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Sidney Pollard : The Refugee Historian

Sidney Pollard (1925-1998) was among the most wide-ranging of post-war British historians. An historical economist by training, he contributed to several key debates in that field. His books discussed the nature of under-development and the means to achieve relative growth, the role played by investment in the industrial revolution, the early history of management, the part played by monetary policy in the inter-war period, the reasons for Britain's economic decline after 1945, and the economic history of European integration. In addition, Pollard was also a labour historian. His postdoctoral research examining the history of labour in Sheffield was one of the first British studies to anticipate history from below. He contributed to the foundation of the Society for the Study of Labour History, and later edited its bulletin, today's Labour History Review. The medium in which Pollard's labour history was expressed was the history of the region. His last book Marginal Europe is a study of development across state boundaries, which treats the history of regions in much the same way as Karl Marx had previously discussed the history of social classes, or Raúl Prebisch the story of developed and developing nations, as self-conscious, organic entities engaged in a system of economic rivalry in which even marginal or dispossessed groups could flourish.

The focus of this paper, however, is just on one specific aspect of Pollard's life and work, namely his experience of exile. In 1938, Pollard left his native Vienna to travel as a child refugee to Britain. The decision to leave was not taken lightly. His parents were unable to accompany him into exile, and the months that followed were the most difficult of Pollard's life. The first section of this paper is biographical. It briefly tells Pollard's story, and concentrates especially on this key incident. This paper argues that the traumas that he underwent in 1938 and afterwards remained with Pollard to shape his later choices, including his decision to become academic and also the nature of the books that he wrote. In the second section, the focus shifts towards Pollard's books and articles. The suggestion is that we can find traces of this childhood memory embodied in them. Some readers may find this point surprising, for unlike many of the Jewish refugee historians, Pollard did not go on to write directly about interwar Germany or the Holocaust, or not in any sustained way. He did not write often about his early experiences. Nor did Pollard did not talk with his friends, and colleagues did not see him as an exile. He was not invited to attend the reunions for those who had come to Britain on the Children's transports. Yet this paper accepts the argument of Peter Pulzer, another historian who escaped from that Nazis, that 'Most historical writing - at any rate writing on modern history is also autobiography.' Pulzer went on to argue that history could be autobiographical even when the links between the two were opaque:

'Often this works indirectly. The writing may be entirely impersonal and dryly objective, with no connection to the author's life story. The details may be derived from archives, newspapers or interiors, and therefore not part of the author's own experience. But what about the choice of subject itself? The agenda? The questions to be addressed and the conclusions to be formulated? Are they chosen at random? Or do they come from inside the scholar, because something that once happened to him goes on growing inside, because the world as he has experienced it has features that cry out for explanation?'

The implication of Pulzer's argument is that although the biographer may sometimes be obliged to proceed in a roundabout way, when searching for links between memoir and publication that are not always obvious, they can do so fruitfully. This paper argues that one major theme of Pollard's published work was his continued engagement with the experiences of 1938. This task compels us to look beyond Pollard's main books to his articles, his correspondence, and the memories of family and friends.

Life and Learning

Sidney Pollard was born Siegfried Pollak in April 1925. His father Moses was a commercial traveller and his mother Leontine Katz a teacher. Both parents had lived in Stryy near Lvov in Galicia before settling in Vienna, where Siegfried was born. The young Pollak was born in a house overlooking a chocolate factory, and could later recall the smell of the works. He received his education at the Chajes Realgymnasium, a Jewish school, where he excelled at mathematics and music. Yet for all his evident success, these were not happy times. Austrian society already exhibited signs of anti-Semitic feeling. The children of the Realgymnasium were undoubtedly dragged in. The majority of students were Ostjuden including Pollak, the children of recent immigrants from the shtetl. Unlike the more established Jewish families, they had not yet been integrated into liberal Viennese society. Many Ostjuden were orthodox in their religion, they were visible and at risk.

Following the German annexation of Austria in 1938, the Pollaks were forced to leave their family flat, and Moses Pollak was removed from his job. Middle-aged Jews were forced to scrub the streets. Pollard later wrote that racism in Austria had possessed a 'unique populist bite', which had been missing even in Germany. The Kristallnacht pogrom of 9-10 November 1938 indicated that the state was not going to let up on its anti-Jewish measures. Pollak's parents discussed a range of plans to achieve their own escape, or at least their younger son's. A cousin John Katz lived in London, could he help? Different plans failed. Then, in December 1938, Siegfried's parents were able to send him to Britain on the children's transports. A local committee in Edinburgh raised the necessary funds.

Having arrived in Britain, Pollak was sent to Whittingehame Farm School, a camp for refugee children situated on grounds near Edinburgh. The organisers had designed it as a preparation for future life in Israel, and encouraged the students to take part in manual work, such as cleaning, cooking, and work in the fields. We do not have any trace of Siegfried's letters to his parents. Yet we do know that he must have written, for we can detect traces of his correspondence in the letters that Siegfried's parents sent back to him and which he kept. One communication to Siegfried was sent from Vienna in March 1939. Certain paragraphs read as if the young man had criticised conditions in the camp. Moses Pollak attempted to reassure his son, 'approach it without prejudice, but with love … with a desire to work and a will.' Sigi was encouraged to tell himself, 'first, I'm doing this for myself, because everything I do to succeed helps me and us Jews, second, it is only temporary, and third, you should always have hope in your endeavours. The situation won't last for ever.' Despite these words of encouragement, the times were bleak. The letters soon stopped. Moses and Leontine Pollak both disappeared in the Holocaust. Recently published records suggest that they were sent to the camp at Opole and died there in 1941. Yet Siegfried never found out what happened to his parents. All he knew was that he did not see them again.
Young Siegfried was part of a large movement of people. Some fifty thousand Jewish men and women arrived in Britain between 1933-9. Although they were exiles from Nazi Germany, their time in Britain was not always happy. There was widespread suspicion shown towards these foreigners. Indigenous racist traditions, including members of the British Union of Fascists, regarded the refugees were contempt. In conditions of war, the British government would intern all enemy aliens, known fascists and committed anti-Nazis alike.

At Whittingehame, Pollak learned to speak English. His cousin Katz provided a German-English dictionary. Formal schooling was minimal, and Pollard had to find alternative interests, which included editing the school magazine. For several reasons, including perhaps a gradual disillusionment with Zionism, Siegfried Pollak's initial plan of emigrating from Britain to Palestine failed. When funds ran out to support the school at Whittingehame, in winter 1941-2, the world conflict was still at its height and the Suez Canal was closed. Instead of leaving Europe, Pollak found himself working as a market gardener, for a firm called Rideon's in Cambridge. 'I wanted to escape from my agricultural labourer's work, which I hated. But at the time I had no specific profession in mind.'

To resolve his dilemma, Siegfried Pollak resumed his studies, with John Katz contributing the fees. Soon, Pollak had passed the London Matric, and could search for a university place. Although he enjoyed mathematics best, Pollak knew he could not study it to degree level. He had no knowledge of other natural sciences, and neither did he possess access to labs or specimens from which to learn. 'It had to be a subject to be mastered from books only'. After mathematics, economics was the subject that came next. His choice made, Pollak won a place at the London School of Economics. He was also able to pass the first year of the course, the London B.Sc. (Econ) Intermediate, on a correspondence basis. The course included options on economic history, at which Pollard excelled.
In 1943, Pollak joined the British Army Reconnaissance Corps in Belgium and Germany, serving as a radio operator. It is at this point that Siegfried Pollak officially became Sidney Pollard. While other members of his generation living in Britain had to be conscripted, Pollard chose to volunteer. He later described strong feelings of guilt 'at having survived when my family had perished'. He left the army a corporal in winter 1946-7.

After the war, Sidney Pollard was able to resume his place at the London School of Economics. Some of his energy was devoted to left-wing causes, and Pollard was briefly a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Yet Pollard only spent six months inside the party. 'I was not a political animal … moreover, I had the nagging feeling that as a foreigner … I ought not to engage directly in political action in my host country.' He stayed with a working-class couple, the Ransomes, who impressed him with their kindness and patient commitment to the Labour movement. Through them, Pollard came into contact with the Holiday Fellowship, where he met his first wife Eileen Andrews. They married in 1949.

Sidney Pollard eventually graduated with a first, the only one in his year. Colin Holmes suggests that Pollard's academic activity may have concealed other areas of sadness in the young man's life. 'During the war his possessions had fitted into one suitcase, a symbol of his loneliness, and there was no family home to which he could return on leave from the armed forces.' T. S. Ashton a senior academic in the School persuaded Pollard to continue his studies, as was in the young man's interests. Because Sidney had been released from the army late, he had been completes the second part of his degree in just five terms. Yet the LSE course had a two-year residential requirement, so Pollard was obliged to remain in London. Following Ashton's advice, Pollard went on to complete a doctorate on the subject of the British shipbuilding industry between 1870 and 1914. Despite the emotional support that Ashton offered to his student, Pollard's supervisor was an intellectual ally of Hayek and contributed to an early Cold War text Capitalism and the Historians.
Although he began work as a part-time lecturer for the London Services committee and at Westminster College, Oxford, Pollard had difficulty in securing a full academic appointment. He was only able to secure short-term, part-time teaching work. Other young left-wing scholars experienced similar difficulties. Eric Hobsbawm thought himself fortunate to find a place 'under the wire' at Birkbeck 1947. The difficulties were intensified after the Labour government began a purge of Communists in the civil service. In addition to people directly employed by the ministries, there were also sackings among post office workers, shop stewards in nationalised industries, school teachers, and university lecturers. As for Pollard, he assumed that anti-Semitism was a major cause of his difficulties. Another colleague eventually explained that T. S. Ashton was writing hostile references 'because of my dangerous political beliefs'. Finally, in 1950 Pollard was able to take a research fellowship at the University of Sheffield. This was a research job with no teaching attached, and Ashton saw less need to write the sort of letter that would have blocked any appointment. Surprisingly, Pollard continued to use Ashton as a referee for some years afterwards.

At Sheffield, Sidney Pollard concentrated on labour history. In 1952, the department created an assistant lectureship in Economic History, which was renewed in 1955. By 1960, he was a senior lecturer. Slowly, Pollard was able to surmount his early difficulties and rise to the top of the department. Soon publications appeared, including histories of the local firms Marsh Brothers and Shirley, Aldred and Company. Pollard's interest in the history of British industry was also expressed in The Development of the British Economy, which told the story of Britain's industrial economy up to the 1950s. Three further editions of The Development appeared in his lifetime. Another book, The Genesis of Modern Management described the rise of a managerial class from the eighteenth century onwards, composed of men whose job was simply to control the execution of the total labour process.

From the early 1960s, the story of Sidney Pollard's life was expressed largely in three fields. The first was the study of history. This aspect of his life resulted in many books and journal articles, which were to reach a total of some two hundred items by the time of his death. Then there was Pollard the colleague, a Professor and head of economic history at Sheffield. In 1980, Pollard left this department to take up a new post at the University of Bielefeld in West Germany, and took retirement there in 1990. There was also Pollard the family man. Three children were born in the 1950s, Brian, David and Veronica. After the children reached adulthood, he and Eileen divorced. Sidney Pollard then married his second wife Helen Trippett in 1982. Each of these themes was important to Pollard, but to do any justice to them would take us far beyond the narrow scope of this article. Fortunately, his friend Colin Holmes has already told these aspects of his story elsewhere, and they also appear in a short memoir that was written in the late 1990s by Pollard himself.

Through the 1960s and 1970s, Pollard received increasing public recognition for his work. He was perceived as one of Britain's leading labour historians, and also an expert in several linked fields of economic history. Altogether Sidney Pollard was successful in carving out a niche for himself. For example, when Michael Postan was looking for a historian to contribute an article on labour in Britain before and after the industrial revolution, for the seventh volume of The Cambridge Economic History of Europe, Pollard was the obvious choice. 'We want labour to be studied as a factor of production, e.g. partly in the terms in which Marx and the Marxists have discussed the formation of the industrial proletariat, and partly in the terms in which the subject now features in economic literature, i.e. changes in the flow of labour supplies, including transfers of labour between sectors and industries in the utilization of labour.' Few of Pollard's contemporaries could have played this dual role.

There were undoubtedly many happy times. All three of his children record an enormous sense of gratitude they feel towards their father. In the holidays, they would be driven across Europe on fully-fledged adventures. An experience of Europe was made open to them, which was closed to most of their contemporaries. Yet there were also darker moments ahead. In 1970, Pollard worked briefly as a visiting Professor of History at Berkeley, the University of Los Angeles in California. The following year, he was offered and accepted a permanent post there. The family followed Sidney. According to Veronica, 'We love[d] everything we saw, including the sun, the blue sea, the fresh orange juice, avocados and pizza, the hippy market stalls in Berkeley and what remained at Haight Ashbury in San Francisco.' The Pollards sold their Sheffield home and prepared to move. This position should have been the fitting culmination of a successful academic career. Yet the American authorities would not give their backing to Pollard's application. John Saville describes the incident, 'The US immigration service was only prepared to issue him with a temporary work permit. Among the reasons cited for this decision were Pollard's six-month student membership of the Communist Party and two visits to the GDR, where he was on friendly terms with Jurgen Kuczynski, one of East Germany's leading intellectuals.'

Following this crisis, Sidney Pollard was just about able to secure his re-appointment at Sheffield. He was forced to rely on the goodwill of university authorities from whom he already felt estranged. Pollard was fortunate to receive the support of senior colleagues, who helped to swing the decision. More junior members of staff believed that their friend and mentor had experienced a second tragedy, to sit alongside his experience of the 1930s. Searching for the right words to describe the extent of Pollard's unhappiness at this time, Colin Holmes and Alan Booth quote an old Yiddish phrase, 'Schwer und bitter ist dos leben.'

The Berkeley affair undoubtedly left its own scars. The impression is that Pollard was dissatisfied with Sheffield and eager to leave. Certainly the Sheffield of his public memories was a surprisingly complex place, a city that offered frustration as well joy. 'Sheffield has no hinterlands', Pollard wrote, 'and it fits into no category':

'Northern by ancient county boundary (and Electricity Board's order), it is Midlands by access (and the Gas Board). Its speech is equally mixed - or should one say, its accents, for finely tuned ears can distinguish between the valleys, and between the major surrounding territories. It is not the capital of anything, and that is perhaps why it is consistently forgotten by the BBC - and by British rail, who give it the worst rail service of any half-million anywhere and then wonder that no one uses the trains. It all helps to create a beleaguered feeling of togetherness that would be absent were the city any larger or more metropolitan.'

The passage was written to convey affection, but there are parts of it that are deliberately obscure. We can note the impersonality of the final sentence. Who possessed the feeling of togetherness, and with whom was it shared? There is more than a hint that Pollard saw himself standing on the outside of the South Yorkshire solidarity he describes.

Pollard resigned his post at Sheffield University in 1980 and took up work at Bielefeld University in West Germany, alongside such scholars as Jürgen Kocka and Hans-Ulrich Wehler. Holmes describes Pollard's subsequent isolation from events in Britain, 'he was generally a fortnight behind with the news … He remained still the intensely private person he had been in Sheffield where few of his contacts had known in any detail of his early life, little more about his interest in the cinema and nothing of his skills as a violinist.' Following his retirement, Sidney Pollard returned with Helen to England in 1990. Another old friend, Peter Mathias of Downing College, provides a vivid image of the mature historian. 'Pollard was a striking figure - a benign, bearded, tousle-haired patriarch in his latter years; reticent, gentle and soft-spoken but with an inner determination, sustained throughout his life, which belied his personal modesty.' This latter virtue was unusual in one so productive.

Roughly one-third of Sidney Pollard's books and articles were published in the last eight years of his life. His last book Marginal Europe may have been intended as a 'magnum opus', the words which he wrote on the side of one of his box files. Pollard himself described the book as combining a study of 'much which has moved me in the past: the unity of European developments, the significance of regions, the sources of economic development and the fate of the underdog.' Its author continued to write, even up to the last week of his life. Nothing was again attempted, though, on such a scale. Following a short illness, Pollard died in Sheffield on 22 November 1998. He was not quite 74 years old.

Engaging with Exile

We have already seen that Pollard generally refrained from looking back on his childhood. While his history was autobiographical, this process tended to work at one remove. He did not engage directly with his own experience, until the publication of a short, autobiographical memoir, towards the very end of his life. Yet there were a small number of private, family occasions during which he must have reflected on the experience of the 1930s. His children remember that Pollard began to revisit his own childhood experience as they grew up. He took them on holidays to Vienna and Whittingehame, showing them the places where he had lived. He also expressed to them the distance that he felt between his adult and his younger self. Part of the gap concerned religion. According to his youngest child, Veronica, 'my father was not a believer in any religion. He took my brothers to Shul but only to give them the choice of having a religion. They reported "knowing that he didn't believe so why should they?" The fact that he requested cremation in his will goes totally against the Jewish religion. He said that he lost his faith because of what happened to him.' Brian Pollard confirms the important parts of this account. He describes attending a Bar-Mitzvah preparation course between 1958 and 1961. After that he 'came to dislike the whole idea of religion … neither my brother nor my sister were involved in any of this.'

Following his second marriage, Sidney Pollard involved his new wife Helen in a similar process of re-awakening memory. As with his children, he was understated. Yet 'there was sadness there,' as Helen recalls, 'I have known a lot of people who came over as refugees. No-one had it tougher, but he never complained.' The most painful memories concerned his isolation on arrival in England. Helen Pollard takes up the story that she was told:

'On arrival, Sidney was with a lot of Jewish children. They were sent to a disused Butlin's holiday camp in East Anglia. It was December, some time like that. He suffered from a bad attack of the measles. The camp was equipped for summer, not winter. He only had one pair of socks. One day he got them wet, by the next morning they were full of ice. It was so cold ... Every morning families used to come and claim the children, but he was never claimed. Each morning the names were called out.
Sidney had relatives in England. His uncle Jack, his mother's cousin, was married to Aunt Winnie. She was a Catholic; he was a philosopher at St. Paul's College London. Sidney's mother wrote to say that she would like her son to be brought up in a Jewish way. But Winnie was a headmistress and an LCC councillor. She felt she couldn't take Sidney on. The first time Uncle Jack took Sidney out was after he had gone to Whittingehame. He hadn't had a haircut in all the time since he'd arrived. When Jack saw him, he had hair halfway down his back.'

All children fear abandonment, and Pollard suffered this reality at its worst. We can understand the pain that he must have felt as his fellow refugees were taken one by one from the first camp to safety, while he remained. We also know that Pollard was not unique in his experience. Other refugee children have complained of the petty cruelties, which they suffered, including the teasing of their accents, or of the way they dressed or looked, all of which intensified the sense of isolation they felt living in their new homes.

In his adult life, Pollard's experiences remained typical of his generation. We can see Pollard as one number of Central European intellectuals, who were both socialists and Jews. Over time Sidney Pollard's Marxist tended to lose its edge, as it did for many of his contemporaries, but a strong commitment to the values of pre-Marxist socialism remained. His choice of labour history reflected his identification with the industrial working class. 'It was natural for me to determine to write the history of the workers themselves, to sketch their lives from their own point of view.' Sidney Pollard contributed to histories of the Sheffield Trades Council, and corresponded with Labour MPs. He also identified with the co-operative movement. Pollard spoke at co-operators' rallies and offered his own thoughts as to how the campaign should develop. Pollard was able to explain his sympathy for this cause in terms of its consensual approach. It was 'of the few movements who have no real enemies'. As he wrote in his memoir, 'Co-operation, unlike trade unionism, is non-confrontational and combines practical achievement with an inspiring ideal.'

Would it be right to assume that ethnicity became more important to him, in place of active left-wing politics? Pollard's memoir discounts this possibility, 'any feeling of Jewishness has long since dropped away - except when Jews are persecuted for their race'. Indeed Pollard's correspondence rarely mentions Judaism, or the Jews as a people. There is however one passage in his correspondence with Yehuda Don, in which Sidney Pollard reflects on his friend's explanations for the different economic conduct of Jews and non-Jews. 'I am not too happy with much of the argumentation commonly used to explain Jewish difference, especially since there are always, as you note, huge and conspicuous exceptions.' The argument may have been technical, but the underlying politics were clear. Yehuda Don was looking for factual evidence to establish claims of Jewish particularity. Pollard preferred to see Jewish people as belonging to something universal.
Another point at which we can detect the relationship between biography and history is in Sidney Pollard's last book, Marginal Europe. The account here combined a narrative of European history, with a new theme, that of 'marginality'. Pollard's own explanation of his book started with the conditions of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, a process that had begun at the margins, not the centre of the eighteenth-century economy:

'Instead of developing out of the background of the richest and in many ways most advanced regions such as London and the Home Counties, Bristol or East Anglia … the great spurt in technological, economic and social change which we term the Industrial Revolution … had its origins, rather surprisingly, in the main in parts of the country which may be termed "marginal"'.

We can see the choice of marginality as the rediscovery of an interest in history's losing side, the oppressed and downtrodden, which goes back to Pollard's earliest political beliefs. The narrative is one of dispossessed peoples reclaiming basic rights. Through a process of economic development, marginal lives could conquer the heart of the historical process. His suggestion was that this process was relatively typical of economic development in history. This account of history can also be interpreted as Pollard's opinion of his own life.

There were also a few moments at which Pollard engaged directly with the history of interwar Germany. One such came in a 1990 article looking back on the part played by the German unions in 1929-1933. Generally, this was the sort of question that Pollard avoided. As well as his natural disinclination to revisit moments of personal grief, he also disliked that strain of German history, which reduced the story of Weimar and earlier times to a simple prelude, a story culminating in Hitler's victory. There was a personal interest, however, in the question of whether the left could have acted to prevent the catastrophe? The key moment was the 'Papen Putsch' of 20 July 1932, when the government removed the elected Social Democratic government in Prussia, the largest and most important German state. Millions expected the unions to protest, so why did they not do more?

'In part because the leaders had made enquiries and found that there was little stomach for a fight, in part because of the abysmal state of the labour market, and in part because the unions would have to act against a legal, if scarcely legitimate authority, with the police and the army doubtless ranged against them. It would have been a gesture, but they would certainly have failed, as did the Austrians in 1934.'

The failure of the German socialists to act in 1932 weighed on people's minds long afterwards. Resistance in January or February 1933 would inevitably have resulted in bloody defeat. The moment had already been lost. In a similar vein, Sidney Pollard continued, 'The German trade unions were victims rather than actors. Whether, as part of a larger pattern, they bore a share of responsibility, under what conditions the catastrophe could have been averted, or whether these are considerations appropriate to the professional tasks of an historian, are different questions altogether.' Pollard's argument here has profound implications for his life's story. The social forces to which he had contributed in Britain were those of the socialist left, including the trade unions and the co-operatives. Even though he wrote against the most critical interpretation, he was prepared to consider the possibility that these causes had failed to act when required, and that the left was therefore almost complicit in the worst catastrophe of the century, the greatest tragedy of his life.

There was one further incident during which Pollard was forced to confront the demons of his past, which was his failed application to Berkeley in 1971. Previous accounts have tended to concentrate on the Cold War aspects to the story. Pollard himself contributed to this reading in his memoir, where he wrote, 'I did obtain a visa, but it was of a temporary nature only because of communist association, and in spite of the assurance of the American colleagues that there would be no problem in prolong it, I felt too insecure to entrust myself and my family to an uncertain future abroad.' We should say more about these feelings of insecurity, which he described. Alongside this later account, we can also cite the letter that Pollard wrote at the time to Gene Brucker of UCLA, expressing his regret and explaining the decision not to come. 'I am very sorry to have to write this letter', he began, 'I never thought I would have to write a letter of this kind to anyone.' Pollard blamed his decision on an unsuccessful interview at the US Consulate in Liverpool.

'Last week I was asked to attend at the American Consulate about my temporary entry visa to the USA, and after a long discussion with a very sympathetic Vice-Consul I was assured that although I would get my temporary J-1 entry as before (in fact she has now sent off for it) my chances of ever getting a permanent move were "very thin". In fact, in her whole career, she had never known it happen in cases like mine.'

The Vice-Consul was able to quote details of unsuccessful applications, including 'one professor' who failed to get an immigrant's visa, 'another' who survived by joining the World Bank, also 'a third, a Jamaican', who left his university on a short visit to Europe, 'and has not been allowed back since'. These stories may have appeared anecdotal, even to Pollard. So the historian made clear - his decision was absolutely fixed:

'Of course, you may say that this may turn out to be wrong, and Berkeley can deliver the goods. You may also say that I can always get a job back in England if necessary. But you know that Chairs in England are hard to come by, and I do not look forward to another two years of uncertainty and uprooting my family in order to end up, perhaps, with a Chair in a poorer University, or with a Senior Lectureship or perhaps a Chair in Canada, as a second best.'

At this point, the tone of Pollard's letter may seem odd. Would it really be so disastrous to accept 'a Chair in a poorer university', indeed what else was Sheffield, if not poor in comparison to Berkeley? There is a suggestion here of a certain dissatisfaction, as if Pollard needed to see the visible signs of status in order to feel that he had really proved himself to the world. If so then Pollard was no different from other refugees of his generation, many of who displayed similar feelings of insecurity long after their arrival in Britain. Perhaps recognising that he had allowed his argument to become weak, Sidney Pollard went on to give the most important, personal justification for his decision:

'Even so, I should not have considered this sufficient grounds to go back on my word; but my encounter has brought up, out of the forgotten traumas of the past, such horrors of queuing in offices, of being a second-class citizen, of fearing the decisions of capricious officialdom, as I never thought I still had in me, and I suffered an almost total collapse over it. I simply cannot envisage myself surviving in sanity the next two uncertain years on this basis, and I if the last few days are anything to go by, I would not be much good to anyone in that state.'

There could be no reply to arguments of this character. No sympathetic person would expect their friend to revisit personal crises, including the pain of the present, as well as the horrors of his childhood past. 'In consequence', Pollard continued, 'I shall have to withdraw my acceptance of the chair at Berkeley, and as mine was about to be advertised, I had to act quickly to retain it, which I have now done, so that I shall continue in Sheffield.'

Belonging and not belonging

Presented with the chance to write his own memoir, Pollard's account ended with a description of the isolation that he felt in England. 'The feeling on not wholly belonging anywhere remains.' With the destruction of liberal Vienna, Pollard was forced to flee. The experience of exile remained with him, shaping the rest of his days. Colin Holmes recalls that 'On returning to Vienna after the war he was handed a tablecloth, embroidered by his mother, which a neighbour had kept through the war, hoping that the exiled son would return to collect it. That item remained of profound significance to him.' The Berkeley affair appears in this narrative as an echo of the earlier tragedy. We can detect the anguish that Pollard expressed in his letter to Gene Brucker and in the fears, which he mentions, of reawakening the horror of his escape from Austria. We can take at face value Sidney Pollard's account of the fears he felt of revisiting what he called 'the forgotten traumas of the past'.

Yet there are also other ways in which to read Sidney Pollard's life. Alongside the periods of great crisis, there were other moments when Pollard was able to face and even transcend adversity. Pollard's choice of exile in Britain brought him into contact with the sources of future happiness, including career and family. The decision to stay in Sheffield in 1971 also proved ultimately benign. Remaining in South Yorkshire, Sidney Pollard was able to concentrate on publication, and he could therefore build up that European reputation, which would constitute his name. 'Any feeling of Jewishness has long since dropped away', Pollard wrote, 'but it is the consciousness of the continental heritage which obtrudes itself, possibly more with advancing age than before.' Pollard's decision to move to Bielefeld can be read as a determined attempt at the recovery of his childhood roots. Colin Holmes and Alan Booth conclude their account of their friend Sidney Pollard's life by suggesting that the Jewish refugees to Britain did find happiness, despite the conditions of their exile. 'In Britain generally, and Sheffield specifically, we need also to recover the contributions of those who came to Britain as child refugees. Their attempts at adjustment often proved difficult; in general they found it harder to carve out a satisfying life in exile … However, some of these young people survived to succeed.' The story of Sidney Pollard's life was expressed in a combination of frequent personal sadness with ultimate professional success.