Hannah’s Doll (aka Evelyn) The rest of the story

Photo: Left to right, Helen Singer, Inge Hamilton, Debbie Singer, photo published in the Daily Mail, 4 July 2023

525 words / 3 minute read – 27 minute audio recording

In April I wrote about the researching skills of Jane Downs and Joanna Lonsdale from BBC Radio Newcastle whose curiosity was ignited by a German-Jewish girl who had come on the Kindertransport. With 19 other German-Jewish child refugees, Inge Adamecz Hamilton had been taken to a hostel in Tyneside where the girls stayed until they were evacuated inland from fear of German invasion.  Through Jane and Joanna’s efforts, the former hostel now sports an English Heritage Blue Plaque.  (https://www.martingilbert.com/blatt/story-behind-photo/)

I became involved because Inge had been in touch with Martin.  He had published what has become an iconic photo of the Kindertransport in his book Never Again.  When Inge was interviewed, she mentioned she had written to Martin to say that the “three girls” he had captioned in fact had at least two names, Inge and her sister Ruth Adamecz.  It later emerged that the third girl was Hanna Cohn Singer who’s twin brother had identified her in the photo at an exhibition of the Kindertransport at the Jewish Museum in Camden.

Following on the great interest in the BBC story, Jane and Joanna decided to investigate further.  They found Inge, and Hanna’s two daughters Debbie and Helen Singer, and arranged for them to meet.  While they were in London interviewing at the Getty Archives where the photo’s original glass plate is, and the Imperial War Museum, they spoke with me about Martin, his methodology, and the context of why the little girls had come.

In the programme they produced, we meet Hanna’s daughters Debbie and Helen and Inge.  We also learn that the focal point of the photo, Hanna’s doll, is named Evelyn.  It is Hanna’s generosity in showing Inge the doll, that moment of connection, that lights up Inge’s face.

What could the children bring with them?  Their little suitcase of clothes and whatever their distraught parents thought to pack for them.  Their little satchels with their identity information.  But Hanna had her doll and she showed it to little Inge hoping perhaps, at least for a moment, to still the fear of the unknown that must have consumed them.  Evelyn the doll doesn’t get much airspace in the interview but the journey she takes and the one she might have taken shows how the fate of these little girls had been changed.

It was in the main Jewish organisations, among them the Central British Fund, which sponsored the children on the Kindertransport.  It was the UK parliament which expedited the diplomatic and bureaucratic processes so the children could come.  It was the British people who took in these nearly 10,000 children at a time when Britain was still reeling from the financial and human costs of the  First World War, and months before a new war with Germany was on the horizon.  It had been Kristallnacht in November 1938 and the physical and mental devastation of Germany’s Jewish community which had outraged the British public.  British Jews, government and local communities worked together to do something to help.  These three little girls were among those who were the beneficiaries.  And Martin’s work helped to make them all part of history.

Kudos to Jane Downs and Joanna Lonsdale for their interest, their curiosity, and for reminding us that to save one life is to save a world.

To listen to their interview:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0fy7h6q

 Read : Kristallnacht

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