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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Caught in the Act: Pan Press

The dynasty that begat Pan Press began with Norman Feder, born in Riga, Latvia, in 1889. Norman, the son of Moishe Kremer and Chaie Kremer (nee Tzal) had a large family of brothers and sisters, a number of whom came to the UK in the years shortly before the First World War. Norman was in England by 2Q 1912, when he was married in Hackney, London, to Doris Esther Kamm.

The marriage resulted in two children, but did not last and the Kremers separated and divorced. Doris went on to marry Marks Plotkin in Hendon in 3Q 1924; they lived in Golders Green where Marks died in 1936. Doris died in 1954, aged 61.

Norman had married again, to Ida Sara Evelyn Cohen (or Kremer or Jacobs) in Thanet, Kent, in 2Q 1923. Norman carried on a business as a merchant in the 1920s, not always successfully (he was listed as "receiving orders" in 1927. He also ran a business importing plywood, a similar situation to his brother Nachman Kremer (1876-1944), who was a timber merchant.

Perhaps it was the impossibility of importing materials that led Norman Kremer and his family to set up a small publishing business during the war. The Alliance Press was incorporated in 1940 and its board consisted of Norman Kremer, his wife Ida, and the two of the children from his first marriage, Rita Zena Paneth and Major David Nathaniel Kremer.

The driving force behind the publishing company was Dr. Philip Paneth, who had married Norman Feder's eldest daughter, Rita, in 1943. Rita, born in London on 21 August 1913,  was listed in the marriage records under three names: Rita Z. Davidoff, Rita Z. Davis and Rita Z. Kramer. Davidoff was from her previous marriage in 1934 to Harris Davidoff and Davis was possibly a nom-de-plume.

Philip De Paney Paneth was a Czecholslovakian immigrant, born in Sobrancz on 8 July 1903. His earliest books appeared in Germany in the 1930s and was a foreign press correspondent in Prague between 1935 and 1939 before escaping to England. His earliest British publications appeared in 1939, Is Poland Lost? and Czechs Against Germans, both published by Nicholson & Watson. The latter was described in one review as offering "a full account of the condition of Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, and Carpatho-Ukraine under German rule. Dr. Paneth [is] in touch with all the leading figures of the country and his book, in spite of rather confused presentment, contains a great deal of useful information based on first-hand knowledge." (Western Morning News, 1 Jan 1940)

Paneth was caught up in the imprisonment of foreigners during the early months of the war and found himself detained in Walton Prison, Liverpool, under Article 12 (5A) of the Aliens Order. His considerable standing may be seen in the fact that Sir Richard Acland (MP for North-West Devon) asked in the House of Commons whether the Home Secretary would make a statement about Paneth and his situation and whether there was any prospect of his being released.

Alliance Press began publishing titles in 1943; amongst the earliest were books by Philip Paneth, mostly on foreign aspects of the Second World War (Alaskan Backdoor to Japan, Epic of the Soviet Cities, Meet Our Russian Allies, The Prime Minister: Winston S. Chuchill as seen by his enemies and friends, Reshaping Germany's Future, Sunset Over Japan, Turkey at the Crossroads). But he also penned books of humour (Have You Heard This?) and folk tales (Tales from East and West).

Rita Zena Paneth was also responsible for an early book of verse (Private Peregrinations), and other early authors included Mavis Axtell, Simon Fine, Harry C. Schnur, Alexander Howard & Ernest Newman, Magnus Irvine, James Russell, Max Mack, and Philippe d'Alba-Julienne.

Alliance published a broad range of titles, from political tracts to fairy stories. Humour played a strong part in their output, ranging from collections of stories from Italian papers to cartoons about Hitler reprinted from Russia.

The company also published The Bookshelf, edited by Philip Paneth, which ran for 17 monthly issues between January 1946 and May 1947 priced 2d. A spin-off company, Pan Press, published a range of other magazines (often edited by Philip and Rita Paneth) and booklets throughout 1945 and 1946.

Alliance maintained a busy schedule until early 1947 when their output was severely curtailed, possibly by the extremely poor weather. Their last titles appeared in May of that year. The company was still listed at their London address until 1950, but had disappeared from the telephone book by 1950.

Alliance are all but forgotten these days, with only a handful of collectors interested in their output, and then those titles by minor but popular authors of the day such as Mike Hervey and Leslie Fox.

Ida Kremer was injured in a car accident in Paris, France, in 1948; she returned to England where she died on 16 August 1948 at St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington. The Kremers were living at that time at The Croft, Constable Road, Birchington, Kent.

Norman Kremer's third wife was Liselotte H. De Chabennes, whom he married in Chelsea in 2Q 1956. He eventually died in Brighton, Sussex, in 1967, aged 78.

Philip Paneth separated from his wife and went to America in the 1950s. There he continued to write, penning a number of books during the 1960s. He lived in New York, where he died on 16 May 1981. He was survived by two children, including Nigel Sefton Paneth (b. 19 Sep. 1946).

Rita Paneth was, by 1951, running a business of a kindergarten service, nursery school and children's hotel at 5 Sussex Place, Hyde Park, London W1. This was described "an hotel where rice pudding is on the menu every day, where clothes are provided for guests, and where a doctor's certificate must be produced before registering."

The 'hotel' included rooms for mothers or nannies with children, dormitories for children on their own, with a staff of college-trained nannies and teachers to take care of them. Children from all over the world were met at stations and airports with a brake decorated with nursery pictures and they leave with decorated labels on their luggage. The older children were offered ballet, riding, boxing and skating lessons, although many of the children were younger, brought to London by mothers around Christmas time  to visit the pantomimes.

Rita Paneth was quoted as saying "We have had children from every country in the world except Iceland. They settle down quite happily, and start to speak English, or understand each other's baby talk in a few days. Our most difficult problem is to persuade Eastern children to eat English vegetables." (Sunderland Daily Echo, 10 October 1951)

The hotel lasted a few years but the business, which traded under a variety of names, including Panda Kindergarten Service, Panda Children's Hotel, Kindergarten Service, Argincourt School and Panda Children's School, was sued for debts in 1953.

Rita Zena Paneth lived in Hove where she married Sol Feder in 1985. She died in Hove on 22 May 1999.

David Nathaniel Kremer, born 21 June 1915 and married Esther Z Van Praagh in 1945, died in Tavistock, Devon, in 1987, survived by two children, Ivan M. H. and Charles R. F..

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