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'The Fifth Columnist', a drawing by Wilhelm Jondorf, Onchan, Isle of Man, 1940.


Wilhelm Jondorf (1890-1957).
'The Fifth Columnist', Onchan, Isle of Man, 1940.
Ink and watercolor on cardboard.
15.2X12.5 cm.

Gift of Mrs Betty Jondorf, London.
Collection of the Yad Vashem Art Museum, Jerusalem.

About Wilhelm Jondorf

Wilhelm Jondorf (1890-1857) was a self-taught graphic designer, poet, composer and singer, who owned his own graphic design and publishing company in Nuremburg. Kunstverlag Wilhelm Jondorf was situated on Kohlenhofstraße 12/16 and seems to have flourished, employing some 50 workers. The company produced greetings cards, including some featuring sentimental verses. Wilhelm’s output was prolific. Outside work, he was active in the ‘Phoenix’ Jewish social club in Nuremburg. He also published two poetry collections, ‘Stoffel’ in 1922 and ‘Buch der Nacht’ in 1924, both of which were designed and illustrated by him.

Wilhelm and his wife Irmgard (née Bauer) planned to emigrate to Britain with their two sons, Werner and Helmut, even taking English lessons in preparation. Despite Irmgard’s death in 1937 at the age of 32 from cancer, Wilhelm determined to follow through with the scheme. He faced great difficulties in obtaining the necessary release papers from the German authorities and was forced to sell his business to an employee for the sum of 500 Reichsmarks. The Jondorfs finally emigrated a day before Kristallnacht. Arriving in the United Kingdom via Holland, the Jondorfs hoped that their belongings would follow them, but unfortunately, their property was all plundered.

The Kunstverlag Wilhelm Jondorf factory was later destroyed as a result of RAF bombing.

From their arrival, Wilhelm and his sons lived with his sister Stefania and her husband Ledwig in a rented apartment in Penarth. In late 1938, Wilhelm got permission to set up a greeting cards company, Cardiff Cards Ltd on the Treforest Industrial Estate. The company was relatively short lived as in May 1940, two days after the capitulation of the Netherlands, the British government ordered the internment of Category B enemy aliens. Wilhelm’s two sons, Werner and Helmut, entered a boarding school in Abergavenny at this time.

Initially interned at the Prees Heath transit camp in Shropshire, where conditions were somewhat basic, with internees sleeping in tents on straw-filled mattresses, Wilhelm seems to have quickly become involved in the rich cultural life of the camp, which included galas and art exhibitions as well as a ‘university’ where interned academics gave lectures. At the end of summer 1940, when Prees Heath shut down, Wilhelm was transferred to the Onchan camp on the Isle of Man, which was located in disused guest houses. He remained active, producing both satirical and light-hearted coloured drawings of camp life.

Wilhelm was released from internment in late 1940 or early 1941 and returned to Abergavenny where the headmaster of his sons’ school allowed him to stay until he could find suitable accommodation. The family remained in Abergavenny until 1945 when Wilhelm married Betti Lucas. That same year they moved to London, where Wilhelm died at the early age of 67 in 1957.


Jondorf, Helmut, Wilhelm Jondorf, Nuremberg (2007) [accessed 15 March 2022]

Nashman Fraiman, Susan, ‘The Fifth Column: Enemy Aliens in Great Britain’, Yad Vashem Jerusalem, 27 (2002), 10-11 [accessed 15 March 2022]

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