Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that: “History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies”. Well, maybe. What is certain is that this website is a gallery of original pictures, stories written by people who participated in real-life events, anxious, as my late wife Dinah was, to record their impressions for their grandchildren and anyone else who was interested. In her case the memories, although vivid, were not those of an adult. She and her brother Patrick were young children when their mother of Jewish stock –born Andree Lehmann and married to a British man who had joined the British Army- seeing the German troops on the streets of Paris and knowing that steps were being taken to register the Jewish population at the Mairie, realised that the time had come to go. So, conversations with the family, supplemented by research, were needed to explain the significance of her memory of climbing into a horse-drawn cart in the dark of the moon and being covered with blankets.
Dinah’s mother and other relations had talked about their experiences and that helped. Passports, too, in those days had impressed stamps recording the dates frontiers were crossed. Dinah’s brother Patrick did a lot of work on his father’s ‘escape’ from France via St Nazaire but it was the Army Record Office which told her when and where he landed in the UK [it was Falmouth]. She didn’t need telling that Anna Freud, for whom her older half-sister Doreen worked in Maresfield Gardens, was an important figure but we went, of course, to see the house, Sigmund Freud’s house. She knew that a cricketer called Maurice Tate had been a drinking partner of her father. She learned from us that this was a great man, the Sussex and England hero, an all-rounder worshipped by many before the war.
I mention some of the details of the work that went into her writing to demonstrate that memories need the support of hard graft to establish the underlying facts. Gaps may be revealed and areas for further study identified. [Who knows about the activities of the Eclaireurs Israelites, the Jewish Scouts, at that time?] These memoirs are not just a stream of consciousness, an elderly person’s tired old rant. The family hope and believe that there is a wider audience for the raw material of history and that long after the writers have passed away the permanent record of those already far-off events in a very accessible medium will be of value to those who are interested . We owe Dr Hanna Diamond a huge debt of gratitude for having made that possible.
Read about Dinah Child’s experiences here
25 November 2012