A GUIDED SITE SPECIFIC EXPERIENCE OF TRENT PARK'S TOP SECRET
What went on in this this country house during the war?
What were the Nazi Generals saying?
Who was spying on them?
Between 1942 and 1945 German Generals were imprisoned at Trent Park. British Military Intelligence spied on them to try and learn military secrets. Until now this has been kept top secret.
A review of the Secret Listeners Project at the Jewish Museum
by the young people from the Edgware District Reform Synagogue
On the 20th January 2013, 3 pupils braved the snow on a trip to the Jewish Museum in Camden.
Leon Hirsh, Millie Bard and Jonathan Lubin from the EDRS religion school and were accompanied by Nigel Williams, Ben Braverman and Hannah Mendoza-Wolfson. When we arrived we were greeted by two ladies from a West End production company called Del and Ariel; who we worked with throughout the morning learning about the Secret Listeners and what happened at Trent Park in London.
The Secret Listeners were a group of German-speaking translators who put the Germans in a place of luxury in the form of Trent Park in North London to give them a false sense of security so the translators could listen in to the conversations to gain intelligence that would help the Allied forces in Europe. They worked in a separate outhouse in Trent Park in room called the M- Room were they operated.
Once we were comfortable with the topic, we then from scratch started to form ideas on a small production to present in the afternoon. We were all intrigued by the ways that the British manipulated the German Generals into releasing information on the on-going conflict in Europe and the Concentration Camps. We rehearsed our small show in the hall just before lunch with an audience just about reaching five. When we arrived back after lunch we were shocked to see that in the twenty minutes were gone, so many people had arrived and there was an audience of over 60 were now sitting waiting for the show to start. We had not realised that it wasn’t just us presenting but actually a small convention about the Secret Listeners.
After our performance, there was a short Q&A with just us 3 kids. We were also shown a short film made by a man called Mark Norfolk featuring Fritz Lustig, one of the only remaining Secret Listeners. After the film there was another panel discussion with Mark Norfolk (editor), Thomas Kampe (director), Julia Pascal (producer), Mike Tsang (photographer), Nick Ryan (audio), and Jonathon Meth (playwright) along with Fritz Lustig. Jonny and Millie participated in the panel discussion, both asking Fritz their questions. We arrived back at Edgware Station, excited to tell our parents about our amazing experience.
We would like to thank Nigel, Ben and Hannah for taking us, even on that very snowy day.
Millie Bard and Jonathan Lubin
Sunday 20th January 2013
THE SECRET LISTENERS is a Heritage Lottery Fund project based on the German and Austrian Jewish refugees who worked as Secret Listeners for the government during World War Two.
In July 2012, we focused on Trent Park where German prisoners of war were bugged.
Our site-specific performance honoured the listeners and revealed evidence of the conversations that were recorded. This was rehearsed and performed with volunteers who were mentored by theatre and arts professionals as this is a learning project. We are also continuing to interview refugees as part of our outreach.
On January 20th 2013, young people from Edgware District Reform Synagogue presented a short performance inspired by those texts. This was be followed by a film of the work done at Trent Park and a panel discussion about the project with guests including Fritz Lustig, who worked as a Secret Listener during the war, Thomas Kampe, director of the installation, Mark Norfolk, film-maker, Jonathan Meth, educational team leader, Lesley Lightfoot from Trent Park/Middlesex University and Julia Pascal, producer. After this there was a Question and Answer time for the audience.
Phase One at Trent Park...
Site-specific installation reveals secrets of when the British bugged Nazis in a Middlesex mansion Sunday July 22 2012.
German and Austrian refugees - many of them Jewish – who had fled Nazi Germany before the Second World War, were recruited by British intelligence to spy on top-ranking Nazi prisoners in a secret project based at an Enfield mansion.
This secret work was explored in an event at Trent Park - the place where it happened. The project was made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Pascal Theatre Company, working with Middlesex University, The Jewish Military Museum, The Jewish Museum and the Wiener Library, will trained 20 young volunteers to undertake the research needed to pull the information together. Trent Park is currently home to Middlesex University where the performance took place on 22 July, 2012.
The project, called The Secret Listeners, showed how the refugees provided vital information because of their extensive knowledge not only of the German language but also cultural traditions. They recorded and made detailed transcripts of private conversations between Nazi senior officers, which yielded valuable strategic information to the Allies, including to what extent the German army was aware of and implicated in the Holocaust.
Nazi prisoners, including many generals and other high-ranking officers, lived a relatively comfortable existence in the mansion, previously the home of the Sassoon family, and where Charlie Chaplin and Lawrence of Arabia had once been house guests. The British plan was to make the POW’s feel relaxed enough to discuss issues among themselves, unaware that every room throughout the building was bugged.
Young people working on the project were recruited from students and graduates at the University as well as volunteers from the North London Jewish Community. They were given access to transcripts of the original recordings held in the National Archives.
A subsequent performance of the resulting drama was held at The Jewish Museum 2.30pm - 4.30pm on 20th January 2013 and a permanent record of the project will be available at the University and the Jewish Military Museum.
For the Heritage Lottery Fund, Head of HLF London Sue Bowers said: “This is a fascinating but little-known slice of national history which underlines the vital contribution made by this group of refugees. The young people taking part will help ensure that the story is much more widely known while at the same time gaining a range of valuable skills.”
Our installation aimed to give insight and stimulate curiosity about this hidden British war history.
Pascal Theatre Company working with The Jewish Military Museum, The Wiener Library and The Jewish Museum to develop future links and share the educational programme over 2012 and 2013
Any feedback from the Trent Park experience and/or interest in the next phase please email firstname.lastname@example.org