Kitchener camp diary, Part II

Follow the links here for Part IPart III, Part IV


The Diary of Phineas May, Kitchener camp co-director, 1939

Part Two: 1 April to 31 May

Richborough transit camp, Some Victims, 1939 - English lessons
Kitchener camp, Some Victims of the Nazi Terror, 1939 - English lessons

Using a gramophone player to help with language learning

Above, according to the Kitchener magazine (Some Victims of the Nazi Terror), Jonas May, the KC Director, insists that every resident learns English, which "will soon become his own" language

Saturday, 1 April 1939

Before breakfast Orthodox service. Some of our newcomers are so frum that the Service will become more like the Federation than the United Synagogue, if I am not careful.

Liberal Service followed after breakfast and then gymnastics in the new gym. And it was a remarkable sight to see some 300 or 400 men of all ages, many stripped to the waist, doing physical jerks.

Then gave English lesson as also did Frances. Immediately after lunch which I had as usual on a Saturday in “J’s” Flat (with Frances and Mr Frank Samuel) we had meeting re evening entertainment and also rehearsal afterwards.

Went with 22 footballers to the Stonar House Playing Fields near the ground, and a very good football match was played, and Englishmen acting as referee.

In the evening we had our first cabaret show, with piano accordion and piano, step-Dancer – really quite a good show.
Sunday, 2 April 1939

A hectic morning of office work and an uneventful afternoon. In the evening Ivy and “J” were going out so they put their flat at my disposal for the evening. I had supper there with Frances and afterwards Mr and Mrs Lipman came in and chatted during the evening.
Monday, 3 April 1939

A morning of conferences and in the afternoon preparation for the Seder. Covered all tables with new white bedsheets and when everything was laid out it looked very effective. Unfortunately the Hagadas did not arrive – but 40 Refugees arrived from Berlin half an hour before the Service.

In view of the small number of Hagadas, Rabbi Van der Zyl explained in German most of the first part of the Service. The three youngest boys in the Camp read “Manishtona” respectively in Hebrew, German and English.

Arrivals: Walter Brill

Tuesday, 4 April 1939

The Services in the morning and gymnastics were badly attendeed and an urgent staff meeting was summoned for after lunch. Mr Max Burwood, the conductor of the Sandwich String Orchestra, had lunch with us in “J” Flat and in the afternoon we had the first concert by the Kitchener Camp Orchestra conducted by Mr Burwood. Mr Van de Zyl played in between each piece. The whole concert was a great success and much enjoyed by everybody.

In the evening the Orthodox held a beautiful second Seder and I had prepared a Camp Fire (imitation [?] but very effective for the others which Banks took charge of.
Wednesday, 5 April 1939

Two gentlemen called to see me regarding entering one of the Refugees who is a champion Austrian chess player in the Margate Chess Congress – the largest of the kind in the world.

In the evening I was left in charge of the Camp as “J” was ill in bed.

25 Czechs were expected at 8.30. It was a terribly wet night – with thunder – and the place was a bog. The Czechs arrived at 10.30 and on my journey to meet them I slipped plonk into a large puddle and lost my dignity.

“J” who had spent the day in bed not feeling well had left me in charge to receive them, and I in a very few words welcomed them on behalf of the Director and apologised for the terrible weather over which we had no control.

During the afternoon went round with a photographer to take various photos of the Refugees at work.
Richborough transit camp, Some Victims of the Nazi terror - KC magazine, 1939 -
Thursday, 6 April 1939

I had asked Professor Bentwich last night if he would speak this evening and he said he would give a lecture on Australia. So at 9.30 I 'phoned Australia House and asked them for the loan of some slides and they sent them down at once. At 3.30 Prof. Bentwich went through them and in the the evening we had our first Lantern Lecture which was very much enjoyed.


6 April 1939

France and Britain agree a mutual assistance pact to aid Poland if the country is invaded by Germany

Friday, 7 April 1939

The most interesting event today was a lecture given by Mr E. Grey of the Sandwich Technical College on “The Yorkshire I Know”, illustrated with lantern slides. It contained a lot about stalactites, etc.

We also had our first Friday evening service with a proper chair.
Saturday, 8 April 1939

Beautiful sunny weather helped to make this the happiest day yet spent by the Camp. Both Services were good and in addition a Reading from the works by “Heine” for those who did not attend, and a group in the open air studying the Talmud. And very excellent was the leader of it. 

Most successful physical training in the open was followed by a reading from the news in English and German by Prof. Bentwich.

In the afternoon four of our men were playing for Sandwich Town against another small town team and for 2/- I was allowed to take as many Refugees as I liked. I had arranged to meet them at the gate and I was surprised at the large number who wanted to go. So lining them up we marched in proper formation to the Stonar House Playing Fields singing English and German songs. 

In the evening we had a “Do-as-you-please-contest” with prizes for all performers. It proved a great success and the room was packed. 

At 9.30 a further 130 Refugees arrived from Vienna.
Sunday, 9 April 1939

The beautiful weather continues as is almost perfect. Frances left in the afternoon after her stay here. 

E. Royalton Kisch visited the Camp in the afternoon and was so impressed that he left a cheque for £100. 

At 7.10 the band of the Sea Cadets arrived and before all the Refugees assembled, the flag was lowered while the buglers blew the Retreat. After the flag was down the band played “God Save the King”.

After the Passover Service the sea cadets commenced the concert, the young cadet announcing speaking in German. They played amazingly well and received tremendous applause. Then we commenced what proved to be the best by far variety show we have so far given. The turns included Acrobats, Boxing demonstration, juggling, Violin and Piano, Ballroom Dancing demonstration (with our step-Dancer who was accompanied by Mrs Jessy Victor, a show girl from the London Casino) who was down here for the day, and a little girl, professional, sang charmingly. The whole show went with a wonderful swing, the hall was so packed that some stood on ladders outside to see the show through the windows.
Monday, 10 April 1939

Services and voluntary gym. and then a full day.

A motor coach collected 32 to play and watch at a football match in Ramsgate and also had football at the Stonar House Playing Fields.

In the evening we had a Memorial Service for the Departed which was very well attended.


10 April 1939

Italy completes the occupation of Albania

Dutch troops are sent to the German border

Tuesday, 11 April 1939

The Orthodox having worked on Sunday afternoon had the day off and of course held a Service in the morning – on very orthodox lines including the Blessing of the Cohanim.

In the evening we had a Staff Meeting which went on until a late hour.


11 April 1939

Hungary withdraws from the League of Nations

Wednesday, 12 April 1939

The Ramsgate Corporation Entertainment Manager called to see me with his wife at my suggestion and he is going to help me to get some professional artistes to come to the Camp to entertain us when they are in Ramsgate.

Podhorcer the Austrian Chess Champion who is a Refugee here has been entered for the Margate Chess Congress (the largest in the world) and he had leave today for 10 days to participate. Should he win it will mean £6 for him so he is trying with all his might and main.

Mr Max Burwood came and spent two hours training the Orchestra.

In the evening the Sandwich Table Tennis Club commenced a tournament with us and I am sorry to say that we gave them much more than they ever bargained for – we have apparently a very fine team.

[Editor's note: From the 19439 register - Izaak David Podhorcer, born 2 August 1907, single, confectioner. Podhorcer was the Austrian chess champion in 1934.
Richborough camp, Some Victims, 1939
Kitchener camp magazine, Some Victims of the Nazi Terror - A game of chess
Thursday, 13 April 1939

Nothing of very special interest happened today except that I was very busy until a late hour preparing articels for the next issue of the “Review”. 

Another batch of men arrived in the evening. 

We have started a photographic competition and great interest and preparation is going on for our show on Saturday evening.

Arrivals: Eugen Cohn

Friday, 14 April 1939

Members of the staff have been formed into a sort of Duty Roster, each being in charge of his Camp on different days, like the “Captain of the Day” we have at Camp. Anyhow I was busy today.

In the evening a “Oneg-Shabbat” had been arranged by a group of the Orthodox. This is a gathering of people on a Friday evening or Sabbath afternoon at which Jewish songs are sung, somebody recites a Jewish poem and another tells a Jewish story – not unlike an all Jewish Variety show only everything is of course suitable for the Sabbath. 

Well a large number gathered after the Sabbath Service in the Staff Dining room. I had been asked to read some Jewish Poems in English, which I selected from the Chief Rabbi’s Book of Jewish Thoughts, including “Oh Lord Our Help in Ages Past” which I think many were surprised to learn was simply one of the psalms turned into verse to make a hymn.

Then I told them one of the stories Daddy used to tell us about the Baal Shem Tov of Mitalstaf, the one about the Haphdola Candle which saved a traveller from being murdered. I must confess it went down very well. After “Lights Out” I went for a walk round the Camp with Banks and the Doctor and to test my nerve I climbed to the top of the water tower. 

I showed of representative from the “Daily Mail” round the Camp.

Arrivals: Willi Reissner (camp no. 685)

Saturday, 15 April 1939

Everything went very well today – Services, gymnastics, lessons and a lecture by one of the doctors on Camp hygiene. 

In the afternoon to the Stonar House Playing Fields where we had arranged a match Austria v. Germany. The result was Austria 3 Goals and Germany 2. It was a very good game.

In the evening we had “The Hut-en-Tut” Revue and Inter-Hut Contest to see which Hut could present the best turn and there were some remarkable clever items – they had obvously been to enormous pains – it is impossible to describe the ingenuity that some of them had been to. 

So far it was the best show we have given in the Camp.
Sunday, 16 April 1939

Today I had a bad shock. During the afternoon D.S. Woolf 'phoned me and asked me to come over to the Office where he was with our Chief Accountant. They told me that they had been through the accounts of the canteen and they have found about £25 deficit. I said I thought it was impossible and would take immediate stock of all the supplies we had and that the Chief Accountant must go through the books with me at once. He said he would not be free until 6 o’clock. You can imagine how worried I was – and during my period of anxiety I had a most charming lady – a Miss Irene Danzyger, who wrote an article about the history of the Camp in the Jewish Chronicle, interview me about the Camp and also a table tennis tournament against Thanet Table Tennis Club was in progress, which I had arranged. It proved a good game but we lost.

Well at 6 p.m., the Chief Accountant came to my office and we went carefully through the accounts – and I was relieved when to his amazement it was revealed that we had actually made a profit – since revealed as much as £18. I need hardly tell you what I felt like saying to the Chief Accountant.

In the evening at 9.30 we held the first of a series of 10 minute concerts of classical music – the idea being that it is good to go to bed with some good music. It proved to be a great success.
Richborough transit camp, Some Victims of the Nazi Terror, Magazine, 1939
Kitchener camp magazine, Some Victims of the Nazi Terror - A game of table tennis
Monday, 17 April 1939

Several callers including representative of the “Daily Express” added to an already busy day.

We are heavily engaged in producing the next issue of the paper. 

Mr Joseph was apparently sufficiently impressed with the entertainments he has seen to fall in with my repeated request for a much larger theatre than was intended, and the Resident Architect asked me to survey all the buildings which concern me at all and make my suggestions as to the best use they could be put. They are going to give me plans to work something out.

In the evening Mr Koch, who is responsible for the training of the Refugees and allots all the work gave an “At Home” in the married quarters hut and told of his experiences in his many visits to various unemployed training centres.

After a great deal of persuasion I managed to arrange the 2nd Ten minute concert, and some beautiful music was played.
Tuesday, 18 April 1939

J. was unwell and remained in bed. I was interviewed by two newspaper men – it becomes very tiring after a time. 

As we expected 69 men from Vienna, I suggested that J. should give his usual address of welcome through the microphone from his bed. The electricians fixed everything up but when they eventually arrived and were ready at about 11 o’clock it was of course too late to use it.

We had a meeting in the evening to arrange our really first big show, and we have decided to present a show like the London Palladium Crazy Gang Shows.

They commenced this afternoon to make my long awaited shelves in my office.
Wednesday, 19 April 1939

Ivy was in bed today and I should have been I felt so foul. I have had a cold for some time and have been unable to shake it off. To add to my misery they continued making the shelves in my room, pianos were being moved next door and noise was around while I was anxious to concentrate my mind on the magazine.

Shortly before supper I was in the General Office when one of the boys asked me if I would sign a permit for a Lady and Gentleman and a Girl and Boy to go round the Camp. I looked at the card and saw Lady Astor and Ronald Tree M.P. As J., was not available I started to show them round and was joined by J. later. We took them into the dining room and Lady Astor addressed a few words of encouragement to the men and received a tumultous applause. She walked out and they rose and bowed to her and one man to whom she spoke to bowed and kissed her hand. It was all very pathetic.

Arrivals: Herbert Finkelstein

Thursday, 20 April 1939

Today I had no alternative but to put a notice on my door “Not to be disturbed except on matters of the utmost importance”, so I was only troubled 69 times during the morning. 

The Manager of the Empire Kinema had invited the staff to see the film “Pygmalion” which was showing today and they enjoyed it very much indeed. 

A pleasant surprise awaited me on my return, for in the middle of supper I received a 'phone message from J., to say that Leo had arrived in the batch of 30 Germans who had come in the afternoon and he had not noticed the name. 

I went over to the Flat to see him – he is a very nice fellow and is very pleased to be here.

Arrivals: Georg Gross

Friday, 21 April 1939

Concentrated on trying to get the “K.C. Review” finished but it is impossible to concentrate for long on any one thing here. 

Nothing very eventful happened.
Saturday, 22 April 1939

All the usual Saturday morning programme went off well. 

In the afternoon Sir Robert and Frank Samuel attended for a little while the rehearsal of the classical concert held in the evening and seemed very pleased. 

Attended a meeting re a crazy show I am producing in two or three weeks time. Then over to see how the football was getting on, returned to attend a special gathering of the Chassidim in Camp, who were having their “3rd Sabbath” meal. They are extremely appreciative that I take an interest in what they are doing and they made a very nice little speech about it. 

After that, attended a Scout meeting re a troop we are starting here. 

In evening classical concert again proved a great success, the last item (a surprise) the “Blue Danube” played by the Orchestra received a enormous ovation.
Sunday, 23 April 1939

After lunch we held the inter-hut mascot contest, and some of the entries were extraordinarily clever – I marched all the competitors into the staff dining room and Ernest Joseph, a Mrs Davis and D. S. Woolf judged the competition. 

After lunch (at 2.30 to be precise) motor coaches came for the Best and Second-Best huts, in “The Best Kept Hut Contest”, the Winners are going to Tea to a Restaurant in Ramsgate and the 2nd (the Dovercourt Boys) for a Ride round the Country and Tea. 

I went with the Dovercourt Boys. There were two coaches, it was a delightful drive, the boys singing and very happy. We had an excellent tea at an inn called the “Half Way House” and all was very jolly. The coach drivers and the people at the Inn (who refused to take a tip) doing all they could to make the boys happy. They were all delighted with the outing, as were the others who also had a wonderful time. 

Just as I arrived back, Ivy was driving Miss Levy and [?] back to Margate after their visit to the Camp and she asked me to come. We went there and back in ¾ of an hour. 

2 Refugees we picked up on the way back were very happy men.
Richborough transit camp, Some Victims, 1939
Kitchener camp magazine, Some Victims of the Nazi Terror - Relaxing in a hut
Monday, 24 April 1939

Nearly finished the writing of the “K.C. Review” and anxiously wait its production. 

A few of the Dovercourt Boys are leaving us tomorrow and came to say goodbye. It is funny how people you have only known for a short while should affect one so – I shall really miss some of them.

Late in the evening, long after a ten-minute concert, another 120 arrived from Vienna and they received a great reception. 

Two other interesting items – after waiting three months they have at last laid Lino in my “Cabin”. 

Our master crafstman consulted me during the morning as to my bookshelf requirements in the library and later in the day excitedly showed me a beautiful sketch of what he is going to build – it is very fine – he says we must have one show place here.
Tuesday, 25 April 1939

Arranged how the new Concert Hall should be laid out and after the chairs had been put in place find that it will seat a thousand people. 

Planning to what purpose other accommodation in building can be put to. 

Local paper telephoned for their weekly interview. 

A staff meeting after supper made another late night.
Wednesday, 26 April 1939

The first pages of the “K.C. Review” were run off this morning and I think from a lay-out and production point of view it should be an improvement on the first two issues. 

A small sub-committee meeting was held this morning to go into the problem of visitors and to decide when and where they may go in the Camp. I have decided to put the ping-pong tables out of bounds for visitors as the Sandwich people now use our place as a very nice club and are depriving the Refugees of the opportunity to use the tables intended for them. 

Mr Marmorstein, who is the man who has been responsible for getting so many men over from Austria compared with the small number who have come from Germany flew over and arrived at the Camp today. He received a wonderful reception from the large number who he had helped to bring over here.

The ten-minute Concert was very well attended and a great success.
Thursday, 27 April 1939

A day devoted from 8 am until 11 p.m to completing the “Kitchener Camp Review”. 

With the arrival of 42 men from Berlin we are now more than 1,000 in Camp.


28 April 1939

In a speech lasting two hours and twenty minutes, Hitler addresses the Reichstag, renouncing the Anglo-German naval agreement and the German-Polish pact of non-aggression.

When German troops invaded Czechoslovakia, US President Roosevelt asked for an assurance that Germany would not attack thirty named countries, for a period of 25 years.

In his Reichstag speech, Hitler poured scorn on Roosevelt's demands; his response was popular both in the parliament in across the country.

Friday, 28 April 1939

Spent day trying to complete arrears of work occasioned by producing the “Review”. 

Arranged with two shorthand writers to take down Hitler’s speech and give summaries of it at lunch and later. 

Very pleasant Sabbath and Oneg Shabbat services.
Saturday, 29 April 1939

The weather was absolutely filthy and there were no Visitors at all from London which made a gloom over the whole day as it was so unlike the weekends we are now used to. Everybody was in bad spirits – perhaps the gloomy international situation helped towards that end.

There was a poor attendance at the P.T. (Banks was spending the weekend in London).

In afternoon we spent a lot of time getting the Show of “Magic” ready for the evening. It was the first show to be held in the new hall. When we went over to the hall before the concert we found the lights had failed and for 15 minutes after it was due to begin, we thought we would have to cancel it. A new man played the accordion and kept the audience in good humour until, thank heaven, the lights went on. The Conjuror did some very good tricks though he is not a show man, and it was quite an enjoyable evening.

Afterwards I discussed with the Resident Architect various problems in connection with the building.

In the afternoon there was an excellent ...

[end of yellow typewritten transcript]

[20 April 1939 contd. – start of untyped section]

Chess Tournament with 20 Players. It was most effective. There was a time-keeper with a Metrochrome (I think it is called) and on every second beat he said BLACK, the blacks then moved, then WHITE and so on BLACK - WHITE . BLACK. and everybody had to move their piece. It was really amazing to watch.
Sunday, 30 April 1939

A very busy and hectic day and a filthy one – wading in mud.

An excellent Tournament against the Thanet Table Tennis Club was very exciting to watch. The weather is shocking – it is almost like Venice but with mud in addition to water.

I spent some considerable time in the canteen as I do not think we are doing as well as we ought to, with the result that we had record sales. We took £7.


1 May 1939

Women to be housed in Kitchener?

A report is circulated concerning whether a number of  women and children should be allowed to live in the camp: the matter is "receiving consideration"

Source: Council for German Jewry, Minutes, 1 May 1939

Monday, 1 May 1939

What a first of May – the place is simply a bog. Everybody is making – under very difficult circumstances – everything spick and span for the visit tomorrow of Lord Winterton and other big bugs of the Home Office and the London Committee. 

We have started a series of Study and Lecture Circles for each evening. There will be Talks on such subjects as “English History”, “Psychology” and all manner of subjects. 

After considerable difficulty in finding a suitable name we decided to call it the University Extension – a [####] ambitious name.

Arrivals: Franz Schanzer

Tuesday, 2 May 1939

A very eventful day. The Camp was visited by Lord Winterton (of the Evian Committee for Refugees), Sir. H. E. Emerson and several other Home Office, Colonial and Treasury office “Big Bugs”. Lord Winterton and Sir. H.E. Emerson addressed encouraging words to the me at Lunch. Sir Robert Waly Cohen, Norman Bentwick and other Members of the Committee are present. 

At the Lunch I sat thus [diagram] and had quite a long chat with the noble Lord. Sir Robert said a nice word or two about me to him (but my bank balance remains the same). He was obviously very impressed with everything. 

At the Mens supper an illuminated address on Parchment was presented to the three Refugees no. 6-7-8 who will be the first to transmigrate. 2 are leaving for australia tomorrow and one for new zealand. One of them who is going to australia with his young wife (Herbert Lippmann) who I found a home for very near this Camp.

After supper we had a farewell supper with his old colleague and it was really a very happy affair.

There are three moving incidents to record.

With the arrival last night a Father was united with his son who has been here some time.

The brother of one of the 3 going to Australia arrived last night. He will remain in the Camp for some months until he goes to the U.S.A., so this one day they have spent together may be the last for many years.

The Fiaance of one of the Refugees is going tomorrow with the party to Australia and he may not be able to join her for a long time. She broke down at the end of the party. A vey happy day but for three touching incidents.
Wednesday, 3 May 1939

Up early to see the 3 men “God speed”. Firstly I walked with them to the Station, we sang [##] “a Long Way to Tipperary”. It was a glorious morning, and the sun shining gave one a wonderful feeling of “Good Omen” for our friends going “Down Under”. A few of their closest friends came with them to the station. 10 minutes before the train arrived a car drove up with the Mayor and Mayoress of Sandwich and his two children – he had come specially to bid them farewell.

Various photographs were taken and then the train coming in, from it as it steamed they waved their hands good-bye – perhaps never to see many of us again.

Four of us motored to Folkestone to see them off in the boat. It was a glorious run in the sunshine. As we entered Folkestone we turned a corner. We were at a great height and a magnificent view of the whole town was spread out before us with the sea and Harbour – and the boat – like some small toy waiting its precious cargo.

We descended into the town and parking the car, went into the Pier … then were met by our Australian friends who were in a very excited condition. The young Fiancee who was going with them had not got her ticket to Genoa – where they will be sailing on an Italian boat owing to some misunderstanding.

They had 'phoned up the Camp but were fearful [###] help would not come in time before the boat sailed. Fortunately I had sufficient money on me to purchase a third class ticket to Genoa and I [###] it – and saved the situation. We all sat down and had a farewell Tea and Bun and just as we were about to see them on board Ivy and another Member of the Camp arrived breathless by having motored at post-haste – though their journey was wasted as I had done the necessary. Ivy was glad to have the opportunity to see them off.

After a sad farewell of the young engaged couple, and watery eyes of the two brothers so recently united and now to part, they boarded the ship and taking out our handkerchiefs we continued to wave to them until the ship, turning a bend in the harbour disappeared out of sight.

In the afternoon a went with Ivy to Deal where I made some long overdue purchases.

In the evening one of the Custom House Officials and his friends came over, they are members of the Dover Cycling Club and we had a meeting of all Cyclists in Camp and they are going for a cycle tour with them and a club is being formed.
Thursday, 4 May 1939

1 letter marked “confidential” addressed to me was from Lord Winterton expressing his appreciation of his visit to the Camp. He had seen my name in the Camp Magazine and I suppose he thought I was the Director. Anyhow the enclosed £2 – one pound as an annual subscription for the “Kitchener Camp review” and the other to purchase seeds for the Gardens round the mess huts.

I also had a letter from the “Jewish Chronicle” asking for two copies of each issue as they wish to keep it.

In the evening I gave a talk on the “Brigade Camps” to a very small and very select audience.
Kitchener camp, Some Victims of the Nazi Terror, Kitchen gardens
Kitchener camp, Some Victims of the Nazi Terror, Kitchen gardens
Friday, 5 May 1939

Went into Sandwich in morning and made various purchases and enquiries re our Show for English Friends on Sunday.

In evening a Mr Riley, a Polar Explorer, gave a Lantern Lecture. He was with Sir Ernest Shackleton in the antarctic. He had so excellent slides and he showed pictures of his wonderful dogs pulling the sledges and it was a pleasant surprise at the end of the Lecture when he brought into room and put on the table one of these Dogs – a magnificent animal. The men where enthralled. After the lecture I took him to show him round the huts and in one of them we came across a [####] sitting round a table singing.

It was apparently a farewell party to a man who is leaving for South America tomorrow. We sat down and joined in – and he in a very pretty speech expressed his appreciation of my having come to this farewell party – I did not disallusion him that it was only a coincidence.

The service in evening was held for the first time in the little synagogue (or rather they call it Beth Hamidrash) they have been to a lot of trouble to make it attractive and have constructed special “pews” for J. and myself, with our names above them.
Saturday, 6 May 1939

Usual Saturday morning programme and in the afternoon we had our intensive rehearsal for our show for English friends tomorrow.

In the evening we gave this show to the Members of the Camp and every one of the thousand seats was occupied. It proved a great success with the exception that the Orchestra were missing some men and were unable to play. 

After the show some volunteers finished painting the stage working until midnight.
Sunday, 7 May 1939

Every Member of the Orchestra were instructed to meet the Camp Director after breakfast. He told them what he thought of them and it was decided to hold a rehearsal right away. The Hall was made to look spick and span for the afternoon … as we had only invited people by word of mouth and in no other way, we had no idea how many would attend.

At first they came in very slowly, then fast – eventually their must have been between 600 to 700 English people.

The Orchestra started off and the whole show went off very well to an appreciative audience. I did by the way my usual sketching turn. The show was in 4 distinct parts. First and last item the orchestra, second item Piano recital. The third was a series of Picture of Camp Life introduced by a youth saying he was going to look at some of his Pictures in an automatic Machine such as you see in the pics “One night in Paris” and such like.

The fourth scene was a Variety agent and of course the various turns such as singers, saxophone, Gymnasts, Conjurors, etc;, all came to him for auditions. Then was of course the clown a huge fellow with a beard dressed as an out of work actor who after every turn came on and said he could do it better and of course made a mess of it.

After the variety turns had finished a boy walked on with a telegram and handed it to the Variety agent … he opened called on all the turns he had seen and told them he had booked them all for a show at the Empire [triple-dot punctuation] they were all to come tomorrow and then sent them off the stage … then the out of work actor came on and said what about me … the agent thought for a moment and said “Yes I have a job for you” … The Curtain came down … and then up again … the Out of Work actor is seem with a Pail and brush cleaning the stage.

The whole show was in English.

The little duplicated programmes for which people were asked to give what they liked fetched £10.8.8.

x             x             x 

This show was held in the afternoon. Mr and Mrs Goodman of the Empire Cinema Sandwich was there and spent the evening with us … and is going to give us a lot of things.

At 9 O’clock we held our first Open air “Bon Fire” in honour of “Lag Bei Omer” and Jewish Songs were sung by the large circle gathered round a roaring fire. 

A very fitting end to a happy day.
Monday, 8 May 1939

As it was David’s Birthday a complete Registration such as all the Refugees have to fill in was made out for him and it was most amusing. Later on he will be very pleased to have it. 

At Lunch time it was announced that an extra half hour would be allowed after the usual 10.30 to celebrate the occasion and before that was announced – when it was only mentioned that it was David’s birthday their was tremendous cheering and clapping such as I have never heard before … David has certainly made his name in the Camp. I had Tea with David as he mimiced my expression most remarkably. I think I shall book him for our next show. They are building him a sand-pit.

Amongst the new arrivals is a man who was a Poultry farmer and he is putting plans before me and I am getting them approved by the Committee and we may after all have a Poultry farm.

Richborough camp, Some Victims of the Nazi Terror, Magazine, 1939
Kitchener camp magazine, Some Victims of the Nazi Terror - Learning to keep poultry
Tuesday, 9 May 1939

J. has been worrying me to take a few days off and I intended to take some work and do it on the beach some ¾ mile away – I even had sandwiches prepared – but all the morning I was disturbed and could not get away. 

In the afternoon I went with Ivy to Ramsgate and at 3.30 prepared to take a Party of 32 men selected for good work to Lord and Lady Airedales home in Sandwich were she had invited them for tea. A coach arrived at 3.50 and drove to the house. The “her Ladyship” with her Butler was waiting to receive us. The grounds of the house are beautifully laid out and I have never seen such a display of flowers so early in the year. The lawns were perfect and the house – recently painted white – almost a mansion made a lovely picture.

She shook hands with everybody and chatted with them – and we had photographs taken with her. Then the Butler served Tea for the Men on the Lawn and she invited to take Tea with her in the house with a Doctor Bates and his Wife (of Birchington) apparently old friends of hers.

Unknown to us she had been at our entertainment on Sunday, and she was very much impressed with the performance as with everything else in the Camp.

On returning to the Camp I found notes and odd slips on my chair with birthday greetings from Members of my staff, and as I came out of the room they grouped round me and sang

“as we have in camp a stay

On the day of Phineas May

Everytime we say;

Phineas is O.K.



He is doing all his best.

In recreation without rest

Luck and health for him

This is our request



Nobody of his staff is lazy,

Only a little crazy,

This is the way to smile here,

That’s the style here


as we have in Camp to stay,

On the day of Phineas May,

Everytime we say

Phineas is O.K.    


They also gave me various little gifts of fruit and drink and scent.

In the evening a meeting of the staff commencing at # 7 O’Clock [###] at 11. O’clock

Arrivals: Wolfgang Priester (refugee no. 1249)

Wednesday, 10 May 1939

I have made up my mind with the pressure of J., to take Thursday and Friday off as I am trying to clear up all my work. Early in the day one Refugee who had done some special work for me begged me to give him a private interview. I did so. He burst into tears and showed me a picture of his mother a widow whom he wants to come over here and does not know how to help her. I promised to try and get her a domestic position – I told him it was very difficult but would do my utmost – he completely broke down and kissed my hand. I do hope I can help the chap he is such a nice fellow and a very hard worker.

I had a long discussion with our Chief of Works and have now got permission for all Professional musicians to concentrate all their time on music – in fact we are starting an academy of music.

During the afternoon a Mrs. Williams called to see me and said she had had my name given her by a tradesman in the town and did I know of any Refugee who had a Female relative who would be suitable to do domestic work in her house. What an amazing coincidence… I went into full details with my Refugee friend of the morning and the other Depts. in the Camp concerned and if there is no hitch he will be able to bring his Mother over within a week or two.
Thursday, 11 May 1939

Rose with the hope of taking my “day off” – Ivy betting the night before 6d that I would return to the Camp long before 9 p.m. After breakfast I attened to various routine duties. Then just as I was clear the Chief Accountant presented me with the Canteen account and again it was ridiculous how small the return was and I told him that I was absolutely certain they had made a mistake and I said that I would refuse to leave the Camp until the error had been traced. He brought his assistant and all the books across to me and of course I found their mistake and all was O.K. ... marvellous accountants.

Then having obtained some sandwiches I left the Camp with my Office boy, Weiner Kaufman, and we walked to Sandwich and across the Golf Links to the Sea. The sun was now shining brilliantly.

We sat for a while on the beach and then strolled slowly along the beach in the direction of Deal. We had our lunch on the beach By 1 p.m. we had reached the pier at Deal and there sitting on a seat with two other Refugees was Leo (it was their free day as they work on Sunday in the Kitchens) that it should be him out of the 1,200 people now here was amazing. I took them all in to a Cafeteria and we had Tea and Cake and made a  jolly party.

At 1.30 I left them and with my Office boy crossed the road where Banks had arranged to pick us up in the Car and take us to Dover where he was going to meet 5 men coming from Berlin. We went along the coast road and past the J.L.B. Camp and then through some very pretty country.

On arrival at Dover while Banks was meeting the boat we went and walked the long length of the Harbour on the Pier it goes a long way out and from the end you get a most wonderful view of Dover, the Harbour and Castle. The weather was perfect.

After the men had been put on the train we went round Dover Castle and from its great height a remarkable view is also obtained of the Town and Harbour.

We returned to the Camp at 5 O’clock and feeling very refreshed cut through a lot of work – for a long list of matters requiring my attention awaited me.
Friday, 12 May 1939

It was a wet and cold day so did not take my second days leave as intended but got through a lot of work instead as I felt so much better after my yesterdays outing.

The Lady who had come to see me about having a Refugee as a Domestic 'phoned me up and said a friend of hers close by would also like somebody and so you can imagine the happiness of the man here when I told him I had found a place for his Financee where she could be a close companion to his Mother.

A Mrs Rayne gave a Lantern Lecture in the evening about “Peace” – it was rather amusing – she arrived on time and gave me the slides – but as she was about 15 minutes early – I sent her with a guide round the Camp – quite a good audience collected – and then we waited – and waited – what had happened to her – I started some community singing and kept them amused but as time went on I was getting anxious – eventually she arrived and said she had been so engrossed in what she had seen – that she had forgotten until a few moments before about her lecture.

At 10.10 a further 120 arrived from Vienna bringing our numbers up to 1,300

Arrivals: Ignatz Salamon (camp no. 1370), Adolf Pollatschek


13 May 1939

The St Louis sets sail

 Over 900 passengers - most of them Jews - are bound for Cuba initially, and then the USA. Most passengers have applied for US visas


On 8 May, around 40,000 people take part in an antisemitic demonstration in Havana: the Cuban president invalidates all recently issued landing certificates

On 2 June the St Louis is ordered out of Cuban waters and sets sail for Miami. Sailing close to Florida, some passengers cable President Roosevelt asking for refuge: he does not respond

The ship is forced to return to Europe

Jewish organizations (particularly the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) negotiate with four European governments to secure entry visas: Britain takes 288; the Netherlands 181; Belgium 214; and France 224

Those who make it into Britain survive the war (except one, who is killed during an air raid). Of the other 620 passengers, 87 emigrate before the German invasion of Western Europe, but 532 are trapped by the invasion

Of these, just over half - 278 - survive the Holocaust (Source: USHMM)

Editor's note: see diary entry for Wednesday 21 June, 1939 - St Louis passengers arrive at Kitchener camp

Saturday, 13 May 1939

After the usual Saturday morning programme immediately after Lunch I left with a Party of men for the Sir Roger Manwood’s school (a fine Secondary in Sandwich founded in 1500) to their Sports Day … they have beautiful grounds. I had selected only sportsmen for this party and they enjoyed it very much. We had been invited by the Head Master, a Mr Oates (a fine fellow) and he had arranged Tea for us. Our friend Lady Airedale was presenting the prizes and came up and spoke to us, and said she would invite some more men over to Tea next week.

I was surprised at the number of English people who came up and introduced themselves to me – no doubt like Brigade Boys they know one – though when one meets so many people it is imposssible to remember everybody – and I have an awful memory for faces.

On the evening we had arranged a Gramophone Concert of specially selected records which was to be relayed through the loud-speakers in the Concert Hall. I did not expect many to attend and was surprised when an audience of about 600 or 700 turned up.
Sunday, 14 May 1939

This morning the sun shone brilliantly but later in the afternoon the rain came down again. 

At 10.45 all the men that had Bicycles in Camp assembled at the gate with a packet of sandwiches each, they numbered about 30 at 11 O’clock. 

30 English Cyclists of the Dover Cycling Club arrived at the Camp and sorting themselves in pairs with our men they cycled away – a very happy party – to see the Kentish Highways and Byeways.

In the evening spent a considerable time at rehearsal of a production we hope to put on in a fortnights time.
Monday, 15 May 1939

Terrible weather – drenching with rain … a day of being pestered by continual requests for interviews. 

New men who had arrived and it was thought I could make use of in one of my departments kept coming including one who was a “Lightening Calculator” and could in a second multiply 3,96975 x 79650 – of course I did not have time [?] to check up and see if his results were accurate. When I suggested he would be able to be of more use in the accountants dept., I think he thought that at the speed he could calculate he would finish all his work in five minutes. [###] the accounts dept., told me that they did not want him. 

I also was sent a boy who is able to make perfect pencil enlargements of photographs and had done a wonderful of David, which we have arranged to be hung in J.’s office. 

In the evening I attended another rehearsal.
Tuesday, 16 May 1939

I spent a considerable time in preparing the next issue of the “Review” their is a lot of re-writing to be done, though I think I have some good material.

One of the musicians who had composed about 100 songs, had written a tune which he would like some verses about the Camp spirit to go with it and a deputation of musicians begged me to have a shot. I promised to come over at 4 O’clock and see what I could do. At that time I went over and he played me over his tune numerous times and eventually I got some verses to fit with it.

They are going to practise this song and put it over at the musical show on Saturday as I await calmly my fate. The words are as follows: à

[following verse written sideways on]

“We’re far away from home,

Only hope we bring;

Waiting before we roam,

and every day; stouter of heart all of us sing:-

From afar we’re come over to Richborough,

Under England’s Flag for a while;

Working happy we are all free men,

In our freedom now we smile.

x                  x                        x

When we take one day leave from Richborough

Our hearts remain over here,

and we never can forget these days

Friendships that we’ve made so dear.”


Sob stuff – but they seemed to like it – rotten verse but it fits in with the tune.

I also am arranging a sports day such as we saw at the school on Saturday, and viewed the pool as to its possibilities for bathing.

The new Gestetner machine for reproducing photographs in our Magazine arrived and as it requires a special dark room had to try and arrange for one to be made.

In the evening the Ramsgate Philharmonic Society Choir (about 40 singers – consisting of in appearance Early Christian Martyrs – but with lovely voices) gave a very excellent Concert which was much enjoyed by everybody.

Arrivals: Werner Hirsch

Wednesday, 17 May 1939

An exceedingly busy morning including an interview with Mr Leyman, head of Pearson [?], Dorman Long re provision of Electric Light in Cinema and Concert Hall a very big problem as we have nearly been let down on some of our big entertainments, also had to see to matter in connection with enlarging of stage.

In afternoon Halford (who is spending a week of his holiday with us) took me and 3 of our youngsters for a run in his car and we reached the pretty port of Rye where we had Tea, coming back Weiner Kaufman (my Office boy) complained of a bad headache and was very sick … otherwise it was a very enjoyable ride through some lovely country.

On my return (about 6.30) after supper I prepared some sketches for the “K.C. Review” finishing at 10.45.
Thursday, 18 May 1939

An uneventful day as far as I was personally concerned though I arranged two interesting outings for others, one was 50 men to view a Mr and Mrs Peto beautiful garden and oddly enough 32 men next door at Lady Airedales to tea again. In the evening the Drawing Class commenced in earnest, thanks largely to a very attractive young lady who has volunteered to teach, and pressure of Work only prevented me from becoming an earnest student of hers.

Afterwards we had a very good 10 minute concert by the Orchestra – minus light – so they played by the feeble rays of hurricane lanterns.

A number of press cuttings are coming in about the “K.C. Review” including one from the Children’s Newspaper, which opens with the paragraph “The Refugees at Richborough has a monthly paper of its own, and the C N sends its greetings to the Kitchener Camp review and its cheerful staff.”

Then they go on to give an extract of what I wrote about the arrival of the Musicians of the Quay.

There have also been some good press reports about our entertainment to “Our English friends”.
Friday, 19 May 1939

As my staff has now grown so large and with such a variety of jobs I had a thorough “stock-taking” of everybody and in some cases a “calling over the coals”. When one has a large number of people they are fonding of saying “Owe I thought X was going to do that”. I have therefore tabulated everybodies jobs.

The Cinema is nearing completion and will look very fine and the [###] consulted me re the decorations on the walls – they are going to have some of Walt Disney figures.

A rather amusing, though disappointing hoax was played on 30 fellows. A note similar to what I sent out when say Lady Airedale invites a party of men to tea was sent to them say Lady Fireion [?] invited them to tea and to be ready dressed for the coach at the gate at 4 pm. – 30 fellows waited in vain of course … I still do not know who sent it.

The first sunken lawn was completed today and the last patch of grass was left so that “I” could “Lay the last sod” which he duely did – with much amusement before a large gatherin. At the commencement of the week the Men had been asked to make an extra special effort to complete the work and they had responded magnificently. I was invited by three different huts to their “Oneg-Shabat” but it was of course impossible to go to more than one. At 10 O’clock another large contingent of men arrived from Vienna bring our number up to 1470 … nearly half way.
Saturday, 20 May 1939

As Banks does not take Physical Training any more and the men apparently do not like their own instructors, although we have about 15 of them, I offered a prize to the Instructor who could bring a class of 25 men as nearly as possible take like Banks… the Contest is next Saturday, it will be interesting to see the result. Today and tomorrow is the prizegiving of the Photographic contest and some very good entries have been received.

It was glorious fine today, so after getting started a Chess Contest against a Margate Team went for a two our walk with some of the boys to the beach unfortunately time would not permit me to spend more than 10 minutes there as it is such a long way from the Camp.

When I got back I had to attend one of the Sabbath Circles and in the evening I was invited with J. and Ivy and a number of other Members of his staff to supper with Mr Joseph at the Bell Hotel.

Mr Frank Samuel who was in the party and with Sir Robrt Waley Cohen is the Joint Vice-President of the United Synagogue suddenly said to me “I and Sir Robert received the other day and urgent request from Mr P. Goldberg for my return to the Office of the United Synagogue as apparently that cannot manage without me after all – they both (unknowingly) replied exactly the same. [triple dot punctuation] THEY WOULD NOT HERE OF IT – THE REQUEST WAS OUT Ot QUESTION.” – or words to that effect.

It is anyhow good to know that they suddenly realise they want me at the u.s.
Sunday, 21 May 1939

Brilliantly fine and warm weather reflected in the Canteen as nearly all drinks were sold out. A lot of visitors including the twin [?] Coopers and Walters of my Brigade Company and a journalist friend of mine who brought some other friends. There was a very well attended Bridge tournament in afternoon which considering there was no money connected with it was very surprising. At 7.30p.m., I walked over to the sea – but it takes a long time to find anywhere where one does not come across Members of the Camp.

Before I left I had arranged a party of men to visit the Bettleshanger Colliery Social Club … it was rather nice for our men to go over and entertain the Miners.
Monday, 22 May 1939

A morning of conferences and knocking at my door for one thing or another. Lady Fox and her son – Major Fox were priviledged to be shown round the Camp by myself and expressed great delight in what they had seen – but only left magazines. 

Spoke in evening to Mr E. Guy, Principal of the Thanet Technical Institute re possibility of getting a field for a sports day.
Tuesday, 23 May 1939

Excellent – the Headmaster of the Sir Roger Manhood School at Sandwich has consented to lend their beautiful sports field for a sports day for us on June 24th. I have an appointment with him on Friday afternoon to go into all details.

The Camp Rabbi came to me in the morning and asked my co-operation in decorating the Concert Hall, for Shevous and making it look like a synagogue. I collected all my now numerous staff and arranged to meet them all at 3 O’clock to start on the job. I sent out a party to cut the Hawthorn Bushes now in flower and within an hour we had a beautiful decorated synagogue with proper ark covered with a proper whit curtain which one of the men brought with him from a synagogue in Vienna that was burnt down.

A lovely service was held in the evening, afterwards I spent the evening with the Dovercourt Boys who I am so sorry for.

Arrivals: Emanuel Suessmann

Wednesday, 24 May 1939

Being Shevouth it was of course like a Saturday and after a very pleasant service Banks took a large class in physical training with an accordian accompaniest.

It was beautifully fine, and large numbers went out, but I had arranged a community singing concert in the Open air. The Piano had been put on the flat Lorry thus:- [diagram]

and News Chronicle Community Song sheets given out and we had an excellent concert which all enjoyed. It was amazing how well they sang such songs as “Clementine” “D’ye Ken John Peel” etc. We also sang the Camp Hymn the words of which I had composed (see last weeks diary) and it went down very well. This Concert was held at 3p.m. 

At 5.30 about 10 English Teachers came and as nearly all pupils had gone out we arranged a repeat performance for them which they much enjoyed.

After the evening service I went for a walk across the fields to Richborough Castle with three of the Dovercourt Boys.
Thursday, 25 May 1939

Owing to the memoriaal service an even larger attendance attended the service this morning. I received a letter containing a cheque from the miners. (for a guinea) from the Bettleshanp [?] Colliery Social Club who had had some of our men to help at a social evening they had.

The farmers who own the surrounding fields came to see me at my request as I am trying to get the use of [###] for sports and football – I got certain conscessions.

Attended a rehearsal of a very amusing German Parody on the Greek Drama that is being performed on Saturday.
Friday, 26 May 1939

After much awaiting completed at 3 p.m. June issue of K.C. Review – 18 pages.

In afternoon went to keep appointment with the Headmaster of the Sir Roger Manhood School at Sandwich, to go into details of sports day being held at his school on 24 June. The Sports Master has agreed to let us use their excellent sports ground in the evening during the week previous to run off the first races.

The Mayor of Sandwich who is a Guvnor the School was there and I have agreed to let our Orchestra give a performance on July 1st in aid of the school funds.

In the evening after the usual service attended rehearsal of tomorrow evening show and then afterewards a meeting of all the sports leaders in Camp to organise the sports day.
Saturday, 27 May 1939

We had a Gymnastic Competition in the morning to see which Physical Training instructor could take his group as near to Banks style as possible. None of them are a fraction as good and Banks said that several of the exercises they did are in fact harmful.

A man who had suffered a good deal in the Concentration Camp have gone quite “crackers” during the last few days – he put the grand piano on four chairs and covered it with some awful grease pretending to be a great Piano Polisher – a letter he had written home was opened in which gave a description of the masterly way he had repaired (actually spoilt) the piano, how he had been promoted to a most important position in the Camp, and how to protect him machine guns had been placed at the top of the water towers – this afternoon they told him in view of his good work he was going to be taken out to tea with four of his comrades – who of course took him in a car to the local asylum – poor chap.

In the evening the entertainment is now so popular that we can accommodate all our own people though we can seat a thousand and had to close the gates.

The show was a well-known German Parody called “Judith and Holofeines [?]” written 90 years ago by Nostroy. It is a skit on the Greek drama and it contrast with those times and Hitler today was obvious. It was very funny – several jokes on the Camp being brought in – the scenary and costumes – made out of literary [?] nothing was excellent.
Sunday, 28 May 1939

In the afternoon several visitors arrived – two from my office (London) and the Parents of one of the Boys in my Brigade Company. It was a glorious fine day. In the evening Halford took me for a long drive in his car.
Monday, 29 May 1939

Owing to the vast number now in Camp the new shift was tried out this morning (all meals in duplicate) To fit in the first breakfast was fixed for 6.30. The men were not at all happy about this so an assembly of all men in Camp was called and J. explained them the difficulties and how they would try and overcome them and they gave his speech a wonderful applause.

One rather unexpected thing occurred all men have been issued with a badge giving their hut number thus


The K.C. of course stands for Kitchener Camp, but what we did not know was that in German K. is the first letter of Concentration and therefore it equally stands in German for Concentration Camp. J, has therefore said if anybody objects to wearing the badge they need not. There was much laughter.

In the afternoon we had an audition for fresh talent in the Camp, and in the evening a repeat performance of our Saturday night show.

I took Halford and my Office Staff a short cut across the field to Richborough Castle and took them over it.

In the evening there was a repeat performance of Saturday nights entertainment.

29 May 1939 - Permit to leave issued for trip to Brighton (by invitation)

Tuesday, 30 May 1939

Mr Hayes, our English Typist, was coming to the office this morning when he saw one of our men going into the direction of Ramsgate. He stopped and asked him what he was doing. He said he was going back to Germany to save his wife who was being murdered by the Nazis. Sensibly [?] Mr Hayes reported the incident immediately on his arrival and Banks and he set out in the Car to overtake him. They did so and with difficulty got him into the car and brought him back.

On his arrival he set about throughing things at the German staff here whom he accused of all sorts of things and said the only friends he had in Camp were the English staff. He started throwing potatoes and knocking about some of the German staff.

He was obviously in great mental distress about his wife – whom he had not heard from for 14 days. J., sent for his son who is in London and guard is being kept in case he becomes really violent. Telegrams have been sent to try and trace his wife.

Lord and Lady Astor (Lady Astor’s second visit) and some friends of theirs including another Lord called in this afternoon again unexpectedly. They were obviously very pleased with all they saw. The first copy of the “K.C. Review” was ready at 6.30 and I handed it to Lady Astor.

Thee was a staff meeting in the evening at which I was sorry to hear Prof. Bundy [?] will soon be leaving us as I like him very much indeed.
Wednesday, 31 May 1939

A telegram was received from the man referred to yesterday that all was well with his wife and that she would be in England soon – however he thought it was a faked telegram … but he was given some drugs and slept most of the day.

We spent all day completing, distributing and dispatching the June issue of the “K.C. Review” J., left for a day in London at 4 O’clock. In the evening a Chess Tournament (which we easily won) was played against Members of the famous Margate Chess Club.

In the evening, also 5 members of the Ash Fellowship gave simple but a nice little concert.

---> Part III


Arrivals: Manele Spielmann (camp no. 1736)