From Kathleen remembered to a Sunday morning smile
We are writing in response to Judith Badman’s letter to the Friend in the 22 May edition, about the work of Kathleen Schmitz-Hertzburg (née Brookhouse).
Kathleen was our aunt. Our mother, Evelyn, was her older sister and she was responsible for the whole family becoming members of the Society of Friends. Kathleen did indeed work in Germany before the war with German Quakers to try to help German Jews and prevent war.
During this time Kathleen met fellow Quaker, Fritz Schmitz-Hertzburg, a young doctor. They fell in love and decided to get married. Kathleen returned to Britain and Fritz was to follow her so that he could meet her parents. War was declared just three days before he was due to leave to come to England. Fritz was conscripted into the army as a noncombatant medic.
As Judith stated, Kathleen worked for the North Wales Committee for Refugees and later at Friends House in London. She managed to keep in contact with Fritz during the war through Quakers in Scandinavia and later in Switzerland. Fritz was interned in Siberia by the Russian army.
After the war ended Kathleen returned to Germany to work for Friends. She was able to discover where Fritz was and eventually he was released from the Russian prisoner of war camp, where he had been the only doctor for nearly four years. During this time he also tried to help local people. He was not released until May 1949. They were married in December 1949, in Stafford. They subsequently had three children, and lived and worked in Germany, later moving to Canada, where Kathleen became very actively involved working with Friends.
Late in life Kathleen wrote a book of memoirs called From My Demi-Paradise: Memoirs. This book is available through the website blurb.ca.
Grace and Jean Lewis
I can reassure Judith Badman that Kathleen Schmitz-Hertzberg (née Brookhouse) has not been forgotten.
On behalf of the Quaker Service Memorial Trust, I was in touch with her daughter Evelyn in Canada at the time of the establishment of the Memorial. She told me about her mother’s history, which included Quaker wartime service. It all sounded remarkable, and at the time Kathleen was writing her memoirs which were published a few years later. Her book is now in the Friends House Library as well as with Stafford Friends.
Kathleen was a member of Stafford Meeting, where she married her German husband, Fritz, in 1949 before emigrating to Canada. Stafford Friends have heard about Kathleen’s experiences and an article was published in the Area Meeting magazine. I was particularly moved by her description of being in Germany at the time of Kristallnacht when she visited a burning synagogue. She was asked by an SA man why she shook her head. She replied: ‘I am an English girl and I think this is terrible; I shall have a long story to tell when I get back to England.’ Such a brave response in the awful circumstances.
The Quaker Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum is there to acknowledge the service of the many people who served in the Friends Ambulance Unit and Friends Relief Service during the second world war – some of whom lost their lives – and who, like Kathleen, should not be forgotten.
Quaker Service Memorial Trust
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