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‘Retained by the Nazis…because of his beekeeping skills’

German soldiers in Jersey.

German soldiers in Jersey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not a sentence you expect to see.  It certainly caught my attention in a book I recently read, War on the Margins:  An untold story of secret heroism in wartime Jersey, by Libby Cone.  I picked this up in Heffer’s bargain bin, a location in the bookstore I frequent often because it reminds me of my days trawling through local library booksales as a college student, and because it is possible to pick up some gems at a bargain (the Mark Twain book a few posts back is another for instance).  This book is one of those gems, offering a snapshot of what life was like on Jersey after Nazi occupation by following a small set of characters whose stories are based on documented testimony and research. At the end of the book, there is a list of the inhabitants who registered as having Jewish ancestry (more than 2 grandparents, although it appears they were encouraged to register even if they only had one), among which is the following record:


British [retained by the Nazis on Jersey because of his
beekeeping skills, he survived the war but committed
suicide in 1950]     (p248)

I couldn’t let this information just pass by and so did a bit of scouting around on the interweb.

According to David Fraser in The Jews of the Channel Islands and the Rule of Law, 1940-1945:  Quite Contrary to the Principles of British Justice, the issue preoccupying the authorities was whether the shop owned by Goldman and his wife, called The Bee Hive Stores,  could be considered a ‘Jewish undertaking’ and therefore subject to closure.  Mrs Goldman, not registered as a Jew, claimed the business as her own, and indeed Mr Goldman had listed his occupation as ‘beekeeper and gardener.’  I won’t go into the peculiar type of wrangling over determining who was Jewish and what businesses were Jewish undertakings pursued by what appears to have been extremely literal-minded Jersey officials at the time.  For an understanidng of that I would recommend both books highly.  As to Hyam Goldman’s beekeeping, I found this in Frederick Cohen’s The Jews in the Channel Islands during the German Occupation 1940-1945

Hyam Goldman, a British national, was according to one uncorroborated account not deported because the German authorities required his skills as a beekeeper on account of the sugar shortage. Goldman never recovered from his experiences during the Occupation and on 10 October 1950 he was found dead in a water tank at his home. The verdict at the inquest was that having been depressed for some time he had committed suicide by drowning in a water tank, holding his body down with weights. He is buried at the Westmount Jewish Cemetery.

There really are no words.

The book re-adjusts your thinking a bit, as did the one I read previous to it:  A Woman in Berlin by an anonymous author.  I won’t say anything more about it here (best to check out the link if you want to learn more about it), except to say it is linked to another book I am reading chapter by chapter, month by month:  The Morville Year by Katherine Swift.  I bet you are wondering how I am going to segue from an account of the Russian takeover of Berlin during WWII to a book where the seasons are observed through the garden at a manor house.  Well, here you go:  I bought my copy of A Woman in Berlinin a bookshop in Ludlow, the town were Katherine’s Swift’s first husband (I believe) owned or perhaps still owns a bookshop.  It could eve be the same bookshop, although I vaguely remember her referring to his as more of an antiquarian bookstore.

A shopper buys some figs from one of the tradi...

A shopper buys some figs from one of the traditional greengrocers’ shops amidst Ludlow’s narrow streets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I happened upon this bit of information when I was reading up on the month of August, most specifically an entry entitled ‘Bees on Lavender’, where there is a virtual Latin primer on the Bumblebee:

Bombus-now there’s a wonderful onommatopoeic word-Latin for bumble-bee.  I have been watching two young Bombus lapidarius queens feeding on my Old English lavender…It’s one of the delights of lavender, especially late-blooming kinds like Old English (Lavandula x intermedia Old English Group), that it attracts so many different kinds of bee.  There are at least six different sorts of bumble-bee feeding on my lavender at the moment–little lion-maned Carder bees (Bombus pascuorum); the occasional smal black B. pratorum with a yellow stripe up around her neck; a whole flotilla of big black and yellow striped ones (B. terrestris, B. lucorum and B. hortorum), all with buff or white tails-but it’s the two female Bombus lapidarius, the large red-tailed bumble-bee, which has caught my eye.  (p131)

Now, no disrespect to Katherine, but I’m no gardener and have neither desire nor aspiration along those lines (sorry, Jo/Nic/Kitty).  But, she does have the knack for capturing the transformations that occur in a garden, month after month.  I certainly find it soothing after the other reading I do. But, of course, nature is also cruel.  It is August, and if I needed any reminder, the dead and half crippled bodies of drones out the front of the hives quickly reminds me that we are coming into autumn.

Speaking of Kitty, here’s my proof that I at least have friends who can take photos:

Hope you don’t have whiplash from the changes of topic in this post….


4 thoughts on “‘Retained by the Nazis…because of his beekeeping skills’

  1. Thank you for sharing your research with us; wish the story had a happy ending.

    Great that you have so many bumbles about, finally they have some good foraging weather.

    Posted by Emily Heath | August 14, 2012, 9:39 pm
  2. Beekeepers weren’t the only ‘essential’ members of the Jewish community on Jersey. some launderers were also spared deportation to who knows what fate because someone had to wash all those uniforms, etc. Three out of the five laundries on Jersey were taken over to provide laundry services for the Germans. The other two were left to cope with the requirements of the civilian population despite shotrages of all supplies. One launderer, John Gready of the Besco Laundry, was imprisoned by the Germans for having a crystal wireless set in his possession. However, the German Commandant requested that he be released on certain days to supervise the laundry.

    Posted by Kitty | August 15, 2012, 11:42 am

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