Avis Saltsman - Artist

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Essay on my Origins - Version of May 1997 - Postscript

The Anglo-German Family History Society

I joined the Anglo-German Family History Society ( AGFHS on this link ) as soon as I discovered there was one. Apart from assisting members in their research into their ancestors, they organise trips to Germany, both as holidays & to allow local research.

On a Mosel Valley holiday in May 1998, we met two women from Manchester (the AGFHS covers Britain) who were cousins, Their mothers were the eldest and youngest daughters of a family of eight. Their grandfather, Adolf Wieland, was a butcher of German origin and their grandmother was English. He had been deported to Germany during or just after World War 1. Their grandmother died and her eldest daughter had to look after the seven others. All the family had to remember Adolf by was a battered and torn agonised letter in German expressing his horror at having to leave them. On the last night of our holiday, we had a river trip, on which we shared our feelings about what had happened to families with such a background. I feel that Cyril's family cannot have escaped the consequences of the hatred that was whipped up by the newspapers (similar to the tabloids today) making it worse than it would have been anyway. It did not matter if they were born here like my grandfather (Oscar Frederick) or gave their life for Britain like his son Fred, my uncle.

Many Germans came to Britain in the 19th Century and our grandfather, Joseph Saltsman(n), the spellings vary with not much logic in the certificates, was one of them. My grandfather, Oscar, was born in Pendleton, which is still a pleasant little village. Oscar was always called Fred in Lancashire. I guess that their move to Salford took place when Joseph was promoted and his daughter Laura was born there.

Joyce Pittman, the Microfiche Librarian of the society has found the address in the 1881 census. Joseph is described as a forman designer living at 44, Embridge St and born in France. In reading some of the society's literature it seems fairly common that people went back to their country of origin when they were old as there was no old-age pension. In Joseph's case it is difficult to guess whether that would have been France or Germany. We do not seem to know when his wife Ann died, but if she had died and his children married there would be nothing to keep him. It would be interesting to know whether Joseph had brothers and sisters whose descendants still live in Germany and whether there are descendants of Laura's living here. On the census, there is a Frederick Bohler, a butcher (there were many German butchers) living next door at 40 Embridge St probably lodging with the Buckley family.

It may be possible to go further back and find out where the land owned by Joseph's father Mainrad (or Mainhart) was. That might be an exciting thing to do that would counteract the horror of what is illustrated by some of the AGFHS literature. One book is by Roy Bernard, the founder of the society whose four grandparents were German and whose grandfathers were interned in the concentration camp at the Isle of Man (although they didn't know each other at the time). He has led a society visit there to commemorate the thousands of innocent men wrenched from their families, leaving them destitute. A plaque was erected on one of the remaining buildings and there was a church service. The place is called Knockaloe and I shudder to think that my mother Frances often complained about how her parents had so many holidays on the Isle of Man until she was 17 in 1927. She had known Cyril then for three years.

I quote from' Germans in Britain since 1500', (Hambledon Press) Chapter Seven, by Panikos Panayi:-

'no immigrant minority in nineteenth and 20th century Britain has had to endure the level of hostility faced by the Germans during the first World War when both the government and public opinion became so saturated with Germanophobia that each devoted large amounts of energy to eliminating the German communities from Britain,'

also about 'xenophobic pressure groups':-

'racial violence can be considered the strongest form of popular racism, ranging from attacks on individuals... to riots against minorities at a particular time, involving thousands of people and systematic targeting'.

At the height of all this in May 1915, following the sinking of a passenger liner (stuffed with munitions), the Lusitania by a German submarine with loss of a thousand lives, Oscar (Fred) and Caroline were 41, eldest son Fred 17, Cyril was 7 and Leonard 2 . I think Cyril grew up in an atmosphere of extreme hostility every time he left his parents house.

Six years later, in 1921 his father lost his job and Cyril had to leave school and whilst working in a chemical factory was almost murdered by a sadistic foreman who tried to push him into a vat of boiling chemicals. On the two occasions he told me this, he never explained why this had happened.. He used to say he saved bus fare by walking to his evening classes but I think he must also have suffered abuse on the buses. He said he studied in his mother's bathroom against the warm cistern and it breaks your heart to think how Caroline must have tried to protect her children. In the articles I've read so far the wives of mixed marriages suffered abuse and in many cases were left destitute and often died like the grandmother of the Manchester cousins. At the Armistice on November 11th (and Cyril always attended the memorial services) only 16% of 24,450 men were permitted to take up residence again in Britain.

Frances said her brother-in-law Leonard Saltsman had been in prison although he was only 19 when he went to live in Dunkirk St with them. He lost his girlfriend, probably because she couldn't face the prejudice that Frances may have received though things were not as bad in WW11. Perhaps there are some things you can remember that fit into the pattern and make more sense in the light of what we now know. There were thousands of families affected by this

It has taken a long time for all this to dawn on me, starting with my brother's original research. I don't intend it to take over my life as it does with some family researchers, but one only has to see how assiduously adopted children search for their real parents to see how strong is the need to know where one comes from. It is part of identity and always felt I only partly knew who I was. Frances seemed obsessed with getting me married. After I married Ken, she was the only person to address letters to Mrs K.J Baldry, so anxious was she to eliminate the danger of the dreaded name that she didn't even leave me my own first name!

The following article by me was included in the Society's journal in 1999:-

 Link to the Society web pages

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Contact: Avis Saltsman (or Saltzmann), 17 Gerrard Road, Islington, London N1 8AY
+44(0)20 7359 6294 or e-mail her

Last revised 21/5/2002
URL: http://www.art-science.com/Avis/Avis_family/Origins_post.html

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