Discovering Newmarket’s Jewish refugees
A new joint heritage project from Suffolk Archives and the National Horseracing Museum is aiming to uncover stories of Jewish refugees who were housed in Newmarket during World War Two.
The project has been inspired by the memoir of one of these refugees, Fritz Ball, who with his wife Eva was among 25 Jewish refugees living at Palace House Stables (now part of the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket) in September 1939.
Fritz wrote a memoir of his time in Newmarket, a copy of which has recently been deposited with Suffolk Archives by his granddaughter, Sandra Ball:
“My grandfather died years before I received this manuscript from my aunt. With no one left to ask, I turned to internet and to archives for the answers to questions I couldn’t ask my grandfather anymore. The attention given to Fritz’s story by Suffolk Archives and the National Horseracing Museum is important to our family.”
Fritz’s memoir gives a fascinating insight into the life of the refugees sent to Newmarket at this time, highlighting the kindness they initially experienced from the locals and how this changed with the outbreak of war. It also helps us to understand the challenges faced by those arriving in a new place and adjusting to the cultural differences experienced.
As well as his memoir, Sandra is also the proud owner of one of Fritz’s cellos, which he succeeded in bringing with him on the long journey to Newmarket from their home in Berlin. The instrument features strongly in Fritz’s memoirs and it is hoped it can play a part in how these stories can go on to be shared more widely. The project team are exploring the possibility of working with local schools and the wider community to create a new piece of music which responds to the stories being researched.
Hannah Salisbury, Community and Learning Officer for Suffolk Archives, said:
“When we first read Fritz’s memoir of his time in Newmarket, we knew we had to share it more widely and find out more about his life as a refugee in the town. We’ve been amazed at how much our project researchers have found out already, and we are really hoping there will be people who have memories or stories which have been passed on to them about the refugees being in Newmarket. The fact that music is such a strong theme throughout the memoir provides some really exciting possibilities for how we can interpret and share the story.”
In addition to uncovering more of Fritz’s story, research so far has also shown that there were several unaccompanied child refugees placed in households around Newmarket at this time and the project team are keen to learn more about this aspect too. Research is also being carried out into how local people supported the arriving refugees.
Dr Alexandra Fletcher, Packard Curator at the National Horseracing Museum, said:
“The National Horseracing Museum is very excited to be part of this project. The wartime history of the current museum site and the contribution the Rothschild family made in providing homes for Jewish refugees is a little-known but important chapter in Newmarket’s history. The ‘Palace House Stables’ as they were known provided a home for several families. The museum is looking forward to working with our project partners to discover and tell their stories.”
If you have any memories or stories that could be of interest to the project, please get in touch by emailing [email protected]
This project forms part of Sharing Suffolk Stories, the countywide National Lottery Heritage Fund supported programme of activities which enables communities to discover more about the history of where they live and to share it in new and engaging ways.