On Sunday 17 April 2016, 2nd year drama students from Liverpool John Moores University staged an event to commemorate Huyton internment camp. The camp was hastily ‘constructed’ in nearby Knowsley in late May 1940, utilising an incomplete housing estate which was quickly surrounded by a six-foot high, double barbed wire fence, with armed guards on duty. The inhabitants were some of 27,600 so-called ‘enemy aliens’ , mostly Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe, who were taken in to so-called protective custody after mass internment, the policy of ‘collar the lot’, was introduced in mid-May.
One of the internees was the Austrian refugee, Hans Gál, a talented musician, who not only kept a diary during his confinement but also wrote the Huyton Suite, a piece for two violins and a flute. Hearing members of the Liverpool Philharmonic Junior Orchestra playing the suite was undoubtedly the highlight of the day, and you can LINK HERE to watch the commissioned video, and share in this unique experience. This was made possible with the generous support of Liverpool Culture, B’nai B’rith Leo Baeck (London) Lodge Trust Fund and the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Our thanks to Josh Mullins for filming the event.
ELEANOR VISITS HUYTON
Eleanor visited Huyton camp on 20 July 1940, in the company of fellow Parliamentary Committee on Refugees member, Henry Graham White, MP for East Birkenhead. This is part of his recollection of the day:
We met the Committee, to the number of about a dozen, some of whom were distinguished scientists…We had a long discussion with the Committee, mostly on the practical question as to what could be done to improve matters from an intellectual as well purely material point of view. Many of the people interned had been refugees from Austria from the time of the Anschluss, and others from Germany. Some of them had done, and after their release continued to do, valuable work for the Allied cause. When the discussions were over and we left the hut, we found to our surprise that word had got about that we were in the camp, and practically all the internees were gathered around the hut. It was a strangely moving experience to come out into the open and find oneself faced by a crowd of silent, anxious, unhappy people. They were all sorts for the net had brought in, promiscuously, unfortunates from Soho as well as people of great intellectual attainment. Looking at the crowd, I saw a hand waving to me and recognized H.W.Singer, (Hans Wolfgang Singer, pioneering development economist) who, after his release, worked in Manchester and contributed a number of articles under his own name to the Manchester Guardian. It was at once clear that something had to be said to these unhappy people. Eleanor spoke first. I have always regretted that I did not make notes at the time of what she said, but she spoke to them with moving sympathy of our concern for the state in which they were living and our anxiety to do everything that we could to improve conditions in every way possible. She then, as always, showed her keen sense of reality by asking them not to forget in the midst of their troubles that we were in a terrible crisis of the war and that from day to day we might be invaded. She assured them that the action from which they were suffering was foreign to the spirit of the British people. It was quite obvious that her speech had much encouraged and comforted these unfortunate people. I felt it was one of the most remarkable speeches that I had ever heard -made entirely without preparation…’