My biography

Early Years 1926-1939

Siblings

I was born during a general strike and my mother was transported to Queen Charlotte hospital in Marylebone Road in a pony and cart. This is an apocryphal story since the General Strike was over by July 3 1926. I am aware of the problem of differentiating the apocryphal from the factual after 80 years.

I was the first male child born to parents after three girls Gertie ( Gertrude Rebecca ) Gitl Rifka named after my dads mother, Frances ( Frances Lillian ) after my mother’s mother Faige Leiha and Hannah Estelle ( Chana Ester ) after my father’s paternal aunt. Hannah the youngest of the trio was nine years older than me. Gertie was twelve when I was born and a grammar school girl at Lattimer Upper School Hammersmith. Gertie won an educational award – the Camden Award and strangely I went to Grammar school by virtue of the same charitable body. The fact that Gertie went to Grammar School and ( later to teachers training college in Hull – Wilberforce Hall ) was the basis of a inter sibling divide which lasted until her death. Perhaps a symbol of the divide produced by Gertie who was absorbing the middle class mores of her grammar school friends is that I can clearly remember she had a hockey stick – the only one I have ever seen in my life. The last thing you would expect to see in a tenement dwelling in a family living at subsistence level would be a hockey stick.

 

Family Environment

Our family lived in tenement three story terraced , now gentrified ( see photo) . 106 Cornwall Road W11 in the “Royal Borough of Kensington” The neighbourhood was not predominantly Jewish , unlike the East End , but we had Kosher shops and a dilapidated Synagogue – which was set up to keep us away from the other Synagogue – the beautiful red brick New West End St Peters burg Place opposite Kensington Gardens which was strictly for the elite ( as it is today).

Were we about 100 yards for the Portobello Road market. There were several pubs nearby and it was normal to see small children waiting outside while there mum or dad were drinking inside. On Friday nights (payday) fights were frequent and police van ( the Black Maria) was busy. One notorious violent drunk was called Chicago Kate!!.

We occupied the top two floors of the house , the Ground Floor housed a old Jewish couple and in the horrible basement lived an Irish Moriarty family with young children with whom we played in the street. All children played in the street , among our street friends ( mixed Jewish and gentile ) . was Freddie a Downs boy and an epileptic girl with flaming red hair. Eventually electricity was installed but was DC , very dangerous and now defunct and a shared bathroom on the first floor landing near the WC. The flooring was bare boards which my mum scrubbed on her hands and knees .

The house at the beginning had no electricity ( later DC only ) or bathroom and a shared WC on the first floor landing ( no en suite ) . We had gas lighting using mantels which gave out a distinctive smell when first lit. The gas lamps in the street were lit daily by the lamplighter who has a long pole with a flame at the top. We were on a sloping part of the road and I would sit at the window and watch the brewers dray horse slip as they tried to climb the cobbled hill. The rent collector , McDominic , was a huge fat man who came to pick up the 37 shillings and sixpence rent weekly . When something needed fixing in the flat , the landlord sent and incredible old handyman who we called Noddle . Everyone had a nickname in Yiddish , some very cruel e.g. the baker was called Die Grulla – the Gorilla as he was very swarthy and our waistcoat maker Rosenberg was called “ the Madonna “ I wonder why.

A vital part of our lives was the radio – which had earphones which were placed in a tin bowl as a resonator so we could all hear. The radio had valves ,always failing, and a huge battery and an acid accumulator which was rechargeable. Our neighbours were the Klein’s on our left and the Mark’s on our right. Siddie Klein was my age , and the Mark’s family had a son Barney who had a cycle and was reputed to be a Moseley Blackshirt. The Mark’s emigrated to South Africa.

The reality of subsistence living

It is painful to describe the reality of living without any economic societal safety net ,the reality of being left totally to rely on ones own resources which in fact meant finding work. Regular employment for a living wage was not available for my father with a wife and six children to house and feed . The bespoke “made to measure “ tailoring trade used very few permanently employed personnel , out workers were cheap and plentiful among emigrants. I remember once tramping the streets with my father looking for work in winter when the shop had no orders.

Suffice it to say visits to “uncles” the Pawnshop where a frequent trip father said that my mother had some nice jewellery at one time but in my time she had nothing. Nor did she ever once complain of her lot – she was a stoic. She idolised her father and admired his frugal life style, adopted for religious reasons – stopping little short of self flagellation , sleeping on boards etc. He was charitable ,reputedly by giving my mothers trousseau to a poor bride. I think my feeling of guilt which accompany each e-bay bid is genetic .

Beginning to feel like Orwell quote Down and Out in Paris and London

At present I do not feel that I have seen more than the fringe of poverty. Still, I can point to one or two things I have definitely learned by being hard up. I shall never again think that all tramps are drunken scoundrels, nor expect a beggar to be grateful when I give him a penny, nor be surprised if men out of work lack energy, nor subscribe to the Salvation Army, nor pawn my clothes, nor refuse a handbill, nor enjoy a meal at a smart restaurant. That is a beginning.

 

My Early Education

I attended the Bayswater Jewish School in Lancaster Rd, Notting Hill W11 from the age of 5 in 1931 until the outbreak of WW2 in September 1939.

The children were mainly from the poor working class Jewish immigrant families from the immediate neighbourhood with a few whose parents were small shopkeepers.

Our sole claim to fame I believe is that Vidal Sassoon was an alumnus.

The school had a system of education which by today’s standards may seem strange

A child progressed through the school according to his ability , i.e. at the end of a year if you were of average ability you went up a form , if you were below average ability you stayed put.

This regime produced anomalies , in a class of 8 year olds you could find an unfortunate 11 year old and vice versa in a class of 11 year olds you could find a duller 8 old . I remember clearly an exceptionally clever child ( his name supplied on request ) who sat among children 5 years his senior.. In this wholly Jewish environment there was one non- Jewish student child ( again, his name supplied on request ) He was a very quiet boy and I believe his mother felt he would be bullied in the non-denominational neighbourhood school .

Our headmaster was Mr Content ( on the right in the picture ) and in the last few years when the school became known as the Solomon Woolfson Jewish School this position fell to Mr Mendoza.( a descendant of the famous prize fighter Daniel Mendoza ) .

When I became interested in genealogy I was surprised to note that both Content and Mendoza are Dutch family names . Among the pupils was the little son of Mr Mendoza and I recall on one

 

My biography

This snapshot, taken on 01/06/2011 , shows web content acquired for preservation by The National Archives. External links, forms and search may not work in archived websites and contact details are likely to be out of date. More about the UK Government Web Archive See all dates available for this archived website The UK Government Web Archive does not use cookies but some may be left in your browser from archived websites. More about cookies Stories skip navigation home | about this site | stories | the gallery | schools | migration histories | tracing your roots | search story icon Hard Times in Notting Hill Contributed by: Aubrey Jacobus 1914 – 1939 Aubrey’s form in the Solomon Woolfson Jewish School , Lancaster Rd W11 in 1938. Aubrey’s form in the Solomon Woolfson Jewish School , Lancaster Rd W11 in 1938. I was driven to write this essay by the piece in Shemot the magazine of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain entitled ” The High Life in Notting Hill ” since we lived no more than 5 minutes away from the ‘high life’ in Elgin Crescent but our life was very different . My father was a Ladies tailor , a journeyman who worked for a “governor ” , that is when there was work. He arrived in London before WW1 and married my mother his first cousin once removed in 1914. My mother was the baby of her family and the only one to be born in this country. Her mother died when she was only eight and although she had two step-mothers before she married at 20 she was to essentially raised in Brick Lane Whitechapel by her elder sister. My newly wed father and mother found a flat in Notting Hill with the help of a family friend. The family as it expanded to include 6 children , 4 girls and 2 boys eventually occupied the upper first and second floor of two of a Victorian three storey terraced house in Cornwall Road W.11 . I was always amused that we were living in a Royal Borough since there was nothing Royal about our immediate environment. The ground floor was occupied by an elderly couple named Solomon’s and the rather dank basement by the Irish family Moriaty. The house with its peeling stucco and imposing if dilapidated porch was only two minutes from the Portobello Road about which much later. We had no electricity until the middle 1930’s and I can remember clearly the pungent smell made by new gas mantles which was our only source of lighting. A communal bathroom was eventually improvised by our landlord on the first floor landing until then the young children were bathed in a galvanised portable bathtub. Our immediate neighbours were Jewish but we were a minority in road. quote… I was always amused that we were living in a Royal Borough since there was nothing Royal about our immediate environment …unquote The famous Portobello Road being minutes away from our front door figured large in our lives. Mainly before WW1 and fruit and vegetable market , there was even then a section at the Notting Hill Gate end an “antiques” market – from which came our toys are some sticks of furniture. There was a large Public House ( The Warwick Castle ) on the corner of Cornwall Road W.11 and Portobello Rd quite visible from our house, on Saturday nights among the vast heaps of rubbish left by the costermongers fights would break out among the drunken clientele and “Black Maria’s ” ( police wagons ) shuttle to and fro. Portobello Road had a Marks and Spencers and a Woolworths with its wood strip flooring sprinkled with some mysterious glittering non-slip powder and unmistakeable odour as well as a Freeman Hardy and Willis shoe store and a Lipton’s grocery shop which catered for our needs when we could afford to patronise them. Our day to day food purchases were made in the small Jewish shops of All Saint’s Road where one found Mr Spiro’s grocery, Johnny Myer’s Kosher Butcher here purchases on credit were accepted, Evan’s dairy was also there where one bought milk ladled out of a giant vat into your personal galvanised can and butter chopped from a huge mound into a wood mould with some bucolic scene carved into the base to form a decoration on the product. We never had a holiday, I never saw the sea until I was 13 and evacuated to Cornwall in 1940. Luckily my father was never ill, which would have been a catastrophe and a visit to the doctor or dentist was an expensive luxury. Life was hard but not entirely without some relief. My parents would in summer take us younger children on the train to Perivale which was not yet urbanised we would enjoy a joyful picnic of real homemade salt beef sandwiches. I remember we watched the Art Deco masterpiece of the Hoover Building on the Great west Road at Perivale being built , an experience witch may have prompted my later career as a Chartered Surveyor . Our synagogue belonged to the Federation and was sited in Convent Garden, it was even when I was Bar mitzvah there in July 1939 a very dilapidated structure with bare floorboards and insanitary toilet arrangements. The New West End Synagogue a magnificent redbrick monument to Victorian affluence was only a few minutes walk away but few of us would have had the temerity to enter its august portals. Myself , my younger sister and brother all attended the Bayswater Jewish School in Lancaster Road about half a mile from our home. Before its construction my elder sisters all attended the LCC Lancaster Road Elementary school which was sited next door. When we were very small my mother or an elder sister would take us and meet us from school but later we made out own way ( we even came home for lunch ). These were the days before WW 2 when the Blackshirts under Oswald Moseley were stirring anti-Semitism and I remember only to well the graffiti “PJ” (Perish Judah) daubed on walls and the stones thrown at us by ruffians. Nevertheless I had non-Jewish friends and relations with our neighbours were cordial. Unfortunately work for journeymen tailors was subject to periods of “slackness” when the flow of work from the “governor” would dry up. For many years my father was an outworker for Mr.Smith a high class tailor’s shop in Holland Street off Church Street Kensington – he was always referred to as Smithka by my father and my mother as well as doing housework was a “felling hand” for my father. My father rarely left the house ,except perhaps to indulge in a sixpence each way bet on the horses with the illegal street bookmaker stationed in the Mews behind our house. We played around his feet in his workshop room, a situation not without its hazards : in 1936 my father was making a cloak for one of Smithka’s noble customers for some state occasion , the garment was in crimson velvet or it was until I spilled some blue ink on it – my mother rose to the crisis and by some miraculous process (involving milk I seem to remember) removed all traces of the stain. When my father finished a stage in the making of garment ( there were 2 stages , first fitting and second fitting” ) the work had to be returned to Smithka and new work picked up. My mother, often accompanied by myself would walk to ” the shop” through Notting hill Gate and past the antique shops in Church St Kensington , we never as long as I can remember ,were afforded the luxury of a bus ride. At times of slackness keeping the family fed and the rent paid was a terrible problem which we as children we only too acutely aware of. My parents had no reserves to tide us over the periods of work famine and my father would then often rely of making clothes for my more affluent cousins who (because my mother was the baby of her family ) were of my parents generation. Failing supply of work from within the family , my parents would be forced to resort to subsistence tactics, namely “uncles” – the pawnshop and obtaining food “on the slate” – credit from the grocer and kosher butcher. Although my father was not observant – he was forced to work on Shabbat to support us – my mother’s father however was a Jew in the Chassidic mould and my knowledge of Halekkha comes entirely from her. The desperate workless situation was impossible to hide from the young children and the spectre of poverty has never left me. My eldest sister won a scholarship to the Godolphin Latymer school and was allowed thereafter , at great sacrifice by my parents, to go to teacher’s training college in Hull , a privilege her younger siblings resented. Later in 1939 I won a scholarship to St Marylebone Grammar School but with the outbreak of World War 2 , and one sister working and helping to support the family the family’ s economic position improved and we were able to leave Cornwall Rd ( by then it had become Westbourne Park Road ) for the Elysian fields in the vicinity of Wormwood Scrubs W10. http://www.zen28027.zen.co.uk/ * * * * * back to all stories * use this in your story * back to all stories Back to all Stories Contribute Your Story to Moving Here your story * * * * * contact us | help | site map copyright | privacy top

HARD TIMES IN NOTTING HILL

story icon Hard Times in Notting Hill

Contributed by: Aubrey Jacobus
1914 – 1939
Aubrey's form in the Solomon Woolfson Jewish School , Lancaster Rd W11 in 1938.
Aubrey’s form in the Solomon Woolfson Jewish School , Lancaster Rd W11 in 1938.

I was driven to write this essay by the piece in Shemot the magazine of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain entitled ” The High Life in Notting Hill ” since we lived no more than 5 minutes away from the ‘high life’ in Elgin Crescent but our life was very different .

My father was a Ladies tailor , a journeyman who worked for a “governor ” , that is when there was work. He arrived in London before WW1 and married my mother his first cousin once removed in 1914. My mother was the baby of her family and the only one to be born in this country. Her mother died when she was only eight and although she had two step-mothers before she married at 20 she was to essentially raised in Brick Lane Whitechapel by her elder sister. My newly wed father and mother found a flat in Notting Hill with the help of a family friend. The family as it expanded to include 6 children , 4 girls and 2 boys eventually occupied the upper first and second floor of two of a Victorian three storey terraced house in Cornwall Road W.11 . I was always amused that we were living in a Royal Borough since there was nothing Royal about our immediate environment.

The ground floor was occupied by an elderly couple named Solomon’s and the rather dank basement by the Irish family Moriaty. The house with its peeling stucco and imposing if dilapidated porch was only two minutes from the Portobello Road about which much later. We had no electricity until the middle 1930’s and I can remember clearly the pungent smell made by new gas mantles which was our only source of lighting. A communal bathroom was eventually improvised by our landlord on the first floor landing until then the young children were bathed in a galvanised portable bathtub. Our immediate neighbours were Jewish but we were a minority in road.

quote… I was always amused that we were living in a Royal Borough since there was nothing Royal about our immediate environment …unquote

The famous Portobello Road being minutes away from our front door figured large in our lives. Mainly before WW1 and fruit and vegetable market , there was even then a section at the Notting Hill Gate end an “antiques” market – from which came our toys are some sticks of furniture. There was a large Public House ( The Warwick Castle ) on the corner of Cornwall Road W.11 and Portobello Rd quite visible from our house, on Saturday nights among the vast heaps of rubbish left by the costermongers fights would break out among the drunken clientele and “Black Maria’s ” ( police wagons ) shuttle to and fro. Portobello Road had a Marks and Spencers and a Woolworths with its wood strip flooring sprinkled with some mysterious glittering non-slip powder and unmistakeable odour as well as a Freeman Hardy and Willis shoe store and a Lipton’s grocery shop which catered for our needs when we could afford to patronise them. Our day to day food purchases were made in the small Jewish shops of All Saint’s Road where one found Mr Spiro’s grocery, Johnny Myer’s Kosher Butcher here purchases on credit were accepted, Evan’s dairy was also there where one bought milk ladled out of a giant vat into your personal galvanised can and butter chopped from a huge mound into a wood mould with some bucolic scene carved into the base to form a decoration on the product. We never had a holiday, I never saw the sea until I was 13 and evacuated to Cornwall in 1940. Luckily my father was never ill, which would have been a catastrophe and a visit to the doctor or dentist was an expensive luxury. Life was hard but not entirely without some relief. My parents would in summer take us younger children on the train to Perivale which was not yet urbanised we would enjoy a joyful picnic of real homemade salt beef sandwiches. I remember we watched the Art Deco masterpiece of the Hoover Building on the Great west Road at Perivale being built , an experience witch may have prompted my later career as a Chartered Surveyor .

Our synagogue belonged to the Federation and was sited in Convent Garden, it was even when I was Bar mitzvah there in July 1939 a very dilapidated structure with bare floorboards and insanitary toilet arrangements. The New West End Synagogue a magnificent redbrick monument to Victorian affluence was only a few minutes walk away but few of us would have had the temerity to enter its august portals.

Myself , my younger sister and brother all attended the Bayswater Jewish School in Lancaster Road about half a mile from our home. Before its construction my elder sisters all attended the LCC Lancaster Road Elementary school which was sited next door. When we were very small my mother or an elder sister would take us and meet us from school but later we made out own way ( we even came home for lunch ). These were the days before WW 2 when the Blackshirts under Oswald Moseley were stirring anti-Semitism and I remember only to well the graffiti “PJ” (Perish Judah) daubed on walls and the stones thrown at us by ruffians. Nevertheless I had non-Jewish friends and relations with our neighbours were cordial. Unfortunately work for journeymen tailors was subject to periods of “slackness” when the flow of work from the “governor” would dry up. For many years my father was an outworker for Mr.Smith a high class tailor’s shop in Holland Street off Church Street Kensington – he was always referred to as Smithka by my father and my mother as well as doing housework was a “felling hand” for my father. My father rarely left the house ,except perhaps to indulge in a sixpence each way bet on the horses with the illegal street bookmaker stationed in the Mews behind our house. We played around his feet in his workshop room, a situation not without its hazards : in 1936 my father was making a cloak for one of Smithka’s noble customers for some state occasion , the garment was in crimson velvet or it was until I spilled some blue ink on it – my mother rose to the crisis and by some miraculous process (involving milk I seem to remember) removed all traces of the stain.

When my father finished a stage in the making of garment ( there were 2 stages , first fitting and second fitting” ) the work had to be returned to Smithka and new work picked up. My mother, often accompanied by myself would walk to ” the shop” through Notting hill Gate and past the antique shops in Church St Kensington , we never as long as I can remember ,were afforded the luxury of a bus ride. At times of slackness keeping the family fed and the rent paid was a terrible problem which we as children we only too acutely aware of. My parents had no reserves to tide us over the periods of work famine and my father would then often rely of making clothes for my more affluent cousins who (because my mother was the baby of her family ) were of my parents generation.

Failing supply of work from within the family , my parents would be forced to resort to subsistence tactics, namely “uncles” – the pawnshop and obtaining food “on the slate” – credit from the grocer and kosher butcher. Although my father was not observant – he was forced to work on Shabbat to support us – my mother’s father however was a Jew in the Chassidic mould and my knowledge of Halekkha comes entirely from her.

The desperate workless situation was impossible to hide from the young children and the spectre of poverty has never left me. My eldest sister won a scholarship to the Godolphin Latymer school and was allowed thereafter , at great sacrifice by my parents, to go to teacher’s training college in Hull , a privilege her younger siblings resented. Later in 1939 I won a scholarship to St Marylebone Grammar School but with the outbreak of World War 2 , and one sister working and helping to support the family the family’ s economic position improved and we were able to leave Cornwall Rd ( by then it had become Westbourne Park Road ) for the Elysian fields in the vicinity of Wormwood Scrubs W10.

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This snapshot, taken on 01/06/2011 , shows web content acquired for preservation by The National Archives. External links, forms and search may not work in archived websites and contact details are likely to be out of date. More about the UK Government Web Archive See all dates available for this archived website The UK Government Web Archive does not use cookies but some may be left in your browser from archived websites. More about cookies Stories skip navigation home | about this site | stories | the gallery | schools | migration histories | tracing your roots | search story icon Hard Times in Notting Hill Contributed by: Aubrey Jacobus 1914 – 1939 Aubrey’s form in the Solomon Woolfson Jewish School , Lancaster Rd W11 in 1938. Aubrey’s form in the Solomon Woolfson Jewish School , Lancaster Rd W11 in 1938. I was driven to write this essay by the piece in Shemot the magazine of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain entitled ” The High Life in Notting Hill ” since we lived no more than 5 minutes away from the ‘high life’ in Elgin Crescent but our life was very different . My father was a Ladies tailor , a journeyman who worked for a “governor ” , that is when there was work. He arrived in London before WW1 and married my mother his first cousin once removed in 1914. My mother was the baby of her family and the only one to be born in this country. Her mother died when she was only eight and although she had two step-mothers before she married at 20 she was to essentially raised in Brick Lane Whitechapel by her elder sister. My newly wed father and mother found a flat in Notting Hill with the help of a family friend. The family as it expanded to include 6 children , 4 girls and 2 boys eventually occupied the upper first and second floor of two of a Victorian three storey terraced house in Cornwall Road W.11 . I was always amused that we were living in a Royal Borough since there was nothing Royal about our immediate environment. The ground floor was occupied by an elderly couple named Solomon’s and the rather dank basement by the Irish family Moriaty. The house with its peeling stucco and imposing if dilapidated porch was only two minutes from the Portobello Road about which much later. We had no electricity until the middle 1930’s and I can remember clearly the pungent smell made by new gas mantles which was our only source of lighting. A communal bathroom was eventually improvised by our landlord on the first floor landing until then the young children were bathed in a galvanised portable bathtub. Our immediate neighbours were Jewish but we were a minority in road. quote… I was always amused that we were living in a Royal Borough since there was nothing Royal about our immediate environment …unquote The famous Portobello Road being minutes away from our front door figured large in our lives. Mainly before WW1 and fruit and vegetable market , there was even then a section at the Notting Hill Gate end an “antiques” market – from which came our toys are some sticks of furniture. There was a large Public House ( The Warwick Castle ) on the corner of Cornwall Road W.11 and Portobello Rd quite visible from our house, on Saturday nights among the vast heaps of rubbish left by the costermongers fights would break out among the drunken clientele and “Black Maria’s ” ( police wagons ) shuttle to and fro. Portobello Road had a Marks and Spencers and a Woolworths with its wood strip flooring sprinkled with some mysterious glittering non-slip powder and unmistakeable odour as well as a Freeman Hardy and Willis shoe store and a Lipton’s grocery shop which catered for our needs when we could afford to patronise them. Our day to day food purchases were made in the small Jewish shops of All Saint’s Road where one found Mr Spiro’s grocery, Johnny Myer’s Kosher Butcher here purchases on credit were accepted, Evan’s dairy was also there where one bought milk ladled out of a giant vat into your personal galvanised can and butter chopped from a huge mound into a wood mould with some bucolic scene carved into the base to form a decoration on the product. We never had a holiday, I never saw the sea until I was 13 and evacuated to Cornwall in 1940. Luckily my father was never ill, which would have been a catastrophe and a visit to the doctor or dentist was an expensive luxury. Life was hard but not entirely without some relief. My parents would in summer take us younger children on the train to Perivale which was not yet urbanised we would enjoy a joyful picnic of real homemade salt beef sandwiches. I remember we watched the Art Deco masterpiece of the Hoover Building on the Great west Road at Perivale being built , an experience witch may have prompted my later career as a Chartered Surveyor . Our synagogue belonged to the Federation and was sited in Convent Garden, it was even when I was Bar mitzvah there in July 1939 a very dilapidated structure with bare floorboards and insanitary toilet arrangements. The New West End Synagogue a magnificent redbrick monument to Victorian affluence was only a few minutes walk away but few of us would have had the temerity to enter its august portals. Myself , my younger sister and brother all attended the Bayswater Jewish School in Lancaster Road about half a mile from our home. Before its construction my elder sisters all attended the LCC Lancaster Road Elementary school which was sited next door. When we were very small my mother or an elder sister would take us and meet us from school but later we made out own way ( we even came home for lunch ). These were the days before WW 2 when the Blackshirts under Oswald Moseley were stirring anti-Semitism and I remember only to well the graffiti “PJ” (Perish Judah) daubed on walls and the stones thrown at us by ruffians. Nevertheless I had non-Jewish friends and relations with our neighbours were cordial. Unfortunately work for journeymen tailors was subject to periods of “slackness” when the flow of work from the “governor” would dry up. For many years my father was an outworker for Mr.Smith a high class tailor’s shop in Holland Street off Church Street Kensington – he was always referred to as Smithka by my father and my mother as well as doing housework was a “felling hand” for my father. My father rarely left the house ,except perhaps to indulge in a sixpence each way bet on the horses with the illegal street bookmaker stationed in the Mews behind our house. We played around his feet in his workshop room, a situation not without its hazards : in 1936 my father was making a cloak for one of Smithka’s noble customers for some state occasion , the garment was in crimson velvet or it was until I spilled some blue ink on it – my mother rose to the crisis and by some miraculous process (involving milk I seem to remember) removed all traces of the stain. When my father finished a stage in the making of garment ( there were 2 stages , first fitting and second fitting” ) the work had to be returned to Smithka and new work picked up. My mother, often accompanied by myself would walk to ” the shop” through Notting hill Gate and past the antique shops in Church St Kensington , we never as long as I can remember ,were afforded the luxury of a bus ride. At times of slackness keeping the family fed and the rent paid was a terrible problem which we as children we only too acutely aware of. My parents had no reserves to tide us over the periods of work famine and my father would then often rely of making clothes for my more affluent cousins who (because my mother was the baby of her family ) were of my parents generation. Failing supply of work from within the family , my parents would be forced to resort to subsistence tactics, namely “uncles” – the pawnshop and obtaining food “on the slate” – credit from the grocer and kosher butcher. Although my father was not observant – he was forced to work on Shabbat to support us – my mother’s father however was a Jew in the Chassidic mould and my knowledge of Halekkha comes entirely from her. The desperate workless situation was impossible to hide from the young children and the spectre of poverty has never left me. My eldest sister won a scholarship to the Godolphin Latymer school and was allowed thereafter , at great sacrifice by my parents, to go to teacher’s training college in Hull , a privilege her younger siblings resented. Later in 1939 I won a scholarship to St Marylebone Grammar School but with the outbreak of World War 2 , and one sister working and helping to support the family the family’ s economic position improved and we were able to leave Cornwall Rd ( by then it had become Westbourne Park Road ) for the Elysian fields in the vicinity of Wormwood Scrubs W10. http://www.zen28027.zen.co.uk/ * * * * * back to all stories * use this in your story * back to all stories Back to all Stories Contribute Your Story to Moving Here your story * * * * * contact us | help | site map copyright | privacy top

Sandy’s Row Founders

The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History Pg 860 under Sandys Row gives you a true picture of how Sandy’s Row became to be established.

Extract from Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History  ….
Sandys Row founded by 50 Dutch Jewish Working men from” Society of Loving kindnessTruth and comfort of mourners ” in teeth of opposition
from the chief Rabbi who refused to attend the consecration.
Society of Loving kindness papers are in the London Met Archives I

Sandy’s Row Founders

LODZERS IN LONDON

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Lodzers in London

by
Aubrey Jacobus

Contents

Related Links:

The London Metropolitan Archives holds source material on the Federation Synagogues, among which are the collection books of the Lodz Synagogue, ca. 1898, with members’ names and addresses. It also holds the Federation Burial Society file on the Lodz Synagogue, consisting of correspondence in Yiddish script between the Lodzers and the Society and carbon copies of a huge number of warning notices about arrears to Lodzer members threatening expulsion (indicating that poverty as a paupers funeral was a great disgrace and constant fear). The notices were sent by registered mail and the tickets are still attached. It is clear the Lodz Synagogue was well established for about 30 years, until the 1930s at least¹. The members’ ledger list gave only surnames (and initials if there were more than one family of that name), but the addresses will be useful when the 1911 census comes available in 2011.

I might explain that there were/are two major Synagogue organisations in London: the Federation and the United Synagogue. Each has a burial society and the Synagogue levied the contributions and passed them on. There were also independent synagogues. I found this interesting letter:

To Federation Secretary from L. Berg, Hon Sec Lodz Synagogue
28 Sept 1913Dear Sir ,
I am surprised at you for asking for a long time one of the Reverends to come to the Lodz Synagogue to give us a preaching . The last time you asked for the Very Reverend Maccoby to preach in our synagogue you altered your mind and he did not come. Today I saw an advertisement for Sandys Row Synagogue² that the Very Reverend Haikin will preach there of the first day Rosh Hashonna at 4.30 pm . That Synagogue has nothing at all to do with the Federation therefore I ask that you desire one of the Very Reverend to attend and preach on the first day Rosh Hashonna. I hope you will consider the matter immediately and do as I ask you .

Yours faithfully
L Berg Hon Sec Lodz Syn  – 14 New Goulston St.

¹ In 1931, S. EISNER was listed as President of Lodz Synagogue, Delegate to the Federation and Delegate to the Burial Society
² Sandys Row was the Dutch Synagogue, which broke away from the Federation: the indignation in the letter reflects the mutual dislike that existed between the Dutch and Polish. See my web page for more on the subject.

21 September 1999
Aubrey Jacobus
E-mail: Aubrey@Jacobyte.com
Web page: http://www.mjacobus.freeserve.co.uk

Notice in the London Jewish Chronicle, 1919

The Lodzer Benefit Society
6 Houndsditch E.Donations from:

  • Mr. M. SPIRO, at wedding of Miss M. PULMUTTER and H. KATZ, 27 Tredegar Rd. E1
  • Mr. A. TARLO (Pres.), at wedding of  Miss M. COHEN and  J.  LEVY, 6 Cutler St.

Secrty A. E. DIAMOND

Registers of the Lodz Synagogue London, 1897-1909

Note: The following information was found in a ledger in the Federation Synagogues archive giving the Lodz Synagogue membership dues, 1909.  Inaccuracies may be present due to longhand transcription.

ABRAHAMS
ABRAHAMS
ABRAHAMS
APPELBERG
APPELBERG
ARKIN, M.
ASHER
ASHER
BARALEVSKI
BARNETT
BERNSTEIN
BIRKLAND
BOLSTEIN, W.
BONSTEIN
BORENSTEIN
BORENSTEIN, W.
BOXER, E.
BOYER, E.
COHEN
COHEN, A.
EIDLEMAN
FEDERMAN
FINKEL
FLATAW, J.
FRISH
GILLAN
GOLAWITZ
GOLDBERG, J.
GOLDBIN
GOLDENSTEIN
GOLDING
GOLDING
GOLISZKI
GOLLUB
GREENBERG
GREENBLATT
GUM
HAAR, L.
HARRIS, R.
HASER, L.
HATAW
HENBERG
HIMAN
HYMAN
JABLOSKI
KAPPELOV
KINGSTONE
KONSKIER
KONSKIER
KOOPERSTADT
KORNFIDRAG
KOSKI
KRIES, A.
LARMENS
LEVY, M.
LITTMAN, F.
LUCKER
LUCKER
MARDIZ
MILLER
MOSES
MOSKAVITZ
MOSKAVITZ
NIRNBERG
NUREK
OSTWINT
PASSES, G.
POLLOCK
PRICE, S.
PUSK
RICHMAN
RISMAN
ROSENSTEIN
ROSENTHAL
ROSENTHAL
RUDOLF
SAUNDERS
SCHILDER
SCHIRENS, A.
SENKI
SHIFENBLATT
SHIFENBLATT
SHIFFENBLATT
SHUSTER
SHUSTER
SILVERBLATT
SILVERBLATT
SILVERMAN
SILVERMAN
SILVERMAN, B.
SILVERPRIVER
SOLOMANS
SORENSKI
SPECTERMAN
SPERBLOW
SPIRO, S.
SPIVAKOFF
STEIN
STEINHOLZ
STONE
STONE, M.
STOOEN
STRAUSS
TENERMAN
VANGARTEN
WINTERTON
WEBER
WOLSKI
ZAN
ZERKOFF

21 September 1999
Aubrey Jacobus
E-mail: Aubrey@Jacobyte.com
Web page: http://www.mjacobus.freeserve.co.uk

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LODZERS IN LONDON

VISIT TO POLAND

VISIT TO POLAND

Group Leader : Mr. Stephen Smith
Tour Guide : Arek Hersh

Under the auspices of Beth Shalom Holocaust Memorial
and Education Centre

Group Itinerary : Krakow : Auschwitz- Birkenau :Lodz :Warsaw
Personal Visit : Skierniewice

Aubrey A Jacobus .
May 1998

My visit to the Land of my Fathers
I have returned from Poland just a few hours ago and I feel the need to get something on paper in order to sort out my feelings. I feel something has changed but I can’t photograph it as I have the places I have now seen, which hitherto had existed only in the words of my father or in the welter of images I received from books and TV documentaries .
My vision of Poland ( die Heim -) was conveyed to me throughout my childhood with an ambivalent and paradoxical message – on the one hand the pastoral idyll: the little town with the river he loved to swim in – ( he always scoffed at the laboured strokes of other swimmers and boasted that when he swam the surface was undisturbed ) – a town so beautiful the Czar had a summer Palace there and endless bucolic tales of picking fruit in the orchards and tending the horse of his brother Moshe who drove a droska and was so strong he could lift it up with one hand by the axle : on the other hand I was regaled with images of deprivation , forced service into the Russian army, Polish hatred ,pogroms and arctic winters.
I knew of course from Yad Vashem and other sources that the 6,500 Jews of Skierniewice once a centre of Chassidic excellence had suffered the same fate as the Jewish inhabitants of all the other Shtetls of Poland and Russia under the heel of Hitler’s executioners . I was well informed on Ghettoisation and the extermination system so I thought I was mentally well prepared. I was not.
We first flew from London to Krakow . We were a group of mixed ages – At 71 I probably was the oldest .We had one non-Jewish girl writing a doctrinal thesis on the Shoah the remainder were Jewish apart from the group organiser Stephen Smith from Beth Shalom a non-Jewish foundation dedicated to disseminating information on the Shoah.

Krakow

We spent a few hours in Krakow which still has a tiny Jewish presence but many Jewish tourists – Krakow has a “re-constructed ” Jewish cemetery which includes the modest classical matzevah of the Great Rabbi Moses Isserles called Rema ( died 1572 ) a great Talmudic scholar . The Hebrew inscription reads ….. From Moses Maimonides to Moses Isserles there has not been such a Moses. Chassidim from all over the world come to pray at his grave and the remains of their candles and paper scraps containing their petitions are piled high beneath the revered stone. A mosaic wall has been made of the fragments of broken stones found after liberation and several synagogues are being restored. In the square outside the cemetery a mobile wooden kiosk offers Jewish religious souvenirs , paintings ,and even tee-shirts to Jewish tourists and there are several Jewish �type� cafes and restaurants and one modern Kosher restaurant .
. We saw Schindler�s factory ( we later in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw were able to see one of Schindlers actual lists and carbon copies of business letters under his letterhead signed with a �Heil Hitler � ). The factory a typical rather grey run-down 1930 – ish construction was in use as an electronic works no-one would ever think anything remarkable took place here . No plaque marked its significance .The old Jewish quarter in Krakow has many buildings of great historic Jewish interest including a great 16th C synagogue designed by an Italian Architect and even a 19th c Reform synagogue both under restoration . The beautiful 17th C synagogue built by the wealthy Izaak Jakubowicz in memory of his wife has a moralistic Rabbinical legend attached to it of how Izaak a poor man had a dream about a pot of gold hidden under a bridge in Prague and how he went there and found nothing but was told by an old man to return home and look under his kitchen floor where he found treasure. We were told of the long Jewish history , of the autonomous privileges granted to Jews by King Cashimir in ancient times and of the heroic Polish Pharmacist who stayed in the ghetto with the Jews during the occupation by the Germans although he could have left .We ate in a �Jewish type� restaurant in Krakow the attraction of which was that we were treated there to a performance by a trio of excellent musicians ( bass, fiddle and accordion ) who played a new type of Klezemer music adapted by themselves of extraordinary pathos and beauty.
Auschwitz – Birkenau
We were next day taken to Auschwitz -Birkenau by Arek who as an adolescent had arrived here in a cattle wagon deported from his home town of Sieradz.Arek related to us his terrifying story of how as a teenager he survived alone by a combination of providence , luck and an astonishing ability to make life or death decisions in seconds.Birkenhau Camp is quite separate from the well known and well visited Auschwitz which was a few kilometres away.
Birkenhau was purpose built for destroying human beings ,there the crematoria worked day and night to dispose of the victims of the gas chambers , it was at Birkenhau that most of �the selection � by Mengele took place and slave labour gangs marched each day to work in the factories of German industry .
Auschwitz ,partly built by slave labour, was a pre-war Polish barracks and the Germans originally housed there Poles whom they considered a danger to them – Communists especially but few Jews , who were being shot or starved to death in ghettos .
Auschwitz had the terrible �Block 11� where people were subjected to terrible punishments and shot against the �Black Wall� It later became a symbol of Polish martyrdom and the museum and the usual tourist facilities are established there. Birkenhau has none of these .
The Soviets did not distinguish between Jews and Poles so Jewish martyrdom was not to be particularised.. The vast extermination camp at Birkenau fell into disrepair from neglect after the Germans had in panic demolished the gas-chambers in order to hide their crimes. Efforts are being made to restore it and we saw German apprentices from the Volkswagen works who had volunteered to work in Birkenhau on repair and restoration.
The mechanics of extermination of Jews and Gypsies at Birkenau is widely known from the numerous documentaries on the Shoah. Trains arriving from all parts of Europe , the immediate life-death selection and the horror of all that followed – we were entered the tiered wooden shacks where human beings spent the arctic Polish winter nights , we saw the primitive un-drained latrines. Only a fraction of the original wooden barrack huts still stood – the gas chambers were a pile of rubble and we saw and prayed at the pond where the victims ashes, not used as fertiliser, were dumped.
The whole bleak area ,enclosed by the electrified fences and watch towers, even in summer has an air of indescribable desolation which has to be experienced before one can even begin to feel its menace. A friend described it as being like the skeleton of a gigantic dead spider , still crouching and ready to spring.

It was apparent to me as a Surveyor that Architects and Engineers in comfortable offices somewhere removed from this hell had been given a detailed brief to design with the utmost economy a complex whose sole purpose was the degradation and destruction of fellow human beings en masse . Indeed on display at Auschwitz was one Engineer�s working drawing of a gas chamber , which carried in the bottom left hand corner of the drawing ( in the normal professional manner ) the details of the draughting firm . Hundreds of such drawings would have been required .
The methods of construction everywhere showed ingenuity and even originality so as to involve absolute minimal cost and very little precious steel . This is in clear contradiction of the normal traditions of West European Architects and Engineers who were well known for heavy overdesign. The materials used were second-hand and looted. There was one glaring exception to this policy of frugality – the gas chambers and their ante-rooms to them were all totally underground and it is much more costly to construct below ground than above. The reason can only be that the perpetrators considered it overidingly necessary to conceal from the waiting victims the fact , obvious if the buildings were above ground , that while many entered the building no-one emerged.
After Birkenau we were taken to Auchwitz . The buildings here appeared not unlike the austere Victorian barracks and prisons still to be seen in the UK – but the ambiance of the place was fearful – if Birkenhau was a machine for extermination – here was a machine for prolonged torture and the breaking with extreme cruelty of the spirit of resistance and moreover it showed no signs damage.
We saw the gallows ( the cross-piece was a railway line ) where prisoners were forced to watch exemplary executions .We saw the exhibition of mountains of human hair, suitcases, cooking utensils , spectacles, shoes , tallassim and perhaps the most horrific of all the artificial limbs of the innocent men women and little children who were sucked into this blackhole of evil never to emerge . For me the cumulative emotional trauma was here overwhelming and I was fortunate to find some relief in unashamed tears. Before we left we saw the gallows upon which Hoess, the Commandant of Auschwitz, was hanged at the scene of his unspeakable crimes. The gallows were erected by the Poles at the entrance to the gas chamber , this for me (paradoxically a passionate opponent of capital punishment ) was a small reaffirmation that Justice still exists in the world , a fact which is so easily forgotten after seeing the sickening evidence of the grossest example of controlled and calculated evil the world has ever seen.
We then in silence took the long journey to Lodz by road stopping briefly en route to allow a member of our group to see his ancestral town .

I saw nothing of Lodz as I left my group in Lodz and traveled together with Edward Wlodarczy my benevolent Polish friend who lived in Skierniewice the hour long train ride to the town . The magnificent two storied late 19th C Architecturally bizarre railway station which I knew from a print was in an advanced state of dilapidation – (� four years to build 30 years to repair �) and the town was a sprawling shabby mess . Edward Wlodarczyklived at least two miles out of town so we took a taxi to his modest tiny house which was his father�s before him where I was treated with great hospitality by his wife although it was quite apparent that they were suffering cruelly in the economic quagmire of post Communist Poland .The Czar�s summer Palace now used as the offices of a Governmental Agricultural quango was there set in a quiet garden exactly as my father described. We walked around the sumptuous rooms , I may well have been the first Jew to do so.
Edward Wlodarczyk took me in his �car� a 25 year-old derelict Trabant of which he was clearly ashamed straight to one of Skierniewice�s two Jewish cemeteries. There was almost nothing to be seen . The stones had been thrown into the river ( the same river my father delighted to swim in ) and the Local council had reconstructed the tiny plain stuccoed Ohel that once covered the remains of Skierniewice renowned rabbi ,of the rest nothing but a few broken remains of metzavot retrieved and stuck in the ground and a modest recently erected granite memorial headstone as a token marker of the final resting place of generations of my ancestors . The good intention shown by the new memorial was somewhat negated by the fact it was surrounded by cabbages by whoever now occupied the cemetery keepers house.
The second larger cemetery was equally bereft of it�s metsavot and the local council were in the process now after a belated half century�s delay of constructing a small memorial garden with a handful of recovered stones set in concrete nearby. As we approached the workman casually raking the ground for the memorial, an old peasant woman with a yapping Dachshund puppy emerged from the shabby house adjoining the cemetery ( presumably the dwelling of its former guardian ) and followed me and my companion through the long grass She first quickly removed the two half finished glasses of beer perched on a tombstone and asked my friend � who is this man ?� – my Polish guide replied �just a tourist� I asked him later why he had not explained my interest in the cemetery and he replied � I did not wish to risk an commotion. But she was not deceived ,I had noticed that same strange expression before , half smile half sneer on the face of the peasants in Lantzsman film �Shoah� when asked their feelings on the loss of their Jewish neighbours.
Few of the typical Shtetl weather boarded wooden houses remained around the market square , the big shul had been burnt down and a man trying to save some sacred articles was shot and thrown into the flames. The smaller shul was now a warehouse . I found the building ( Rawska #4 ) from which address we had received letters of a cousin in 1938 still intact .
There was nothing else to remind you that this was once the home of 6,500 Jewish souls and their forefathers for 700 years .
Edward Wlodarczyktold me a pathetic story . In the early years of the war Edouard�s mother found a Jewish woman she knew lying in the main square of the town having been savaged by the dog of a policeman .She took her home and bound her wounds and was asked if she would hide the woman�s family ( herself her mother ,husband and two children ) for three days. Edouard�s mother agreed although this involved putting them all in extreme danger . Edward Wlodarczykand his brother belonged to the Boys Scouts and the police suspected that the boys scouts could be involved with partisans . At the end of the three days the family name Kutchinski made no effort to leave the house and the situation in the house became tense as the Polish family became ever more nervous and their guests made showed no intention to leave. The impasse was broken by the totally unexpected arrival from another town of the godfather of the Polish children . The visitor (a big fellow I was told ), on being informed of the of their unwelcome presence ordered the Jewish family to depart immediately . The Kutchinski family lived somehow to tell the story of their survival to a Commission at Yad Vashem . The Polish family now look upon the arrival of the unexpected visitor as providential since the house was searched by Gestapo a week later and the inhabitants Jew and Pole alike would all most certainly met their deaths. Sadly however the Kutchinski family when approached later by Edward Wlodarczyksaid they have no recollection of the episode whatsoever.
No Jews live in Skierniewice to-day but I noticed as we noticed in other towns we visited, graffiti in the form of a large Magen David sprayed on the walls in the centre of which were written various letters . I naturally thought this was evidence of neo- nazi political activity. Not so . The graffiti are the work of followers of rival football teams. Instead of writing e.g. �Down with Lodz United� they merely inscribe LU in the centre of a Magen David. – as a sort of hex. Is this the only folk memory of the 1000 years that Jews spent in Poland ?.
I left the Local Skierniewice Historical museum a copy of the citation accompanying the WW1 Croix de Guerre and Military Medal awarded posthumously to a Skierniewice cousin of ours . The actual medals are in my possesion to-day.
I traveled by rickety slow train from Skierniewice to Warsaw . We stopped at a dozen little towns and Shtetls on the way – poverty was evident everywhere . Skierniewice has 30% unemployment and Edward Wlodarczyka high level manager of an Engineering works for 40 years ekes out a living on a pitiful pension . Anna a young librarian friend of Edward Wlodarczyk who acted as my interpreter bitterly remarked to me � the Germans are good at two things – killing and living – it is unjust that they should be boasting of the strong Mark while we struggle in poverty.� I fear the political situation in Poland is very volatile.

Warsaw
Warsaw however shows little overt signs of deprivation – multi storey hotels and shops bustling with tourists and with Paris type traffic jams .When our party was in front of the monumental sculpture commemorating the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising , a heated argument erupted between four people who were all survivors of the Lodz ghetto – one told the story of how when he as youth was on a train returning to Lodz after his liberation , the train was boarded by armed Poles ( the Arka ) searching for Jews. He attached himself to a Polish couple who told him to pretend he was asleep at their feet. The soldiers approached and pointed at the sleeping figure and asked if he was a Jew – the couple assured him that he was not and they could vouch for his Polish-ness. The soldiers then left with a group of Jews they had �arrested� and shot them. We were at the time being conducted around the old Warsaw ghetto area by Dr. Marion Turski, a world authority on Polish Jewish history and himself a survivor of the Lodz ghetto, and while he agreed it was true that several hundred of Jews were murdered by Poles after the War and many betrayed by Poles during the War – insisted that the we avoid oversimplification of the relationship between Pole and Jew. Living in the Lodz area in 1939 there were a large population of �ethnic Germans � who welcomed the occupation and who acted accordingly.
We were conducted with great enthusiasm by Dr Turski around the great Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw which was the second largest Jewish cemetery in the world. It was intact but colonised by Sycamore trees which engulfed the entire site. This cemetery was unlike any other I have ever seen. One is overwhelmed with the richness and originality of some of the memorials to the rich and famous which are everywhere to be seen.. Many sculptures are a brilliant compromise between free artistic expression and the religious injunction against graven images. We see celebrated examples of this by the Art Nouveau sculptor Abraham Ostrzega who uses angels with hidden faces as a repetitive theme . We see mausoleums incorporating Moorish elements , the sarcophagus of a banker is draped with a beautifully carved shroud in marble , the tomb of a famous artist has symbols of masons tools and a palette , that of a great actress shows a tragic mask, and perhaps the most valuable Jewish tombstones in the world that of Berek Sonneberg ( died 1882 ) the ancestor of the philosopher Henri Bergson which has two magnificent panels in relief one -illustrating the biblical verse �…. By the rivers of Babylon � and the other showing the district of Warsaw named after him and containing much of his fathers property and remarkably the tomb itself.
These elaborate and beautiful metzsavot bear eloquent testimony to the wealth and prosperity of the Jewish community in Warsaw in the 19th Century and equally to the enormous contribution they made to secular Polish, economic, artistic , cultural, intellectual and political life.
A powerful symbol of the utter destruction which awaited this vibrant community was a stinking open sewer access in the centre of the cemetery through which a handful of survivors of the uprising escaped when the ghetto was razed by the German barbarians after the heroic uprising
We then visited the only functioning Synagogue in Warsaw next to the Yiddish Theatre only to be greeted by a demand to pay an admission fee of 5 Zloty before we were allowed in – this outrage ,on principle we refused to accept explaining that probably everyone would make a voluntary contribution later and were grudgingly admitted followed by an old man with a plate .
All that was missing to make the old joke come true was to be told � OK , you can go in but don�t let me catch you praying �
The main entrance doors of the Synagogue had recently been set on fire and a few stones in the cemetery had been damaged by vandals demonstrating that anti-Semitism was still alive and sick in Warsaw.
Of the original Warsaw ghetto nothing remained – under the paving of the streets still lay the rubble of what once was.
Our last evening afforded unexpected light relief. The whole group of 20 persons dined ( I use the word loosely ) at a Kosher restaurant in Warsaw. The tables were arranged in a U-formation. We arrived at 7.30 p.m. as booked. At 8 o�clock a frail and elderly waiter appeared bearing a single very small basket of cut local bread which he gingerly deposited and hastily disappeared having distributed some menus Nothing further happened for the next 30 minutes . We were all very hungry and I walked into the Kitchen to get some service only to see the �chef� with his feet up quietly enjoying a cigarette . No sign of � Manuel� ( his name was Alex actually ) .
In desperation one of our party went into the Kitchen and brought out more bread himself. When Alex eventually reappeared and went slowly round taking orders. I ordered the mouth watering � roast veal and plum� only to be told it was �off� and in order not to delay matters further I settled for � Chicken and hot apple � – which sounded great . The hors d�houvre was consommé and kraplech which was just like my mother used to make but the Chicken and hot apple turned out to be plain minced chicken fried in batter with chips. When I asked where was the hot apple ? – I was told that was a misprint in the menu. The desserts did not materialise – the waiter said it would take too long.

The future ?
Our dinner guest was DR Elizabeth Maxwell a French Protestant well known in working for reconciliation between faiths. She told us of an inter-faith conference ( Jew-Christian-Moslem ) at which she learned from a Vatican Cardinal, no-less , that the Pope had ordered that Catholic seminaries include a compulsory course on Talmud – a revolutionary departure from its tradition – which if followed should go some way to altering the dangerous and negative image of Judaism found in Church doctrine of the past.
Arek our survivor guide never hid his belief that the Church was the source of the river of hatred of the Jew which when fed by the streams of human wickedness and stupidity inevitably became the flood that so brutally destroyed 6 million human beings , a belief I share – but perhaps there are now hopeful signs that that river of hatred may yet be tamed and that Jews may at last have no cause ever again to fear their neighbours.
I had to make this journey and I have made it. I have no wish ever to return.
Afterthoughts
Almost a week has quickly passed since my return. I my thoughts and even my dreams have been in a turmoil .
I was just 13 when Hitler invaded Poland , as I came from a politicized family so I was aware of the menace of Fascism – one of my clearest childhood memories is being taken , as a 10 years old ,by my older sister to a mass demonstration in Trafalgar Square in support of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War . Anti-Semitism was a fact of life in the tenement district of West London�s Notting Hill in which we lived . I must have been aware of the threat to us as Jews since I vividly recollect the instant in the War when I suddenly wondered what would happen to us if the Germans invaded but it was not a thing the family spoke about.
I went alone to Paris in 1948 to meet a Polish cousin who had survived with his wife and child by escaping into the Russian occupied Poland in 1939 and heard his story as far as I could understand it with my imperfect Yiddish. But it was history like the Spanish Inquisition and was not truly �emotionally � involved. I was too young or too busy to really question my father and mother about their grandparents and their extended families while they were with us and now I am left with the bitter regret that I missed that wonderful opportunity.
I retired five 5 years ago and I was looking for something to occupy my time so I decided to try to increase my minimal knowledge of my family history and the family history of my wife . I soon realized that although my father often spoke of his youth in Skierniewice and I knew his brothers� names I knew very little else, and I realized very quickly that to discover more about my Polish forbears would be an uphill struggle. I speak of my father�s family only because I knew my parents were
cousins of a sort and both my grandfathers came from the same Shtetl – Skierniewice and my mother�s parents , brothers and sisters all came to England before she, the baby of the family was born.
Research into my wife�s Dutch family history however was much easier , they had been in England since the mid-19th C
( although they always claimed to have been here since Cromwellian times ) , what came as a terrible shock however was to find that quite close cousins of her grandparents had been sent to their deaths , from their homes Holland , to Birkenau and Sobibor
in 1942 and 1943. The full roll of murdered Dutch Jews ( approx. 80% of the 104,000 – the highest proportion after Poland ) was recorded by the Germans and has been made available by the Dutch Ministry of Justice. How many Polish cousins did I have that must have met an identical but unrecorded fate.

I had read Primo Levi and marveled that any victim of such cruelty and hatred could have emerged with his humanity and compassion intact , I had seen and been moved by Lantzman�s monumental documentary Shoah – but walking through the sordid wooden barrack huts that once held the huddled emaciated bodies of Jews from all over Europe brought me in a moment closer to them than a hundred documentaries were ever able to achieve. With the new found special empathy I found with these victims came terrible unasked and unanswerable questions. What Jew would take the hateful job of barrack Kapo for the price an extra bowl of watery soup of an extra crust of life giving bread ? Would I have even survived the brutal ghetto existence the cruel apprenticeship for the extermination camps ?
I see now with greater clarity the lethal progression from the deprivation of civil rights and organized pogroms in pre-War Germany, through the stigmamatisation of the yellow star , brutalisation , confinement to disease ridden Ghettos (all volumes borrowed from the ample library of cruel Christian oppression of Jews through the ages ) to the deliberate starvation , enslavement and Final Solution which was the Nazis own contribution in the unique demonstration of human depravity we call the Shoah..
Which brings me probably to the most difficult question of all . I know now how , but why ? Who knows what the perpetrators believed .Was it just as Hannah Arendt argued just the banality of evil ?
I cannot bring myself to accept that anyone believed the �racial purity theory � it was such patent lunatic nonsense, yet to those born to German gentile parents, steeped in the murky slime of teutonic myth and absorbing the ambient ancient Christian demonology of Jews with their mother�s milk perhaps it was possible.
Arek told us how in Birkenau he was once near an SS guard who was casually eating his lunch from an aluminum canteen outside the wire , the guard asked the starving man if he was hungry and made as if to pass some food across to him only to drop it deliberately to the ground for the dog to eat. Even in the face of such depravity and sadism for which there can never never be any excuse , we must resist the comforting temptation to deny the murderers and torturers their human form as they sought to deny ours. To do so would be to give us all a false sense of security .
Perhaps the human psyche is like the structure of the earth itself with a molten core, a boundless hidden capacity for destruction , which is forever seeking a weakness or fault in the thin containing crust of conscience through which to wreck a volcanic havoc on those unfortunate enough to be in its path .
My knowledge of the Shoa has now been given meaning by my experience in Poland and paradoxically perhaps the anger I had nourished for so long begins to diminish.

Is this Catharsis ? – my dictionary tells me that the word ( before Freud) meant � the purging or purification of the emotions through the evocation of pity and fear ,as in tragedy� Have I experienced a catharsis ? – time will tell . It has certainly given me little cause for optimism.

VISIT TO POLAND

A Lusitania Story

I knew little about my about my maternal grandfather Abraham Jacobs who died in 1924, two years before I was born. About my maternal grandmother I knew even less since she died when my mother was a child. One extraordinary thing stuck in my memory was that my mother had told me that her father had married three times and that one of his wives was a midwife who was drowned in the Lusitania. The Lusitania was sunk , with the loss of 1,198 lives , by a German torpedo on May 8 1915 off the coast of Ireland on it return voyage from New York ,thus hastening the American entry into WW1. My decision to find the facts took me first to the PRO at Kew there I scanned the passenger list of the Lusitania .To my delight I found an entry for a Liba Jacobs aged 67 travelling alone among the third Class passengers. Was she my apocryphal step- grandmother ?.
I set out to find a marriage record. In this I was guided by the words of my mother (who may have felt that some comment was necessary to explain the her pious father’s triple marriages -) ” an orthodox Jew must have a wife ” -so I imagined my grandfather would not long have remained a widower. I was advised that although there is no Halachaic rule . Under Extract from Midwife’s Register 1905 a widowed man may remarry after a successive Pesach, Shevouth and Succoth have passed since the death of his wife although no such limitation incidentally apply to widows .
I had previously discovered that that my real grandmother had died on 5 March 1902 ( when my mother was only eight years old ) and I found the second marriage 12 months later dated 29 March 1903 between my grandfather and one Debrobah Glassman ( nee Morris ) a widow. Unfortunately Deborah clearly was not the lady in the Lusitania – wrong age and wrong first name.

I began to think the Lusitania story was family folklore until I found by chance the grave in Edmonton Federation cemetery of a Deborah Jacobs who was buried July 1904 from my grandfathers correct address 134 Brick Lane , Whitechapel .

I had yet to establish a documentary connection between the Liba Jacobs in the Lusitania and Abraham Jacobs my grandfather. I dimly remembered being told my ill-fated step- grandmother was returning from a visit to her son in Chicago although the Lusitania sailed from New York. 1st May 1915 . I thought I would test the alleged Chicago connection. Off I went to the British Museum Newspaper Library in Colindale. The Chicago Tribune in the edition of the 9th May 1915 ( the day following the disaster ) on page 3 revealed that ” J D Klass of 1263 Central Park Chicago was seeking ,at the Cunard Line office, news of his 67 year old mother Liba Jacobs who lived in London “.

The Cunard records (which I subsequently obtained from Liverpool University who hold the Cunard Archive state that “the identified remains of Mrs Liba Jacobs was buried Queenstown , May 10th 1915 – her property divided , by mutual arrangement between her husband Mr A Jacobs, 134 Brick Lane ( my grandfathers address ) and her son Mr M Smith 41 Bridge Road Southampton “.

I found with the kind help of internet contacts in Chicago who did the research , that a girl baby had been born to Joseph Klass in Chicago shortly before his mother sailed on the Lusitania ( a good explanation for her visit ) . But who was the Mark Smith of the Cunard archive record ? .

I discovered with the kind co-operation of the Southampton Jewish Synagogue a living daughter of Mark Smith ( Schmidt ) but she seemed to know nothing of her unfortunate grandmother Liba. Mark Smith ( Schmidt ) I found from his naturalisation application was born 2 May 1877 in Abel (Russia/Poland) and married Bella Comras and his daughter tells me (to simplify things) that her parents were a step-brother and sister !

I have now established that my mother indeed had a step-mother who was lost at sea but many mysteries remain. I cannot find (in spite of back breaking searches at the old St Catherines House) any record of my grandfathers third marriage between 1904 and 1915 ( his second was at the East London Synagogue ).

Note 10 years after my initial search , I found the marriage certificate of my grandfather and his third wife Liba . He had married in Whitechapel Registry Office 5 months after the death of Deborah Glassman contary to the normal custom and his own usual strict observance to code of Shulchan Orach.

Why was Liba Jacobs not buried with other Jewish victims of the Lusitania in the Jewish cemetery at Cork ? Because she had taken the return passage after a 6 months stay in USA on the spur of the moment without notice to her UK families.

How many times was Liba married. ? We know for certain that she was first wed to Orchik Sshnidt ( Snitzler ? ) in Abel Lithuania , we know too that she married subsequently Shupsl Comras and Abraham Jacobs – we also know that she had a son by none of these Joseph David Klass aka Joseph Harris .

Her great grand daughter Linda Rose Mar in California by extraordinary diligent research has established that Liba’s single name was Chirug and her father was doctor from a line of medical men whose forebear was reputedly a Surgeon in the Napoleonic Army .

Liba was a remarkable woman who was one of the very first midwives who practiced legally under the Midwives Registration Act of 1904. – see below

Note ; In the process of tracing my grandfather’s second marriage I obtained from the Chief Rabbi’s office a copy of the necessary Beth Din authorisation certificate which paid me a bonus of inestimable benefit by giving me the names ( formal Hebrew and Yiddish kinnui ) of a brother of my grandfather previously unknown to me as well as a note on the previous marriage and family of the bride.

A Lusitania Story

Dutch Jews in 19th Century London

 

1. Introduction.

I started research into my wife’s family history 5 years ago. We were married in 1952. I was from a Polish immigrant family , my father being born in Poland and my mother was the only one of her family born in England.My wife’s family on the other hand were seemingly “ Dutch “ – they called themselves ‘Chuts’ , possibly because of the guttural sound of their native language ( we were to them ’ Pullacks’ ) but they in turn were referred to in a slightly disparaging way as “ Dotchkies “ in my family . It soon became apparent to me that I had innocently strayed into the fossil remains of an ‘ethnic battlefield’ ( I hope you will excuse the mixed metaphor ).
In fact my wife’s ancestry proved to be much more complex and my research took me into the lost and historically neglected world of the vanished ‘Dutch’ community of the latter half of the 19th C which the existed in Victorian Spitalfields Whitechapel.

2. The 1891 Spitalfields Census Index

In 1995 the invaluable “Spitalfields 1891 Census Index of Heads of Family “ was published by The Jewish Historical Society and University of Leicester History department . This index ,which , had it been available earlier would have saved me countless hours of research and as well as providing a short cut to vital family history data contains many illuminating facts about the lives of our immigrant ancestors.
The index of the 1891 census was limited to an area of Whitechapel bounded by Brushfield St. to the North, Wentworth St. to the South , Middlesex St. and Commercial St. to the West and East respectively ( see plan ) an area inhabited overwhelmingly by poor predominately Ashkenazi Jews.

3. Statistical analysis

We are also told that in “ the Eastern side of this area where 66% of all Heads were born abroad a large number of Heads originated from Holland – 37 % “ (i.e. over double the average ) whereas the Western side produces a figure of only 4% of Heads coming from Holland. The publication of the Spitalfields 1891 Census Index of Heads in 1994 thus confirmed what I had already discovered, that virtually all my wife’s ‘Dutch’ ancestors had lived not only in the Spitalfields area but in one of six streets in Spitalfields , namely – Whites Row, Shepherd St., Tenter St., Butler St., Freeman St., and Palmer St. an area fondly referred to by the children of parents that lived there as ‘The Tenterground’.
In 1891 the analysis tells us that half the Dutch Heads were over aged 50 compared with only a quarter of the others . The reason for this statistic can be deduced from the Censuses ( by noting the date of the first London birth ) indicating that immigrants from Holland ( often young married couples ) were arriving from 1850 onward and by 1891 the Dutch born immigrants were an elderly group and it was not uncommon to find that an widowed Dutch mother or mother-in – law of the Head of family living with the family in Spitalfields. Immigrants from Poland in this period were relatively few.
There was a small number of middle class Ashkenazi Dutch families in London ( diamond cutters , agents and merchants etc. ) but they lived generally in the more salubrious area to the south of Spitalfields known as Goodmans Fields or in the London suburbs.

4. Reasons for Dutch Emigration to London

I am often asked , why since there was no religious persecution of Jews in Holland as there was elsewhere in Europe , did the Dutch Ashkenazim bother to emigrate at all. I think the answer to this must be that they were ‘economic refugees ‘ . Unlike the distribution pattern of Jews in England where you find communities only in the larger towns , in early 19th C Holland every small town and village had its Kehilla complete with Synagogue , Jewish school etc. but gradually there was a drift to the metropolis and very small communities had difficulty in finding a minyan and were forced to follow their children to the large towns especially Amsterdam. In Amsterdam the poor were crowded into appalling slums , an article in the Jewish Chronicle on 1872 describes these shocking conditions , which were so bad that the government attempted to encourage Jews to move to new-towns in the countryside. In 1849 Amsterdam 55% of the Ashkenazi population were according to the Encyclopedia Judaica officially designated as ‘paupers’.
The once powerful Dutch Empire was in terminal decline while the British Empire was reaching its peak , Amsterdam as a finacial centre had given way to London ( a fact which sparked a bitter and unseemly sectarian struggle between the old Sephardim merchants in Amsterdam and the ‘upstart ’Ashkenazi brokers in London ) . Unfortunately their new home offered an almost equally depressing environment to the one they had left .

An indication of the level of poverty of the community in Spitalfields may perhaps be judged from the weekly appeals in the Jewish Chronicle for contributions towards the cost of maintaining the Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor (JC Appeal ) in Fashion Street in 1872. The weekly notice published the number of ‘portions distributed ‘ averaging 4,000-5,000 per week as well as the names of contributors and the amounts individually donated .

5. The Tenterground Environment

An examination of the Spitalfields street map reveals that five of the six streets of the ’ Dutch Tenterground’ form an urban enclave , since only Whites Row could be entered without passing through the stuccoed arched ‘bottleneck’ at the North end of Shepherd St. ( see photograph below ) . Within these mean streets in overcrowded and insanitary slums lived the poor Dutch immigrants nand their numerous children.

Rev Samuel Barnet vicar of a Church in Commercial Rd Spitalfields wrote in 1873 “ the whole parish is covered with a web of courts and alleys some houses three storeys high were hardly 6’0” ( 2.40m ) apart . The sanitary accommodation being in the cellar and a standpipe at the end providing the only water . Each chamber was the home of a family who sometimes owned their miserable furniture but in most cases the rooms were let furnished at 8 pence per night . in many cases broken windows had been repaired by paper and rags . The balusters used for firewood , the paper hung from the walls which were the residence of countless vermin. “
A note in “ The Builder” 1872 records that great hardship was caused by the mains water supply to the Tenterground being cut-off at week-ends for reasons unstated

6. Tenterground housing and living conditions

The houses in the Tenterground were cheaply built by speculative builders for letting between 1819 and 1824 with individual frontages of about 15’0” ( 4.50 m ) and were demolished to form the Holland Estate 1927-1936 . One house at least collapsed 40 years after being built .
We are fortunate to have a detailed insight into living conditions in the ‘Tenterground’ of the late 19th C. thanks to the fact that a section of the ‘Tenterground’ came up for auction 10 April 1878 and included 122 houses .
The auction particulars survive in the archive of the Tower Hamlets Local History Library . The houses were let by the freeholder Mr. Robert Reid to tenants who in turn sublet the rooms to the families. The auction particulars state that the properties were “ unencumbered by leases “early possession may be obtained if required.”. A typical example of the “properties “ taken from the auction particulars Auction notice

Nos. 2,3 and 5 Butler St.

Spitalfields, Whitechapel, Middlesex

Ground floor . Entrance passage , front parlour with cupboard. A back room with cupboard under stairs.
First floor – A sitting room with cupboards and a bedroom with cupboards

Second floor – One room with cupboard
In rear – Yard and WC

7. Extract from 1871 Spitalfields census

The 1871 Census records for us the occupants of these houses.

Family name Forename Status Age Profession Birthplace Address
Sheffer Abraham H 44 Cigar mkr Amsterdam 2 Butler St
Jane W 49 Amsterdam
Rosa D 17 Cigar mkr NY USA
Diana D 10 Scholar Middlesex
Julia D 6 Scholar Middlesex
Phillip S 4 Scholar Middlesex
Haag Saloman H 49 Cigar mkr Amsterdam
Rosa W 49 Amsterdam
Joseph S 23 Cigar mkr Amsterdam
Jonas S 21 Cigar mkr Amsterdam
Morris S 18 Cigar mkr Amsterdam
Mary D 15 Capmkr Middlesex
Milly D 13 Capmkr Middlesex
Rebecca D 10 Scholar Middlesex
Jacob H 26 Cigar mkr Amsterdam
Rebecca W 26 Amsterdam
Saloman S 1 Infant Middlesex
Van Cleef Bernard H 40 Cigar mkr Amsterdam 3 Butler St
Hannah W 40 Amsterdam
Moris S 11 Scholar Middlesex
Isaac S 10 Scholar Middlesex
Saloman S 8 Scholar Middlesex
Samuel S 5 Scholar Middlesex
Bernard S 3 Scholar Middlesex
Rosa D 1 Infant Middlesex
Polack Louis H 38 Cigar mkr Amsterdam
Jane W 35 Amsterdam
Sarah D 6 Scholar Middlesex
Aaron S 2 Infant Middlesex
Myers Moses H 45 Cigar mkr Amsterdam
Sarah W 43 Amsterdam
Sammy S 18 Cigar mkr Amsterdam
Morris S 16 Cigar mkr Middlesex
Michael S 13 Scholar Middlesex
Saloman S 11 Scholar Middlesex
Leah D 8 Scholar Middlesex
Betsy D 4 Scholar Middlesex
Levy S 2 Infant Middlesex
Krager Abraham H 30 Cigar mkr Holland 5 Butler St
Leah W 30 Holland
Leon S 6 Scholar Middlesex
Isaac S 3 Scholar Middlesex
David S 1 Infant Middlesex
De Lara Judah H 32 Cigar mkr Holland
Bessie W 26 Holland
Jane D 6 Scholar Middlesex
Nancy D 4 Scholar Middlesex
Hannah D 0.75 Infant Middlesex
Jacobs Mary H 67 Amsterdam
Goulton ** Eliz Wd 60 Lndress Middlesex
George S 21 Porter Middlesex
Bill S 17 Gd Middlesex

** the appearance of a non -Jewish family in sections of the parish where Jews lived was a rare occurrence.
I leave it to the imagination of the reader to allocate the accommodation. These families are very typical of the poor Dutch Ashkenazi immigrant in Spitalfields 1861. It is interesting to note that Abraham Shaffer and his wife were born in Amsterdam , the eldest daughter in New York and the remaining children were born in Spitalfields . They must have arrived in England around 1851 .The census tells us that Soloman Haag on the other hand arrived with three small children about 1846 and had three more children subsequently .

Spitalfields 1891 Area Covered by 1891 Census Index of Heads of family8. Relations between Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities in Victorian London

There was a long history of bad relations existing between the Ashkenazi and Sephadi communities stretching back before the beginning of the 19th C. The Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue was the only communal Jewish institution in London in the latter part of the 18th C when poor Ashkenazim were arriving from all parts of Europe , so it was the small but wealthy Spanish and Portuguese community members who unwillingly were forced to find funds to support these penniless immigrants . The Haham tried every means to influence the King to refuse entry to the unwelcome newcomers and severely limited the cash grants made to them.
After the establishment of a substantial Ashkenazim institution – the Great Synagogue at Dukes Place there was an agreement that the charitable duty to bury Jews who died penniless in consecrated ground should be shared . On at least one recorded occasion a dispute arose which resulted in a coffin being left in the street until the matter was resolved.

Their share of the cost of “Burial of Strange Poor” was recorded by the Hambros Synagogue and an annual statement issued. A section for the year 1866 ( 5626 ) is attached (Burial statement ) .

eg. on April 15 1866 Adelaide Defries was buried at a cost to the synagogue of one pound five shillings and nine pence ( appox $ 2.00 US ) – no ‘watching’ was provided and on May 6 1866 the ‘stillborn’ child of Levy van Gelder was buried at a cost of three shillings and sixpence ( 30c US ).

That the Sephardic establishment continued their policy of non co-operation with the Ashkhenazi well into the 20th C.is evidenced by the editorials and letters published in the Jewish Chronical as late as the 1920’s .

9. Effect of the arrival of Jews from Eastern Europe

The Influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe increased the number of Jews in England from 47,000 in 1881 to 150,000 in 1906. Friction between long established immigrants and those newly arrived is a well known phenomenon everywhere , but for the Jews not only did the newcomers increase competition for jobs and accommodation but their ‘foreigness’ produced fears that they would stoke the fires of anti-Semitism which were burning brightly in late 19th C London. It was for example a widespread and popular belief that ‘Jack the Ripper’ the serial killer in Whitechapel was a Jew and the only person ever arrested for the crime was in fact Jewish.
The flavour of intercommunal rivalry found in Spitalfields in the late 19th C may perhaps be gathered from this children’s street chant of the period
“ Two dirty Pullaks and a proud Portigee
One jolly Chooty boy can lick all three “
The ‘Pullack’ being the Yiddish speaking immigrant (note : no discrimination whatever being made between the many and diverse Yiddish speaking groups , Chassidim , Litvak, Pollak ,Gallitzian etc. ) and the ‘Portigee’ is of course the Sephardi .
It is ironic to note that a fairly common family name among the Dutch was Polak , indicating without much doubt their pre- Chut origin.

I discovered interesting this letter in the archive material of the Federation of Synagogues :

To Federation Secretary

from L Berg Hon Sec Lodz Synagogue.
28 Sept 1913

Dear Sir ,
I am surprised at you for asking for a long time one of the Reverends to
come to the Lodz Synagogue to give us a preaching .
The last time you asked for the Very Reverend Maccoby to preach in our
synagogue you altered your mind and he did not come .
Today I saw an advertisement for Sandys Row Synagogue* that the Very
Reverend Haikin will preach ther of the first day
Rosh Hashonna at 4.30 pm . That Synagogue has nothing at all to do with the
Federation** therefore I ask that you desire one of the Very Reverend to
attend and preach on the first day Rosh Hashonna . I hope you will consider
the matter immediately and do as I ask you .
Yours faithfully
L Berg Hon Sec Lodz Syn – 14 New Goulston St

** Sandys Row was the Dutch Synagogue – which broke away fronm the
Federation :the indigation in the letter reflects the mutual dislike that existed between the Dutch and Polish congregations

It is an even greater irony to find that when the penniless Ashkenazi refugees from persecutions of Central and Eastern Europe arrived in numbers in the late 18th C Netherlands they were received by the established Dutch Ashkenazi community there with the same hostility that their own descendants in London 100 years later received the new arrivals from persecutions of Poland and Russia .

10. Marriage patterns

The children of the ‘Dutch’ immigrants married at first generally within their community either to cousins or neighbours children or to children of families they were associated with in Holland . Marriage between the children of Dutch born immigrants and those from ‘English’ parents naturally became frequent . Marriages between Sephardim and Ashkenazim ,while not unknown, were rare and obviously difficult judging by the fact that that the Ashkenazi bride in early ‘mixed’ marriages at the Sephardi Bevis Marks Synagogue was nameless and merely referred to as ‘tedesco’ ( German) or as ‘bride from the German community’.
Traditional marriage customs were observed by the Dutch immigrants , e.g. weddings should take place in the brides hometown and the prospective bridegroom would leave for Holland and return with his bride. It is a never ending source of amazement to me that I find evidence in the mid 19th C, in spite of the expense and difficulties of travel , how contact was maintained between the London based Dutch and their distant families . You often will find ‘visitors’ from Holland in the Spitalfields censuses and it is clear that trips to Holland ( and even to the USA ) were made from London.
In my wife’s family we have an example where a young woman died during her first pregnancy , the bereaved husband was in 1862 prevented by English Law from marrying his dead wife’s sister ( not permitted until 1907, but incidentally a woman could marry her dead husbands brother ) so the couple returned to Amsterdam where special permission was granted for the marriage to take place, and they then returned to England.

11. The emerging homogenous Jewish community

The ‘ethnic composition’ of my wife’s family is a very typical illustration of the historical pattern of absorption of the Dutch Jewish immigrant family into the Jewish community as it is constituted to-day.
Of my wife’s grandparents, 3 were London born ( all c 1870 ) , of these ,two are from Dutch parents and one from London born parents who came from families who were established in London from at least the late 18th century. The fourth grandparent was from a Litvak family -It is significant that the Litvak always maintained he was ‘English’ born and did not understand Yiddish , in fact I found he arrived in England when he was 6 years old and lived with his totally Yiddish speaking parents until his marriage. The reason for this charade lies in the fact that finding himself totally surrounded by the extended Dutch/English families of his in-laws and their friends ,and such being their disdain for the Pollacks he found it necessary to adopt a pseudo ‘English’ identity.
The reason for the obvious differences between the Pollaks and the Chuts is that came from radically different national environments.
The mass of immigrants from Eastern Europe in the closing years of the 19 Th. C came straight from the closed community of the Shtetl . Their lingua franca was Yiddish , they had vitually no secular education and had even been disinclined to learn Polish or Russian for fear of encouraging assimilation. They were the product of centuries of Christian ‘ghettoisation’ and religious persecution..
Things were very different in the Netherlands . Even though the Jews formed an autonomous community in Holland under a Chief Rabbi ,the Dutch government took active and successful measures to encourage Jews to consider themselves as Dutch nationals first.
King Louis Napoleon made a ‘oukaze’ in 1809 which contained the prohibition of the teaching of Yiddish. Dutch Jews after their Emancipation in 1806 were told to learn Hebrew or Dutch . The Tenach ( Five books of Moses ) was translated into Dutch at the Kings direction . A law in the Netherlands of 1857 introduced compulsory education and Jewish education was consequently reduced to evenings and Sunday cheder attendance. By the time the emigrants left for England in significant numbers after 1840 Yiddish was no longer spoken in the Netherlands. There was no overt religious persecution.

12. Acculturalisation and National Identity
The Dutch immigrants carried this ‘tradition’ of accultursalisation with them and were keen to become ‘English’ while paradoxically jealously protecting their ‘Dutchness’ – I have seen gravestones in West Ham Cemetery inscribed entirely in Dutch and 150 years after her great grand parents arrived , my wife still retains a Dutch vocabulary of sorts ( mostly vulgar it cannot be denied ) ,still remembers the Dutch dishes her London born mother and grandmother cooked and perhaps most remarkably of all she carries in her head a formidable index of Dutch families who were neighbours or relatives of her grandparents and great grand parents in the ‘ Tenterground “
The Dutch had long established their own ‘exclusively’ Dutch Synagogue ( Sandy;’s Row ) , their own burial societies , numerous Dutch friendly societies and other mutual welfare organisations. They were not alone , later in London we find the Lodz Synagogue and the Warsaw Synagogue .
I learned quite recently that even in the 1930’s Jewish children from Dutch families used to attend lessons in the Dutch language at Whitechapel’s Townbee Hall on Sundays , I was told by one lady who remembers the Dutch songs she learned there as a child that the classes were reputedly paid for by the Queen of the Netherlands.
The Dutch immigrant of course knew no Yiddish . One can imagine the suspicions of the Polish and Russian immigrant on meeting for the first time a Jew who knew not a word of Yiddish and as he had little or no English communication was impossible .-what sort of Jew is this who speaks no Yiddish but only English ?
There was in late 18th C Holland and Germany many organised gangs of Yiddish speaking petty criminals and Yiddish words were picked up by the Dutch and German underworld and by this route ( ironically ) many Yiddish words have found there way into the present everyday Dutch and German languages. In passing I would note that I was told by a 90 year old Dutch lady that she remembers from her childhood that young Jews who were in trouble with the law being advised “ to go and buy a box of English kippers , and don’t hurry back “ . I have to say however that I have not come across any evidence that criminality was more prevalent among the poor Jews of Spitalfields than elsewhere in Victorian London.

13.Immigrants Occupations

Dutch and Polish/Russian communities differed also in their occupations, whereas the latter had all manner of artisan skills ,cabinet makers, tailors, shoemakers, etc. , the former by being denied entry to the Dutch Guilds had virtually no skilled tradesmen . The poor Dutch immigrant were largely hawkers, peddlers , ‘general dealers’ , low-grade leather workers or worked in the tobacco factories of the East End. There is one notable exception to this ‘no-tradesmen rule’. Jewish butchers were at one time to be found in every small town in the Netherlands and this often resulted in the anomalous situation that on Yomtovim the butcher shops were closed and gentile customers had to go without meat.
The lack of a skilled trade among the poor Dutch immigrants may well have hampered their children’s upward mobility into the English middle and professional classes compared with their Eastern European neighbours.
Perhaps also, the fact that so many of their Dutch parents were forced into ‘self-employment’ as ‘General dealers’, Hawkers and Costermonger, account for the large number of Taxi drivers which was noticeable among the grandchildren of the Dutch immigrants, a means of livelihood which gave them the same benefit and feeling of independence they saw in their fathers without some of the insecurity. .
The preponderance of tobacco workers ( there was a cigar and cigarette factory in Whitechapel until recent times )
among the original immigrants and their children may be attributed to the fact that tobacco growing and cigar production was introduced into the Netherlands by Abraham Cohen of Amersfoort in the early 18th C and he accumulated immense wealth as a result and founded a dynasty which married into almost every Jewish ‘aristocratic’ family in Europe.

I have seen an extract from the Jewish Chronicle Jan 15 1858 during a cigar workers strike . A spokesman for the workers wrote accusing the masters of exploitation by travelling to Holland an enticing immigrants with a false picture of conditions in UK.
The cigar trade here was in depression and the influx enabled employers to reduce wages by half ( from 20 shillings ) per week!!! – until the strike.
The ” trade ” replied to say the work was unskilled and that wages had risen previously during a boom – so it was tough
and the charity organisations who were feed the strikers were wasting money on the undeserving .
The JC Editorial says it was a natural law ………….
It is clear from the census the Dutch came in force 1951-1861 .

14. Dutch traditions continued

The Dutch Ashkenazi immigrant’s adherence to their traditions cannot be challenged, I have never found in my researches an example in the middle 19th C of one marrying ‘out’ . There was a totally unfounded prejudice among the later Polish immigrants that the ‘Dotchkies’ lacked Judischkeit , my wife’s great uncle Isaac Lion de Vries , the son of a Dutch immigrant was the Shummas of the Great Synagogue for 40 years .
I think this prejudice arose from the fact that the Dutch had become anglicised well before the mass entry of Jews from Eastern Europe ( which occurred a generation after the peak of Dutch immigration ) added to the fact they knew no Yiddish . The Dutch immigrant quickly adopted English given names e.g. Jonas became John, Hartog became Henry , Meitje became Maria , and often anglicised their surnames, e.g. by substituting C for K and F for V – de Kromme = de Cromer and de Vries = Defries. For some reason the universal popular myth found among the descendants of the families from Poland and Russia , that their ‘English’ surnames were attributable entirely to the whim of the Immigration Officer is not found among among the ‘Chuts’.
In Holland it was virtually impossible to change your name you had at birth so it must have been a great novelty to find that in England you could call yourself whatever name you pleased without formality . A feature of the Ashkenazi Dutch naming conventions was continued for a generation in England in that a male child carried as a second name his father’s given name e.g. a son of Levie Moses de Vries would be Moses Levie de Vries which by the same process would be the name of the child’s paternal grandfather. The convention was sometimes applied to daughters – so we could find that a sister of the same Moses Levie de Vries might be registered incongruously as Maria Levie de Vries. The existence of this tradition underlines how foreign to them must have seemed the adoption of surnames in that they continued the use of patronymics.
Dutch Ashkenazim had no hesitation sometimes in naming a child after a living grandparent , a practice which would have appalled their Polish co-religionists, The taboo of naming after ‘the living’ arose I understand from the superstitious fear among Eastern Jews that the malach ha’mauvis (angel of death ) might unfortunately be confused in his object however they always observed the rigorous tradition of naming children after grandparents who had died. Anyone engaged in Dutch Ashkenazi family history will quickly discover that among families who were unfortunate enough to experience the loss of a child it was a normal custom to give a subsequent child the same name.

The almost invariable pattern seen on the census is of babies being born in this environment to parents at regular 2 year intervals . – gaps in the family birthdates point to an Infantant mortality .Examination of ( non-infant) death certificates confirms the expected heavy toll of tuberculosis.
One might have thought conditions in Whitechapel would improve in later years , but this is unfortunately not the case.
I have a record of a suicide by the foreign born head of a Jewish family of 10 children in 1891 , the youngest being 1 year old where the coroner was so appalled by their living conditions ( 12 people in 2 rooms ) and the condition of the building that he called for the evidence of the Sanitary Inspector to the Parish who said he was unable to cope as he had 5,000 houses under his supervision.

15. The ‘English Jews’

Before the arrival of Dutch Ashkenazi immigrants in significant numbers in the mid 19th C there was already a well established Ashkenazi community in London. These families were to found living not in Spitalfields but in Hounsditch and the Eastern fringe of the City of London close to Dukes Place where the Great Synagogue was to be found. Their surnames I found to be very largely based of patronymics , Abrahams, Benjamin ,Emanuel, Isaacs, Jacobs, Joel , Lazarus, Moses, Myers , Phillips ,Sim(m)ons . It should be remembered that European Jews by and large did not use surnames until it became compulsory under Napoleonic Law after 1811. It is as a rule extraordinarily difficult to ascertain from whence these comparatively early immigrants individually originated since these common Jewish given names are shared by all European Jews . The one notable exception to the rule being the many early English families names Hart , which it is reasonable to suppose is an Anglicised form of the common Dutch given name Hartog . The first British census which included details of the place of birth was in 1851 by which time the almost all the 18 Th. C Jewish immigrants had died.

16. Conclusion

This essay is a summation of the knowledge I have gained in the course of tracking back through seven generations of my wife’s ‘Dutch’ family. It has been for me a fascinating journey . I had looked for previous research on the history and sociology of the Dutch Ashkenazi immigrants to England in the Victorian era and found a void . Why this should be I cannot adequately explain .
The Dutch community in England may well have developed an inferiority complex in the face of the indifference of their co-religionists. I am led to this unhappy conclusion because I have met many individuals to-day the descendants of Dutch Ashkenazi ancestors who assumed (until I advised them otherwise ) that because their familes came from Holland they must have been Sephardic. The word Sephardi still retains an elitist cachet . Another equally erroneous illusion enjoyed by many of those who know that they have Dutch or English ancestry is that “ their family came over with Oliver Cromwell “ but I suppose this is no different from than often heard but optimistic claim to be descendants of the Vilna Gaon. Genealogy is alas prone to myth . Since the Dutch were a small offshoot of the main body of Ashkenazi Jewry it is understandable that they became reabsorbed into it but I believe I have shown that for a moment in history they maintained a distinct, independent and self – contained subculture under the difficult socio-economic conditions prevailing in Victorian London.
It is my hope that this essay will stimulate new interest in the lost Dutch community of Spitalfields and will encourage others to research and to bring more light into this long neglected corner of Anglo-Jewish history.
Aubrey Jacobus

Note on Jewish Emancipation in The Netherlands 1796

The question is often raised as to why there was this influx of poor Dutch Jews into the London in the middle decades of the 19th C when it was assumed they were not subject to persecution in Holland as I were the Jews leaving the Poland and Russia 50 years later. The answer to this I found in the invaluable book Emancipation and Poverty by Karina Sonnenberg-Stern ( Macmillan Press Ltd 2002) . I quote from her conclusions . .. ” Although the majority of Amsterdam’s Jewish population were reluctant to leave their familiar communal existance and abandon Yiddish for Dutch as the language of every day use, the continuing discrimination to which the poorer Jews were subjected during the first half of the 10th C was the principal factor in perpetusting the poverty of Amsterdams Ashkenazim. … Jewish Emancipation therefore was little more than a legal measure in the Netherlands “

Dutch Jews in 19th Century London