OUR SHARED PAST: NORTHERN IRISH YOUTHS VISIT POST-WAR GERMANY IN 1948

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A photoalbum, old, in brown fabric is a witness of history which we are excited to keep in our Head Office. For a long time ignored we have now taken to discovering the truths it holds.

Through detailed type-writer written notes next to the black and white photos this album tells a wonderful story of intercultural encounter between people who were supposed to be enemies: On 15th July 1948 a group of Northern Irish young people left Belfast on a boat to make their way to the british zone in post-war Germany. "It was a very comfortable crossing as we had been lucky enough to get two berths." A couple of days later they arrived in Hannover. The next weeks would be spent with other German and English youngsters and adults working on and living in the hostels of the German Youth Hostel Association (DJH) that were in need of repair after years of war. "Part of the roof was cut out and dormers installed. Our lads acted as labourers up here and had a lot of fun" They also visited the towns of Hamelin and Eschershausen wittnessing important moments of history. What follows is a magical time of summer, laughter, wonder and work. 

Sadly it is not known to us who took these magnificent photographs. Neither do we know if one of the photos might picture him- or her. Who was this person with this incredible talent?

Today we would like to share some of the portraits featuring northern irish and english participants. We believe that there must be people out there who will recognize their father, mother, brother, sister or even grandfather and grandmother, etc. Thanks to the detailed descriptions we know most of the people's names and their job but not more. We are interested in what happened to the people who took part in this adventure. What are their memories or did they ever talk about this trip? 

We are looking at soon sharing more of these magnificent photos that feature the "kind and generous" German Youth Hostel staff but also pictures of bombed Hannover and other cities, German children returning from poland on trains, work camps, etc.

Please get in touch with Annette at programmes@hini.org.uk for any information or inquiries. 

 

"At ten o'clock we were all back in the station and ready to go to Germany. The party from left to right are, Claire Thistlewhaite, music student, Barry Anthony, Bank clerk, Jean Porteous, hospital receptionist, Molly Newman, Joan Alsford, teacher, Simon Bennet, architect, George Tyler, teacher, Cyril Crawford, research chemist, and Dave Milsom, nursing orderley."

 

"Barry Anthony. Bank clerk and ex-soldier"

"Claire Thistlewhaite. None of the Germans had ever come across a name like this and she was usually referred to by them as the Baby."

"Barbara Scott. Some of the German press people featured her as 'the typical English girl'."

"Simon Bennet. One of the London members of the party. Had been in Hamburg on the working party there last year. Was an architect by trade and one of this jobs was to measure up the new youth office building for Schlieker. (...) His second name is however De Courcy so the policemen decided he was Italian. (...)"

"John Deighton, Forestry Branch. Had been a council member for Liverpool Region. (...) He was a keen and good photographer." 

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A few more assorted snapshots:

"Country kids. They behaved as if one had been friends with them for years."

"Gleaners"

"Getting ready to move into the bunker. (...) German kids on the way home from Poland."

No title. This shows part of post-war Hannover.

"Swimming party. Getting on one of the CCG trucks. Some evenings we went fairly far afield to swim and combined it with a sight seeing tour."

"Part of the roof was cut out and dormers installed. Our lads acted as labourers up here and had a lot of fun"