Holocaust Memorial Day: Man from Lewes to give speech on mother who escaped Nazi Germany

A man from Lewes, whose mum escaped Nazi Germany in 1939, will be giving a talk in the town this Saturday for Holocaust Memorial Day.

Tim Locke’s mother, Ruth Neumeyer, grew up in the German town of Dachau with her parents and brother Raymond.

Despite not following the Jewish faith, several of Ruth’s relatives were Jewish, meaning under the Nazi’s Nuremberg laws she and her family were classified as second-class citizens.

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Ruth and Raymond escaped Germany to the UK on the Kindertransport (German for children's transport), which was an organised rescue effort of children from Nazi-controlled territory during World War Two.

Tim (left) and his brother Stephen outside Dachau town hall, November 8, 2018. Standing by the memorial to Jews living in Dachau who were thrown out of town on November 8 1938.

Ruth's parents and Tim Lock'e grandparents never made it out of Germany however and were sent to and killed in the Theresienstadt concentration camps.

Tim, 63, has been living in Lewes since 1995 and first heard about this story when he was 10 years old growing up in South London.

He said: “I didn't know anything about it when I was small, but I knew there was a German influence because there were people speaking German in the house. There were German books and we had German style Christmases and lots of relatives. But no one sort of pieced it together for me.

"It’s only through a friend at school when I was nine or 10 who explained to me that he had heard that my mum had come over on this Kindertransport. So I'm guessing his parents must have spoken to mine at some point.”

The Neumeyers family, who were victims of the Holocaust – the children escaped to England on a Kindertransport while the parents were murdered in Nazi camps.

Following his mothers death in 2012, Tim started going through her old belongings at his childhood home in London and found lots of items to do with his mothers escape from Germany.

He said: “She had kept everything, all of the letters from her parents in 1939 when she arrived in the UK. It’s an amazing archive.

“Through going through and organising all her stuff, it straightened out the story in my mind and I now feel closer to those grandparents then any I have ever met.”

Now, Ruth Neumeyer’s possessions are found in the Holocaust Galleries in the British Imperial War Museum – which opened October 2021.

Tim (left) with his brother Stephen (back right) and cousin Tobias (front right) by the display case about their family (the Neumeyers) – one of three cases in the new Holocaust Galleries that feature their family.

Each year Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945.

The Lewes HMD Group, a small group of local volunteers, is running a programme of events to remember victims of the Holocaust and other genocides.

Tim, who is the chair of the group, will be one of three speakers talking at one of the events on Saturday (January 29) – at Trinity Church, St John sub Castro.

Tim and Stephen outside the Neumeyer house in Dachau – where their mother and uncle were brought up in the 1920s, and where the Nazis threw them out in November 1938, one day before ‘Kristallnacht’ and made them homeless

The focus of each talk will be the significance of one particular day to their stories.

For Tim, his speech will focus on November 8, 1939 – the day before the infamous “Kristallnacht” – a night where Nazis in Germany torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed close to 100 Jews and sent thousands more to concentration camps.

Tim said of the HMD: “It’s something very public and I've felt for years that these emotions have been hidden away. Its a good occasion to make people aware that these terrible things happened in the past – not just to Jews – but to gay people, people with disabilities and people from Romani heritage.

"Its so easy to forget how bad it was. And I'm afraid the message hasn't gone away, there is still anti-Semitism there is still racism today. If we forget these things it can so easily come back. These stories need to be told before they disappear forever.”

As well as Tim, Jackie Stimpson – whose family fled the Armenian genocide during the First World War – will also be speaking at Trinity Church.

As will Simon Confino, who will speak on his visit last October to the new Holocaust Galleries in London’s Imperial War Museum, where members of his family who perished in the Holocaust are commemorated.

Lewes Holocaust Memorial Day Group's promo for this years event.

Tim continued: “We are always keen for people to come forward and share their stories at future events.

“The key thing to take away is this idea that normality can be shattered. Lots of people were living an ordinary life and all of sudden these rules came in and then they were in the hands of the Nazi.

“But I also want to deliver a message of hope as well, that even in the darkest moments, there are acts of kindness, tolerance and humanity. The family in the UK that rescued my mum and my uncle, if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be here now.

All HMD events this week are open free of charge, with details found here