Joe has been chosen to light the Norwich candle to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and death camp. This will take place tomorrow, Holocaust Memorial Day, 27th January 2015. Take a look at the website giving details through the link. I will be there to support him and take photographs. During the morning we will all be at the Memorial Day service at St Peter de Mancroft Church, Norwich. In the evening we are attending ‘Holocaust Reflections’ a concert at Norwich Synagogue featuring music for violoncello, played by visiting musician Guido Ruhland from Berlin, with readings by UEA academic Jean Boase-Beier. Tomorrow will be a long day….
Tonight I made my first ‘solo’ presentation to Sprowston History Group. I spoke to about thirty local history enthusiasts using no visual aids, apart from a folder of photocopied original photos from the early years of Joe’s life. They were so quiet I thought I’d lost them but no, they were riveted and very complimentary afterwards. Here I am with John, the lovely man who booked me. I really enjoyed myself and look forward to many more such ‘appearances’, especially when I have books to show them!
A slight diversion for a moment – follow this link to a piece I wrote during my MA course which is now published, both in anthology form, and on the website. It is a story about the father of a friend of mine. Werner (later known as Leslie) was also a Kindertransport boy out of Hamburg. He saw action in the British Army in Europe and eventually settled in Diss, Norfolk with his wife and three children. If you have five minutes please do read it. I hope you find it moving.
A letter to the Evening News, published late last week, has resulted in five responses, to date, from people who remembered Joe as a Travel Agent. I had the pleasure of visiting Tom and Margaret (photo) in their Thorpe home yesterday. They had been one of the very first people to travel with Joe’s company to Germany, Switzerland and Austria between 1957 and 1960. They gave me lovely memories. I was amazed when Tom produced the typed itinerary for the Switzerland trip in 1958. He had kept it all this time and could say nothing but good things about Joe’s organisational skills and patience. Their testimony will add some lovely detail to the narrative. Thanks Tom and Margaret….
This afternoon I spent three and a half hours at the Norwich home of Dr John Jones, current President of Norwich Lions Club who has known Joe for over forty years. I did not know until I walked into his living room that he has possession of a fifty year old scrap book about the Norwich Club which includes many items and photos relevant to Joe. I will spend the next couple of days transcribing our conversation from my tape recorder. John had some excellent stories to share. Many thanks to him for his time and memories. This photo shows Joe during Spring 1971 when he had just been appointed as a District Governor, a high ranking position in the Lions. Currently there are only thirteen in the UK. Loving this research!!
This is a huge thank you to my friend Jutta Hansen from Nickenich, Joe’s birthplace in the Rhineland, who has been to speak with ninety-year old Maria Becker. Maria was a child in the village when Joe was living there and went to the same school. She has told Jutta some lovely anecdotal stories about life in the village. Apparently Günter (Joe’s birth name) was considered a very clever lad at school, so much so that the other pupils all tried to copy his notes in class tests! More stories will feature in the early chapters of his biography….. meantime some lovely old postcards of Nickenich for you to enjoy.
Happy New Year to all my followers. 2015 and it’s back to work on the book with just 3 months to submission deadline! This coming week I will be carrying out more research both at the Eastern Daily Press archives and also visiting the current President of Norwich Lions Club. He has known Joe for over forty years so I am looking forward to some as yet unheard anecdotal stories about Joe being a District Governor with the Lions and his fifty years of service. This photo shows Joe two years ago showing me his Lions vest with the many pin badges he has collected from Lions Clubs all over the world. He is very proud of it!
Taking a break from the writing for a few days to enjoy Christmas with the grandchildren in Surrey. But just this morning the postman brought me something exciting – a programme from the Norwich events held to celebrate the Festival of Britain in June 1951. Wonderful original source material to add authenticity to my account of Joe and his family moving to Norwich and him living in the city around this period. Some of the advertisements are fabulous – look at the beautiful old buses and the two Norwich hotels, one now gone but the Maids Head is still going strong. Happy Christmas and a splendid New Year to all my followers….
My grateful thanks to Richard Fowle of the Wymondham Town Archive for permission to use these two wonderful photos of the factory workers at Briton Brush Company during the 1930s. Joe’s wife Jean Skitmore worked there for a short while as a young woman before WW2 and once he had been demobbed, Joe took a job there in the Accounts Department. The biography is coming along – up to 1955 and counting….
This time last year it was the 75th Anniversary of the first Kindertransport train arriving in England from Nazi Germany. Seven months later fourteen year old Gunter Stern escaped Hitler using the same route. Victor and I took Joe to see a performance of Suitcase1938, an interactive promenade play about the Kinder, in Harwich during late November 1939. The cast were delighted to meet a real refugee and he really enjoyed his day. Victor and I then took two of our best friends (Judith’s father was also on the Kindertransport) to see the final performance at Liverpool Street. This can be now be viewed on their website at http://www.suitcase1938.org or via the youtube link below. Look out for Victor, me, Judith and her husband David, all singing along at the opening of the piece (1 minute 12 seconds!). It was a wonderful experience on both occasions and the video is well worth a view.