“This plaque commemorates the lives of two remarkable Jewish refugees who lived here. They both contributed not only to the local community but to the very fabric of British society,” said Frank Harding, trustee of the Association of Jewish Refugees at yesterday’s unveiling of a blue plaque at the former Hampstead, London home of artist and illustrator Milein Cosman and musician and writer Hans Keller.
The blue plaque (a marker of heritage locations in London) honoring Cosman and Keller is the 12th of its kind initiated by the AJR as part of a scheme devised by Mr. Harding.
Milein Cosman was born into a Jewish family in 1921 and grew up in Düsseldorf, attended school in Switzerland and moved to England in 1939 to attend the Slade School of Fine Art in Oxford. On moving to London in 1945 she established herself as a freelance artist, working for the Radio Times and various other national and international publications. In 1947 she started to work for the Radio Times where she met and later married the writer and broadcaster, Hans Keller and they settled in Hampstead, London.
Hans Keller was born in Vienna in 1919 and lived with his family in Döbling until the Anschluss forced him to immigrate to London in 1938. After the war he quickly made his name as a highly original musical writer, notable particularly for his combination of music and psycho-analysis, and his polemical defence of the musicians he most admired. From 1959 to 1979 he held a variety of senior positions at the BBC, for which he was a frequent and popular broadcaster. He died of motor neurone disease in 1985.
In 2005, Milein gave an interview to the AJR Refugee Voices Testimony Archive recalling her home and living in Hampstead:
Home for me is Hampstead and the Heath. Just when I met Hans, I had secured something I had longed for, for years, a little ruin of a little house, it was actually a stable, a donkey stable at the turn of the century almost bang on the Heath in Willow Road. It was raining through the skylights but it was absolutely wonderful. In those days, Hampstead was truly like a little village.
Guests at the blue plaque ceremony included Milein and Hans’ niece Ena Blyth, as well as current owners of the home, Philippe Sands and Natalia Schiffrin. Dignitaries included His Excellency the Austrian Ambassador Michael Zimmermann and Head of the Cultural section at the German embassy Dr. Ralf Teepe. Mr. Sands and Ms. Schiffrin said, “Living in a house once occupied by two such remarkable characters is a special happiness. As a couple and individually, Milein Cosman and Hans Keller contributed hugely to the arts and musical heritage of Britain and Europe, so it's entirely fitting and joyous that their former home should receive a plaque to honor them forever."
The Milein Cosman and Hans Keller blue plaque will be added to the interactive map on the AJR website which shows the location of all blue plaques, with information and photographs about each one.