Respects paid in Hitchin to a survivor of Nazi Germany history forgot
- Credit: Archant
People gathered to pay their respects to a refugee from Nazi Germany and mark his life with a headstone at St John’s Road Cemetery in Hitchin.
Tragic Peter Wolff escaped from Hitler’s Germany in 1939, and was a boarder at the now long-lost St Michael’s College, run by priests from the Order of Augustinians of the Assumption on what is now the site of Hitchin Police Station.
Peter’s mother arranged for him to come to England, possibly as part of the Kindertransport, before she perished in Poland’s Lodz concentration camp.
His father, an architect, died in 1940 in the Netherlands. Some documents record his death as ‘murder’, while others state it was a suicide pact with another lady.
Orphaned Peter attended St Michael’s between 1942 to 1946, but died at 16 from peritonitis – an infection of the stomach lining possibly resulting from a burst appendix. He died at the college and his requiem was held in the chapel.
However, what has never been explained was his burial in an unmarked grave at the cemetery in Hitchin, as history forgot him – until now.
For a group of dedicated researchers on the history of St Michael’s – Old St Michaeleans, as well as parishioners – assembled for a blessing of a flat tablet that they installed at the cemetery in honour of the previously unsung Peter.
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Peter Robbins from Hitchin, who has researched Peter’s life, said: “The weather in the morning was awful, pouring with rain.
“Despite being soaked, Father Tom O’Brien conducted a short but dignified service of blessing.
“We then went to the Church of Our Lady Immaculate & St Andrew in Nightingale Road, where he blessed the garden plaque provided by the parish.
“Peter Wolff, the orphan refugee, is now remembered in a respectful way.”
Mr Robbins, 82, attended St Michael’s at the same time as Peter, although he has no recollection of him or the requiem. He wrote his obituary.
He said: “Peter seems to have been a happy boarder, and he was an active member of the scout troop and beekeeping club – but he must have suffered greatly from the trauma of his early years and having no family.”
The money for the tablet was donated by Old Michaeleans, the Augustinian Order, and Hitchin parishioners.
To find out more, have a look at Stefan Orszulik’s blog at stmichaelshitchin.wordpress.com.