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Bloch, Betty (1905–2002)

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Betty Bloch (1905-2002) kindergarten director and Communist 

Birth 12 August 1905 in Vilnius, Lithuania, daughter of Benjian Leo Feigelson, a self-made businessman, and Paulina Paula, née Braude. Marriage: (1) 1930 in Berlin, Germany, to Max Katzenellenbogen. They had one daughter. (2) 1937 in Germany to Rudolf Peter Bloch (1902-1968), an architectural draftsman. They had one daughter. Death: 7 January 2002 in hospital at Randwick, Sydney, New South Wales. 

  • German army occupied her home town of Vilnius in World War I. Family moved to St Petersburg, Russia. Betty began her high school education at age of 10.
  • Russian Revolution and subsequent nationalisation of the family business meant the loss of factory, home and money but her family did not become anti-Soviet. She went to Germany with her parents and siblings to stay with relatives. Father died soon after, and then her mother. Her older sister, younger brother and herself were separated after their parents’ deaths.
  • Betty, aged 15 years, went to live with relatives in Leipzig. Finished high school and trained as a preschool teacher at Froebel Institute. Pre-school director and organiser of kindergartens for the Jewish Welfare Organisation in Berlin.
  • To Italy about 1930 for a year to rest in a sanatorium after contracting tuberculosis. Health improved and returned to Berlin c.1931. Joined German Communist Party and, later, the underground movement.
  • In 1937, while pregnant with her first child, was interrogated by German Gestapo for political activities and decided to leave Germany. On 13 January 1939 with husband and daughter arrived aboard the Niagara in Sydney, sponsored by the Australian Jewish community.
  • Settled in Bronte, Sydney; within weeks of arrival joined Communist Party of Australia (with Peter) to warn Australians of the danger of fascism and war in Germany. On outbreak of war she and Peter were declared enemy aliens, their camera and radio were confiscated and they were required to report regularly to the police. The couple were naturalised on 17 February 1945.
  • Betty became active in Waverley community group, which established the district’s first preschools in 1945. Authorities did not recognise her qualifications when she first arrived. Started work cleaning floors. In 1950 returned to kindergarten teaching at Daceyville. Director of Surry Hills day nursery and, later, Erskineville Demonstration Kindergarten. Director of Miranda kindergarten 1964-1973.
  • Campaigned actively with husband, against legislation introduced in Federal Parliament to outlaw the Communist Party. During WWII she was active in 'Sheepskins for Russia' campaign; Honorary Secretary, Australia-Russia Friendship Society's Russian Social Club.
  • Assisted migrants coming to Australia from labour camps after war. Executive member, Australia-Russia Friendship Society from 1964. Represented the society in the Soviet Union several times including in 1987. In retirement was president, Australia-Russia Friendship Society from 1973 to 1997. Awarded Order of Friendship medal by Soviet Friendship Organisation for her contribution to ties between Australian and Soviet people.
  • In 1992 initiated and contributed to Chernobyl Children's Fund to raise money for children affected by nuclear radiation. In 1999 established appeal to help starving Inuit children in Siberia.
  • Member of Union of Australian Women, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and Jessie Street Committee. Participated in May Day, New Theatre and peace rallies and marches for many years and campaigned against nuclear weapons, Vietnam War, anti-foreign bases and for Aboriginal rights.

Sources
Sydney Morning Herald, '
Good Weekend', 4 November 1995; Sydney Morning Herald, 9 March 2002.

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Citation details

'Bloch, Betty (1905–2002)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/bloch-betty-32759/text40730, accessed 6 December 2022.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012