Vienna – London: passage to safety

A project by Marion Trestler


Book launch and exhibition: 6 November 2017
Venue: Für das Kind – Museum zur Erinnerung,
Radetzkystrasse 5, 1030 Vienna

Vienna – London: passage to safety is a documentary project that highlights the life stories of 21 Austrians who fled to the United Kingdom during the 1930s to escape National Socialism and remained there. Many of them arrived in Britain on the Kindertransport.

Over the course of several years, the photographer Marion Trestler entered into conversation with these Austrian Jewish refugees, photographing, filming and visiting them often over a period of time. She thus approached these individuals’ life stories in a very personal way and documented them in recorded interviews. In the second phase of the project, Marion Trestler asked contributors drawn from a diverse range of disciplines to provide biographical essays and contributions on her interviewees’ life stories.

"To describe this as another record of Kindertransport survivors does not do justice to the richness and depth of detail, the continuities and discontinuities of lives lived in many different ways, which are revealed through this painstaking archive. The emphasis throughout has been on the individual accounts of lives ordinary and less ordinary, the remembered life before in Vienna, and after in Britain. The accounts resist a dramatic retelling of tragedy and survival to reveal instead, through layers of personal and collective memory, prismatic accounts of displacement, contested and new identity, the diverse and different experiences of acceptance and rejection, the sometimes unstable relationship with the country of birth, and the country of adoption."  (Dr Diane Silverthorne, University of the Arts, London)

Pre-orders: 20% discount until publication date in November 2017
Euro 22,00 + p&p
Mail-orders: office@synema.at

Marion Trestler (Ed.)
Published by
SYNEMA Publikationen (Vienna) 2017
ISBN: 978-3-901644-73-3
Paperback, 6.5 x 9", ca 224pp & 50 ills, Euro 28,00

 

Biographical notes

Alice Anson, née Gross, was born in Vienna in 1924. She came to the UK in 1938, and joined the WAAF in 1942, working in the RAF photographic unit. After demobilisation she was employed in the world of commercial photography, and then in office jobs, until she met her future husband in 1947. A happy marriage produced children and grandchildren, after which Alice became deeply involved in charity work, primarily for young women and families. She died in 2016.

Otto Deutsch was born in Vienna in 1928, and came to Britain on the Kindertransport in 1939. He went to a family in Northumberland, and at 16 moved to London and was employed as an office boy, eventually finding longer term work in Fleet Street; then from 1962 he worked at increasingly senior levels in tour management. He was an active member of his local Jewish community, also lecturing on the Holocaust and participating in TV documentaries. He died in January 2017.

Trata Maria Drescha (born 1929) escaped from Vienna to the UK on the KIndertransport, and then spent time in London, Wales and the North West. After the war, work with a textile designer in London eventually led her to the prestigious Royal Academy School (of Art), from which she ultimately progressed to a career as a renowned mosaicist and teacher.

T. Scarlett Epstein was born Trude Grünwald in 1922. As a child refugee from Vienna she journeyed with her family through Central Europe before ending up in Britain, and enrolled in evening school some years later. Her studies were the springboard for a distinguished academic career as a social anthropologist, which won her an OBE in 2004. Scarlett died in 2014.

Marianne Gorge was born in Vienna in 1921 and came to London on the Kindertranport in 1939. She had already discovered an aptitude for working with young children through attending a Steiner school and through her mother's interest in education, so after spells as an au pair and a waitress, she joined the Camphill Community for disabled children and adults and dedicated her life to working there until she retired.

Karl Grossfeld was born in 1926 and came in 1938 to England, where he was taken in by different distinguished families. He started an education in science before volunteering to become an interpreter in a POW camp; he resumed his studies at the LSE and went on to join the NRDC as an economist, working with the DHSS. The last phase of his career saw him become a successful investment manager who not only set up the Tana Trust but also gave generously of his wealth to musical and artistic charities.

Joseph Horowitz came from a notable Jewish family in Vienna, and rose to become Professor of Composition at the Royal College of Music in London. His journey with his family first brought him to Oxford where he studied languages before turning to music full time. His achievements across the world have been many and various, ranging from Ivor Novello Awards to a Commonwealth Medal for Composition, and the Nino Rota prize for “an outstanding international musical career”.

Freddie Knoller, after a cultured Viennese childhood, stayed in Europe throughout the war. He was taken prisoner, then escaped, working under an alias as a “tourist guide”; after joining the French Resistance he was finally captured and sent via Drancy to Auschwitz and on to Bergen-Belsen. Liberated by the Allies, he emigrated to the US and married before returning to the UK and becoming a successful businessman. He now regularly talks to students about his experiences, which form the subject of a book that he has co-authored.

Claire Rauter and Freddy Kosten, brother and sister, left Austria in 1939 aged 15 and 11 respectively and came to London where they were taken in by Hollywood actress Constance Cummings and her Labour MP husband Benn Levy. Claire, having studied music, trained as a teacher and then joined the Camphill Community (see Marianne Gorge), before marrying Ferdinand Rauter and moving to London to become headmistress of the Primrose Hill primary school. Freddy, also musical, went to Magdalen School Brackley on a choral/piano scholarship before gaining a place at Imperial College where he studied mining geology. This took him to Africa and a career in hydroelectrics, and, later, research funding in earth sciences. His final area of expertise was in data protection, an area he covered both for the GLC and private companies. Claire and Freddy both married and had children: Claire died in 2011. 

Stella Mann, born in Vienna on 24 January 1912 started dancing lessons at the age of two. By the age of seventeen, Stella was dancing professionally throughout Europe and teaching modern dance. In 1938 Stella fled to Belgium via Yugoslavia and spent most of the war as a fugitive. In 1946 she moved to London where she established one of Britain's best-known professional dance schools. Stella died on 5 January 2013.

Erich Reich was born in 1935 in Vienna and was among 5000 families deported by the Germans to Poland in autumn 1938. At the end of August 1939 he arrived in Britain on a Kindertransport. He was placed with a family in Dorking, Surrey but moved to a Jewish School in London before going to Israel, aged 13. In 1967 he returned to London and worked in the travel industry before setting up in 1987 Classic Tours, a charity fundraising company that specialises in activity-based global travel. Sir Erich was knighted in May 2010 for his services to charity. He is the chairman of the AJR (Association of Jewish Refugees)

Stella Rotenberg was born in Vienna in 1916. Following Hitler's annexation of Austria she fled via Holland to the UK where she arrived in 1939. In 1940 she started to write poetry; Stella wrote in German, her mother tongue, which was very much part of her and which she was terrified of losing. In the late 1980s her work gained recognition and became the subject of academic research in Austria, Germany, the UK and Ireland. Stella died in Leeds on 3 July 2013.

Awards: Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, First Class, the Theodor Kramer Prize, Honorary Doctorate from Herriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

Eric Sanders was born Ignaz Erich Schwarz on 19 December 1919. Eric fled from Austria to London in August 1938. He joined the British Army, firstly the Pioneer Corps and eventually the SOE (Special Operations Executive) and therefore had to change his name to Eric Ian Sanders. After the war Eric became a teacher and was actively involved in the Labour Party.

Ernest Schwarzbard was born on 19 May 1932 in Vienna’s 8th district. He arrived in Edinburgh with the last Kindertransport. Whilst he read English literature, French and German at Edinburgh University he earned his living as an accountant. Ernest never married and does not have any children; nor does he have a family.

Hans Spielmann was born on 6 September 1929 in Himberg, near Vienna.  He arrived in the UK on a Kindertransport in March 1939. Hans had many different jobs during his working life: from driving taxis to owning a restaurant, it was his strength to adjust to whatever the situation demanded. Hans died on 23 October 2013.

Francis Steiner was born on 2 October 1922 and came to the UK on the first Kindertransport from Vienna on 10 December 1938. After his academic studies in Economics at the University of London, he started a long and successful career in the city. In parallel he undertook work for 45 years as the London correspondence for the "Kathpress" (Katholische Presseagentur Österreich).

Awards: Gold Medal of Honour of the Republic of Austria and Investiture as Knight of St. Gregory

Fritz Sternhell was born in Vienna in 1924. He arrived in the UK in March 1939 on a Kindertransport. At the beginning of March 1940, aged 16 he was transported to Australia on the infamous HMT Dunera. In 1942, after two-and-a-half years Fritz managed to get back to the UK. In 1943 he joined the British forces and served in the Middle East. After his demobilisation Fritz became a successful businessman.

Wolf Suschitzky was a documentary photographer, as well as a cinematographer, best known for his collaboration with Paul Rotha, his work on Mike Hodges' film Get Carter and for his stills of London from the 1930s and 40s. Wolf was born in Vienna in 1912; he trained there at the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt. After the February Uprising of 1934 and the Austrian Fascist takeover of the government, Wolf emigrated via the Netherlands to London. Wolf died on 7 October 2016.

Awards: BAFTA Special Award and Austrian Cross of Merit for Science and Art, First Class.

Alice Teichova was born on 19 September 1920. In March 1938 she emigrated to Great Britain. Alice worked in all different jobs but continued to study at evening classes. A distinguished academic career followed, and Professor Alice Teichova was considered as one of the leading economics historians of modern Central Europe. Alice married Mikuáš Teich, a Czechoslovak emigré. In 1948 the family moved to Czechoslovakia however after the Prague Spring they opted once more for exile in the UK, where she was soon made professor of economic history at the University of East Anglia, a post she held until she retired. Alice died on 12 March 2015.

Awards: Golden Medal of Honour and Honorary Doctorate from the city of Vienna.

Hans Georg Vulkan was born in Vienna on 9 October 1929 into a Czechoslovakian Jewish merchant family. After the Anschluss George’s father’s business was taken over by the Nazis. In September 1938 the family fled to Paris and in February 1939 travelled to England. After the war, George studied Physics at university. He spent most of his career with the Scientific Branch of the Greater London Council, including heading the Environmental Sciences Group.

Marion Trestler