It’s been a fantastic month with an excellent service weekend in early May and later in the month we hosted a superb joint Shavuot event with the NHC. I know Linda will have talked about this elsewhere in the newsletter, but I wanted to personally thank her, not only for introducing the session; ‘Jew by Birth, Jew by Choice’, but also for providing a superb spread. We had well over thirty people there and both communities were equally represented.
In mid-May, Helen Brown invited our members to attend a zoom session run by the Association of Jewish Refugees: Kindertransport – The Search for British Foster Families. Helen has been involved with this project since the get go and has been instrumental in supporting the building of a Kindertransport Memorial on the dock in Harwich. Almost all of the 10-thousand, mostly Jewish Kindertransport children who arrived in England between 1938 & 1939 came via Harwich, the last children arriving only a few days before war was declared.
I will always have my own personal memories as the mother of my childhood friend had come to England in 1939, aged 13 from Vienna, and she never forgot the kindness and warmth of her foster family. She is still alive today and is almost 97.
On the zoom session we were introduced to siblings of the Kindertransport children who had come over from Germany and other Nazi occupied countries.
We heard amazing testimonies from Lore Segal and Ann Chadwick, both of whom had been small children when a Kindertransport child came to live with their families. They remember the fascination of meeting someone from a completely different culture and the fact that they spoke no English. However, they recalled just how quickly they learnt to speak the ‘mother tongue’. Both kept up with their “foster” siblings.
Ann told a harrowing story of her foster sister Suzie being removed to go and live with an uncle in Argentina, whom she had never met. This was a really disturbing tale as she was separated from everything she knew and the warm family home that she had grown up in, to move thousands of miles away. But because the uncle was a blood relative the authorities decided that was where she belonged. Her family tried hard to keep her in the UK but to no avail. However, money was eventually raised in Cambridge and Suzie was able to return to the Chadwick home. The ‘sisters’ remained close until Suzie’s untimely death, a testament to the strong bond forged in childhood. At this point in time the children from 26 foster families have come forward, and they are always looking for more testimonies. Historian Mike Levy has published an acclaimed book on the subject: Get the Children Out! Unsung Heroes of the Kindertransport (published by Lemon Soul Books). Thank you, Helen, for inviting us to such a fascinating conversation.