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TitleWe Built Up Our Lives: Education and Community among Jewish Refugees Interned by Britain in World
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126 • We Built Up Our Lives

her career.” Braun also had programs (written in English, she emphasized) from
Hahn’s concerts in different hotels. “She gave a concert every few days . . . and
people flocked to it.”

Many of my respondents were involved in the community life that grew up
around music, some as serious students or listeners, others as organizers, per-
formers, composers, or teachers. Ralph Fraser became part of a group that met
every Saturday afternoon to listen to the weekly opera broadcast. Ernst Rosen-
feld played in an informal band and, later, in a camp orchestra. Margot Pottlitzer
was a successful impresario—until her activities brought her into conflict with
Commandant Cruikshank. As head of a camp entertainment committee, she or-
ganized a Viennese evening featuring internee dancers, singers, and musicians.
“It was a great success. Only one third of the people who wanted to get in got
in. So I promised a repeat and hired the town hall for it and omitted to ask
Dame Joanna for her consent. And . . . I was hauled up before her.” 18

Ira Rischowski organized a choir in the Golf Links Hotel, literally at the
kitchen sink.

We had to, of course, work out rotas for all the chores, but right to begin with I vol-
unteered for the washing up. I always used to sing when I did any menial task, and my
drier-uppers joined in and we found it a great pleasure. So I started [a choir] on the
advice of the oldest internee at the Gold Links. . . . She said, “Why don’t you form a
choir?” because I hadn’t dared to. So I did, and we found one girl—her name was
Linda—who could play the piano, and we started singing. And I thought, “Well, the
easiest things to start with are rounds” and I remember lying . . . in the grass and trying
to work out how to conduct “Three Blind Mice.” . . . We had no music but somehow I
seemed to have mentioned it to one of the shopkeepers, where we bought our knitting
wool . . . and she lent me a copy of the “News Chronicle Song Book,” which I still have.
. . . I managed to get, through a friend of mine who worked with the “News Chronicle,”
a new copy which I returned to her. But I still have this “News Chronicle Song Book”
which has a lot of English folk songs, Welsh folk songs, sea shanties, and so on and so
on. . . . It gave Linda a chance to see the tunes and she could accompany us. We had
some girls who had absolutely lovely voices, and some who could also act, and so we
gave concerts.

Later on we found that a proper camp choir had been established by a professional
musician, so we joined this choir . . . and we sang some really lovely Manx songs. . . .
And of course we carried on at the Golf Links and studied everything we were going to
sing in the real choir and it was a great pleasure.19

Respondents committed to musical careers had, of course, a different level of
involvement with the musical community in their respective camps. As a tal-
ented young singer, Johanna Lichtenstern took lessons in drama and voice and
sang in a choir in addition to giving concerts of her own. A mature conductor
and composer when he was interned at the age of forty, Hans Gal wrote the
“Huyton Suite for Flute and Two Violins (op 90)” in Huyton in May of 1940,
orchestrating it for the musicians and the limited instruments that were available.

Page 133

Creating Community • 127

He performed the Suite repeatedly for small groups, since there was no facility
large enough to accommodate all two thousand of his fellow internees. “At the
end of the first movement and in the last movement there is a military signal
used that awakens us every morning at six,” he wrote in an introduction to the
Suite. Later, on the Isle of Man, Gal wrote the music for a satirical review called
“What a Life.” A classical composer, he did not consider this music trivial
because “it was such a genuine improvisation and written within days, you
know, and with gifted performers, gifted singers and actors. Everything was
real. It was a real community, you know, of people who could produce.”20

Heavily involved in musical communities since childhood, Walter Wurzbur-
ger had played in bands with other stateless, officially unemployable musicians
in Europe and then in Singapore since 1933. When he was interned on an island
in the harbor of Singapore, his friends with their instruments were interned with
him. “There was the band from the Coconut Grove . . . the Adelphia Hotel, they
all came in there. . . . We organized a band and Major Brown [the Commandant]
liked that. And then he organized tea afternoons where womenfolk were invited
and . . . we were allowed to play for them,” he remembered.

In Australia, Wurzburger’s musical community expanded. “There was a man
in a married camp [a special camp for married couples] who was a conductor
and we pooled forces, joined forces, and it was quite a sizeable orchestra, not
any more a band, it was an orchestra.” Wurzburger’s musical interests also
expanded. With others interested in music he listened to radio concerts in the
camp dining room. He also listened to recorded music. “This leader had . . .
connections with the major authorities and [asked] ‘Can we have some music
[records]?’ and they said ‘Yes, but it’s got to be censored,’ ” Wurzberger told
me, laughing at the idea. “Censored” dining room concerts introduced Wurz-
burger to music by Shostakovitch, Hindemith, and many English composers.
They also stimulated him to begin composing in the classical tradition in which
he had been educated. “I’d written light stuff, you know. Dance music,” he told
me, “[but] I wanted to do something more serious.” Ironically, as a prisoner, he
had the time and the facilities, spare as they were, to grow as a musician within
a community of musicians.


“The world is a cage, forged by human stupidity. Art will break the cage.”
This was the motto for an exhibition of internee art, one of the earliest, held in
Onchan in August of 1940. Jack Bilbo, a leader in many internee activities and
a self-taught artist, created the motto and organized the exhibition. Bilbo opened
the exhibition with a speech explaining its three purposes. “First, we wanted to
create something for our comrades, second we wanted to give our comrades
who are artists a purpose and an opportunity to resume work, and third, and
perhaps most important, we wanted to demonstrate to all what kind of people

Page 263

Index • 261

Wilkinson, Ellen, 220
Winik, Gertrude, 22, 27, 29, 40, 41, 42,

55, 59, 68, 195, 226, 229; as organizer
of school for children, 199, 202–3, 210;
as teacher, 226, 233

Women’s Employment Federation, 61
Women’s Engineering Society, 61, 67
Working Refugee Women, 139
World War II, 5, 69; and labor shortages

in Britain, 65; as the “phony war,” 65–

Wurzburger, Walter, 6, 17–18, 21, 24,
43, 82, 108–9, 127, 219, 230, 232–33,

237; arrest, 70; in Paris, 51–52; as
teacher, 159

Yavne school, 33–34
Young Austria, 139
Young Czechoslovakia, 139
Young Spectator, 138, 169, 177

Zandler, Walter, 179–80
Zimmering, Max, 131
Zionism, 19, 107, 119, 153, 154, 178,

235; and youth movement (Habonim),
39–40, 50

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About the Author

MAXINE SCHWARTZ SELLER is Professor in the Department of Educational
Leadership and Policy and Adjunct Professor in the Department of History at
the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. She has published
extensively in Jewish history, immigration history, and the history of education.
Among the books she has written or edited are: To Seek America: A History of
Ethnic Life in the United States, Immigrant Women, Ethnic Theater in the United
States, and (with David Gerber et al.), Identity, Community and Pluralism in
American Life. Former president of the History of Education Society, she has
also been elected to offices in the Immigration History Society, the American
Educational Research Association, and the American Historical Association.

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