A Knight’s Tale (52: My Secondment)

Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass, also called the November pogrom, was an onslaught of violent attacks against Jewish persons and property carried out by the Nazi Party’s Sturmabteilung paramilitary forces along with civilians throughout Nazi Germany on 9โ€“10 November 1938. The German authorities looked on without intervening as a clear Indication of what was to come was sent to the world.

Those who could, and had the foresight for it, sent their children to safety on The Kindertransport, an organised rescue effort that took place during the nine months prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The United Kingdom took in nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Nazi Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland, and the Free City of Danzig. 

One such child was ten year old Wolf Blomfield who was never again to see his father, believed to have perished in Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It was many years before he was to reconnect with his mother, who had escaped to Australia, an aunt and a cousin, all severely traumatised.

Sometime in 1968 I had been granted places on two Social Work training courses. I accepted the Croydon College offer on the strength of the insightful and challenging interview of the course director who I later found had spent the last years of his childhood in a series of foster homes; had worked in a care home; and was a trained and practicing psychoanalyst. This was the same Wolf Blomfield who was to teach me much and to become

a lifelong friend until his death in April 2017.

Veronica Rivett, my delightful mother-in-law dropped everything and crossed London to collect and look after Matthew on the morning in 1969 that Jackie was hospitalised with meningitis.  This was the day I was due to begin my Social Work training course at Croydon Colleges.  Jackie had been ill for a fortnight and her head was so bad that morning that we called the GP who, within seconds, diagnosed the condition and arranged for hospital admission.  This meant care had to be arranged for Michael, then five and attending school. A neighbour with a son at the school took on the task of transporting Michael to and from that venue.

Matthew himself had German measles at the time and his Nan took him to her bed; and when Jackie was back home but still unwell, Helen and Bill came to stay with us for a short while to continue the care.

When, having missed the morning, I arrived at Croydon on that first afternoon of my secondment the concerned Wolf and Margaret Granowski, my excellent allocated tutor, were waiting for me in the foyer. This was certainly confirmation that I had made the right choice.

That was the beginning of a boom time in Social Work when training could be funded by secondment on full salary in return for which we were bound to stay with our employer for two years afterwards. Now in the 21st century I believe that would-be trainees are required to pay for themselves.


  1. This episode makes clear the benefits of kindness producing more kindness, even in the face of evil.
    I know how much you valued Wolf’s friendship. I didn’t know or remember that he was also your mentor.
    How fortunate, too, that you had caring family members who could help with childcare.

  2. The “Kindertransport” between Germany and Great Britain I heard so much about it. There was also a unofficial transport of German children -away from the war. They were send out of the cities to live on farms like ours in Austria or Germany.

  3. A moving introduction with an interesting surprise in the middle. Things have changed and, yes, not always for the better (according to us). Young people have a very different attitude to work too, though, with few feeling the same loyalty to their place of work that many of us did and are happy to move from one job to another. Perhaps because there have been no major disruptions to their society as the Second World War created in ours – the aftermath of which reverberated for decades.

  4. Phew, what a post! Derrick, you have had an eventful life. Thank goodness for family and good friends. So glad your friend and teacher escaped the horrors of Nazi Germany.

  5. Holy cow, Derrick. Jackie and Matthew very ill, childcare to be arranged, and your first day of training. That’s a bit of a stressful day. And then you get to know Wolf, who has a story no one should have to live through. This is quite a post!

  6. Wonderful tale. I think that the Holocaust deniers boil my blood even hotter than the anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, and the lugnuts that say that 9-11 didn’t happen. Your family has lived a storied life. Thanks for sharing some of the tales with us.

  7. Wow, what a memory. I’ve been thinking of the Holocaust lately because in one of our states, Texas, teachers were just told to provide students with educational materials that present “the other side” of that issue. I am just stunned and crushed by what is happening in America right now.

  8. As I reflect on your post, I’m struck by the difference between story and statistics. The enormity that 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust can’t really be understood and internalized without the stories of the individuals who perished and their families.

  9. I remember your deep friendship with Wolf, and the trips to London to lunch with him (unless I’ve conflated the two events). Measles and meningitis in the one household at the same time must have been terrifying, let alone the logistics of care. We used to have a system here of paid education in exchange for two years at a posting of the government’s choosing. It kept country schools, hospitals, etc, staffed, and allowed students from less affluent backgrounds a profession. It’s been replaced with government student loans that take years to repay, and country towns screaming for people.

  10. I imagine the meningitis diagnosis was scary, but I’m glad you had caring support in this hard time. When I started my counseling career in the 1980s, my employing agency paid for all my training. When I left in 1917, the employee paid for all training. Your colorful shirt in the photo reflects a positive attitude.

  11. It is mind boggling what a group of crazed minds can do to fellow human beings. I fear Kristallnacht may get repeated yet again in future โ€”you donโ€™t need to look hard for simmering hatred on the earth.

    Those illnesses in the family sound scary. Fortunately, everything went well, thanks to the ample support you received from your family and friends.

  12. It was an incredible stroke of luck that you were trained by such a distinguished and caring professional, Derrick. Would that some of our social workers who must have a college degree in order to be eligible for employment were trained by psychologists, rather than other social workers, perpetuating ignorance and ineptness.

    1. Thank you so much, Dolly. A few years later the course required a degree for entry. By then I was a part time trainer. Neither Wolf nor I, without degrees, would have been considered for a place.

  13. I’ve seen several documentaries on Kristallnacht. So horrifying and heart-breaking.
    Reading this part of your life brought the tears…some of sadness and others of joy.
    Such hard times…and you all persevered and can now share with others.
    What a wonderful friendship for you and Mr. Blomfield!
    The shirt you wore in that photo woke me up! ? Wowza! Bright and colourful! ๐Ÿ˜€
    ((((HUGS)))) ๐Ÿ™‚
    PS…I remember having measles AND German measles as a little girl. Also, chicken-pox.

  14. Thank you for sharing Wolf’s story, and you own, with readers, Derrick. Liz made a very good point about the individual stories needing to be told.

    Poor Jackie and little Michael! Sometimes it seems multiple things conspire against one. All very hard on you, too. I am glad you had Wolf and Margaret, and caring relatives, to help.

  15. Derrick I am so sorry you lost your friend so recently. What a life he had. I hate hearing about all the separate traumas of his scattered family, once they found each other. And to never know what happened to his father is an awful way for a boy to grow up. He took his personal experience and found work in a field where he could make a difference for some other little boy.

  16. love the photo of your lifelong friend and the years before WWII really did have a lot of sneaky terrible things gong on – still so sad –
    and you are right – most workers have to pay for their own training now – but it depends –
    and it sounds like you are really blessed with your work

  17. So glad Merril Smith brought me here from her next to latest post. So special – this friendship, this Wolf. Beautiful post and a reminder to NEVER LET THIS HATRED happen again.

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