The Jewish Museum London (JML) re-opened recently following a £10m refurbishment. The new exhibition galleries place the Jewish story firmly in the wider context of British history. The collection reflects the diversity of the Jewish community and the stories of successive waves of immigrants from different continents.
One section of the exhibition is devoted to the Jewish refugees from continental Europe, who came to Britain in the 1930s. A photograph from the JML collection bears the caption 'For the first time: W Finkler's family 1 July 1930'. It shows the Finkler family who originally lived in Vienna: Walter, Hansi and their daughter Evelyn, who was born on 4 April 1930. As conditions for Jews in Austria grew increasingly worse under Hitler, the Finklers decided they must leave the country and they all had separate journeys to make.
Little Evelyn, aged just 8, travelled first, coming to England as a child refugee on the Kindertransport. She was put up in a home with 22 other children in Camden Town that was sponsored by J Lyons & Co, originally a Jewish company which ran the famous Lyons corner houses restaurants and tea shops.
In March 1939, Evelyn's mother Hansi managed to get a visa to enter England as a domestic servant. She worked for a while in a household in Warwick Avenue but was sacked for allegedly drinking the sherry! Evelyn's father Walter was a doctor and a scientist. A relative in Brazil managed to get Walter a forged visa and upon arrival in England he went to stay at the Kitchener Camp for refugees. Once the War began, Evelyn was evacuated to the Isle of Wight and Walter Finkler was interned as an enemy alien on the Isle of Man.
Later Evelyn returned to London with her mother and they earned their keep by sewing buttons on to cards. By 1941 Walter had been released and the family could begin their new life together in London.