original case files for which the batch contains
the main registration cards.

The case index list has only very brief information, but there's an
interesting entry at case number 6684.

6684 ALTSCHUL Adolf 1910 Died 3rd October 1968
6684a ALTSCHUL (VERSTAENDIG) Gisela 1914 Died 2nd February 1967

The brackets indicate that VERSTAENDIG was Gisela's surname prior to this
marriage - either her name at birth or >from a previous marriage.

Case 6684 is NOT one of the 2% of wartime cases which had their case files
preserved complete as specimens. The registration cards for case 6684 should
be in the file HO 294/566 (cases 6666-6716) which has a last entry date of
1976. This file is therefore currently not due to open for public viewing
until 1st January 2027. There are therefore no items in the BCRC/CRTF files
specifically about these persons currently available.

There is no indication of any child. These people would have been in Britain
before the outbreak of general war in Europe in September 1939. Both Adolf
and Gisela are shown as having naturalised as British with an associated
date of 18th October 1949 (sometimes the date is that when the
naturalisation was notified to the CRTF or officially published, slightly
later than the actual date of naturalisation itself). For a married couple
this would normally be a single naturalisation under the husband's name.

Annual alphabetical indexes of naturalisations are available for use at the
PRO. These give a certificate number for each person, and a cross reference
with the catalogue identifies the file held there containing the copy of
that certificate (in the section HO 334), which can then be viewed. The
index for 1949 gave the certificate number for Adolf ALTSCHUL and the
details on the certificate itself were as follows:

PRO file reference: HO 334/327
Certificate number: BNA 6376
Home Office number: A 7678
Certificate issued: 16th August 1949
Full name: Adolf ALTSCHUL
Address: 35A, Glazbury Road, London, W.14.
Profession or occupation: Continental Telephonist
Place and date of birth: Vienna, Austria. 5th September 1910.
Nationality: Czechoslovak
Single, married, etc.: Married
Name of wife or husband: Gisela
Names and nationality of parents: Emil and Hedwig ALTSCHUL (Czechoslovak)
Oath of Allegiance
Sworn: 22nd August 1949
Before: Henry Frederick Dudley Bingley
A Commissioner for Oaths, 23 Young Street, Kensington, London, W.8.
Certificate Home Office registered: 1st September 1949

Originally, all case files relating to naturalisations were scheduled for
destruction. A few years ago the archive discovered that about 40% of them
still existed, and they have gradually been transferred to the archive and
added to the catalogue (HO 405 section) in blocks and in alphabetical order.
At the moment there are 40,107 files and they have reached names beginning
with "N". Because of the sensitive personal nature of the information
contained in these files they have been assigned a standard 100 year closure
period >from the date of last entry. Only 85 of them are currently open for
viewing, and these will have been opened at the specific request of
relatives after the individuals concerned were deceased.

There's an entry in the HO 405 section for Adolf, which means that his
original Home Office file, opened on them when they first entered the
country and including details >from the naturalisation application, still

HO 405/562 ALTSCHUL. A Date of Birth: 05.09.1910 01/01/1949 - 1/12/1950
Former reference (Department) A 7678

If you look at the full details for this entry in the online catalogue you
will see that it's subject to the standard 100 year closure >from the date of
last entry, in this case 1950. However, there's also a link there to create
an email to trigger a review of that, so if you want to have this file
opened (and it may or may not contain details of the child Heinz
VERSTAENDIG) then I suggest using this as a first step. Prior to the
application of Freedom of Information legislation on 1st January the route
would have been to write direct to the Home Office Departmental Record
Officer, but perhaps that has been superseded. You might also want to
include details of their deaths (see below).

The Family Record Centre (FRC) in London holds the indexes of all births,
marriages and deaths in England and Wales, in either quarterly or annual
alphabetical ledgers. If you can locate the entry for an event then you can
order a "copy certificate" either in person at the FRC (ready for collection
or posted to you after 5 working days) or online (posted to you with at the
moment, due to a popular TV celebrity genealogy series last autumn, a 3 to 4
week delay). Whichever way you do it they charge 7 pounds.
Please see:

Given the precise dates in the BCRC/CRTF index for Adolf and Gisela, it was
a very quick procedure to find the entries for their deaths.

Death Index for 1968, December quarter (registered in Oct, Nov and Dec).
ALTSCHUL ADOLF Age 58 District: EPPING Volume: 4A Page: 743

Death index for 1967, March quarter (registered in Jan, Feb and Mar).
ALTSCHUL GISELA Age 52 District: KENSINGTON Volume: 5C Page: 765

With this information you can now order 'copy certificates' as described
above. Death certificates for England and Wales should show:

Full name of deceased
Date of death
Place of death
Given age
Cause of death
Occupation (or name and occupation of husband if the deceased was a married
or widowed woman)
Name, address and family relationship (if any) of the person who reported
the death.

There were two other pieces of information against Adolf's name on the
BCRC/CRTF case list.

The first is a code (in this case illegible) indicating that he served with
a military force. However, looking at the list of Czechoslovak soldiers who
arrived in Britain after being evacuated >from southern France at the end of
June 1940 there is an entry for a "svobodnik aspirant" (Lance Corporal -
Officer candidate) ALTSCHUL, Adolf, serial number "S 372", attached to "pesi
pluk 1" (1st Infantry Regiment - at the time the list was made they were
still using unit designations >from the Czechoslovak Division in France,
shortly to be reorganised into the Czechoslovak Brigade in Britain, although
some re-allocation of personnel between the units had already taken place).
The "S" prefix on the serial number indicates that this person was recruited
in Britain in early 1940 and sent over to join the Czechoslovak Division in
France before the summer. This does not categorically identify this Adolf
ALTSCHUL as the one in the BCRC/CRTF list, but more details on the soldier
could do this.

The personal records of soldiers >from this time are held at the military
archive in Prague ("Vojensky ustredbi archiv" or "VUA"). It seems that
'interested parties' (in my limited experience only relatives) can obtain
copies of these on request free of charge, including free international
postage. Provide any basic biographical details available along with any
known service details (such as in the paragraph above). They can translate
simple requests >from English, but the material sent and brief covering
letter will of course be in Czech. It seems to take about a month at the
moment for them to send the material. All requests are channeled through the
director with contact details as below.

Postal address:

plk. Mgr. Josef Zikes
Vojensky ustredni archiv
Sokolovska 136
186 00 Praha 8 - KarlĂ­n



Don't forget to include your postal address for them to send the material to
when applying by email!

They have a web site at:
...but apart >from having the contact details it's not much good.

The second extra piece of information for Adolf ALTSCHUL on the BCRC/CRTF
case index list is that he had a relative at case number 3053. There are 3
entries under that case number:

A 3053 (SKALKA) HILL (Otto) Ernest Robert 1906 (army name) BA
A 3053a (SKALKA) HILL Johanna 1914
A 3053b (SKALKA) HILL Harry Eric 1941 17.1.

The "A" at the start of the line indicates that the family was of Austrian
origin. In this case the brackets indicate the original family name, HILL
perhaps having been used initially when Otto was serving in the British Army
(which in the early part of the war included 19 Aliens Companies in the
Pioneer Corps). There is no "reverse reference" to the ALTSCHULs at case
6684, so at this point I could not confirm the connection. As the reference
to case 3053 was against Adolf ALTSCHUL and did not include a sub-case
identifying letter, the indications are that the unspecified relationship is
between Adolf and Otto, and does not involve either of their wives.

Case 3053 is NOT one of the 2% of wartime cases which had their case files
preserved complete as specimens. The registration cards for case 3053 should
be in the file HO 294/534 (cases 3051-3127) which has a last entry date of
1965. This file is therefore currently not due to open for public viewing
until 1st January 2016. There are therefore no items in the BCRC/CRTF files
specifically about these persons currently available.

There is also a note that all 3 SKALKAs/HILLs were naturalised with an
associated date of 26th April 1947. Details >from that naturalisation
certificate were as follows:

PRO file reference: HO 334/175
Certificate number: AZ 24861
Home Office number: S.22037
Certificate issued: 14th April 1947
Full name: Ernest Robert HILL formerly Otto SKALKA
Address: 45 Arundel Gardens, London, W.11.
Profession or occupation: Physio Therapist
Place and date of birth: Vienna, Austria. 26th September 1906.
Nationality: Austrian
Single, married, etc.: Married
Name of wife or husband: Johanna
Names and nationality of parents: Moses David and Rosini SKALKA (Austrian)
Oath of Allegiance
Sworn: 26th April 1947
Before: Illegible ? H.G. BODY
A Justice of the Peace for Heston & Isleworth,
14 Devon Waye, Heston, Middlesex.
Certificate Home Office registered: 2nd May 1947

So, the address of 45 Arundel Gardens (same as you have for Adolf ALTSCHUL
in December 1947) confirms the unspecified link between the two families.

The Home Office number of "S.22037" shows that this case was under the
original surname, and the letter "S" has not yet been added to the HO 405
section of the catalogue, so it's not possible to say if the original case
file still exists without writing directly to the Home Office Departmental
Record Officer.

Another section of the archive, HO 396, has images of cards relating to
tribunals for enemy aliens and internment during the early part of the war.
These are available for viewing on microfilm with folio numbers to identify
each image, and also I believe online somewhere on the National Archives web
site. Cases were initially dealt with in late 1939 and early 1940, although
relatively few were interned at that time. More general internment took
place in the summer of 1940.

As Austrians (reclassified as Germans), and therefore "enemy aliens", the
SKALKAs were also subject to these controls. HO 396 is split into a number
of sub-series: those interned in 1939; those left at liberty in the UK;
internees sent to Canada or Australia; internees released in the UK etc.
etc. The items for the SKALKAs are >from those that remained at liberty in
the UK. Details as below:

PRO item reference: HO 396/86 (009+010)
Name: SKALKA Otto
Date and place of birth: 26-9-06. Vienna.
Nationality: German
Address: 16 Calthorpe Street, W.C.1. [this is London]
Normal occupation: Newspaper Editor
Present occupation: Nil
Exempted >from internment at tribunal on 26-10-39.
Metropolitan Police Tribunal No.16 Aliens Registration
A handwritten note across the top of the card states:
"Exempt >from Regn. while serving in forces".

Pro item reference: HO 396/86 (011+012)
Name: SKALKOVA Johanna alias SKALKA Johanna
Date and place of birth: 5-5-14. Vienna.
Nationality: Austrian
Address: 16 Calthorpe Street, W.C.1. [this is London]
Normal occupation: Married
Present occupation: Nil
Exempted >from internment at tribunal on 26-10-39.
Metropolitan Police Tribunal No.16 Aliens Registration

This is all I could find on the ALTSCHUL/VERSTAENDIG side of things. There
is no mention of any Heinz VERSTAENDIG anywhere. Checking the annual
naturalisation indexes, >from the end of WW2 until 1970 there were 4
naturalisations involving the name VERSTANDIG (without the extra E). Two
were Germans, both in the fur trade, and with (different) parents of Polish
nationality. The other two were of uncertain nationality (one >from Germany,
but the other had an incorrect certificate reference and details could not
be found). None were Heinz or anything similar.

Now on to Otto KANTUREK.

A search of the catalogue for the name KANTUREK found an entry in the HO 405
section (naturalisation case files).

HO 405/26547 KANTUREK, O Date of birth: 27/07/1899 1934 Jan 01 - 1944 Dec
Former reference (Department) K 1006

When I first saw the entry I immediately assumed that it would still be
closed, but in fact it seems that this file was opened some time this year
after a specific request was made. I viewed the file. He arrived in Britain
(to live) on December 28th 1933 (having visited on business a couple of
times previously). There's paperwork >from throughout the 30's (mostly
regular requests for extensions to his permission to stay in the UK). A few
weeks after his arrival he moved to 6 Stanmore Hall, Stanmore, Middlesex
(north-west edge of London) and remained living there until the summer 1940
(although with numerous business trips abroad). He worked at Elstree studios
(just to the north of Stanmore) initially for British International Pictures
Ltd., then Associated British Picture Corporation Ltd., and finally
Twentieth Century Productions Limited in central London. There are notes of
his cinematography work and his Chemicolour process, but the following basic
details are >from a naturalisation application form completed by hand by Otto
KANTUREK himself, dated 10th March 1939.

Born: 27.7.1899, Vienna, Austria.
Father: Siegfried KANTUREK (Czechoslovak at time of death).
Mother: Hildegard KANTUREK (Hungarian by 2nd marriage at time of death).
Since birth had acquired Czechoslovak citizenship due to the Treaty of
Verseilles as a "native to the soil".
Married in Berlin on 27.11.1932 to Edith Maria Lucia Beatrix KOESTLER
Occupation: Director of Photography.
Place of business: 27/28 Greek Street, Soho Square, W.1. [central London]
No children noted on this form.

Elsewhere are extra details that Edith KANTUREK nee KOESTLER was born 27th
June 1909 at [written in two places but both very difficult to decipher - ?
Adnant ? Idmon ? Maybe this relates to the "Edmond" that you actually state
is where the KANTUREKs got married].

There's also a letter >from his solicitors to the Home Office dated 25th June
1940 trying to expedite his naturalisation, mentioning that he was Roman
Catholic, a nephew of the Archbishop of Vienna, and that he had been
director of photography on the film "Gestapo", which would not have made him
popular with the Nazi party. It was also stated that his wife was expecting
to give birth within the next few days, and had searched around London for a
nursing home as they had been required to leave Stanmore as it had become a
protected area a few days previously (maybe because RAF Fighter Command HQ
was at Bentley Priory, Stanmore - this exactly coincides with the fall of
France and invasion/5th column fever). KANTUREK was renting a flat in
central London at considerable extra expense.

It is noted that he went on what was expected to be a short trip to the USA
for unspecified personal reasons, embarking at Liverpool on 18th July 1940,
but that he had extreme difficulties getting permission to return to Britain
and finding a berth. A copy shows that Leslie F. Baker, Director, Twentieth
Century Productions Limited, sent a letter dated 4th February 1941 to Sir
Edward Villiers (addressed "Dear Ted"), Ministry of Information, Film
Publicity Division, asking for help to get KANTUREK back to the UK as he was
needed to work on two films, "Spitfire" and "William Pitt the Younger", also
mentioning that his wife and baby son were in the UK. This copy letter was
forwarded to the Passport Control Office, who then forwarded it to the
Aliens Department. The Aliens Department approved his return and wrote to
the Passport Control Office to that effect on 28th February 1941.

The date of his death is noted as 26th June 1941, although the cause is not
specified. The only correspondence in the file after that, one >from the end
of 1943 and the last dated 2nd February 1944, is >from the British Film
Producers Association to the Home Office Aliens Department informing them
that Mrs. KANTUREK had been engaged by a Mr. Frank and was working at Denham
Studios. Her address at that time was given as 79 Charlbert Court, N.W.8.,
her year of birth 1910 (was 1909 above), and her nationality as Czechoslovak
(Charlbert Court is not a street. It is most likely an apartment building on
Charlbert Street, N.W.8. - I had an identical situation with another address
only a few streets away in this area, St.John's Wood in north-west central

The HO 405 section is supposedly only for completed naturalisations, so it's
strange that this file should be included when the person died before being
given British nationality. It's also very interesting that the file is open.
It must have been requested by a relative, and if that wasn't you, Amira,
then who was it?

There is absolutely nothing in the file >from later than March 1944, so
presumably Edith either re-married or left the country

Again, >from the exact date of death given you can check the index of deaths
at the FRC. In fact KANTUREK appears in the September quarter (deaths
registered in July, August and September). This may be because there was a
slight delay in actually registering the death or recovering the body. The
district of registration may be affected by drifting of the body before

Death Index for 1941, September quarter (registered in July, Aug and Sept).
KANTUREK OTTO W. Age 42 District: NORWICH OUTER Volume: 4b Page: 151

from the mentions of Edith KANTUREK about to give birth at the end of June
1940 and later of having a baby son, it was easy to find an entry in the
birth index. >from the quarter it falls in, it shows that she did indeed give
birth at the end of June 1940.

Birth Index for 1940, June quarter (registered in April, May and June).
KANTUREK Christopher C.O.W. Mother's maiden surname: KOESTLER
District: MARYLEBONE Volume: 1a Page: 776

Birth certificates for England and Wales should show:

Child's forenames
Date of birth
Place of birth
Mother's full name and maiden name
Father's full name and occupation if married to the mother
Name, address and relationship to child of the person who registered the

I found one other, seemingly unconnected, mention of the surname KANTUREK.
When the Czechoslovak soldiers evacuated >from France and arrived in Britain
they were sent to a camp at Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire. Here there was
a 'mutiny' of those who refused to serve any longer under the Czechoslovak
authorities. More than 500 men were expelled >from the Czechoslovak forces.
Most of them ended up joining the Pioneer Corps and forming 2 "Czech"
companies. The list of these 'mutineers' includes one "vojin" (Private)
KANTUREK Josef, serial number "B 1236", attached to "delostrelecky pluk 1"
(1st Artillery Regiment). See above for how to obtain his military records
with personal details - which may include names of parents.

So I'm afraid no information about Heinz VERSTAENDIG, not even a mention in
relation to Adolf and Gisela ALTSCHUL, but perhaps the above information is
still of interest, hopefully to more than just Amira.

Just one more thing. All this type of material at the National Archive / PRO
can be photocopied (30 pence per sheet self service overhead digital
imaging, 40 pence per sheet over the counter traditional photocopier) or
photographed using digital cameras (free of charge - register camera first).
Copyright restrictions and fees would apply for publication of material, but
not for private research.

Best wishes to all

Richard Gaskell
London, UK.

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