Johannes Kohl: personal papers

Scope and Content

This collection contains the papers of Johannes Kohl, a Jewish refugee from Vienna who emigrated to the UK via Holland in 1939. It includes his membership card of the Austrian Centre in London; an information guide for Jewish refugees in England and press cutting from the Kleine Volkszeitung (5 May 1938) regarding the execution of a Jewish criminal in Paris.

Administrative / Biographical History

Johannes ('Hans') Kohl (later John Gilbert Collins) was born in Vienna on 28 July 1905 of mixed religious parents, his mother being a Czech Catholic and his father having converted from Judaism when he married her. He and his three siblings were brought up in the Catholic faith. During the inter-war years he grew up as part of a relaxed bridge-playing Vienna coffee house society. He owned a small business selling household linens both on a wholesale and retail basis. When Johannes married his wife in 1932 he reverted to the Jewish faith.

After the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany in 1938 and particularly after the November Pogroms, life became very dangerous for Jews in Austria and he was forced to flee to Holland even though he had been officially declared Aryan with a maternal Christian mother. Thanks to the efforts of his sister who had emigrated with her husband to London, and the assistance of Bloomsbury House and the Quakers, his wife and son Peter obtained a visa for entry to the UK in 1938, where she initially worked in the domestic service.

In 1939 Johannes Kohl arrived in the UK on a visitor's permit and managed to extend his stay until the Second World War broke out. At that time all aliens were interned and he was moved to the Kitchener Camp. Once the authorities allowed refugees to join the British Army he joined the Pioneer Corps. He remained in the army until 1945 being transferred to the RAOC and REME. During this time he was advised to change his name and the family subsequently became British citizens.

After the war John engaged in several businesses, mainly in the textile trade, until his retirement. He passed away in January 1982, his wife having predeceased him by some 25 years.



Conditions Governing Access

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Acquisition Information

Donated by Peter Collins