Posted on April 18, 2023
To mark Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Adopt-A-Savta organization, an Israeli NGO that pairs elderly Holocaust survivors with young people, invited 100-year-old Holocaust survivor Walter Bingham to address English speakers in the Tel Aviv area at a local synagogue. After a special ceremony in memory of the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, Bingham, who appeared very lively for his age, told his life story with great passion to the young Tel Aviv residents.
“I was born in Germany many years before Hitler came to power,” Bingham recounted, noting that even though he was born in Germany, he was never granted German citizenship, as both of his parents were Polish Jews. “I was born in 1924, which puts me in my 100th year of life. I was born in Germany when it was a very highly cultured place, the Germany of Beethoven, Bach and Einstein. One can ask themselves: how could such a cultured country sink so low?”
After Kristallnacht, Bingham was one of the children to go on a kinder transport to England: “The British agreed to take 10,000 children over a one-year period till the war broke out. Fortunately, I was one of the ones selected for this transport in 1939. My mother then took me to the train. The parents were heroes. They took their children to the train, knowing that war would break out. I was 15-years-old and street wise at that time. I knew what to behave like under the Nazis. But there were 4-year-old children screaming mommy, mommy, I love you, and mommy was outside.”
According to him, “I was 15-year-olds old and knew why I was going. But those little children did not. One of the things I could not forgive the British for was unaccompanied children. No parents were allowed to go. So, some children went to hostels, some went to foster parents and some went to a family. You did not know where you were going. Now, I belonged to a religious Zionist youth movement, so I went to a kibbutz in Wales. But some children waited for non-Jews to select them to take home.”
“I was there for a few years,” Bingham said. “After that, I left and went to London to find my own way. At that point, I was drafted into the Polish Army in Exile, organized by the government in exile. I was surprised. I went there and said, ‘I cannot go into your army. I have never been to Poland. I don’t speak Polish and know nothing about Poland.’ So, they released me and I went into the British Army.”
Bingham served for four years in the British Army. He drove an ambulance during the invasion of Normandy, and later on served as a counter-intelligence officer and got to examine Nazi documents in addition to speaking to Nazi war criminals before they were executed in the Nuremberg trials. After the war, he was able to reconnect with his mother, who managed to survive the war thanks to the Swedish rescuing her from certain death. His father perished in the Warsaw Ghetto.