28 Jan 2022

Ceremony marks Sandwich’s wartime refugee role

A ceremony at Discovery Park has marked the role Sandwich played in protecting Jewish refugees fleeing from Germany before the start of World War 2.

The event was led by the owners of Discovery Park, the life science and technology development, and representatives from the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR), the national charity supporting Holocaust refugees and survivors living in Great Britain, alongside Lord Northbourne, Deputy Lieutenant who represented the Lord-Lieutenant of Kent. Held on UK Holocaust Memorial Day, the event also welcomed senior figures from Kent County Council, Dover District Council and community groups.

The event, delayed from last year due to Covid-19 restrictions, saw a native oak tree planted as part of AJR’s ‘80 trees for 80 years’ campaign to mark the social, welfare, and care work of the Jewish charity.

Mayer Schreiber, Chief Executive Officer of Discovery Park, said: “It was important to reflect on the role the Sandwich community played as darkness fell across Europe when the medieval town became home to more than 4,000 Jewish refugees.”

The majority of the site of the former refugee camp is now within the 220-acre Discovery Park.

The refugees were housed on the outskirts of Sandwich in a former Kitchener Camp from World War 1. The new arrivals built or refurbished 42 accommodation huts, shower and toilet blocks, alongside a synagogue, a medical centre, post office, shops and even a 1,000-seat cinema.

Representing the AJR at the ceremony, Florina Harapcea, said: “While this might be one of the lesser-known acts of refuge provided by Britain at the outbreak of the war, the remarkable story saved 4,000 lives.

“Each of the 80 trees celebrates the remarkable impact that has been made by Jewish refugees to every walk of British life. Thanks to Discovery Park, we have a greater opportunity to reflect on the courage of the refugees and compassion of the people of Sandwich.”

During the event, Florina Harapcea told how Fred Kalb, who sponsored the oak tree, had escaped Nazi oppression in Austria as a baby thanks to the bravery of his parents who made it to Sandwich.

During the war the Jewish refugees were housed in a former Kitchener Camp from World War 1, and saw the new arrivals built or refurbish 42 accommodation huts, shower and toilet blocks, alongside a synagogue, a medical centre, post office, shops and even a 1,000-seater cinema.

The ’80 trees for 80 years’ forms part of The Queen’s Green Canopy – the unique tree planting initiative which will mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022, whose organisers have adopted the AJR’s project as a “wonderful initiative”.

The event was held on Thursday 27 January outside Innovation House at Discovery Park, near Sandwich.

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