Holocaust Memorial Day

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Holocaust Memorial Day display at Hale Library, 2018

Holocaust Memorial Day encourages remembrance of the six million Jews and millions of others who lost their lives at the hands of Nazi persecution. The 27 January was chosen as this date marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in 1945.

Trafford Local Studies have searched for local connections to the Holocaust, to both aid remembrance and acknowledge this dark moment in history.

Anne Senchal (née Marschner)

Anne Senchal (née Marschner) travelled to England as part of the Kindertransport (children’s transport) effort to save Jewish children from the Nazis, where she went on to attend a school for deaf girls in Old Trafford.

 Anne was born in 1929 in Berlin, as the youngest of three children. Together with her brother Horst, she attended a Jewish school for the deaf, where they learnt to lip read and sign in German. Somewhat isolated by her deafness, she did not realise she was different from the other children she encountered outside of school.

In 1938, nine year-old Anne witnessed Nazi soldiers shoot a disabled man in cold blood. This was followed by another violent incident, when she saw Nazi youths beat up Jewish children from her school during an Easter egg hunt. Later that year, Nazi soldiers arrested the school’s headmaster, Felix Reich, in front of the school assembly and imprisoned him. In May 1939, Felix was released from prison and he returned to the school. He then managed to arrange safe passage for himself and ten of his schoolchildren on the Kindertransport to England. This group included Anne and Horst.

Arrival of Jewish children at the Port of London 1939. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany lice.jpg

Arrival of Jewish children at the Port of London in 1939. Creative Commons attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S69279 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Kindertransport was a nine-month rescue effort that brought Jewish children to Great Britain in the lead-up to the Second World War. The British Government agreed to allow over 10,000 children under the age of seventeen to enter. Although they were escaping brutality and persecution, the children went through painful separations from their loved ones and their integration into British society was not always easy. Many children were never to see their parents again.

Anne and Horst were taken to the Residential Jewish School for the Deaf on Nightingale Road, in Balham, London. The matron asked Anne to hand over her necklace and earrings. They were a present from her mother, but Anne never saw the jewellery again. She also didn’t understand the English sign language that the other children and staff used. When Horst was expelled as punishment for bad behaviour, Anne was never told where he had gone.

Not long after her arrival in London, Anne was sent to a deaf school in Brighton, before being once again evacuated to Wiltshire. She recalled receiving a letter from her mother ‘with bits cut out of it’. Her mother wrote to her again in 1942, but that was the last time Anne heard from her. She also remembered her jealousy when other parents came to visit their children and her belief that her mother didn’t love her. Anne never heard from Felix Reich again. He lost contact with the ten children he had saved. He remained in England after the war and died in Oldham in January 1964. Felix is buried at Southern Cemetery, in Manchester. 

In 1945, at the age of sixteen, Anne was sent to Manchester, and attended the Henry Worrall Training School for Deaf Girls on Chester Road (Old Trafford), where she learnt dressmaking. She was the only Jewish student and once again felt very unhappy and isolated. Anne discovered her brother Horst was at the nearby Sir James E. Jones School of Industrial Training on Talbot Road, also in Old Trafford, but their reunion was short lived: as Horst was charged with stealing and deported back to Germany.

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The Henry Worrall Training School was located at 683 Chester Road and the Sir James E. Jones School of Industrial Training stood on Talbot Road, close to The Royal Deaf School and Henshaw’s Institution for the Blind. Ordnance Survey map of Old Trafford, 1934. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. 96275820

In the years following the war, Anne discovered that her father had died at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1942, and her mother had died in a gas chamber in Lodz in 1945. Anne’s other brother Karl Heinz had also been murdered, but there were no further details about his death. Anne also managed to trace Horst, who was alive and living in Berlin.

Over the years, Anne has spoken about her experiences at universities and on the BBC2 television programme ‘See Hear’. She remains forever grateful for the support of the Deaf Club and the Jewish Deaf Association who ‘gave her the will to live’.

Martin Martins (formerly Martin Schmalz)

From the 1940s until his death in 1980, Martin Martins lived in Urmston and Flixton. The anti-Semitic policies of the Nazis brought him from Germany to Manchester in 1933.

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Martin and his wife Leah at 5 Ashfield Road, Urmston, in the 1954-1955 electoral register. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. STR/8/1/1/8

Martin Schmalz was born in 1908 in the city of Gnesen (now Gniezno), which was then in the east of Germany. Together with his family, fourteen year-old Martin relocated to Berlin in 1922, after Gnesen was transferred to Poland. Martin's father had fought for Germany in the First World War, and considering himself a loyal German, did not want to live under Polish rule. Five years later, Martin joined the team of the famous chemist Michael Polanyi, working as a technician in the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute’s Department of Physical Chemistry. He would stay in this role until 1933, when the Nazi party rose to power and laws were passed which excluded Jews from professions, public life, and access to education.

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Extract: Dismissal letter from the Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut fuer Physikalische Chemie und Elektrochemie, 29 July 1933. The first sentence reads: 'Herewith I inform you of the termination of your contract of employment with the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut fuer physikalische Chemie und Elektrochemie according to para 3 (non-arian paragraph) of the law for reconstruction of the civil service of April 7th, 1933 and the rules of implementation pertaining thereto'. Image courtesy of John Martins. 

Following his dismissal from his post at Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, Martin left Germany and joined Michael Polanyi – who was also of Jewish descent – at the University of Manchester. Earlier that year, Polanyi had joined the University as chair of Physical Chemistry, and was responsible for submitting the paperwork which enabled Martin’s relocation to England.

Dr. Polayni resigned his Berlin post last month as a protest against the Nazi treatment of Jewish and Liberal professors.

- The Manchester Guardian, 20 June 1933

Martin’s initial six-month stay was extended to two years, after which time he was no longer allowed to stay in the country, in compliance with British immigration policy. Following a chance meeting at a garden party in Didsbury, south Manchester, he was offered a position at the Daniel Sieff Institute in Palestine. It was there that he married Leah Sandler, daughter of Jewish immigrants from Riga and Bialystok, in May 1936. Although she was born in Sheffield, she had lived with her family in the Manchester area since 1914. By 1939, records confirm that Leah and Martin had moved back to Manchester: residing at Leah’s family home on Elizabeth Street (Cheetham Hill), under the surname ‘Martins’.

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Ordnance Survey map showing Ashfield Road, Urmston, 1937. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. 96275138

During the war, Martin initially carried out scientific war work in Glasgow, before moving with Leah to Urmston, where they lived on Ashfield Road. There they had two sons, called Michael and John. Michael was named after Michael Polayni, in recognition of his help. In 1948, Martin Martins became a naturalised British citizen. The couple later moved to Carrington Road in Flixton. 

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Martin and Leah Martins outside of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, 1977. Image courtesy of John Martins. 

In 1977, the couple travelled to Berlin, where they visited Martin's former workplace. They also visited the Weissensee Cemetery in Berlin, where Martin’s mother was buried in 1931. In 1992, on the anniversary of the camp’s liberation, an urn containing the ashes of the Auschwitz victims was placed at the camp cemetery – offering a stark reminder of the fate that was not his, but so nearly could have been.

Martin and Leah's son John has recently found out that Martin's father and his second wife were forcibly transported from Berlin to Warsaw and later murdered. Their names appeared on a Gestapo train list dated 2 April 1942.  

Jack Tomlinson

As a member of the Royal Tank Corps, Stretford-born John Tomlinson was taken prisoner by the Germans and transferred to Auschwitz, where he stayed until the end of the war.

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Jackson Street, Stretford, 1905. Jack’s family lived on this street before moving to nearby Wellington Street shortly before he was born. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL3462

John Tomlinson, known as Jack, was born in Stretford in 1916. He trained as a butcher before joining the Royal Tank Corps in the 1930s. In 1939, he married his wife Gladys, who gave birth to a son later that year. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Jack was sent to France: fighting at Dunkirk and later as a Sergeant Tank Commander with the 8th Army. He was taken prisoner by the Germans in Tobruk, North Africa and escaped, only to be recaptured close to the Swiss border.

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Auschwitz-Birkenau, 2011. Photograph by R. Stephens

Following his recapture, Jack was taken to Auschwitz. Up to 1,200 British prisoners-of-war were held at sub-camp E715, where they were put to work supporting the German war effort under the jurisdiction of the Wehrmacht (‘defense power’, or ‘armed forces’). In his eyewitness account, fellow POW Arthur Dodd recalled the brutal treatment of the Jews in the nearby concentration camp and the terrible smell from the crematorium.

British detainees did not just hear about the violence at the heart of Nazism, they also saw it with their own eyes; after all, they were present when Jews were transported, humiliated, starved, brutalised and murdered.

- Russell Wallis, British POWs and the Holocaust, (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2007) p.2

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Entrance to Auschwitz, 2019. Photograph by T. Jones

At the beginning of 1945, there were still more than 500 British prisoners at the camp. They were first evacuated to Brüx, Czechoslovakia, and then to Mooseburg, Germany, were they were liberated.

After the war, Jack returned to work as a butcher, moving with his family to Darlington in 1950.

He was affected by the POW camp experience for the rest of his life. His daughter Janet Mortimer said he still shouted and sang in German in his sleep.

- The Northern Echo, 18 September 2001


A special thanks to John Martins, who contacted us with invaluable information about his parents, Martin and Leah Martins. 

The British Library, ‘Jewish survivors of the Holocaust’, <https://sounds.bl.uk/Oral-history/Jewish-Holocaust-survivors/021M-C0830X0080XX-0002V0> [accessed 7 January 2021]

Encyclopaedia Brittanica, ‘Kindertransport’, <https://www.britannica.com/event/Kindertransport> [accessed 15 January 2021]

Jewish Community of Berlin, ‘Weissensee Cemetery’, <http://www.jg-berlin.org/en/judaism/cemeteries/weissensee.html> [accessed 8 January 2021]

Kelly’s (Slater’s) Directory of Manchester, Salford and Suburbs (1942)

The London Gazette, 19 October 1948

Manchester Archives catalogue, ‘Photographs related to Martin Martins and family’, <http://www.gmlives.org.uk/results.html#imu[rid=ecatalogue.119943]> [accessed 8 January 2021]

The Northern Echo, 18 September 2001

The Northern Echo, 18 February 2002

Nye, Mary Joe, Origins of the Social Construction of Science, (University of Chicago Press, 2011)

Rushton, Colin, Auschwitz: A British POW’s Eyewitness Account, (Summersdale Publishers Ltd, 2007)

Soleim, Marianne Neerland, Prisoners of War and Forced Labour, (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2020)

Swinton, Jonathan, Alan Turing’s Manchester, (Infang Publishing, 2019)

Wallis, Russell, British Prisoners of War and the Holocaust, (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017)

Holocaust Memorial Day