Jan Koplowitz (1909-2001)

Born in Bad Kudowa, Lower Silesia, then Poland, to a Jewish family, Jan Koplowitz supported a strike of spa employees at the age of 16, and was then expelled from his middle-class parents’ home. In 1923, he moved to Breslau and, in 1928, joined the communist movement, wrote for workers’ newspapers and joined the Association of Proletarian Revolutionary Writers, founded in 1928, essentially by the KPD.  In 1931, he became editor of the Breslauer Arbeiterzeitung and head of the agitprop group “Roter Knüppel”, whose texts he also wrote.

An activist who had already been arrested a couple of times, in February 1933 he broke a SA’s skull. Imprisoned, he managed to escape but was then had to go underground. He began illegal work for the KPD in northern Bohemia (or the Sudenland), including ‘border work’. He became an illegal party organiser in 1938 after the KPD leadership had fled. He too soon fled, arriving in the UK in 1939 via Poland, Sweden and Czechoslovakia, post Munich Agreement.

He was interned at Huyton Camp in 1940;1 afterwards, he worked for the Free League of German Culture and in its amateur theatre subgroups. (He also apparently at one point got a job as a butler.) He then left in 1945 for what would become E. Berlin where he became active in amateur theatre groups and became a prolific writer.

Elfriede Brüning, a well-known East German writer and member of the KPD from the 1930s later wrote about him: “We younger people were standing at the beginning of our literary development, which Hitler suddenly interrupted. Some never got over the shock. … Others had to start all over again after 1945. 2

1 Huyton internment camp, opened in 1939 and one of the biggest in the UK, ‘took in’ German socialist refugees (including Kurt Hager: see separate biography) and some of the ‘intelligentsia’. Conditions in this camp seem to have been very bad with many inmates living in tents without beds or bedding.

2 https://www.rosalux.de/fileadmin/rls_uploads/pdfs/Utopie_kreativ/134/klein134.pdf, https://www.bundesstiftung-aufarbeitung.de/de/recherche/kataloge-datenbanken/biographische-datenbanken/jan-koplowitz