The Kitchener Camp
The Kitchener Camp has been largely forgotten today, but in 1939 this derelict army base on the Kent coast became the scene of an extraordinary rescue which saved 4,000 men from the Holocaust.
During Kristallnacht in November 1938, 25,000 – 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps. They were subjected to starvation and torture, and hundreds died or were killed. A condition of release from the camps was that the men had to undertake to leave Germany immediately. As country after country refused to take more refugees, the Kitchener rescue began. It was founded and run by the same, mainly Jewish aid organisations that funded and coordinated the Kindertransport and Domestic Service Visa schemes.
Official Kitchener camp records are scattered widely, as yet uncatalogued, hard to access, or have been destroyed, but it is thought that approximately 4,000 men were rescued, in addition to the ‘sister rescues’ of the Kindertransport and the Domestic Service Visa programmes.
The aims of the Kitchener Camp Project have been to rebuild the wider history through records held by individual ‘descendant’ families, and to explore some of the broad assumptions presented in historical accounts to date. The Kitchener online project has been welcomed by Holocaust institutions and researchers around the world because of its new methodology, which has brought together scattered archives from diverse sources.
Leave to Land: The Kitchener Camp Rescue, 1939 has now been deposited at The Wiener Holocaust Library. Once the Library is re-open again, this travelling exhibition will be available to hire.
All documents and photographs from The Wiener Holocaust Library Collections, unless otherwise stated.
- The Times of Israel How UK’s ‘Kitchener Camp’ rescue saved 4,000 Jewish men after Kristallnacht (03.07.20)
This exhibition has been kindly supported by The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR).
Family Papers in The Wiener Holocaust Library
The Wiener Holocaust Library holds several hundred collections of family papers, donated to the Library by Jewish refugees and their families who came to Britain in the 1930s and 1940s as refugees fleeing Nazism. Family members of the men who were residents at the Kitchener Camp have donated some of these collections. These valuable documents offer a unique insight into the experiences of these individuals during their time at the camp and their lives after.
The papers in this particular collection document the lives of Austrian Jewish family the Finklers; Walter and his wife, Hansi, and their daughter Evelyn. This collection gives an insight into the experiences of Jewish refugees from Nazi persecution in Britain. Walter arrived in England in March 1939 and spent a year in the Kitchener Camp. He was actively involved in the camp orchestra. Hansi escaped Austria in March 1939 and arrived in Britain on a Domestic Service Visa. Evelyn, aged 8, arrived in England in 1938 after being sponsored by an English family.
Calling all former Kitchener Camp residents and/or their descendants
If you are looking for a permanent home for original family papers and photographs documenting the experiences of refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe, consider entrusting them with us.
The Wiener Holocaust Library is still actively collecting documents, correspondence, photographs, and ephemera (contemporary leaflets, programmes, publications etc.) not only from this period in history but also from earlier eras before the persecution.
We can offer a safe and secure environment, archive conservation, cataloguing, and an invigilated reading room for our visitors to consult the material.
If you would like to speak to the Library about documents you wish to donate, please contact our Senior Archivist, Howard Falksohn.
The Kitchener Camp in the Library’s Archives – The May Brothers
Jonas May was the Director of the Kitchener Camp, appointed in 1939 by the Central British Fund for the Relief of German Jewry. His younger brother, Phineas, was the Welfare Officer.
They were the youngest of five siblings, born into an Orthodox Jewish family and brought up in North London.
In the Library’s archives, we hold some of the brothers’ personal papers relating to their time at the Kitchener Camp, including Phineas May’s diary, the Camp’s Visitor Book and The Kitchener Camp Review.
Refugees from Nazi controlled Europe
The Wiener Holocaust Library has an important collection of documents relating to the history of the Kitchener Camp. The documents and items with the Kitchener Camp collection at the Library have been donated both by individuals who worked at the camp and by those who fled persecution from Nazi Germany.
The next two slides highlight some of these collections from the Library’s archives, consisting of family papers, official documents, photographs, and personal testimonies.
This image depicts a block plan of the Kitchener Camp, drawn in 1939. This plan was donated by Walter Marmorek, an architect and resident of the Kitchener Camp from 1939 to 1940. He was entrusted with restoring the camp, and his photography collection, deposited in the Library, shows the construction of the camp.
Harold Jackson (formerly Hans Hermann Josephy) was born in Berlin in 1921. His father, Richard Josephy, and his stepmother, Elise Josephy, owned two successful textile shops. In 1935, Harold was expelled from school for being Jewish. He became an apprentice carpenter in the trade school of the Jewish community in 1937 and worked with the Reich’s Representation of Jews in Germany until 1939 when he emigrated to England on the Kitchener Camp scheme. Harold was interned in 1940 and then served with the British Army between 1941 and 1946. His parents were deported to Riga in 1942 where they both perished.
Martin Goldenberg was born in Vienna in 1917, the only son of Leon and Bertha Goldenberg. His mother remarried Dr Karl Weiss after the death of Martin’s father. After the German takeover of Austria in March 1938, Martin and his family were expelled from their home by the Nazis and forced to live in a confined area of Vienna. Martin was granted a visa allowing him to leave Europe and he arrived at the Kitchener Camp in March 1939. Martin’s mother, stepfather and stepsister, along with many other family members, all perished in the Holocaust.
“It had been a terrible decision to leave the family behind but they had urged me to go ahead…”
Martin Goldenberg in his unpublished memoir, Whose Life is it Anyway? 1989.
Martin Goldenberg was naturalised as a British citizen in 1946 and trained as a dentist. After he retired, he volunteered at The Wiener Library. For over 20 years, Martin worked on cataloguing press cuttings, logging the arrivals of new periodicals and doing translation work.
Correspondence between the Kitchener Camp and the BBC
Phineas May took up the role of Welfare Officer in the Kitchener Camp in March 1939. May organised a camp orchestra, comprised of talented musicians from among the refugees.
These telegrams (pictured below) document a correspondence between May and the BBC, who had tried to arrange a visit to the camp to record a concert performed by the refugees. The first telegram (pictured left), addressed to Professor Norman Bentwich, the former British-Attorney General of Palestine and a representative of the German Jewish Aid Committee, shows that it was the BBC who initially made contact. Phineas May and S. Graeme Williams of the BBC arranged for a visit to be made to the camp on 2 September 1939.
However, this visit was cancelled on 29 August 1939, “in view of the present and unsettled situation“, due to the imminent outbreak of the Second World War. The disappointment of the residents of the Kitchener Camp was reported in The Kitchener Camp Review of October 1939.
The Kitchener Camp, 1939-1940
Exhibition Type: Online Exhibition