Conor Brockbank, Modern History Graduate, Aberystwyth University
The final blog in this series will explore the lives of the refugees from National Socialism who worked in domestic service in the areas outside of Aberystwyth and those who were guests at Pantgwyn, a guest house in the area by 1940. This blog will continue to consider the questions set out in the first blog in this series, as well as: where outside of Aberystwyth did refugees work in domestic service? Were there any places, locations and businesses in the surrounding areas that became safe havens for several refugees in domestic service? How did refugees help and assist each other in domestic service? Finally, how far were these refugees’ careers and lives affected and changed by being forced to flee and seek refuge elsewhere?
Refugees in domestic service in Ceredigion in the areas outside of Aberystwyth worked in households as far south as Cardigan. The largest group of these refugees are connected to Pantgwyn, located in the village of Llangoedmor, Cardigan, with refugees either working in domestic service there or being guests. Herbert and Claire Therese Gutmann, who were born in Vienna, Austria, on 28 July 1907 and 11 August 1909 respectively, were among the refugees who lived and worked at Pantgwyn. Before he left Austria, Herbert was a manufacturer. By September 1939, according to the 1939 Register, Herbert was the manager and Claire undertook domestic duties at Pantgwyn. Herbert, as the manager of Pantgwyn, clearly used this role not only to hire other refugees to work in domestic service there, but under his management, the guest house became a place for other refugees to seek refuge and security.
While working as the manager there, Herbert was arrested as an “alien suspect” on 3 September 1939 and was detained at HMP Swansea on the 4th, before he was released, under the instructions of the Home Secretary, a few days later on 7 September. Herbert’s internment on the Isle of Man in May 1940 and his release in September of the same year does not seem to have affected the refuge and security of Claire, who was not interned, or any of the other refugees there, as none of the refugees, according to the records, left Pantgwyn during this period. By 1981, the Gutmanns were living on Marlborough Road in Cardiff. It is unclear when Herbert passed away, but Claire passed away on 21 April 1997 in Cardiff.
Herbert Gutmann (b.1907) & Claire Therese Gutmann (1909-1997), photos within Police Memorandum Book inscribed ‘Aliens’ Photographs’, H.W.?Owen, MUS/204, Archifdy Ceredigion Archives
The refugees who were living and working alongside the Gutmanns included families as well as individuals, such as Josephine Schorr. Josephine was born on 14 July 1884 in Vienna, Austria. According to the 1939 Register, Josephine had left Austria, as she was working at Pantgwyn as a cook and a nurse, and by this time Josephine had married and become a widow. On 23 October, she was categorised as ‘C’ at a tribunal and before the tribunals held in June 1940, she had left Pantgwyn. Josephine is next recorded as living on Callcot Road in London in 1950, from where she travelled to board the Ile De France in Southampton to travel to New York on 25 March 1950. When she arrived in New York on 27 March, Josephine lived at 34-44 Broadway in New York. Josephine’s life after emigrating to New York and living on Broadway is unclear.
Other refugees did not work at Pantgwyn but were guests there, such as the Korda family. The Korda family consisted of Eugenie ‘Jenny’, Pavel and their young daughter, Ivette. Jenny was born on 30 November 1894 in Znaim in the Moravian Region of Austria-Hungary (now in the Czech Republic) and Pavel was born in Prague on 13 July 1899. Both Jenny and Pavel were born into Jewish families in the Czech lands of Austria-Hungary, which formed part of Czechoslovakia after 1918. Jenny’s family, the Weinbergers, were a prominent family in the area when she was born and ran a leather manufacturing business there. Czechoslovakia, including the regions of Bohemia and Moravia, was occupied by the Nazis by 1939 and it was no doubt under these conditions that the Kordas left Czechoslovakia.
By September 1939, the Kordas are listed in the 1939 Register as living at Pantgwyn, Pavel was working as a manufacturer of liquor, candies and chocolates, Ivette began attending school in the local area, and what Jenny was doing while they lived there is not clear from this record. Pavel, much like Herbert was also briefly arrested on 3 September 1939 as an “alien suspect” and was also detained at HMP Swansea between 4 and 8 September, before also being released under the orders of the Home Secretary. By February 1940, the Kordas had left Pantgwyn and none of the family it appears were interned. The Kordas had moved, albeit briefly, to Guayaquil in Ecuador sometime between February 1940 and June 1941, when they embarked on the SS Santa Clara from there to arrive in New York. They arrived in New York, much like Josephine, on 16 June 1941 and Jenny is listed as a housewife, Pavel as an industrialist and Ivette as a student. By the time that the Kordas arrived in New York, Jenny’s father and brother among other family members were reunited, as they had arrived there a few months previously. In 1946, Pavel petitioned to become a naturalised American citizen and by this time he had changed his name to Paul Korda. He was a food dealer by this time, living on Queens Boulevard in New York. Jenny and Paul passed away in New York in April 1973 and March 1962, respectively.
Eugenie ‘Jenny’ Korda (1894-1973), photos within Police Memorandum Book inscribed ‘Aliens’ Photographs’, H.W.?Owen, MUS/204, Archifdy Ceredigion Archives & Pavel Korda (1899-1962), photo taken c.1930. Used with the permission, and in the possession, of Robert. J. Low
Other refugees who were also from Czechoslovakia were also guests at Pantgwyn, such as Hedwig Salter. Hedwig was born on 12 May 1880 in what became Czechoslovakia. By September 1939, she was a guest at Pantgwyn and Hedwig is listed as a widow who was also incapacitated. She was categorised as ‘C’ at a tribunal held on 23 October 1939. Hedwig passed away in Cardiff in 1945.
Refugees in domestic service were also in other villages near Cardigan, including Katharina Schwarzthal. Katharina was born on 31 October 1899 in Vienna, Austria. By September 1939, she was a domestic servant in Chale on the Isle of Wight. In 1939, Katharina moved to St Dogmaels, Cardigan to work as a domestic servant at Glantivy house. During this year, she was also categorised as ‘C’ at a tribunal held in Brecon on 7 November 1939. She got married in 1939, her married name being Katharina Bowen Jones. Katharina passed away while still living in St Dogmaels in October 1967.
Outside of villages near Cardigan, refugees also worked in domestic service, in places such as Llangrannog, like Anna Magdalene ‘Margaret’ Sara Levy. Anna was born on 21 September 1920 in Bad Ems in Germany. In September 1939, she was cautioned by local authorities in Cardiganshire for entering the county without any travel permit. By October 1939, she was working as a domestic servant at Riverside in Llangrannog; while she was here, she was also categorised as ‘C’ at a tribunal held on 23 October 1939. Anna passed away in 2005 in East Devon and was married by this time, but it is unclear when this happened.
Moving back towards Aberystwyth, refugee Regina Eigenfeld was working in domestic service in Lampeter. Regina was born on 17 July 1895 in Austria and while she was still in Austria, Regina worked as a secretary. By October 1939, she had moved to Wales and was working as a domestic servant at the Vicarage in Lampeter and while living here was categorised as ‘C’ at a tribunal on the 23 October 1939. She left Lampeter and the district on 5 December 1939. Regina passed away in 1981 in Westminster, London.
The final refugee whose life will be explored in this blog, and in this series as a whole, is Margaret Lewy. Margaret was born on 16 April 1901 in Breslau, Germany, now Wroclaw in Poland. By September 1939, she was working as a domestic servant in Willesden Green in Middlesex. By November 1939, Margaret had moved to Aberaeron, where she was a domestic servant for a Mrs T.W. Lloyd living at Weston house. Margaret’s movements and life after this is unclear until she passed away in March 1984 at Heinrich Stahl House on Bishop’s Avenue in London. Heinrich Stahl House was opened in 1962 as an old people’s home for Jewish German-speaking refugees, paid for jointly by the Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief and the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR).
The experiences and lives of refugees who worked in domestic service in the areas surrounding and outside of Aberystwyth, and those who were guests at Pantgwyn, once again demonstrate that the individual experiences of refugees from National Socialism in Wales were unique. The geographical areas covered by those who worked in domestic service, or who were guests at Pantgwyn, ranged from Aberaeron, Lampeter and Llanarth to Llangodemor, Llangrannog and St Dogmaels. Pantgwyn played a unique role in the lives of a number of refugees, by either providing them with a place of work in domestic service or as a roof over their heads as guests there. Herbert Gutmann himself played an important role as the manager of Pantgwyn by providing work in domestic service to his fellow refugees. Of those explored in this blog, only Herbert faced internment, with many receiving a category ‘C’ at tribunals in 1939 and 1940.
From the life stories of those who worked in domestic service, both in Aberystwyth and in the areas surrounding it, we know that those who worked as domestic servants had the lowest number of refugees who were interned out of all the various groups explored in this series. Unlike the refugees who worked in domestic service in Aberystwyth, a number of those who worked or were guests in the areas outside Aberystwyth, such as the Gutmanns, Hedwig and Katharina, remained in the local area or Wales more widely after their time in domestic service ended. The other refugees, however, did not stay locally and moved to places as far away as London, New York or elsewhere. For many, much like those who worked in domestic service in Aberystwyth, it is hard to ascertain what jobs and lives they left behind when they had to flee and seek refuge in the UK. Some left jobs as manufacturers and secretaries behind to seek refuge elsewhere. Whether a student, university staff member, art historian, dealer, photographer, agricultural expert, domestic servant or guests, refugees from National Socialism who arrived in Aberystwyth and the surrounding areas faced similar circumstances of tribunals, but many other aspects of their lives were unique and varied. Some sadly were lost to history, but for many they went onto make important contributions to societies in countries across the world and as role models to their children, who were mainly born away from the country of their parents’ birth.
NB. This blog was written in conjunction with the Aberystwyth at War project. The blog can also be found on their project website.
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Photos used with the permission of Archifdy Ceredigion Archives, Aberystwyth & Robert. J. Low.