Book Review - Out of Nazi German and Trying to Find my Way - Irene Matthews
|Cover - Out of Nazi Germany|
and Trying to Find my Way
by Irene Matthews
Out of Nazi Germany and Trying to Find my Way. Irene Matthews. Upfront Publishing. 2002.
A relation of the Hagen clan, living in Norway, put me onto this book. Irene Matthews is the daughter of Ernst David & Clara Hagen, individuals who appeared as clients of Jürgen Ziebell in the black market passport business with which Josef Jakobs was involved. I tracked down a second-hand copy of the book and it arrived a few weeks ago. I read it in one sitting (it's 109 pages) and was entranced.
In a very engaging and simple style, Irene tells the tale of growing up in Berlin and Potsdam during the 1930s. The everyday activities of a little girl, visiting her Opapa, going to school, playing with her dog. And yet, over all of these everyday activities, the looming shadow of Nazism cast a pall. Slowly, ever so slowly, signs appeared - No Jews Allowed. In late 1938 and early 1939, after her father was sent to a concentration camp in the wake of Kristallnacht, Irene's parents decided it was best to send her to a refugee school in England. Escorted there by her step-grandmother, a non-Jew, Irene was forced to leave behind all that she held dear, her parents, her friends, her dog. Life in England, as a refugee and then, after war was declared, as an enemy alien, was not easy. Even though she had older siblings (in their twenties), she was very much alone at the refugee school and later at a Quaker boarding school. Even though her parents eventually escaped Nazi Germany in 1939, she never lived with them again.
Irene also mentions several of her cousins and her aunts and uncles. Of particular interest to me were the mentions of her cousin Budi (Louis Edmund Hagen) who wrote Arnhem Lift and her uncle (Budi's father), Louis Georg Hagen, who spent time in prison because of the black market passport business. I actually bought Budi's book a few months ago and found it an engaging read as well, albeit primarily concerned with his military adventures at Arnhem.
I was also able to piece together a bit of Irene's life, her first marriage to James Boyle, with the birth of a son, Michael Boyle, and then her second marriage to Paul E. Matthews. The last my Norwegian contact had heard, Irene (age 93 in 2020) was still living in London.
Having traced the story of her parents, as well as I could, as part of my blog series on the black market passport business, I found this story intriguing and enlightening. The picture Irene paints of her life in Germany during the 1930s is a valuable window into that time period, and the growing persecution of the Jews. I could have wished that she wrote more, or knew more, about how her parents escaped Nazi Germany.
Irene included quite a few photographs, even some with her parents
5 out of 5 - very engaging and heart-warming