[Archive for Marta Korwin, Primarily Regarding her Service with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), and Displaced Persons, in Germany following World War II].

KORWIN, Marta (1929-1980.)


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An extensive archive, the content of which includes some of the following: Korwin’s UNRRA card; 4 typed reports on camps for displaced persons; an unpublished annotated typescript memoir of Korwin’s time with UNNRA (2 parts, 141 & 104 pp.); 67 original photographs of the students and staff of the arts college. Various places incl. Bocholt, Kabel-Hagen, London and Glasgow. Material dates from 1929-1980.

The remarkable archive of a remarkable woman. Marta Korwin (1907-1992) was gaining prominence as a concert pianist when the Nazis invaded her native Poland in 1939. She was then faced by a choice: either to leave the country and continue her musical career, or to remain and volunteer her services to the Red Cross in Warsaw. She opted to stay and helped to organize auxiliary hospitals and rescue teams, serving as Nurse in Chief of the Sanitary Corps of the Polish Association of the Knights of Malta. From then on she devoted the rest of her life, in various ways, to humanitarian aid and social work.  

After a brief period as a captive of the Gestapo, Korwin escaped to Britain and took classes in social work at the LSE. She was accepted by UNRRA as a Welfare Officer in 1944 and was part of the first team (and one of the first allied women) to cross the Rhine on April 1, 1945. Her team came to the aid of tens of thousands of displaced persons in Bocholt, by setting up camps and providing essential facilities and activities.  

When Korwin saw the displaced persons being dispersed to other camps, often with poorer accommodations, she began to express concern over their treatment and sought an alternative. In an attempt to provide a more stable atmosphere she established the College of Art for Displaced Persons in Kabel-Hagen, where the refugees could take courses in music and painting. The archive in question is largely made up of material relating to this period, and encapsulates the rocky, seven-month existence of the art college, which suffered personnel and equipment shortages, lack of support and direct interference from military command.  

The art college was an embodiment of Korwin and an expression of her talents and concerns. It married the two chief passions of her life, the arts and social work, and a large part of this archive represents her push for its survival. Among the remarkable documents from this time are: a scarce book about the college (4 OCLC listings); an album of photographs of the students; letters from Korwin to other officials regarding her battle to sustain the college; a typescript (with ms. annotations) of Korwin’s unpublished memoir of her work with UNNRA. This last item is made up of two parts, the second of which contains copies of 11 essays by the students of the college. Such refugee memoirs are extremely scarce, and represent the fruit of Korwin’s forward-looking endeavors: as put by the Historian Ben Shephard, she was “one of the first people to try and understand the DPs’ state of mind.” (p.67, The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War, 2011).

For a full biographical note and list of contents please contact sam@maggs.com        

Stock Code: 215610

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