Ursula Owen was a founding director of Virago Press in 1974 and later joint managing director. Within the 1990s, she turned a director of the Paul Hamlyn Fund, cultural coverage adviser to the British Labour Occasion and chief govt of Index on Censorship.

She was additionally a refugee, who fled the Nazis along with her household as a baby. Her paternal grandparents Hans and Lotte Sachs settled in Dublin after fleeing Nazi Germany. They’d two kids, Werner (Ursula’s father) and Ilse.

Hans was a distinguished serologist. “They’d left Germany later than most of my different kinfolk,” Owen writes, “hoping, I believe that ‘this nonsense’ would cross. I visited them in Dublin throughout the battle – I used to be eight – and had a really blissful time there.”

Hans died in March 1945, two months earlier than the top of the battle. He was buried in Dublin, his funeral full of associates; Lotte retained a lot of them for the remainder of her life. She returned to England after he died.

In December 1939, shortly after he arrived in Dublin – Frank McNally experiences in An Irishman’s Diary (January 22nd, 2014) – Hans delivered in German the funeral oration for a fellow Jewish exile, Ludwig Hopf, a pal and collaborator of Albert Einstein. inviting the mourners to “bow with reverence earlier than the inscrutable energy of future”.

“Prof Sachs additionally spoke on that event of the shared destiny that had introduced him and Hopf to ‘this stunning and hospitable nation’. Possibly that was a extra charitable verdict than Eire deserved for its document in direction of Jews usually,” McNally writes.

Ursula’s grandmother Lotte with her children, Urssula’s father Werner and aunt Ilse in 1919
Ursula’s grandmother Lotte along with her kids, Ursula’s father Werner and aunt Ilse in 1919
Ursula’s father Werner, aunt Ilse, and grandparents Lotte and Hans in 1928
Ursula’s father Werner, aunt Ilse, and grandparents Lotte and Hans in 1928

On this extract from Single Journey Solely, Ursula Owen’s memoir, she describes her grandparents’ transfer to Dublin:

After which in late December 1938 my grandparents arrived in London. It had been a protracted, protracted leaving. By 1934, a publication ban for Jews had been introduced in; the variety of college students in Hans’s courses was dwindling; and two of his most essential co-workers, each Jewish, had emigrated. He was nonetheless in a position to journey, however in 1935 Jews misplaced equal citizenship underneath the Nuremberg racial legal guidelines and he was categorically dismissed.

The letter he obtained interprets: “The Dwelling Secretary for the Reich and for Prussia has decreed that, in accordance with the Legislation of September 15 1935, staff with both three or 4 grandparents of Jewish race or faith, will likely be positioned on instant retirement. In accordance with directions from the Schooling Minister in Karlsruhe you meet the necessities of this regulation. You might be due to this fact given go away of absence from service.”

He now noticed the writing on the wall and began on the lookout for educational jobs overseas, Britain being his first alternative; however all makes an attempt failed, maybe partly as a result of he was by then thought of an previous man (he was 58).

Peter and I had left Lotte and Hans for England in early September. Buddies begged them to depart. They had been nonetheless reluctant.

Then, on November ninth, Kristallnacht, 1,000 synagogues had been destroyed or broken, 7,000 Jewish-owned retailers had been vandalized; 30,000 Jewish males had been arrested and brought to camps at Buchenwald, Dachau and Sachsenhausen.

At 5am there was a knock on my grandparents’ door. A Gestapo officer stood on the doorstep. Hans and Lotte each thought this was the top for them, that they’d be taken away. However Otto Westphal was a former pupil of my grandfather’s, who had joined the Nazi Occasion in 1933 in a spirit of hope, believing that Hitler would save Germany. His disillusionment got here rapidly, however he couldn’t go away the get together. He had made it his enterprise to knock on individuals’s doorways within the early hours to warn them to flee. Lastly, my grandparents knew they needed to go away.

There adopted an anxious time, not least due to the cat and mouse video games the authorities performed over granting the permits wanted to to migrate, which concerned giving up all their monetary property.

Hans and Lotte had been nonetheless having bother getting British visas. Lastly, the British consul in Frankfurt, Mr Smallbones, wrote: “The group within the Dwelling Workplace has damaged down and there’s no hope of getting a call from them about your case in an inexpensive time”. Upon which Mr Smallbones issued the visa himself. He was one of many officers commemorated by Rabbi Julia Neuberger in her guide On Being Jewish, for his or her “kindness and actions past the decision of responsibility, in opposition to authorities coverage”. He issued, with different colleagues, greater than 50,000 visas to Jewish immigrants to Britain.

My grandfather, crammed with apprehension and pessimism, went from room to room, attempting to resolve which books and belongings to take, calling out “Ecrasez, ecrasez!” Lotte, much less introspective and fewer concerned within the emigration formalities, remained calmer and extra optimistic.

I used to be so excited the day they arrived in London, going to look on the street time and again to see whether or not there have been right here but. Relieved to be protected, they had been overwhelmed with pleasure at seeing us once more. However they had been nonetheless not sure the place they’d ultimately settle. They had been in need of cash, most of it having been seized by the Nazis and deposited into the Nazi Golddiskontbank.

In February 1939, Hans was supplied a publish on the Institute for Superior Research in Dublin. It meant he and Lotte can be separated from the household and from German-speaking firm. However the job was fascinating and he hadn’t obtained any provides in England.

He went to Dublin in March on an exploratory go to. A number of weeks later, he and Lotte rented a flat at three Palmerston Villas. In Might he wrote to his banker pal, Frau Brenning, “We’re discovering issues fairly troublesome, as we’re actually lonely right here and don’t have any contact with any Germans, which we definitely had in London. However no less than we’re glad to be dwelling once more amongst our personal furnishings though a lot of those had been broken throughout their lengthy travels.”

The grant Hans obtained, £500 a 12 months, allowed them to hire a spacious flat in a pleasant a part of Dublin. They may afford home assist. They appear to have recreated a lot of the setting of their life in Heidelberg. In my grandfather’s obituary, Kees Van Joek, a colleague, wrote “no different Dublin home had, fairly like his, the ambiance of Continental tradition from all of the wall-covering bookcases to the swish porcelain through which espresso was served, it remained Heidelberg, transported to Dublin.”

There have been additionally, Hans wrote to my mom Fips, “the pleasures of curiosity which prevailed at first.” They rapidly established a musical night at their home each Monday, with Hans accompanying his singer associates. Above all they made associates. They had been heat, gregarious, significantly Lotte, and hospitable. Their friendships ultimately developed in each the German-speaking Jewish refugee neighborhood in Dublin and with a big circle of Irish individuals.

They’d discovered some kind of a house.
Single Journey Solely, a memoir by Ursula Owen, is printed by Salt

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