This Reading Room exhibition is part of The Wiener Holocaust Library’s current exhibition Berlin-London: The Lost Photographs of Gerty Simon.
In 1933, the German-Jewish photographer Gerty Simon fled Berlin to escape Nazi persecution. She travelled to Britain with her son Bernd’s (Bernard Simon, 1921-2015) school, which was relocated from Ulm to Kent in autumn 1933 by the headteacher, Anna Essinger, because of her opposition to Nazi policies.
Bernard Simon attended this school and later another in Cheltenham. He left school in 1938 and was apprenticed as an accountant. In October 1940, his service at the accountancy firm was terminated ‘through wartime conditions’: Simon and his father Wilhelm were detained by British authorities in June 1940.
Wilhelm and Bernard Simon were caught up in the British government’s wartime policy of internment (detention without trial) of men and some women deemed to be ‘enemy aliens’. These were people from enemy states living in Britain – Germans, Austrians, later Italians. ‘Enemy aliens’ were categorised by the authorities according to the level of security risk they were judged to pose. Initially, only those identified as high risk were interned, and medium risk ‘aliens’ faced restrictions. Jewish refugees were in the main identified as low risk and did not face these measures.
However, at the height of fears in Britain of German invasion after the invasion of France in May 1940, a much larger groups of ‘aliens’ were interned, including thousands of refugees from Nazism. Even someone like Bernard Simon, who was Jewish, and had been in Britain since 1933 when he was twelve, could be affected.
Wilhelm Simon was interned on the Isle of Man, and his son Bernard was transported, along with around 2,500 other internees, four-fifths of whom were Jewish, on the notorious HMT ship Dunera to Hay Internment Camp in Australia. He arrived in September 1940. Bernard Simon remained in Hay until very late 1941.
All items are from the Bernard Simon Collection in The Wiener Holocaust Library’s archives.