Anton Walbrook: movie star and Jewish refugee
Explore – what it feels like to be a refugee
Discuss – how one group of people can drive another group from their homes/ country
Discover – how refugees have contributed to Britain
• Citizenship/ PSHE – Understanding the causes of refugees and related social justice issues
• History – Britain since 1930: World War II; Child refugees
• English – Using drama to explore roles and feelings
• Anton Walbrook was a refugee from his homeland, as many people have been over the 200 years we are celebrating; in 2012, Refugee Week will be from the 18th to the 24th of June, right in the middle of the ABG festival
• He became a famous English speaking actor; find out about other refugees who have become famous in their new home country
• Before the Second World War certain English people became aware that anti-Jewish feelings were growing in Europe; they tried to save the lives of Jewish children by bringing them to England – in a scheme known as ‘The Kindertransport’
• Write a diary imagining what it might feel like to be a refugee in another country, especially a child refugee
• Find out about the Kindertransport and what happened to some of the children who came to live in England
• Write and perform a play in which the children imagine they are refugees arriving in England
Anton Walbrook learnt to speak English before he came to live in England, but imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t speak English, and if you couldn’t talk to people around you or understand what people in the street and in shops were saying.
Other things would be strange – such as the food and the smells, the weather and peoples’ clothes. You would have left your toys and your books behind. Most importantly you would have left your friends and members of your family, and you would not know if you would ever see them again.
How do you think you would feel?
Suitcase: a reconstruction imagining refugee children arriving at Liverpool Street Station – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwFd1nzFyUc
Kindertransport: A Journey to Life: A 2012 Newsnight program featuring interviews with some of the refugees – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqP0uVSj3bQ
The theatre company Shared Experience produced an education pack to go along with their production of Diane Samuels’ play Kindertransport.
It is estimated that 9,500 children were rescued from Germany. Immense sacrifices were made by parents who didn’t know if they would ever see their children again. Page 8 in the pack imagines what it was like for children when they first arrived under the heading ‘And the Policeman smiled‘, and pages 9 and 10 have information about refugees today.
The Association of Jewish Refugees did a survey recently and found that 54% of Kinder parents were believed to have been killed, and 41% of Kinder never saw both their parents again. However 63% found other relatives after the war.
Hampstead was the centre of efforts to help artists trying to leave Central Europe. The Artists’ Refugee Committee and the Free German League of Culture were both founded in the home of Fred and Diana Uhlman at 47 Downshire Hill.
One of the most famous refugees who came to Hampstead in June 1938 was Sigmund Freud and his daughter Anna. You can visit their home at 20 Maresfield Gardens.
You may know other Jewish people who were refugees from Germany in the 1930’s and who settled in North London. They include the parents of the present Labour party leader, Ed Miliband.
Judith Kerr, the children’s author, who wrote ‘Mog the Forgetful Cat’ and ‘The Tiger who came to Tea’, also wrote a semi-autobiographical novel ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ which gives a child’s perspective on the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930’s and the experience of being a refugee: https://www.booktrust.org.uk/book/w/when-hitler-stole-pink-rabbit/
There is an interview with her in which she talks about her childhood at: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/an-interview-with-judith-kerr
Interview with Aton Walbrook: http://www.powell-pressburger.org/Reviews/Anton/Picturegoer.html.
Oxford National Dictionary of Biography
YouTube has numerous clips of films in which Anton Walbrook appeared. In this monologue from The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), he portrays a German refugee fleeing to England to escape the Nazi regime: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcZ6fnRLDLU
YouTube also has numerous links to moving stories of people who took part in the Kindertransport.
This page was last updated on December 2nd, 2020.