Marriage and a new start in the Baltics. On the beach at Majorenhof, Latvia.
Over the past week I have been reviewing the 250 pages of Special Branch files on Samuel that were revealed through my FOI request. They present an extraordinary record of his desperate 18 year struggle to gain British naturalization, including harrowing details about his life that my grandmother never shared with the family. Thanks to the steely determination of just one man, a Mr J.D. Strathan who was the Procurator Fiscal in Glasgow, utterly determined to drive Samuel out of the country, he spent most of his life in Britain as an ‘alien’.
At last I know why he studied for so many years to become a Glasgow lawyer and ended up instead as a GP: without British citizenship his qualifications were useless, and J.D. Strathan was fully aware of this. His career as a Scottish lawyer was destroyed by this man before it had even begun. Continue reading
For many months I’ve been trying in vain to find time to sort out and properly follow up the precious scraps of information I gleaned from various sources at the beginning of this project, which coincided with the start of an incredibly hectic academic year. At last the summer vacation provides a breathing space, so the first thing I want to do is properly to acknowledge the great help and encouragement provided to me by the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre, who were the first organization I contacted.
I was thrilled to receive an immediate reply from Harvey Kaplan, SJAC’s director, saying that just four years ago he’d done research into the history of the Glasgow Jewish Student’s Society as part of the preparation for its centenary celebrations. Samuel Grasse had been elected its first President in 1911 and Mr Kaplan had been President some sixty-six years later, so he’d taken a personal interest and written a centenary brochure which mentioned Samuel, a copy of which he very kindly sent me. At that time he’d done some research into Samuel’s life and was able to provide me with some key information:
It’s been some months since I updated this blog, mainly due to lack of time but partly due to the shock of what happened after I submitted my Freedom of Information request to the National Archives (see my post 2 January).
As promised, the FOI request was processed within twenty days and I received the exciting news that the Home Office had agreed to release the document. The next step was to pay the £8.40 fee for a ‘page check’, so that a member of staff could view it and send me an estimate of copying costs. At £1.10 per page copied this is a useful precautionary step. As the helpful man at the live chat service had warned me ‘our record copying team cannot search within files for pages that may or may not be relevant. Your options are either to have the whole file copied, or to specify the exact page numbers you want copying.’
When the page check result came through some days later, giving an estimated copying cost of around £250, I realized that my only option was to travel to the National Archives in person. I could then search through the file myself for the pages that referred to my grandfather. Continue reading
As I mentioned at the start of this blog, I’ve always wondered why Samuel stayed at university for over a decade, first studying Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, then Politics Philosophy and Law, then Forensic Medicine and more law, and finally even more Chemistry and Metallurgy…but perhaps this military call-up paper sheds some light. Dated 22 September 1908 it has recently been found in a cardboard Cadburys chocolate box (with a picture of roses on the front!) kept safe by my grandmother and then my aunt, also containing several other interesting documents. Just as his second academic year was starting at Glasgow University the Russian authorities in Vilna were tracking Samuel down.
For the first time in my life I am seeing photos of my grandfather that I didn’t know existed. This is a rare picture of Samuel with his parents and his brother, taken at Fotografija Z. Tezba of Mariampole according to the stamp. This shows that he went back to visit his parents after his studies and confirms the connection with Mariampole, the place listed by Glasgow University as his home town. However, Mariampole (or Marijampole) may still only have been the family’s nearest town rather than where they actually lived and I am keen to find out their exact location.
Samuel looks strangely out of place in this photo, the newly qualified Glasgow lawyer visiting parents from a different culture. I am making an assumption that the other young man is his brother. He seems to be wearing some sort of uniform. I understand that Lithuania gained independence from the Russians in 1918 (only to lose it again in 1940), so I don’t know what uniform it would be. On the other hand, it may be that his brother is also on a visit to see his parents and brother. If only someone had labelled this photo!
From Mr. SAMUEL GRASSE, M.A., BSc., LLB.
To the Editor of THE JEWISH CHRONICLE
SIR,—The Chief Rabbi’s second sermon on the affirmations of Judaism has been quite disappointing, and in many respects even objectionable. Many, as you expressed it in an Editorial note, have been looking to the Chief Rabbi to show “how orthodox Judaism is in no sense Inconsistent with the circumstances and conditions of modern life,” and there are those who have been looking to be shown – as it can be shown – that the fundamentals of Judaism have gained and not lost by the progress which mankind has made in the domain of positive and experimental science. So far, it cannot be said that the expectations of either have been satisfied. Continue reading
I have spent today absorbed in the political and social life of Jewish students in Glasgow between 1909 and 1919. The morning began with a simple aim of finding the announcement of Samuel’s death in the Jewish Chronicle (JC), but from there I was led into a world of student societies and political discussion, where I remained utterly captivated for the rest of the day.