Category Archives: Talks


Anna Badcock is the Cultural Heritage Manager at the Peak District National Park Authority.

The impact of fires on the her­it­age of the moors is often neg­lected and Anna high­lighted the effect of a spate of wild­fires during the summer of 2018 and spring of 2019 in par­tic­u­lar ones at Stalybridge and Big Moor on the edge of the Longshaw Estate.

Rich Heritage Resource

The uplands con­tain a large vari­ety of rich her­it­age resources, which can be found on top, within and under the peat soil. Some examples of this are:

Foxholes or weapon pits cre­ated as a result of mil­it­ary train­ing in the twen­ti­eth cen­tury

Starburst shapes on rock faces caused by explod­ing mortar shells used in firing prac­tice (this par­tic­u­lar one is situ­ated near Higger Tor)

An Iron age hill­fort near Burbage Edge which also shows traces of bullet holes where the rocks were used for target prac­tice in the last cen­tury

Ventilation shafts used by rail­way tun­nels (as seen from Stony Ridge Road)

Millstones quar­ried in medi­eval and post-medieval times

Coalmining shafts which were dug by hand par­tic­u­larly in the Goyt Valley

Administrative bound­ar­ies between par­ishes or local author­it­ies marked by carvings and graf­fiti in the rocks or the estab­lish­ment of land­marks such as Stanage Pole

Ancient ways that form hollow ways – deeply worn route ways, includ­ing those caused by sledge runs used to trans­port peat from higher plat­eaus

Bronze age rock art, burial mounds, cairns, stone circles and ancient set­tle­ment sites

Stone tools and flint blades used by Mesolithic and Neolithic people moving through the area revealed by the erosion of peat soils on upland edges.

Wild Fire Incidents

In 2018 there were more than thirty fires in the National Park alone. They are gen­er­ally caused by acci­dents, care­less­ness, dis­pos­able bar­be­cues or in some cases being star­ted delib­er­ately.

Many of the her­it­age rich uplands are close to urban pop­u­la­tions and easily access­ible — this has an obvi­ous impact when con­sid­er­ing the incid­ence of wild fires

The main impacts of fire are a danger to life, dev­ast­at­ing effect on veget­a­tion and hab­itat, loss of air and water qual­ity and reduc­tion in carbon cap­ture.

In June 2018 the fire at Stalybridge caused over ten square kilo­metres of damage and left burnt and exposed peat over the land­scape. As a result, his­toric items were exposed such as bronze age cairns and even aero­plane wreck­age.

At Big Moor a large fire star­ted in summer 2018. This area con­tains a Bronze Age land­scape of great sig­ni­fic­ance and many of the fea­tures  were exposed as a result of the fire. Photos taken at the time show the fire’s impact.

In addi­tion, there were major fires that year at Merryton Low and on the Roaches in the south of the Peak District. The latter res­ul­ted in the loss of a five cen­ti­metre depth of peat and released eleven thou­sand tons of carbon diox­ide into the air.

Lessons to be learnt from Fire Incidents

  • Documentation and shar­ing of data to help pre­pare for future events
  • Importance of sta­bil­isa­tion of the dynamic land­scape par­tic­u­larly peat and veget­a­tion
  • Co ordin­a­tion of inter­ested parties includ­ing uni­ver­sit­ies
  • Establishment of volun­teer organ­isa­tions to carry out sur­veys of areas after fires
  • Highlighting the pos­it­ive bene­fits of moor­land res­tor­a­tion
  • Awareness of poten­tial damage caused by fire fight­ers and the map­ping of sched­uled monu­ments which need to be pro­tec­ted

In con­clu­sion Anna stressed that uplands are com­plex, fra­gile places and are not just wild and unin­hab­ited envir­on­ments. In addi­tion, the import­ance of recog­nising the mul­tiple interests in the land­scapes be they nat­ural, envir­on­mental, recre­ational or her­it­age so that the rel­ev­ant bodies can be better pre­pared for any future incid­ents.




Israel – Palestine – The Background by David Worth — 24th May 2021

David, a retired Nephrologist, Volunteer National Park Ranger, and Covid Vaccinator, is also Co-Clerk to the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). This organ­isa­tion was foun­ded in 2002 by the World Council of Churches based in Geneva, in response to the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem. It brings people from around the world (called Ecumenical Accompaniers) to the West Bank, to serve for 3 months as Human Rights Monitors. In the UK and Ireland, co-ordination is car­ried out by the Quakers.

Inspired by a talk given by Mark Steel in 2000 about the asym­met­ric over­whelm­ing force being used by Israel against the Palestinians during the 2nd Intifada, and with inform­a­tion from the International and Israeli Human Rights Groups, David decided to get involved. He has vis­ited Israel 3 times since 2008 and now gives talks on the back­ground to the dis­pute.

There are 4 groups of people in the dis­puted areas :-

  1. Jewish cit­izens in Israel, which is a troubled lib­eral demo­cracy.
  2. The Palestinians within Israel. Formally given equal­ity, but now dis­pos­sessed and dis­crim­in­ated against.
  3. Palestinians in the Israeli Occupied West Bank, who are humi­li­ated, bru­tal­ised and have their lands taken over for Israeli set­tle­ments.
  4. The Palestinians in the Gaza strip, which is no more than an open-air prison, and because of the res­ist­ance of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, is bombed every 3 or 4 years.

All areas are con­trolled by Israel with such asym­met­ric over­whelm­ing force towards the Palestinians, that the ‘’Human Rights Watch’’ have labelled it as apartheid. The evid­ence for this is in the way Israel has con­trolled, since 1948, the Palestinian people and their land, their free­dom of move­ment and their polit­ical involve­ment.

Before 1917, the ori­ginal Zionists bought land in Palestine with the inten­tion of form­ing a Jewish home­land, and giving every Jew around the world the oppor­tun­ity to return to Israel. This is referred to as ‘Aliyah’. In 1917, with the Ottomans defeated, Palestine came under a British Mandate.

Changes to Palestinian land since 1917

In 1948 Israel declared itself an inde­pend­ent state, after a war against the Palestinians. The Palestinians named the day of Israeli declar­a­tion of inde­pend­ence Naqba Day, when half the pop­u­la­tion, around ¾ of a mil­lion, became refugees, set­tling in neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, includ­ing the West Bank and East Jerusalem (both Jordanian admin­istered) and the Gaza strip (admin­istered by the Egyptian mil­it­ary).

In 1967, after the 6-day war, Israel occu­pied (1) the West Bank as far as the River Jordan, (2) the Gaza strip and (3) East Jerusalem. A large area of land annexed from the West Bank, was added to East Jerusalem where Israeli Law was applied, in breach of International Law.

Since 1967, evic­tion of Palestinian fam­il­ies from their prop­er­ties in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has been car­ried out in the Israeli courts under Ottoman, British Mandate, Jordanian or Israeli Law. The odds are stacked against the Palestinians, as, if there is any doubt, the prop­er­ties revert to the State. Owners are evicted and forced to demol­ish their own homes and are faced with large costs if the Israeli State has to do it for them.

Palestinian homes being demol­ished

In East Jerusalem, there are now 350,000 Palestinians who live in 28 vil­lages, along with 209,000 Israeli Settlers. 7500 struc­tures have been demol­ished since 2009, with 11500 people dis­placed. This is the cause of upris­ings and con­flict, and one of the reas­ons why rock­ets are launched from Gaza.

The West Bank

In 1995, under the Oslo Accord 2, Israel gave the Gaza strip to the Palestinian Authority. The West Bank dis­puted area was denoted by the Green Line, and areas des­ig­nated as 1, 2, or 3 :-

  1. Defined 165 sep­ar­ate islands of land which are admin­istered entirely by the Palestinian Authority (dark brown on the map)
  2. Defined parts which are admin­istered jointly (light brown on the map)
  3. Defined the remain­ing 60 % of the land, under full Israeli con­trol (blue on the map)

At the end of the 20th cen­tury, Israel had gone from con­trolling 6% of the land, to 100 %. Jews have full cit­izens rights in all areas, whereas Palestinians rights and status differ whether they live any­where in Israel, the West Bank, East Jerusalem or Gaza. In the Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem 600,000 Jews have con­struc­ted factor­ies, farms, Universities and cities. The farms pro­duce dates, avo­ca­dos, salad vegs. and herbs which are some­times deceit­fully labelled as ‘’Made in Israel’’ instead of ‘’Produce of the West Bank’’, which some coun­tries, to whom they sell, insist on.

On the West Bank there 280 set­tle­ments or towns on expro­pri­ated land, with all mod. cons., and miles of set­tler only roads, in con­trast to the Palestinians who are lim­ited in the use of water, have their homes demol­ished and in area ‘C’ are pre­ven­ted from any con­struc­tion or devel­op­ment. They may have long detours through road blocks, and access to work in the Israeli Occupied parts is made dif­fi­cult. The Jewish set­tle­ments are per­man­ent, are a source of viol­ence, and under International Law are illegal and war crimes. The Israelis  are com­mit­ting gross and sys­tem­atic human rights viol­a­tions.

Settlers are sup­por­ted by the Israeli mil­it­ary forces, most of whom have served in the Israeli Defence Force. They have hugely more fire power than the Palestinians and they can turn a blind eye to viol­ence on the Palestinians, which can be extreme. This can include shoot­ings, burn­ing of homes, mosques and churches, attacks on crops and farm­ers and the pois­on­ing of water and live­stock. All this is an ongo­ing occur­rence in Area C and East Jerusalem, and is a major con­cern for the UN Special Coordinator of the UN Security Council for the Middle East Process as it is all illegal under inter­na­tional law.

There are also about 100 ad hoc set­tle­ment out­posts, again illegal under inter­na­tional human­it­arian law and built without offi­cial author­iz­a­tion, but nev­er­the­less encour­aged by some Israeli gov­ern­ment depart­ments. These out­posts con­trol Palestinian land, and with time, become per­man­ent.

The 320km long wall

The Armistice Line around the West Bank is 320 km. long, but the illegal wall sur­round­ing the West Bank, which is up to 8m high, meanders 700km., fur­ther divid­ing the West bank into stra­tegic pock­ets of Palestinian areas, increas­ing Israeli con­trol and the dif­fi­culties of life for the Palestinians.

The 2018 basic law of Israel, con­cern­ing land, dis­crim­in­ates against the 20% of Israelis who are Palestinians and are Muslim or Christian, and live in Israel. The devel­op­ment of 100’s of Jewish set­tle­ments is encour­aged with no hint of equal­ity accor­ded to this 20%, sac­ri­fi­cing any human rights con­sid­er­a­tions. No set­tle­ments for these Palestinians have been built and the Absentee Property Law allows for expro­pri­ation of Palestinian owned land, if not being used. The Jewish National Fund and Jewish Agency only give bene­fits to Jews. Bedouins are not recog­nised and are moved on.

The UK and Ireland train and send 20 Ecumenical Accompaniers each year, to sup­port the Palestinians who are affected by the situ­ation. They return to tell the world of the asym­met­ric force being used by Israel against the defence­less Palestinians. And the stor­ies are har­row­ing. Shootings, viol­ence, injur­ies, restric­tions of move­ment, humi­li­ation, dis­crim­in­a­tion, loss and depriva­tion of oppor­tun­it­ies for work, edu­ca­tion and med­ical care, which requires a permit to access ser­vices in Israel. The Palestinians are ruled under mil­it­ary law whereas the Israelis are under civil law. Any res­ist­ance by the Palestinians is met with dif­fer­en­tially harsh pun­ish­ment. There is par­tic­u­lar con­cern for the chil­dren who can be treated extremely harshly and in breach of UNCRC or the Geneva Conventions.

Palestinians require a permit to travel between the West Bank, Israel, Gaza and East Jerusalem. They also can be sub­jec­ted to unan­nounced road blocks. In con­trast, Jews have free­dom of move­ment within Israel and most of the West Bank, except area A and Gaza. International travel is easy for the Jews, but Tel Aviv air­port is closed to Palestinians, who have to fly from Jordan or Egypt, once they have got through the Israeli check­points at the bor­ders.

The pres­ence of the EAPPI has helped to make things better, high­light­ing the injustice and giving some com­fort to the Palestinians.

All Jews can vote and run for office. Israeli Palestinians can vote and run for office but their rights are con­stantly under attack. East Jerusalem Palestinian res­id­ents can vote only in the muni­cipal elec­tions. Gaza and West Bank Palestinians cannot par­ti­cip­ate in the polit­ical system that con­trols their lives.

Free speech has been cur­tailed with 2 new laws. Introduced by Israel they con­strain Jews or Palestinians from advoc­at­ing the cause of the Palestinians. (1) The Naqba Law which pre­vents anyone from mourn­ing the Naqba Day. This was tra­di­tion­ally done by Palestinians. (2) The boy­cott law which could impose pun­ish­ment on anyone who calls for a boy­cott of Israel. And in the West Bank there are restric­tions on demon­stra­tions, asso­ci­ations and polit­ical state­ments, all enforced by the mil­it­ary courts.

The Jewish Declaration on anti-semitism is defined as ‘’Discrimination, pre­ju­dice, hos­til­ity or viol­ence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish insti­tu­tions as Jewish)’’. Where this relates to Israel and Palestine can be seen on which gives examples which are anti-semitic, and some which are not.

This was a fas­cin­at­ing first hand insight into what is hap­pen­ing between the Israelis and Palestinians today, and was very well illus­trated. Although it is a very com­plex situ­ation, David, is obvi­ously pas­sion­ate about the sub­ject, and por­trayed a trouble­some scen­ario where we can all help, by advoc­at­ing change.

Should you wish to seek fur­ther inform­a­tion, the fol­low­ing web­sites were referred to in the present­a­tion :-











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Lady Mary Wortley Montagu 1689–1762 — Roger England -19th April 2021

Early life

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (neé Pierrepont) is recog­nised as one of the great female intel­lec­tu­als of the 18th cen­tury.

She was the daugh­ter of the Duke of Kingston-upon-Hull, born in 1689. Between 1692 and 1700 she went to her grand­mother at West Dean near Salisbury, then to Thoresby Hall near Ollerton. Here she was edu­cated (badly) by a gov­erness, but intel­lec­tu­ally motiv­ated, she taught her­self Latin and immersed her­self in books.

In London she met Edward Wortley Montagu, grand­son of the Earl of Sandwich. Through his sister Anne Wortley, Edward made it known he was keen on Lady Mary and they con­tin­ued to cor­res­pond and meet secretly. However arranged mar­riages were common amongst the aris­to­cracy and Clotworthy Skeffington, an Irish Peer, was her father’s altern­at­ive idea of a suit­ably wealthy aris­to­cratic suitor. Edward’s counter pro­posal was flatly rejec­ted by Lord Dorchester so they eloped and mar­ried in 1712. Their son Edward junior  was born in 1713.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu with her son Edward

The fol­low­ing year Edward (senior) accep­ted accep­ted the post of Junior Commissioner of the Treasury. Mary rose to the highest levels of the social ladder in London and was intro­duced to the royal court. A bit of a scan­dal monger, she wrote anonym­ous poems for The Spectator between 1714–16, describ­ing mem­bers of roy­alty as “block­heads”.

In 1716 Edward was posted to Constantinople as British ambas­sador to nego­ti­ate an end to the Austro-Turkish War. They trav­elled over­land via Vienna, accom­pan­ied by 200 Turkish troops, phys­i­cian and ser­vants. A daugh­ter was born in 1718. She wrote “Letters from Turkey” and is cred­ited as the first female travel writer.

Lady Mary vis­ited zena­nas in the Ottoman Empire to learn about the cus­toms of segreg­ated Muslim and Hindu women. She wrote about a visit to a Turkish bath, her gender and status provid­ing access to female spaces that were no-go areas for men. The Ottoman women were hor­ri­fied by her stays (of cor­setry), believ­ing her to be “so locked up in that machine that it was not in my own power to open it, which con­triv­ance they attrib­uted to my hus­band”.  Her writ­ing was some­what erotic.

A paint­ing, inspired by Mary Wortley Montagu’s detailed descrip­tions of nude ori­ental beau­ties, by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

She looked far more com­fort­able there out of cor­setry.

Lady Montagu in Turkish Dress by Jean-Étienne Liotard c.1756


Smallpox was first recor­ded in China in third cen­tury and by the tenth cen­tury nasal inocu­la­tion of pus­tu­lar mater­ial to achieve immunity was prac­tised.

Smallpox inocu­la­tion in China

Pox-swaddling in infec­ted clothes had been used for cen­tur­ies in parts of Wales to gain immunity. The English were unaware.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu intro­duced vari­ola­tion to England, based on her Turkish exper­i­ence where small­pox was rife. She had sur­vived the dis­ease her­self at the age of 26 but her face was dis­figured. Her brother had died from it two years earlier in 1713. She was there­fore alert to the its implic­a­tions and in 1717 she wrote about the effect­ive Turkish prac­tise of vari­ola­tion (inocu­la­tion) for small­pox in “Letter to a Friend”. Pustules from an infec­ted person were scratched into the skin of an unin­fec­ted person. Acquired immunity res­ul­ted in just mild dis­ease and no (doc­u­mented) mor­tal­ity with min­imal scar­ring.

She per­suaded Charles Maitland, embassy sur­geon, to inocu­late her 5 year old son Edward. Back in England in 1721 her daugh­ter Mary (many years later buried in Wortley church) was inocu­lated by Maitland, arous­ing the interest of Caroline of Ansbach, Princess of Wales. Maitland was reluct­ant to do it in the public glare of London, fear­ing the poten­tial scan­dal of unin­ten­ded death with an untried remedy! He would only agree on con­di­tion that rep­res­ent­at­ives of the Royal College of Physicians were present as wit­nesses.

Controversy raged. More “clin­ical trials” were needed. In 1721 the King agreed to pardon six con­demned Newgate pris­on­ers if they agreed to volun­teer for vari­ola­tion. All sur­vived and were pardoned. Maitland kept impec­cable records.

Six Newgate pris­on­ers pardoned

In 1722, six orphans also sur­vived vari­ola­tion under scru­tiny and royal approval was finally gran­ted. The Princess of Wales had already lost one daugh­ter from small­pox and wished to be inocu­lated, together with her son and two other daugh­ters. Even then, the “anti­vaxxers” were hard at work.

Variolation was not com­pletely safe. Deaths sub­sequently happened. In the 1760s there were mul­tiple anec­dotal reports of pro­tec­tion against small­pox by prior cowpox infec­tion, a closely related virus but dis­tinct from small­pox and never pro­du­cing other than mild symp­toms in humans. Cowpox was par­tic­u­larly common in milk­maids. In 1774, farmer Benjamin Jesty inocu­lated his family with pus­tu­lar mater­ial from infec­ted cows and the chil­dren remained healthy in a sub­sequent small­pox epi­demic.

Edward Jenner vac­cin­at­ing

In 1796 Edward Jenner ( inocu­lated James Phipps with cowpox from milk­maid Sarah Nelms. He was the first to apply sci­ence when he later vari­olated Phipps, this time with actual small­pox, and he was immune. Jenner’s res­ults were met with ini­tial scep­ti­cism but by 1800 vac­cin­a­tion was increas­ingly accep­ted. The term “vac­cin­a­tion” was a Latin nod to its origin (vacca=cow).

The modern small­pox vac­cine con­tains vac­cinia virus, closely related but genet­ic­ally dis­tinct from cowpox. Smallpox was declared erad­ic­ated by WHO in 1980 shortly after an acci­dental, but fatal, labor­at­ory escape in Birmingham in 1978 (COVID ana­logy here?). The blog­ger con­siders him­self lucky to remain alive after his stu­dent days doing a vir­o­logy course at St Mary’s where the only live English stocks of small­pox virus were kept only feet away in a freezer at the time before their final jour­ney via Porton Down to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta Georgia.

The blog­ger also recalls the ori­ginal pre­served hide of the donor cow Blossom  in the lib­rary when he worked at Jenner’s alma mater, St George’s Hospital at Hyde Park Corner. When the hos­pital was trans­ferred to Tooting in 1977 it went to its cur­rent home at the Jenner Museum at Berkeley, Gloucestershire.


Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s later years

Lady Mary con­tin­ued to write satir­ical art­icles and pub­lished her news­pa­per “Nonsense of Common-Sense” but her out­spoken beha­viour was increas­ingly embar­rass­ing to her hus­band, which led to sep­ar­a­tion and divorce. When she was 47 years old she met 24 year old Algarotti which caused a bit of a scan­dal. She left for Venice but the fact that Algarotti was bisexual didn’t help. Having then settled in Avignon in 1742, the English and French went to war in 1744 and she returned to Italy.

Her son Edward was a tear­away, drunk­ard, burg­lar and bigam­ist with an ille­git­im­ate child, before absolv­ing him­self with a dis­tin­guished career in the army. They didn’t get on.

Lady Mary joined Count Palazzi in Gottolengo to lead a quiet rural life before return­ing to England, by which time she had writ­ten her travel diar­ies. Lady Mary’s daugh­ter refused pub­lic­a­tion, but shortly after her death from breast cancer in 1762, they were pub­lished in the Netherlands from copies of the ori­gin­als which had been quietly stolen and returned without her know­ledge.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s extens­ive body of work is freely avail­able in print but has been poorly recog­nised until now, but per­haps this is about to change


The Sons of George III.  Three Kings, Four Dukes and two early deaths  by Peter Stubbs – 15th March 2021

Peter Stubbs is a retired Sheffield soli­citor with a lifelong interest in his­tory.  His talk takes us back to a very dif­fer­ent time.  Our roy­alty was closely allied to the House of Hanover and the Holy Roman Empire.

George III (born 1738) was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of the two king­doms on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death in 1820. He was con­cur­rently Duke and Prince-elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg in the Holy Roman Empire before becom­ing King of Hanover on 12 October 1814. He was a mon­arch of the House of Hanover, but unlike his two pre­de­cessors, he was born in Great Britain, spoke English as his first lan­guage, and never vis­ited Hanover.

In 1761, George mar­ried Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and they enjoyed a happy mar­riage, with 15 chil­dren.  After ser­i­ous bouts of ill­ness in 1788 — 1789 and 1801, thought now to be caused by por­phyria, he became per­man­ently deranged in 1810. The Prince of Wales (later George IV) became regent.

George remained ill until his death at Windsor Castle on 29 January 1820.

His first son became George IV of the UK. Born in 1762, he was very accom­plished youth inter­ested in art, music, lit­er­at­ure and archi­tec­ture.  He was con­tinu­ally at logger heads with his father.  At the age of 18 the Prince of Wales was given a sep­ar­ate estab­lish­ment. He threw him­self into a life of dis­sip­a­tion and wild extra­vag­ance.  When 21 he was given an annual income of over £6m plus a grant of £7m in today’s equi­val­ence.  This was totally inad­equate for his life­style.  He was illeg­ally mar­ried to Maria Fitzherbert who he adored and then was forced in 1795 to marry Princess Caroline of Brunswick who he hated. After the birth of their only child Princess Charlotte, they sep­ar­ated and divorced.  His debts in 1795 reached the equi­val­ent of £65m.  His life­style made him very unpop­u­lar with the popu­lace.

In 1763 Frederick (Duke of York) was born, fol­lowed in 1765 by Wilhelm.  Most of George’s sons served in the Army but Wilhelm was regarded as of little import­ance and served as a mid­ship­man in the Navy with no priv­ileges.  He loved the life and became a very com­pet­ent lieu­ten­ant and then a cap­tain of war­ships. In 1791 he began a rela­tion­ship with Mrs Jordan.  She was an act­ress and they were always short of money. In 1818 he mar­ried Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen.  He rose to become Lord High Admiral.  In 1830 he became King William IV to the great approval of the popu­lace and the Duke of Wellington.  He restored the pop­ular­ity of the Crown.

Space does not permit even a brief resume of the other 12 chil­dren nor the link to Queen Victoria.

Surviving Warsaw 1939–45 — Dr Marek Szablewski — 1st March 2021

Dr Marek Szablewski

What a fant­astic, emo­tion­ally charged talk by Marek about his family ori­gins in Warsaw during the Nazi occu­pa­tion of Poland!

Marek him­self grew up in Sheffield in the 1960s, leav­ing for Durham in 1992 for an aca­demic career in applied chem­istry and phys­ics.

Much of his talk centred on the war­time exper­i­ence of his father. Witold Szablewski, per­haps unusu­ally, spoke freely to Marek before his death in 2008. This was the cata­lyst for the award of a Winston Churchill Fellowship in 2011 to explore the family’s involve­ment during the occu­pa­tion in more detail. The aim was to ensure that the hor­rors of that time are never for­got­ten or diluted. In the words of Primo Levi, an Auschwitz sur­vivor, “It happened, there­fore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen every­where”.

Poland’s his­tory was almost oblit­er­ated during World War II. So Marek now spends a good deal of his time talk­ing about his family’s time in Warsaw during the Nazi occu­pa­tion to groups like ours and par­tic­u­larly school chil­dren.

Marek’s father, Witold Szablewski, was a tool maker, set­tling in Sheffield after the war

Witold Szablewski

and seen here cyc­ling with a friend in Warsaw before the Ghetto was estab­lished (fig 2)

A younger Witold Szablewski on the right

The build­ing in the back­ground is the only pre-war build­ing left in that street, a vivid example of the whole­sale anni­hil­a­tion of the city by the Nazis.

Witold Szablewski returned to the rebuilt city in 2004 as a hero in recog­ni­tion of his role in the Warsaw Uprising and in remem­brance of the thou­sands of Poles whose lives were lost.

Poland’s tur­bu­lent his­tory is also rep­res­en­ted by a series of maps of its ever-changing bor­ders from war­fare.

Reference: Norman Davies “God’s Playground Vol 1 Clarendon Press Oxford 1989

The absence of black (upper right) indic­ates loss of Poland’s sov­er­eignty in 1791–1807, 1874–1918, 1939–45 by Prussia, Russia and Austro-Hungary respect­ively.

Grandfather Stefan seen here upper cent­ral

was a printer and trade uni­on­ist, arres­ted by the Russian author­it­ies on mul­tiple occa­sions for organ­ising strikes, and spend­ing time in Tsarist pris­ons. He had a Russian wife and was con­scrip­ted into the Army. Captured by the Germans, he escaped from Lamsdorf (later StalagVIIIB) and fought in the Polish upris­ing which led to inde­pend­ence, by which time his Russian wife and child had dis­ap­peared. He filed for divorce.

He became a police­man, remar­ried and Marek’s father was born to his second wife, who died a few years later

His Grandfather’s reac­tion­ary beha­viour overtly tempered after he became a detect­ive. He then mar­ried a Jewess, and was work­ing at the Škoda fact­ory in the mid-1930s, prob­ably also under­cover when cor­rup­tion in the com­pany was rife, for instance, issu­ing false qual­ity cer­ti­fic­ates.

He then man­aged blocks of flats claim­ing that he lost his police job “because his wife was Jewish”.

Marek’s father, Witold, became an appren­tice tool maker in spe­cial­ist sur­gical equip­ment in the Ghetto. During the occu­pa­tion, the family house was exchanged to one out­side the Ghetto wall. He had to travel in and out every day to work but often car­ried money, obtained by selling con­tra­band, into the Ghetto.

Jews were expec­ted to walk in the gutter if a Nazi passed by, schools were shut, only a basic edu­ca­tion was avail­able, Jewish bank accounts were frozen, and Chopin was banned. Life was very dif­fi­cult and viol­ent. For instance a state­ment in a 1940 issue of Völkischer Beobachter, the Nazi news­pa­per; “In Prague, big red posters were put up on which one could read that seven Czechs had been shot today….  if I had to put up a poster for every seven Poles shot, the forests of Poland would not be suf­fi­cient to man­u­fac­ture the paper”.

The Ghetto was large with an area of 1.5 square miles and 300,000 Jews within. Enclosure walls across tram tracks had “typhoid” notices to keep people out. It was com­pletely des­troyed by the Nazis at the end of the war as the Russians’ moved in.

This pic­ture shows Josef Blösche, the Warsaw SS-Rottenführer, (with the machine gun) round­ing up Jews during the Uprising. He was nick­named Frankenstein because of his cruelty and he was sub­sequently executed for war crimes.

Marek’s father, who was not car­ry­ing Jewish papers him­self, was sworn into the Resistance. As a keen pho­to­grapher, he recor­ded troop move­ments. At one point he was arres­ted by the Gestapo with a gun to his head but bluffed his way free and lying that he had no know­ledge of his Jewish mother’s where­abouts. On another occa­sion he was car­ry­ing a hidden mes­sage for the Leader of the Jewish Council, when the offices were raided by the Gestapo. He was lent a Star of David arm­band to evade cap­ture within the Ghetto.

Witold gave Stefan’s daughter’s (Russian) birth cer­ti­fic­ate to his Jewish wife, together with its Nazi tax stamps. She was then able to mas­quer­ade as his own daugh­ter as a non-Jewess.

With the help of a local his­tor­ian, after return­ing to Poland, Marek found the ruin of a gues­t­house run by Carmen Achmarańska, and where his Jewish step-grandmother had worked during the occu­pa­tion. It was a favour­ite Nazi water­ing hole. They deman­ded to stay the night. She evac­u­ated the guest house, and was accused of being Jewish, which she denied. She was to be taken to Warsaw 15km away but was shot in the head on the way. The locals were instruc­ted to leave her in the ditch as a warn­ing. She had saved so many lives. The ‘Carmencita’ guest house was burned down in the 1950s.

At the end of the occu­pa­tion in August-October 1944, after the Warsaw Uprising in which Witold took part, there was sys­tem­atic destruc­tion by the Nazis as the Russians moved in. No more than 1000 people remained in the ruins of the city, left hidden under rubble in cel­lars when the city was lib­er­ated by the Red Army in January of 1945.

During the Uprising, German pris­on­ers were extrac­ted from the cel­lars of the tele­phone exchange in Warsaw. According to Marek’s father, women miners dug their way into the build­ing to allow the res­ist­ance fight­ers access, as they were smal­ler and could gain access more easily. His father was heav­ily involved in the Uprising which res­ul­ted in 250000 deaths. The Nazis plundered much art work and other valu­ables, scorch­ing the city before the Red Army moved in. It has now been beau­ti­fully restored to its ori­ginal state in the old town.

At the end of the Uprising, Witold was taken pris­oner and trans­ferred to Germany as a POW, like his Father in Lamsdorf.  His par­ents and half-sister were taken to Berlin as slave labour­ers for the build­ing of Berlin’s Templehof air­port. He came to Hardwick Hall after the war and was employed at Gilbow Tools, Bridge Street Sheffield, and then at W.Tyzack Sons and Turner Ltd of Little London Road in Heeley.

Further recom­men­ded read­ing and pod­cast:

9780131719187: Conversations with an Executioner …

East West Street by Philippe Sands | Waterstones

Marek’s report for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust:

Marek’s recent pod­cast for Holocaust Memorial Day: