A 73-year-old woman who was recently sorting out the letters she had received from her parents as heirloom found details of an old, underground network established by anti-Nazis to help Jews.
The retired academic and teacher was aware that her late mother, Evelyn Parker, had been involved in progressive causes in her youth, and had met her father, James Newell, when they were both conscientious objectors during the second world war.
Parker had also told her children about the years she spent in Berlin in the 1930s teaching English to Jewish families, and in particular the bond she had formed with a German couple, Max and Malwine Schindler.
The Schindlers who bear no relation to the industrialist Oskar had been held up in the eyes of Frances and her siblings as a noble pair who defied the Nazis before and during the war to save vulnerable people.
But when Parker died in 1988, the family were left with a gap in the legacy of their mother and the Schindlers. When Frances visited Berlin in 2016 to fill in the missing pieces of the family folklore, searches for the Schindlers at museums and libraries turned up no significant records.
This void in the Schindlers’ story left Frances with “a very strong sense of obligation” to make sure it would not be forgotten. Frances said she spent more than 600 hours going through these letters to discover this underground and important network set up by her mother to help save Jewish families from the Nazi rule.
“In those prewar years, they were so unbelievably optimistic. These are young people, they’re full of joy and optimism. They really thought that they were going to make it, that the world was not going to take the path it did. That’s the great tragedy of it, the contrast of the early years and the tone of the latter years,” Frances says. “In reading the letters, you got such a sense of the Schindlers as individuals, as if you knew them”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: HISTORY.COM
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