Comment
24
Tweet
5
Print
RSS Feeds

Survivors recall Kindertransport flight from Nazis

Monday - 12/2/2013, 1:10pm  ET

In this Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 photo, Oscar Findling, 91, who was brought to England by Kindertransport from Germany to escape Nazi persecution, sits at his home in London. The operation was called Kindertransport - Children’s Transport - and it was a passage from hell to freedom. Kristallnacht had just rocked Nazi Germany. The pogroms killed dozens of Jews, burned hundreds of synagogues and imprisoned tens of thousands in concentration camps. Many historians see them as the start of Hitler’s Final Solution. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

NAOMI KOPPEL
Associated Press

LONDON (AP) -- The operation was called Kindertransport -- Children's Transport -- and it was a passage from hell to freedom.

Kristallnacht had just rocked Nazi Germany. The pogroms killed dozens of Jews, burned hundreds of synagogues and imprisoned tens of thousands in concentration camps. Many historians see them as the start of Hitler's Final Solution.

Amid the horror, Britain agreed to take in children threatened by the Nazi murder machine.

Seventy-five years ago this week, the first group of kids arrived without their parents at the English port of Harwich, and took a train to London's Liverpool Street Station.

Some 10,000 children, most but not all Jewish, would escape the Nazis in the months to come -- until the outbreak of war in September 1939, when the borders were closed.

From London the children went to homes and hostels across Britain. But their parents -- the few that eventually made it over -- were placed in camps as "enemy aliens."

Many of the children settled in Britain, having found their families wiped out by the Nazis.

Monday is World Kindertransport Day, with events to mark the anniversary in many countries. These are the stories of five Kinder in their own words. The AP has removed some sentences for purposes of condensing their accounts.

OSCAR FINDLING, 91

My father was not a German citizen. On the night before Kristallnacht, he was arrested by the Gestapo.

That was the last I saw of my father.

As soon as we found out (about the Kindertransport), my mother went to where the committee was and put my name down. She wouldn't put my brother down because, she said, "I don't want to lose both my sons on one day."

I'll never forget the last words my mother said: "Will I ever see you again?"

Prophetic words.

I was two years in a hostel in Manchester. The committee got me a job in a fur shop. Once I was over 18 I was allowed to go to London. In 1944 I got papers from the Ministry of Labor that I had to go in the army.

It took me 30 years to get my parents' story together. Basically they were put in the ghetto in 1941 and in September 1942 ... they were all put on the cattle trains. They were sent to a place called Belzec, which was one of the well-known gas chambers near Treblinka.

And that was that.

___

Already 16 when he arrived in June 1939, Findling, who grew up in the eastern German city of Leipzig, is the oldest surviving Kind. After a career in garment manufacturing, he now lives with his second wife in London.

___

HERBERT LEVY, 84

My parents had tried to get out of Germany for many years but it was very difficult to get into anywhere until the British government allowed children to come on the Kindertransport. My parents applied, and by pure luck I was one of the chosen ones. I was not yet 10 years old.

My parents took me to the station. I said goodbye to my grandparents. My grandfather was to die a few weeks later. My grandmother was one of the 6 million people who died in the extermination camps, with her two sisters, many cousins, many nephews and nieces.

We finally arrived at the border. You can't imagine the relief of being in Holland, to have passed Nazi Germany.

It was fantastic to feel free at last.

___

Levy came from Berlin via the Netherlands in June 1939. Months later, his parents joined him. They were interned in a British camp for "enemy aliens." Levy recalls being greeted with chants of 'Bloody Germans!' ("This was quite amazing for me," he said, "because I had been shouted at as 'bloody Jew' until recently.") Levy went on to become an actor. His wife, Lillian, survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

___

THE REV. FRANCIS WAHLE, 84

Hitler marched into Austria in March 1938. Until that time I was just an ordinary Catholic. I then discovered that I was Jewish as far as Hitler was concerned, because all my four grandparents were Jewish. My parents tried to get us out. As we had relations in Italy the first attempt was to get us out to Italy, but they never got all the right papers. So we started learning English.

I was 9 ½ at the time. It was dreary that journey through Germany until we came to the Dutch border and then the ladies provided the kids with soft drinks and a bit of cake.

   1 2  -  Next page  >>