July 1939:  Three Jewish refugee children from Germany and Austria, the 'Kindertransport', waiting to be collected by their relatives or sponsors at Liverpool Street Station, London, after arriving by special train.  (Photo by Stephenson/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

“The story behind the photo”

Photo: Published in Never Again.  Left to right, Ruth Adamecz, Inge Adamecz (now Hamilton), Hanna Singer at Liverpool Street Station, 7 July 1939.

750 words / 3 ½ minute read

Martin’s name on the cover of one of his books does not indicate that he only had his hand in the text.  From helping with the cover design and writing the blurb, to choosing the illustrations or using his own photographs, drawing maps, compiling the index, and any other attributes of the book, Martin was the “author”.  One of Martin’s publishers once sent their photo editor to him to get some ideas of where to look for illustrations for the latest book being published.  Sadly for her, Martin had already picked out the photos, arranged them, and had written captions.  He loved every aspect of book production – and had more experience than most on the publishing teams.

I sat with him once at the US Holocaust Museum’s photo archive.  When he set up the appointment, the photo archivist suggested he send his researcher.  “I’m coming,” he said to her complete surprise.  Martin spent the day going through their photo collection and picking what he wanted.  He chose photos of people that showed their faces, their emotions at the time, photos that showed who they were as human beings.  It wasn’t dead bodies he wanted to focus on:  their tragedy was in his text.  With the illustrations he wanted to show people who were alive, people to whom we could relate.

In this month’s mailbag came an email from Jane Downs of BBC Radio Newcastle who had produced a programme on a group of Jewish refugee children who had come from Germany to a hostel in nearby Tynemouth.  One of the “children” interviewed, Inge Adamecz Hamilton, mentioned that she found herself in a photo of three little girls at Liverpool Street Station, in Martin’s book Never Again.  Martin had captioned the photo, “Three German Jewish girls reach Liverpool Street Station, London, on 7 July 1939:  they were part of a group of 150 who arrived that day.”

Finding herself in the book, Inge Hamilton had got in touch with Martin to identify herself (in the centre) and her older sister Ruth (to Inge’s right).  Martin promised to correct the caption.  Hanna Singer, the girl with the doll, found herself in the photo in an exhibition.  Now we know their names and Jane Downs has worked to find out more of their stories and their lives after reaching the UK.

Jane wrote that she wanted to know more about the photo and why Martin had chosen it – what was the story behind the photograph.  I described his interest:  a photo captures a moment in time and tells a story.  This particular photo shows three little girls, connecting over a doll.  On the left in the photo, Ruth seems old enough to understand the seriousness of the situation, Inge happy with the attention shown her by a bigger girl, and Hanna perhaps trying to calm Inge by introducing her to her doll.  They carry their satchels; their suitcases are nearby.  They are alone, trying to be grown-up in a world that has robbed them of their childhood.

The photo is one of four that illustrate Martin’s “Jewish Children Find Haven In Britain” two-page spread.  (The whole history of the Holocaust in Never Again, including pre- and post-war life, is divided into 90 such two-page spreads, each complete in the story it tells.)  Martin describes how the Central British Fund, a Jewish charity and with Save the Children and the Quakers “organized the collection, travel and resettlement” of the nearly 10,000 children who came to Britain on the “Kindertransport”.  As a result of the barbarity of the Nazi pogrom Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938, the British government had relaxed the rules so that visas were not required but a “document of identity” allowed the children to enter Britain, though they could only come alone, without their parents.

As a result of Jane Downs and Joanna Lonsdale’s research and the resulting BBC programme, the house in Tynemouth, 55 Percy Park where the girls were to live for their first year in the UK, has now been honoured with a blue plaque, the insignia of the English Heritage scheme to commemorate and connect “people of the past with the buildings of the present”.  You can read more about it here (https://www.ukholocaustmap.org.uk/map/records/55-percy-park-tynemouth) and listen to the complete BBC broadcast here  (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/brand/p0dydk1f)

In all of his writing, Martin recognised the human spirit’s struggle to survive, the tragedy when that battle was lost, the trauma and endurance and life that characterised those who had survived.

Read: Never Again

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