Less than 20 years after “the war to end all wars,” it started all over again. On September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland from the west; two days later, France and Britain, including Canada — home of the author of this website — and other Commonwealth countries, declared war on Germany, and World War II began. For the Jews of Germany, the beginning of this war was completely different from September 1914. They dreaded the onset of war, knowing its consequences would be increasingly dire for them.
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We can identify 487 members of the Jewish families of Themar who were alive on 1 September 1939. Of the 462 men, women, and children, whose whereabouts we know (or are 99% sure about) most—281or 61%—were still within the borders of the Third Reich—Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. The overwhelming majority of these—247 or 88%—were still within the borders of pre-March 1938 Germany. (that is, before the Annexation/Anschluss of Austria) At least fifty Jews, as defined by Nazi law, were in Themar
One hundred and eighty-one (181) family members had managed to flee: some to nearby Holland and Belgium, some to remote corners such as Shanghai, Australia, Argentina, Uruguay ,and South Africa. Eighty-three (83) had managed to acquire visas to enter the United States.
And then there were those in the two countries that had declared war on Germany: France and Britain. Only a few family members had immigrated into France: Albert Katz, b. 1889 in Themar, and two members of the Baer/Bär family: 14-year old Hannelore Stern, daughter of Elly Stern, née Baer, and her uncle Richard Grossmann (b. 1904 both went to France in April 1939. Thirty-five (35) family members—from almost all Jewish families of Themar—had entered Britain on temporary visas before war began.
Both countries now designated German Jews “enemy aliens” under threat of internment. Further immigration into Britain was impossible and the hope that families, such as that of Franziska Neumann (née Müller), daughter of Pauline (née Steindler) and Leopold Müller, would be reunited in England, were dashed. Some, such as Elly Plaut, née Bär, hoped that she and daughter Hannah Karola might be reunited with Arthur Plaut in the United States at some future, yet unknown, date.
The following pages tell more:
Who was still living in Themar in September 1939?
Who was in Britain on 3 September 1939?
World War II and Enemy Alien Tribunals in Britain
The Domestic Permit Program in Britain
Kindertransport Program (page under construction)
The Kitchener Camp Program (page under construction)