The Gordon Family Papers tell the story of Lore and Alfred Gordon – refugees from Wuppertal who arrived in Britain in 1939. Alfred came with the help of his first cousin, who had married an Englishman. In Britain, he started working with the Oxford Refugee Committee. With their help, he managed to bring several young people to Britain, including Lore. Lore and Alfred knew each other from the Jewish sports club in Wuppertal; when the Oxford Committee had asked for names of children wanting to emigrate, he contacted Lore to get their details. A relationship developed between them after Lore arrived in Britain. Alfred joined the British Army, serving in France in 1940 and then France and Germany from 1944 to January 1946. Lore was interned on the Isle of Man between May and December 1940. Upon her release, she returned to live with her foster family, the Buchans, until she married Alfred in July 1942. She became a dressmaker before being called up for war work as a turner in a small engineering firm in 1943.
The collection consists of letters, official documents such as passports or communications from the authorities, and private records ranging from poetry albums to diaries and memoirs. These include the papers of the Gordons themselves, Alfred’s family the Auerbachs, Lore’s family the Heimanns and Lore’s foster family the Buchans. The Gordon Family Papers stand out for several reasons. With 37 archival boxes of material, it is one of our larger family papers collections. Supported by funding from Arts Council England, the Library was able to fully catalogue and digitise a large portion of this extensive collection, which is available to view at a computer terminal in our Reading Room. A selection of materials are also viewable on the Library’s Refugee Map.
A third of the collection consists of correspondence between Lore and Alfred from 1938-1945, which allows us to follow closely their experiences of Britain and the war as refugees. Other correspondence include examples like this draft letter Lore wrote while she was interned on the Isle of Man as an ‘enemy alien’.
In it she protests against the classification system of enemy aliens, pointing out that no reason was given for being assigned to the ‘B’ category for those about whom doubts existed regarding their reliability. As the child of someone who had been in Dachau concentration camp, she argued, it was entirely unjustified. The letter shows her growing self-assurance and fluency in making her case to governmental bodies.
There are also several letters and telegrams sent by Lore’s parents, Carla and Josef, from Germany after the war started; messages like these are quite rare.
This Red Cross message demonstrates the difficulty that parents in Germany had communicating the hardship and oppression they faced during the war. In it Lore’s mother Carla, who was a Christian, announces ‘Josef and Carla separated!’. This meant that Lore’s Jewish father Josef, who had so far avoided deportation, had been taken away to Theresienstadt ghetto.
Josef survived this ordeal. He and Carla were reunited with their children, son-in-law and new grandchild in 1947. In this they were extraordinarily lucky. Most children who arrived on the Kindertransport lost one or both parents in the Holocaust.