Jewish Refugees in Newmarket in WW2
A joint project from Suffolk Archives and the National Horseracing Museum.
This community heritage project is inspired by the memoir of Fritz Ball, a German Jewish refugee who lived in Newmarket in 1939-1942. Fritz and his wife Eva lived alongside several other Jewish refugees at Palace House Stables, which is today part of the National Horseracing Museum.
This project aims to uncover the stories of these refugees and share them with a wider audience.
If you have any memories or stories that could be of interest to the project, please get in touch by emailing [email protected]
More about this project
Fritz and Eva Ball were among 25 Jewish refugees living at Palace House Stables in September 1939. They had come from Berlin, where Fritz had worked as a lawyer until Jews were barred from the profession by the Nazi government in 1935. Fritz had been arrested the day after Kristallnacht and spent time in Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
Desperate to get their family out of the country, Fritz and Eva managed to send their eldest son to live with an aunt in New York in 1938. In March 1939, their two younger children left Germany on the Kindertransport.
Finally, in May 1939, Fritz and Eva left their homeland with two suitcases, and two of Fritz’s cellos. After a few days in London, they were found accommodation at Palace House Stables in Newmarket.
This period between May and September 1939 are described by Fritz as ‘an oasis in the desert of years of bleak life’. With the outbreak of war, some of the initial friendliness with which the refugees had been treaded abruptly stopped. The men were interned as potential ‘enemy aliens’ and Fritz was sent to a camp on the Isle of Man.
A copy of Fritz’s memoir covering his time in Newmarket was recently deposited with Suffolk Archives. It provides 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.
A central theme of the memoir is the importance to Fritz of his beloved cello. This cello is, remarkably, still in existence, and it is hoped that it will play a key role in helping to share the story more widely.
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.
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.