In your street: Leafy Surrenden Crescent in Brighton is a place to write home about (From The Argus)
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In your street: Leafy Surrenden Crescent in Brighton is a place to write home about
Nearly 70 years ago, a little boy living in former Hungarian territory was rounded up on to the streets of Cluj and ordered into the rear of an open-backed lorry.
Along with about 15,000 other Jews, he was taken to an old brick factory where death trains regularly departed for the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp.
It was March 1944 and the train was taking people to Auschwitz every day.
“Nobody really knew for certain where they were going but people were scared,” said Professor Ladislaus Lob, a survivor of the Nazis’ campaign of mass murder.
Today, the grandfather lives peacefully with his wife in leafy Surrenden Crescent in Brighton.
But the serenity of his home in Sussex is a far cry to that of his hellish story from the Second World War.
Professor Lob said: “Myfather managed to get us on a train to Budapest.
I was very afraid there and thought I was going to die, but my father heard howa man named Rezso Kasztner was assisting the Jews.
“Kasztner did a deal with the Germans to negotiate the saving of 1,700 Jewish people by exchanging things like money, gold and diamonds. He played on the fears of the Germans who knew the war was turning against them, and offered them leniency after the conflict in exchange for help during it.
“But before he could help we were ordered on to trains heading for Germany.
We were stopped at a border camp and split into male and female groups to be disinfected. We were told we would be taken to Auschwitz.
“It was awful. I could hear the women screaming with terror, they were forced into showers and were told it was a gas chamber – but it turned out it wasn’t one.”
Professor Lob, who has been an academic at the University of Sussex for more than 40 years, remembered barbed wire and wooden huts, but claims his own experience wasn’t as dreadful as many others.
“We were told Kasztner would get us out but we did not know when,” he said.
But the time did eventually come.
By November and thanks to Kasztner, Professor Lob and his father were taken through a now demolished Germany and arrived at Lake Constance at the Swiss border.
Professor Lob said: “I’ve never seen such a beautiful sight. It was night time and the German side was dark but in Switzerland the lights were on. We were free.
“But after the war Kasztner was labelled a traitor and was tried in Israel for collaborating with the Nazis and was executed. His role in the war still divides opinion today.”
Professor Lob and his father made their home in Zurich before he moved to Brighton in the 1960s.
He’s written a book about his story, aptly dubbed Dealing with Satan, and spends time giving talks to schools and universities about his past.
He shares Surrenden Crescent with another author – his neighbour Dr David Shepherd, 69.
Dr Shepherd is the man behind a series of books that explore the history of the Parker pen and originally hit The Argus headlines in 2005, when he released his first publication – the history of the Parker 51.
He’s possessed a long-standing passion for the pens since he was a schoolboy and today owns more than 500 of them.
He retired in early 2003 after undergoing life-saving surgery for bladder cancer, but it was his obsession and love for the pens that proved occupational therapy.
He said: “Parker enjoyed the first book on the 51 and asked me then if I would do some more.
“It had two objectives really. The first was that it was a way for the company to record their history, where we used iconic pens of various periods.
“Secondly, there is also a group of people out there who collect and deal in the pens in this country and in America. So for the collectors they’re encyclopaedias of information.
“It was an American company that started Parker in 1888 near Chicago and they had an English subsidiary which operated in Newhaven.
“It just happened that a bunch of things apparently came together to lead to the writing of the books.
“My wife is a graphic designer so she designed them all and they let me go to the factory in Newhaven and use the archives to piece it together.”
Asked whether the Parker still shared the same stature today as it did when he first used the 51 model in school, Dr Shepherd said: “It’s just a really good fountain pen. It’s the best designed fountain pen I think and still is to this day.
“These days a lot of children will be using iPads and computers, which is fine. I embrace technology, but I still love using a fountain pen.”
One gaggle of children that probably haven’t been using the Parker pen to make notes with are the cheery bunch from Surrenden Crescent’s Wonder Years nursery.
Holocaust survivors and Parker pen enthusiasts aside, the Wonder Years nursery has been nurturing the people of our future for more than 12 years.
This year, the creative kids caught the attention of Buckingham Palace after they sent a birthday card to the Queen.
Katherine Farrands, manager of the nursery, explained: “Our kids are interested in everything around them, and they took particular interest in the Queen’s Jubilee.
“When they found out it was the Queen’s birthday, the children thought about what they would like to put on the card, including crowns and a birthday cake. They also drew pictures which we stuck into the card.
“The staff also wrote in personal messages from the children and we sent it off, keeping our fingers crossed for a response.
“Everyone was really excited, including the parents and staff, and we waited for a response.”
When a response dropped through the letterbox a few weeks later, the nursery hit fever pitch.
Ms Farrands continued: “The letter had a seal from Buckingham Palace.
“The children listened with intent as I read their personalised letter from the Queen’s Lady in Waiting thanking us for the card. The letter was put into a frame and took pride of place on our wall. It was lovely to see all of the children showing their parents what we had received. They were so proud of it.”
Fifty years from now, it would probably be of no surprise to see one of the Wonder Years children featuring in The Argus after penning a collection of history books on the iPad. Watch this space.
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