Margarete Berger-Hamerschlag’s Journey into a Fog was published in May 1955 by Gollancz. It was a portrait of underprivileged youth at a club in west London’s Paddington and Kilburn districts and was compared to the depiction of youth in the film ‘Blackboard Jungle’ although as the January 1956 reviewer in Kirkus Review wrote: “the revelation of the phases of juvenile delinquency encountered by the author in teaching art in the English equivalent of a settlement house seem muted in contrast to a Bronx schoolroom.”
Margarete (or Gretl) Hamerschlag was born in 1902 in Vienna, Austria. She married Josef Berger in 1922 and became Margarete
She came to Britain in December 1935, reccing the place for her husband who arrived in 1937 (her nanny had been English).
, died 1958.
She started teaching in Youth Clubs in 1948 to make money, initially due to the post war austerity, which meant her art might be in less demand, but this activity gradually came to dominate her life and it was in this period in which she was able to combine the several facets of her artistic skills. Her educational impulses resulted in the book Journey into a Fog, an account of her years teaching, a very considerable success in its day.
Berger-Hamerschlag was from an assimilated Viennese Jewish family and left Austria before the second world war. An extremely cultured woman and an accomplished artist, her initial shock at the behaviour, disposition and views of her working class charges features strongly at the beginning of the book.
Beyond The Jiving recounts how the cultured Austrian refugee artist, then living in Warwick Avenue, Maida Vale, was at first horrified by the Teddy boys and girls she encountered.
“I watched their dances after the classes closed,” she wrote. “How lifeless and dreary they were in spite of the ear-splitting noise of the boogie woogie music and the jerking about of their young limbs!”
16 illustrations in the book, hardly commented in the reviews.
The book’s success enabled her to buy a house in South Hill Park next to Hampstead Heath. However, soon after she was diagnosed with cancer and died in 1958.
Mel Wright. 2006. Beyond the Jiving: Margareta Berger-Hamerschlag, 1902-1958: Exploring an Artist’s Experience of Working in London Youth Clubs during the Fifties. (London: Deptford Forum).
Veronika Pfolz pp.33-43 in Andrew Chandler & Katarzyna Stokłosa & Jutta Vinzent (eds) 2006. Exile and Patronage: Cross-cultural Negotiations Beyond the Third Reich. (Muenster: Lit).