CAPTION: Talaton children dressed up to act in a village play about a war-time bride played by Kindertransport refugee, Isa

New Play Tells Story of East Devon Community’s Kindness to Wartime Refugees

Posted: 19th April, 2022

The inspiring wartime story of a Devon village and church community which offered sanctuary to Jewish child refugees has been turned into a play.

Talaton a Wartime Refuge tells the story of how six children who fled Poland as part of the Kindertransport evacuation in 1939, were given homes in the East Devon village of Talaton for the duration of World War Two.

The play will have its premiere in nearby Whimple on Monday 25 April.

The playwright, Tom Samson, who lives in Talaton, said “Having ‘rediscovered’ this story I feel that it is important that it is never forgotten as it contains much that we should learn from. The play exposes the horrors that were unfolding in Europe and contrasts them to the openness and generosity of poor villagers, thus showing how small collective acts of goodness can be a powerful counterbalance to larger acts of evil.”

Isa – photograph taken in Talaton school – summer 1940

One of the refugees, Isa Webber (nee Schneider), settled in Devon, near Plymouth, and is now 92.

She said “All of our lives were touched and changed forever by the kindness, the love and the care of poor, simple country folk who had little money for themselves but opened their homes to give us shelter.”

Isa’s recollections provided a lot of material for the play, which also tells the stories of sisters Paula and Hedwig (later known as Gwen), and brothers Gerd and Manfred Korman and their friend Yossel Kamiel.

Paula (standing) and Hedwig kneeling. Bert Richard and his family homed and later adopted the sisters.

The three girls’ parents were lost without a trace in the war, and they were adopted by the families who had homed them.

The three boys were eventually reunited with their parents.

Talaton’s current vicar, Rev’d Marc Kerslake, said “When Tom first discussed this project with me, we had no idea how prophetic it would turn out to be, that in 2022 war would once again explode in Europe and how it would reach out to touch our community through a new kind of ‘Kindertransport’.

“The amazing lesson of the play for us is that even in the darkest of times, even as we feel helpless in the face of such evil, that even the smallest community can make a difference.

“Small rural communities can have the undeserved reputation for being insular and suspicious of strangers, Talaton a Wartime Refuge shows that 75-years-ago this wasn’t true and in 2022 hundreds of our modern rural communities are doing the same as we prepare to welcome refuges from Ukraine.

“75 years ago, the local church community was central to the efforts of Talaton to be a place of welcome and safety and today we aim to do exactly the same.”

After the war, Gerd Korman became a well-respected history professor and a Holocaust chronicler.

Gerd and Manfred Korman in Talaton summer 1940

He is the author of many books including “Nightmare’s Fairy Tale” the story of his family’s escape from Nazi Germany and “Nightmare’s Fairy Tale” about he and his brother’s friendship with Yossel, which provides one of the key threads of the play.

He and his brother, both in their nineties, will be travelling from the United States to attend one of the performances, along with Isa.

Over forty relatives and descendants of the children will also be travelling from across the UK, US and Israel to watch the play’s last night.

For performance times and tickets:

Children in Otwock children’s camp taken while they awaited transportation to England The three named boys are the boys in the story who cam to Talaton