Congregant publishes new book
In her memoirs, Naidia Woolf describes her childhood in England during WWII. She was evacuated to the countryside, the week-end war was declared on Germany, along with a group of students and teachers from the Birmingham Hebrew School. The book also provides background on her first generation English-Jewish family, including her father’s early years in Birmingham and the back-to-back (tenement) housing many poor working-class (mostly Polish) Jews and their families lived in during the early years of the 20th century.
The author reports on the unjust internment of Jewish refugees by the British government during the Second World War. Thousands of Jewish refugees were also sent to Australia and to Canada – to be held in detention camps there for the duration of the war. One of the ships was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland and sank. 690 of the passengers drowned. The WWII internment in Britain of aliens classified as threats to national security was an ugly reprise of what happened during the early years of the First World War. Naidia’s paternal great-grandparents, who had been living in England for 40 years, were interviewed by the police as possible security risks but then let go. The same happened with her paternal grandfather who had left Poland for England in the mid-1890s (at age 18), most likely to avoid being drafted into the Russian Army.
The author’s English-born grandmother had her British nationality revoked because she was married to an alien: a draconian measure, unfortunately not uncommon. In one of the closing chapters she reflects on what it meant to be Jewish during WW11 and the cool reception accorded German Jewish refugees by the long-established mainly second-generation Anglo-Jewish community in their home town of Birmingham. She also writes about the experiences of English Jews who served in the British Army, among them a stretcher bearer in the British Army and who witnessed the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp. In the final chapter of her memoir she describes going to Poland in 2007. While in Poland she visited the former death camp at Treblinka where thousands of Jews perished. In the center section there’s a memorial slab memorializing the Jews from Karczew, the town where her maternal grandparents once lived. As far as she knows only two or three members of that family survived the Holocaust: a couple named Borenstein who were in a DP camp in Berlin in 1946 then allowed to immigrate to Israel, and a woman who converted to Christianity and lies buried in an untended grave, somewhere in Poland. “Reverie: A Jewish Childhood in War-Torn England”