Following the success of my book, ‘The Other Schindlers’, various other related topics have emerged which I am currently pursuing. They are briefly listed below. If anyone knows anything about these topics or can offer additional information, I would be really pleased to hear from them.
Someone who had read my book wrote to me and said her friend’s family had been saved by Unilever. She said that the family from Hungary were called Gyarfas and the father had business connections with the Anglo- Dutch company Unilever. I was told that Unilever invited him to a business conference in London and the whole family (wife and two daughters) were able to come to England in 1939.
Subsequently I have been able to speak to one of Mr. Gyarfas’ daughters who was born in 1919. She has told me that her father owned his own salami factory in Budapest but in 1929 he was employed by Unilever to set up a salami factory for them in Berlin. As life became more difficult for Jews in Germany in the 1930s, he was moved to Holland by Unilever around 1937/8 and then in 1939 they got him and his family papers to permit arrival in England. His daughter told me today (7 July 2011) that Unilever saved them all from the Holocaust.
I had initially contacted Unilever who had no record of such a conference, although their Archivist told me that one of the founding companies of Unilever, the Van den Bergh family were Jewish and ‘they may have assisted individuals in a personal capacity’. I will now go back to them with this new information. I should be glad to know more if anyone can help with this topic.
On a Cruise in October 2010 one of the passengers, Sue Vivian, told me about her pharmacist Father, John Randall Pritchard 1903 – 1974. Apparently he participated in a scheme where people were paid £100 to rescue a Jew of the same profession from occupied Europe and bring them to England. He brought a man called William (surname unknown) and his wife to England from Austria and gave him a job in his pharmacy shop in Notting Hill, London. William was in his fifties when he arrived in the UK and worked for John Pritchard until he retired in the 1950s. Sue last saw William and his wife in 1958 when they lived in a flat in West London.
Sue said her Father never spoke about the matter. He was also an auxiliary fireman during the War, acting as a pump man, which was very dangerous because the German planes aimed for them. He therefore hated the Germans.
Does anyone know anything about such a scheme?
Royal Welch soldier in Palestine November 1945 – May 1947
In April 2010 I spoke at Neath and Port Talbot College about the courage of the Holocaust Rescuers. One of the lecturers told me about his Father and his army service in Palestine. Apparently he was based on the coast and one day he and his colleagues saw a boat come in full of people they could see were in a very poor state. Their orders were not to allow the boat to dock and the people get off. After a while he and some of his chums decided to try to get some of the people off and one night they succeeded. They hid them behind some oil drums and the next day they all escaped.
The lecturer said his Father had never told him or anyone else about this as they could have been charged. But like the Holocaust Rescuers, he did what he felt was right and ignored orders. I should be glad to hear from anyone familiar with this kind of activity or who had family aided in this manner.
Special Operations Executive (SOE) and Sir Hardy Amies
In my book I wrote about the Thiryn family who were in the Resistance (see pp. 113 – 116) and their son Louis Thiryn who was betrayed by the Belgian traitor Prosper de Zitter. By sheer chance, basically the vagaries of the Jubilee Line in London, in April 2011 I saw an old TV programme which showed a black and white photograph of de Zitter whom I recognised from the copy Claire Keen-Thiryn had sent me. I continued to watch the programme and discovered that the Royal dress designer, Sir Hardy Amies, was head of the SOE in Belgium and was determined to assassinate de Zitter who had betrayed many members of the Resistance and allied airmen trying to get home. In fact he was only tracked down after the war and hanged.
Hardy Amies, with due modesty, only mentions his war service briefly in his autobiographies. I am very keen to discover more about his time in the SOE and have looked at some of the papers in the National Archives. I will be actively pursuing this story and would be glad to hear from anyone with more information.
My own story
Finally, I have never understood how or why my Mother (and I) was sent back instead of being deported to Auschwitz. If anyone has a similar story or knows any more I’d be delighted to hear from them.