Archive: 2024

The Kindertransport rescue

Posted on June 17, 2024

After Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, the idea to rescue children from the Nazis and bring them to Britain is proposed to the British Government by two of World Jewish Relief’s founders, alongside other organisations, and a delegation of prominent British Jews.

Following a 45-minute appeal by the delegation directly to the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, the British Government agrees to permit temporary admission of vulnerable Jewish children who were at risk of Nazi persecution, under the financial guarantee of the UK Jewish community.

Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of the UK Jewish community, World Jewish Relief (then the Central British Fund) raises funds to cover the cost of travel for each of these children.

Within three weeks of Kristallnacht, the first 200 of these children begin their journey from Berlin to the UK. Most of these unaccompanied children travelled to Liverpool Street Station, meeting their volunteer foster parents for the first time, heralding the start of a new life.

Between December 1938 and September 1939, almost 10,000 children were brought to safety through the Kindertransport.

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Posted on June 7, 2024
Through November 17, 2024

Kindertransport – Rescuing Children on the Brink of War showcases the astonishing rescue effort that, in only nine months, brought thousands of unaccompanied children from Nazi Europe to the United Kingdom. Through personal artifacts, stories, and firsthand testimony, those who lived through the “Kindertransport” program tell its history.

The exhibition’s thoughtful, artistic design draws visitors in and features 75 personal artifacts, including items from Illinois Holocaust Museum’s collection, Survivor testimonies, and quotes that chart the heart-wrenching decisions parents made in sending their children away to safety. Kindertransport serves as a powerful testament to both the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of honoring the legacy of those who endured unimaginable suffering.

Kindertransport – Rescuing Children on the Brink of War was created and organized by Yeshiva University Museum and the Leo Baeck Institute – New York | Berlin.

Kindertransport – Rescuing Children on the Brink of War was made possible by the generous support of the Azrieli Foundation, the David Berg Foundation, the Koret Foundation, the Gruss Hirsch Family Foundation, and by Anonymous. Additional support was provided by the Wolfensohn Family Foundation, Robert M. Kaufman, Temple Sholom of Scotch Plains (NJ), and by patrons and friends of Yeshiva University Museum and the Leo Baeck Institute – New York | Berlin.

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Kindertransport exhibit opens eyes at Illinois Holocaust Museum

Posted on June 4, 2024
(click link for video)

The Illinois Holocaust Museum has a new exhibit about a program during World War II that saved thousands of childrens’ lives. It was called the “Kindertransport.” FOX 32’s Natalie Bomke talks with a Chicagoan who said that transport saved his life.

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Son of Holocaust survivor returns to Austrian school which expelled his father for being Jewish

Posted on May 24, 2024

Michael Bibring continues to share the testimony of his late father Harry Bibring who fled the Nazis on the Kindertransport

Michael-Bibring-with-students-from-the-school. Pic: HET

Michael-Bibring-with-students-from-the-school. Pic: HET

More than 70 students from a grammar school in Austria heard from the son of Holocaust survivor and former student of the school, the late Harry Bibring.

Amerling Gymnasium (grammar) school in Vienna met Michael Bibring, who continues to share his father’s testimony with schools through the Holocaust Educational Trust’s (HET) outreach programme, last week.

Harry, who passed away in 2019, was expelled from the school in April 1938 at the age of 12, following the German annexation of Austria, known as the Anschluss.

Ostracized by his non-Jewish friends, he was forced to transfer to a basic secondary school designated to accommodate Jewish children.


Harry fled Nazi occupation and travelled to the UK on the Kindertransport in 1939. He dedicated the later years of his life to sharing his testimony.

In 2005, Harry, who lost both his parents in the Holocaust, returned to the school for the first time to speak to the students and returned a year later to unveil a memorial to remember all the former Jewish students who were expelled in 1938.  The fates of many of them remain unknown.

Michael Bribing said: “This was an extraordinary event. To go back to the school that dad was expelled from and speak to their students about the horrors that led to that expulsion was so rewarding and emotional. Even more so because my dad had spoken at that school many times and students who had listened to him came in numbers when we unveiled the Stolpersteine five years ago.

“HET, my dad and I, were and are, firm believers in education being so important in fighting prejudice and intolerance and this whole experience underlined the importance of that in a way I found so moving – hopefully there will be opportunities to do it again”

Following the testimony, Michael was presented with a copy of his father’s school report from 1937.

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Over 70 family members of Kindertransport children visit Harwich

Posted on May 21, 2024

FAMILY members of Jewish child refugees who arrived in the UK through the Harwich port during the Kindertransport movement in the lead up to the Second World War were welcomed to the town this week.

The Kindertransport scheme saw the United Kingdom take in nearly 10,000 children of mostly Jewish origin from Germany in the nine months leading up to the war.

The vast majority of the rescued children arrived at Harwich unaccompanied by their parents – most of whom died in the Holocaust.

The first Kindertransport children arrived at Harwich on December 2 1938, with some taken to London and others taken to local holiday camps such as Dovercourt Bay.

Nearly 2,000 of the mostly Jewish children spent their first weeks at the Dovercourt holiday camp.

72 family members of the Kindertransport visited Harwich this week for a day-event organised by the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) and the Kindertransport Association (KTA), assisted by the Harwich Kindertransport Memorial & Learning Trust (HKMLT).

 The group visited an exhibition about Leslie Brent who was part of the Kindertransport

The group included 40 Americans and was accompanied by Mike Karp, AJR chief executive, Danny Kalman, chairman of AJR Kindertransport, Susan Harrod, AJR events and outreach manager, and Melissa Hacker, a Kindertransport film maker and editor.

Welcoming the group was HKMLT chairman Debbie Patterson Jones and the HKMLT director and High Steward of Harwich, Sue Daish.

The group visited an exhibition at the Electric Palace about the life of ‘Kindertransportee’ Leslie Brent who arrived on the first transport and stayed at the Dovercourt camp for several weeks.

This was followed by a visit to the memorial statue Safe Haven on Harwich Quay and a traditional lunch of fish and chips at the Pier Hotel.

The group also listened to refugee children’s recollections on the audio bench in the Mayor’s Garden and were invited to the Harwich Museum for an illustrated talk by curator David Whittle about the role of Harwich people in the Kindertransport story.

On behalf of the group, many of whom related very moving family histories, Susan Harrod thanked Debbie Patterson Jones and Sue Daish “for a very interesting, informative visit and successful day out”.

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JEC Middle School Remembers

Posted on May 18, 2024

In light of recent current events, Jewish students learning about the Holocaust and its background is more important than ever. This spring, students at JEC Middle School have been deeply immersed in the study of the Holocaust, with each grade focusing on a different aspect.

Sixth grade students focused on individual stories of survivors with whom they had a bond. Unfortunately, none of the students had a living survivor to interview. Those who bore witness to the atrocities of the Holocaust are slowly fading out, placing the burden of remembering on the shoulders of the next generation. The students interviewed the children or grandchildren of survivors instead, learning their incredible stories of survival. They researched the key points of the stories and then used AI technology available on to have the survivors’ stories come to life.

Seventh graders learned about the Kindertransport. They then created fictitious stories about a child who went on the Kindertransport. These poignant stories incorporated what they learned about this difficult time with their own creativity. The authors needed to put themselves in the shoes of both the children and their parents who made the desperate decision to send their children to a foreign land. The students created ebooks telling the story of a child on the Kindertransport.

Eighth graders focused on the Jewish communities that were decimated by the Holocaust. The presentations showed what life in these communities was like before the war, relayed what happened to those who lived there and, finally, what life is like there today. The students then tried to imagine what the communities would have looked like had there been no war. To that end, the students used 3D printing technology to design and create a fictional community that they named Ir HaTikvah V’Hazikaron, City of Hope and Remembrance.

This exceptional unit culminated on Yom HaShoah. The students first presented their work to fellow JEC students during the day, and then shared their work with their parents in the evening in a beautiful and meaningful exhibition. The event began with a student-led reading of Tehillim, and then representatives from each grade explained their work. The event space was filled with parents and grandparents, all taking in the moment with pride and tears.

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Posted on May 18, 2024

Lenore Piano Trio – Wigmore Hall 

Click here for tickets   (£20 each)

​The Kindertransport was a unique humanitarian rescue programme which ran between November 1938 and September 1939. Approximately 10,000 children, the majority of whom were Jewish, were sent from their homes and families in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia to Great Britain.

A prime mover in this rescue effort was  Nicholas Winton,  a British stockbroker, not Jewish, who travelled to Czechoslovakia, saw the plight of Jewish families desperate to save their children even if they could not save themselves from the Nazis, and when he returned to Britain led the campaign to insist that the British government help the children.

He said, “Now I have seen it, I cannot unsee it”. For as long as it was possible through the war, he worked to fulfill the legal requirements of bringing the children to Britain and finding homes and sponsors for them. Thousands are alive today as a result of his efforts.

A recent movie, One Life, tells this moving story.

We can still catch a commemorative concert marking the 85th anniversary of the Kindertransport, even though it took place yesterday.  The Leonore Piano Trio,   Benjamin Nabarro (violin), Gemma Rosefield (cello) and Tim Horton (piano), are performing a memorial concert programme reflecting the music, culture and heritage of the German, Austrian and Czech roots of the rescued children.

Wigmore Hall, bless them, are keeping this fine concert on their website for 30 days so we can all watch it.

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RVCC Institute of Holocaust and Genocide Studies to Hold Virtual Summer Book Series

Posted on May 16, 2024

The Raritan Valley Community College Institute of Holocaust and Genocide Studies will present a virtual Summer Book Series beginning in June. The series, which is free of charge and open to the public, will begin June 14, 2024 with author Lilly Maier. The segments will be held via Zoom webinars and registration is required.

The following programs will feature discussions of extraordinary novels that explore the past:

June 14, 10:00am-11:00am: Arthur and Lilly: The Girl and the Holocaust Survivor by Lilly Maier. What do a 75-year-old, Los Angeles-based rocket engineer and an 11-year-old schoolgirl from Austria have in common? Not much at first glance, but Arthur and Lilly influenced each other’s lives in a fateful way. In 1939, Arthur’s Jewish parents sent their son abroad on a so-called Kindertransport (“children’s transport”), hoping to save him from the Holocaust. The separation is a traumatic experience for the 10 year old. Although he is rescued—after traveling from Austria via France to the United States—his family members are murdered by the Nazis and he never sees them again. Sixty-five years later, during a visit to his parents’ former apartment in Vienna, Austria, Arthur Kern meets 11-year-old Lilly Maier. It’s a decisive encounter for both, one that not only shapes Lilly’s future, but also leads to Arthur receiving a long-lost legacy from his parents. The book offers a moving tale of two lives that fatefully cross paths, as well as insight into a profound Holocaust story: the rescue of hundreds of Jewish children to America on a Kindertransport. To register for the June 14 discussion, visit

July 19, 10:00am-11:00am, The Underground Library by Jennifer Ryan. Set in World War II in London, The Underground Library shares the story of three women: Juliet Lansdown, Bethnal Green Library’s new deputy librarian, discovers that the library isn’t the bustling hub she’s expecting. So, she becomes determined to prove herself and breathe life back into the place. Katie Upwood is thrilled to be working at the library, although she’s only there until she heads off to university in the fall. But after the death of her beau on the front line and amid tumultuous family strife, she finds herself harboring a life-changing secret. And Sofie Baumann, a young Jewish refugee, who came to London on a domestic service visa only to find herself working as a maid for a man who treats her abominably. So, she escapes to the library when she can, finding friendship in the literary community and aid locating her sister, who is still trying to flee occupied Europe. To register for the July 19 book discussion, email

August 16, 10:00am-11:00am, The House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson. It’s 1950s Philadelphia, and 15-year-old Ruby Pearsall is on track to become the first in her family to attend college. But a taboo love affair threatens to pull her back into poverty and desperation. Eleanor Quarles arrives in Washington, DC, with ambition and secrets. When she meets the handsome William Pride at Howard University, they fall madly in love. But William hails from one of DC’s elite, wealthy Black families, and his parents don’t let just anyone into their fold. Eleanor hopes that a baby will make her feel at home in William’s family and grant her the life she’s been wanting. But having a baby—and fitting in—is easier said than done. With their stories colliding in the most unexpected of ways, Ruby and Eleanor will both make decisions that shape the trajectory of their lives.To register for the August 16 book discussion, email

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Families recreate Kindertransport journey

Posted on May 16, 2024
Stuart Woodward/BBC  Kindertransport relatives in Harwich, gathered around the Kindertransport statueStuart Woodward/BBC
Families of 43 people saved from Nazi-occupied areas of Europe have recreated part of the journey of their Kindertransport relatives

Dozens of families of children who came to the UK seeking safety from Nazi Germany before the start of World War Two have recreated part of the Kindertransport journey.

The first children arrived at the port of Harwich in Essex on 2 December 1938.

Family members travelled between London Liverpool Street and Harwich on Monday as part of the commemorations.

Many said they were thankful for the project saving their loved ones.

What was Kindertransport?

The Kindertransport mission unfolded between November 1938 and September 1939, just before World War Two broke out.

It helped 10,000 children to escape from parts of Europe controlled by the Nazis.

The children had to travel alone, often leaving behind parents and other family members they would never see again.

Trains left Germany, Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia full of children as young as five years old up to the age of 17.

Memorial statues have been placed at London Liverpool Street station and Harwich – both key points where children arrived.

‘Walking in their footsteps’

Stuart Woodward/BBC Brian and Kortney Spencer, brother and sisterStuart Woodward/BBC
Siblings Brian and Kortney Spencer travelled from California to honour their grandmother Leisel, who was 16 when she came to the UK on a Kindertransport

Siblings Brian and Kortney Spencer’s grandmother, Liesel Spencer, arrived into Harwich from Germany aged 16.

Mr Spencer said: “Being able to feel like I’m walking in my grandmother’s footsteps when she came here, that’s really special to me.”

Ms Spencer, who brought her daughter Aila from California, recalled her grandmother telling her that when she left her parents she said goodbye believing they would be reunited one day in the United States.

However, like many Kindertransport children, she never saw them again.

As a mother herself now, Ms Spencer said she “can’t imagine” what it must have been like for the parents.

She said: “I think it’s so special [to be here].

“Now I’m a mom too, I have the opportunity to pass this to my baby and I’m sad she can’t meet my grandmother but we can pass on her stories.”

‘People shouldn’t forget’

Stuart Woodward/BBC Lady Linda Reich, widow of the late Sir Erich Reich Stuart Woodward/BBC
Lady Linda Reich said it was important the legacy of the Kindertransport continued

Sir Eric Reich came to the UK on a Kindertransport from Austria when he was four years old.

Sir Eric, of the Association of Jewish Refugees, died in 2022 but his widow said he believed in continuing to educate people about the project.

Lady Linda Reich said: “It saved his life obviously and he never saw his parents again.

“His father died in Auschwitz and his mother, he was never able to find out what happened.

“It’s important and very special [to be here] and I feel it’s really important the legacy continues,” she added.

‘A remarkable story’

Stuart Woodward/BBC Michael Karp, chairman of the Association of Jewish RefugeesStuart Woodward/BBC
Michael Karp said Harwich’s part in the Kindertransport project had been “under-appreciated” previously

Michael Karp, chairman of the Association of Jewish Refugees, said he essentially owed his life to the Kindertransport which saved his mother from Nazi occupied Austria in June 1939.

He said: “It’s a remarkable story what happened with those 10,000 kids in the face of horrendous humanity, at least there was some decency.

“Ordinary people got together to secure the safety of the kids and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that and I’m eternally grateful.”

He said he was glad to see Harwich’s role in the project remembered having been “underreported and underappreciated over the years”.

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Kindertransport tale of friends reunited 85 years later

Posted on May 16, 2024

When Daisy Holzapfel arrived at her new school in 1939, she had just left her whole life behind.

The 14-year-old was one 10,000 unaccompanied Jewish children who fled Nazi Europe on what became known as the Kindertransport.

The headteacher of the Dorchester school asked local girl Louise to help the newcomer settle in – and the pair became firm friends.

In later interviews Daisy said she was very happy and felt welcome at the school even though “they had never seen a foreigner before”.

“I had no regrets, I didn’t feel homesick, and I didn’t want to speak German. All I wanted to be was an English schoolgirl, in my school uniform, riding my bicycle.”

Ham & High: Daisy and Louise were in the same class at Dorset County School for Girls in 1939Daisy and Louise were in the same class at Dorset County School for Girls in 1939 (Image: credit: Daisy Hoffner/BeaLewkowiczarchive)

Interviewed together years later, Louise says: “I knew she came from Berlin and the family had to leave everything behind, which seemed to me terrible, but I didn’t know what Jewish was living in Dorchester. I remember she wanted to lose her German accent, and we would walk home together and practise words.”

With help from Daisy’s Quaker sponsors, her parents Kurt and Erna managed to leave Berlin and join her in Dorset.

But when the British Government designated all German-born residents ‘enemy aliens,’ the family had to move from the idyllic village of Milton Abbas.

Kurt was interned in several enemy alien camps, and Daisy and her mother lived in boarding houses around Finchley Road. Meanwhile Louise joined the Wrens at 18 and served in Scotland, where she was responsible for explosives.

Ham & High: Daisy and Louise as teenagersDaisy and Louise as teenagers (Image: Daisy Hoffner/BeaLewkowiczarchive)

The girls lost touch until Daisy and Louise ended up living on the same Belsize Park street in the 1970s.

But for 26 years they were unaware of the connection because Louise had changed her hated first name and got married, and they didn’t recognise each other.

As Daisy said years later: “Somebody from deepest Dorset ending up in Glenilla Road seemed too unlikely!”

Oral historian, photographer and filmmaker Dr Bea Lewkowicz interviewed both women in 2003, which she has now turned into a film: Daisy and Louise.

She said: “Louise was the English girl asked to take care of Daisy when she arrived at Dorchester County School for Girls. They became close friends for nine months until Daisy moved to London, and they lost contact.

“Years later these two women happened to live on the same street for years and years without recognising each other – they were both very active Belsize residents, and Louise even did some gardening for Daisy, but the topic never came up.

“It was only when Louise invited Daisy to a dinner party that they realised they had been to the same school. After that they became very close friends again until the end.”

Bea herself grew up in Germany, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors and happened to live opposite Daisy, who died in 2019. Louise died in 2014 at the age of 90.

As part of commemorations to mark 85 years since the Kindertransport, she is giving a talk at Belsize Library on Thursday May 16 which will be attended by Daisy’s daughter Michele Hoffner, and Louise’s son, Tom Pennington Legh.

“I interviewed them together to tell their extraordinary story. I have been sitting on this footage for many years and finally made this film,” says Bea.

“How it’s possible to be neighbours and never talk about the past is amazing.

“But the film is a beautiful record of a Kindertransport and the English girl who helped her to start a new life, who found each other again many years later and stayed neighbours until the end of their lives.

“It was my privilege to interview them and tell their story.”

As co-founder of the AJR Refugee Voices Testimony Archive Bea has captured interviews with 300 Holocaust survivors including 85 who arrived on the Kinderstransport.

“It’s ongoing,” she adds. “I am still interviewing people all over the UK including a 103-year-old. People still want to give their testimony.”

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Kindertransport refugees receive standing ovation at 85th anniversary concert

Posted on May 14, 2024

Surviving kinder, among them Lady Grenfell-Baines, Lord Alf Dubs and Bronia Snow, hailed as “national treasures” at Wigmore Hall event.

The concert was hosted by renowned actor Tom Conti, who recently portrayed the German-Jewish refugee Albert Einstein in the film Oppenheimer.

The concert was hosted by renowned actor Tom Conti, who recently portrayed the German-Jewish refugee Albert Einstein in the film Oppenheimer.

Kindertransport refugees have attended an emotional commemorative concert to mark the 85th anniversary of their arrival in Britain.

Milena Grenfell-Baines – today Lady Grenfell-Baines – was among those at the concert organised by the Association of Jewish Refugees.

She still has the leather-bound autograph book her grandfather gave her the night she got on the Kindertransport. The message he wrote told her to be “a faithful daughter of the country you’re leaving and of your parents and grandfather who love you very much.”

Milena left Prague on 31 July 1939 at the age of nine along with her sister who was three-and-a-half. Most of her family were killed by the Nazis but her father and mother managed to escape to England, where the family were eventually reunited.

It was only 40 years later that Milena discovered exactly how she’d survived the war. She was one of the 669 children saved by Sir Nicholas Winton on a train that left Prague days before the Nazis invaded, a story that was recently depicted in the film One Life starring Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Held in London’s Wigmore Hall, the concert was part of a series of events commemorating the 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia who were given refuge in Britain in 1938-39.

Several surviving Kinder – among them Lord Alf Dubs and Bronia Snow BEM – attended the concert and received a standing ovation from a 500-strong audience as they were hailed as “national treasures”.

Sir Nicholas Winton’s son Nick and grandson Laurence were also present. Nick told Jewish News: “There are sadly not many [Kinder] left but it’s lovely to see the ones who are still active and engaged. Sadly, the threat to people still goes on. We’re seeing almost a carbon copy of what happened in Czechoslovakia in 1939 happening today in Ukraine and there are other countries where people are under threat for their lives and desperate to be rescued.”

The concert was hosted by renowned actor Tom Conti, who recently portrayed the German-Jewish refugee Albert Einstein in the film Oppenheimer.

Speaking to Jewish News about his conversations with survivors, Conti said: “One is just over-awed by their courage. The tragedy of the kids who got out and never saw their mums and dads again is unspeakably awful.”

The music, which included pieces by Beethoven, Haydn, and Novák, was performed by the internationally acclaimed Leonore Piano Trio. It was specially chosen to represent the countries from which the refugees came.

Michael Newman, chief executive of the AJR, explained that “these are pieces of music that people would have been listening to in their homes. They may have attended concerts with their families and so it’s quite evocative and symbolic of that.”

He added: “We’re honouring the people that made it possible. The families of the Kinder who sent them away to the unknown and the Kinder who are still with us and their families.”

Newman estimates that around 100 Kinder are still alive in the UK today. Many are still involved in school visits and oral history projects to ensure their stories are not forgotten. As Lady Grenfell-Baines says, “Time goes on and soon this will all be history. We’re still around to tell the tale.

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Glasgow children to be helped by a city firm started 70 years ago by a WW2 refugee

Posted on May 14, 2024
A Scots business founded by a refugee who fled Nazi oppression on a Kindertransport train is celebrating 70 years in business, by helping 70 disadvantaged children in Glasgow.

Fred Weiss was born at a time of turbulent politics in Europe, and to a family later decimated by the holocaust.

By the time he was a teen, he was living with his mother in Vienna, officially classed as a ‘stateless child’. Just months before the Second World War broke out the now 17-year-old Fred was granted papers to leave as an adult volunteer, supervising dozens of children travelling alone on refugee trains and ships bound for the UK.

Ambition and growth

Sponsored by the Caplan family in Giffnock, Glasgow, young Fred began working for a bedding company, a move that was to define his entire career in the city.

As one family member later recalled: “When they offered him the chance to buy 49 per cent of that business, he knew it was time to trust himself and go out on his own.”

Elite Bedding Company, now Elite Contract Furniture, the firm Fred set up in the 1950s, is still a family run business today, and a major player in the contract bedding and furniture market in Scotland. Its work graces the Radisson Red Sky Bar, the Royal Scots Private Members Club, and numerous hospitality and healthcare enterprises around Scotland.

Over the years daughters Betsy and Eleanor, his sons-in-law, his wife Beatrice and other family members have worked in the firm. They have been part of a loyal staff, many of whom worked with the firm until their own retirement.

His daughter Betsy Winston, now managing director in the firm, and grandson Greg are thrilled to carry on Fred’s legacy.

Betsy said: “It’s very unusual to have a family firm last this long, and still be in the same hands. The average length of time a UK business exists is just eight years, and here we are, 70 years on and honouring dad’s achievements in a way he would have loved.”


Greg and Betsy
Greg and Betsy

Working with local charities

Fred-The-Bed, as he was affectionately known, was hugely involved in charitable works in and around Glasgow, and donated beds to needy families for decades.

This year, working with Cash for Kids and supported by St Mirren Women Football Club, which Elite sponsors, the firm is donating 70 beds and mattresses to families in the city to mark the anniversary.

Elite director Greg added: “My grandfather’s own dad died very young, and Fred had a tough beginning, which is perhaps why he always wanted to help children in particular.

“All of his mother’s family were to die in the holocaust, and he restarted life in Glasgow with nothing. He worked incredibly hard to learn a trade then build up his business, and always said that one thing would prove he had been a success – owning a Rolls Royce. He went on to have two (giving up his beloved cigarettes on the day he got the keys, so they never ended up smelling of smoke!)”

Fred died in Glasgow at the age of 89, after enjoying a retirement spent partly in his beloved Majorca.

Making a difference

Betsy added: “We are incredibly proud of him, and the business he built up. It shows that a young refugee, given opportunities and driven by ambition can succeed in the world, make a worthwhile contribution to their new community and leave a meaningful legacy.

“As Elite Contract Furniture celebrates its 70th anniversary, we are not only doing something fitting in dad’s memory, but looking forward to the years to come.”

She added: “We’ve had challenges in recent years – Brexit massively increased our costs, and our customer base largely closed down over Covid – but as a family we are proud of how the business and our customers have rallied.”

Discover more about Elite Contract Furniture here.

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Kindertransport families mark 85th anniversary with trip to England

Posted on May 10, 2024

On May 12, 43 Kindertransport survivor families from across the United States, ages 92 years to six months, will meet in London. They will spend five days in England honoring their forebears, who made the unimaginable choice, 85 years ago, before the outbreak of World War II, to send their children away to safety.

These brave mothers and fathers said goodbye to their children, not knowing when or if they would see them again, not knowing where or how they would live. The Kindertransport youngsters were among the more than 10,000 mostly Jewish children sent from Germany, Austria, Poland, and Czechoslovakia to safety in the United Kingdom.

The travelers will visit the Kindertransport memorials in Liverpool, together with local Kinder and descendants. In Harwich, they will view the recently installed memorial and talking bench, hosted by the Harwich Kindertransport Memorial and Learning Trust, and facilitated by Greater Anglia.

The group will learn about new Kindertransport research via seminars at the Wiener Holocaust Library and the Austrian Cultural Forum, tour the Holocaust galleries at the Imperial War Museum in London, and attend receptions at the German and Austrian embassies. Kindertransport generations from throughout the U.K. will join them at a closing reception.

Several of the participants will stay on to do family history research and meet with members of the foster families who took in their Kindertransport parents.

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Learn About the Heroic Rescue Effort that Saved Thousands of Children During the Holocaust

Posted on May 10, 2024

Illinois Holocaust Museum’s special exhibition, Kindertransport – Rescuing Children on the Brink of War, will run from May 19 – November 17, 2024.

As the situation worsened in Nazi Germany, parents were faced with a difficult decision: send their children alone to a foreign land in the hopes of finding a better life or keep their family together while facing increasing repression. In just nine months, thousands of unaccompanied Jewish children under the age of 17 were sent from Nazi-occupied Europe to safety in the United Kingdom. Kindertransport – Rescuing Children on the Brink of War, opening at Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center on May 19, showcases this astonishing rescue effort through personal artifacts, stories, and firsthand testimony. The exhibition will run through November 17, 2024.

“I received a ticket for the Kindertransport on my tenth birthday and left Germany a week later,” says Holocaust Survivor Ernie Heimann. “It assured my place with the 10,000 children who were rescued from Nazi-occupied Europe instead of among the one-in-a-half million children who were murdered in the Holocaust.”

Created and organized by Yeshiva University Museum and the Leo Baeck Institute – New York | Berlin, the exhibition is arranged into eight sections, beginning in the days and months following Kristallnacht when Europe’s Jewish population could no longer deny the threat of Nazism. The Kindertransport is brought to life by presenting objects that the children brought with them to the United Kingdom; a map detailing the transport routes; letters between parents and children; audio testimonies by survivors; and quotes charting the heart-wrenching decisions parents made in sending their children away to safety. The Museum will expand the exhibition to feature local stories of those saved by the Kindertransport.

“Illinois Holocaust Museum is excited to share this lesser-known story of bravery and resilience,” says CEO Bernard Cherkasov. “As part of our mission, we look to share the full scope of what happened during the Holocaust, including the trials, tragedies, and survival of the children saved by the Kindertransport. While the majority of their parents were murdered in the Holocaust, it was thanks to passionate upstanders that these children were able to survive.”

Details about the exhibition are available here.

About Illinois Holocaust Museum
Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center honors the Survivors and victims of the Holocaust and transforms history into current, relevant, and universal lessons in humanity. Through world-class exhibitions and programs, the Museum inspires individuals and organizations to remember the past and transform the future. The Museum is open Wednesday through Monday from 10:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. For more information, visit or call 847-967-4800.

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Q & A with Adam Gidwitz

Posted on February 23, 2024

Adam Gidwitz, author of the Newbery Honor Book The Inquisitor’s Tale, dives back into historical fiction via Max in the House of Spies, a fantastical middle grade spy novel and the first in a duology. In 1939, German Jewish 11-year-old Max doesn’t want to board the Kindertransport and leave his family behind for England, but his parents insist. He ends up living with an aristocratic family of British Jews, and he did not arrive alone; he’s joined by an invisible dybbuk and kobold perched on his shoulders. As tensions rise back in Germany, Max, determined to reunite with his parents, hatches a dangerous scheme: return to Berlin as a British spy. Gidwitz spoke with PW about the questions that keep him up at night, how he likes to take care of his readers through his work, and whether sliced bread existed during WWII.

In your letter to readers at the beginning of Max in the House of Spies, you write, “A book of answers is a manifesto. A book of questions is a catalyst.” What do you hope this book catalyzes?

Conversation. But also, critical thinking. I’ve gone to a bunch of schools over the last few weeks talking to kids about this book, and each time, I pose a question for them, inspired by the Albert Camus quote at the beginning of the book: “Between the truth and my mother, I choose my mother.” I ask them, “Which would you choose?” And these kids—between fourth and eighth grade—they’ve been having these really powerful debates about what to do when you’re faced with what is right vs. what you love. How do you choose between them? I don’t know the answer, but I want them to think about it, because we are all facing those choices regularly, especially with everything that’s going on in the U.S. and the Middle East.

We have emotional and personal affinities. We also have, if we allow ourselves, an awareness of what is right and what is wrong. Sometimes those things align, and sometimes they don’t, and figuring out how to navigate the world when our sense of justice doesn’t align with what we feel is just about the most important thing a human can do. And so, I hope to catalyze conversation, but I also want to challenge my readers to think about their assumptions and the way they normally behave in the world.

Was it difficult to write from the perspective of someone who didn’t know that WWII was about to begin?

That was actually one of the most intellectually and emotionally satisfying parts about writing Max in the House of Spies. When you’re writing a novel, you’re living the lives of your characters, and you’re creating an imaginary world that you have to inhabit for years.

The world I built is radically different from the way we normally think about what that time period was like, because we tend to only think about the concentration camps, or about D-Day. But for most of that period, people didn’t know where it was leading.

For Nazi-supporting Germans, it was the golden age. The economy was roaring, they were stronger than all the other countries in Europe, and at the beginning of the war, they were winning. But if you were Jewish, or non-white, or gay, or disabled, or any of the people the Nazis were targeting, it was a time of mounting terror and uncertainty. People were saying to each other, “This is as bad as it could possibly get,” and there was every reason to believe that was correct. It had never gotten any worse; the Holocaust had never happened before. So, when the father of the household decided, “We’re gonna stay here, it can’t get any worse. In a couple of years, this will pass,” he was half right: in a few years, it did pass. Unfortunately, almost everyone was murdered during those few years.

We don’t live in the past; we live in the present. When we’re looking at the past, we know what that period’s future will be, but we don’t know our own future. So, in fact, the present is much more like that uncertain period before the Holocaust than anything else, because like them, we don’t know where right now leads. We live in this moment of both hope and denial, all at the same time.

Why did you include Stein, the dybbuk, and Berg, the kobold, as Max’s invisible companions?

The impetus was, if I’m writing about WWII, I need some way to infuse comedy into this experience. It’s terrifying to be alone as a kid waiting to be shipped to England and then—as we see at the end of the first book and through the second book—to be a Jewish kid on his own in Nazi Germany. Max also wouldn’t know about certain things that we know now, things that are going to become important for plot purposes. So, to have two grown-ups, so to speak, be there to give him perspective was really important to me.

It’s also very important to me, especially when I write about dark subjects, to take care of my readers—I want them to feel a little bit scared, and I want them to feel a little bit challenged, but I also want them to know that they’re taken care of. That’s my job as a storyteller, and Stein and Berg are kind of my avatars in that way. Between the comedy and the perspective that a child would need—both Max and the reader—they were able to provide those.

You write in your acknowledgments that early readers helped to make this book “richer, funnier, faster, and kinder to its readers.” Can you elaborate on that?

When I started writing this book, I was very much inspired by John le Carré. I love le Carré because he took the spy novel and made it a literary art form. His books are as deep and emotionally challenging as any novel that I’ve read, and one of the things that le Carré does is, when you start chapter one, you’re like, “Wait, who are these people? What are they doing? Why are they doing it? I’m completely lost.” Then, by the end of the chapter, you’re like, “Oh, that’s what they’re doing. That’s amazing.” But then the next chapter starts, and you’re like, “Wait, who are these people?” It’s this constant act of trying to catch up. So, the first draft of this book was constructed much more that way; you didn’t really know what Max was thinking, or why he was doing what he was doing. While I kept some of that, my editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel, encouraged me to bring everything in closer to Max, in part with the help of Stein and Berg, so as not to lose our child readers.

The very first draft of this book was also 135,000 words long, and Max’s entire story was told in one volume. That’s tough for a kid to digest. So, breaking it into two parts, and creating an arc in each one, was another way I wanted to be kinder to my readers. It’s also very important to me, especially when I write about dark subjects, to take care of my readers.

In your end notes, you mention how your family friend, Michael Steinberg, was one of the children sent to England via the Kindertransport. Were you able to talk with him about his experiences?

Michael passed away 10 or 12 years ago, so I didn’t get to talk to him about this book, but I certainly knew his story from him. Luckily, he wrote a short unpublished memoir about his experiences during that time, and I have that. Many of the basic things that happened to Max in the first chapter such as being on the ferry to England and being picked up at the dock are all based on Michael’s life.

How long did it take to feel as if you’d done enough research to write this book?

One of the great things about writing about the Middle Ages for The Inquisitor’s Tale was that my wife is a professor of medieval history. I had an expert right there in the house. Plus, there’s very little documented about the Middle Ages, comparatively speaking. Very few people could write and very few books from then survived. So, I had to do a lot of imagining around what it was like to live in the Middle Ages.

Writing about WWII was the opposite. Other than the current day, it is potentially the most thoroughly documented moment in history. So, how could I feel comfortable carving out a little path through it? I took a class on Nazi Germany during this period that was taught by Steven Remy, who wrote Adolf Hitler: A Reference Guide to His Life and Works. He read Max in the House of Spies along with some other folks, such as Katherine Locke, who’s been writing about this time period for years. After a while, I felt like I knew, when Max entered a room, what that room would physically look like. I had read so much that I could imagine all the little details of Max’s life, and then once I imagined them, I double-checked them.

My editor was ruthless. We went through an enormous fact-checking period. At one point during Max’s spy training, he starts making sandwiches on sliced bread, and Julie asked, “Would they have had sliced bread?” It turns out that while it was definitely invented and had already been introduced in England, it maybe wasn’t widespread enough that the English government would have stocked it in Max’s cottage as he was undergoing spy trying. What would bread have been wrapped in anyway? A bag? Paper? What about the song I reference—“We’ll Meet Again,” sung by Vera Lynn? I learned that she was voted sweetheart of the English forces in 1941, and her songs were everywhere. Thinking about which songs would have been on the radio and what the characters would have thought when they heard them was fun. Because we went through all that stuff, it made me feel more secure about the questions that could come up about the big things.

All your books have personal roots relating to your family history, your students, and your wife. Are there any other factors that inspire your stories?

With Max in the House of Spies, I didn’t start with, “I’m going to write a book.” I started with trying to understand why people collaborated with the Nazis. I did a ton of reading about that. There were two things that stuck with me the most and motivated writing this book. The director of the Stasi Museum in Berlin once said, “Why is everyone so interested in collaborators? Everyone collaborated—99.9% of the people collaborated. The interesting ones are the ones who didn’t.” But I’m really interested in the 99.9% of people who did.

Another was a 1970s study in France that was researching French supporters of the Nazis, because in the 1970s, many of those people were still alive. The conclusion the psychologists came to was that there were as many reasons to collaborate as there were collaborators. Everyone had their own reason for supporting the Nazis: money, power, protecting your loved ones, making yourself feel smart, making yourself feel like you weren’t wrong in the first place, hatred of Jews, hatred of other people.

In the second volume, Max in the Land of Lies, I’m writing a lot about Nazis. But in Max in the House of Spies, I’m writing a lot about the British Empire, which has been a force for oppression and evil in many situations. In some ways, we all collaborate with something. Why do we do that? How do we justify it? They’re questions that I wanted to explore, and my books are always explorations about questions that torment me.

Max in the House of Spies: A Tale of World War II (Operation Kinderspion #1) by Adam Gidwitz. Dutton, $18.99 Feb. 27 ISBN 978-0-593-11208-3

Glasgow Kindertransport refugee celebrates 100th birthday

Posted on February 23, 2024

Henry Wuga Henry Wuga

Henry Wuga is a refugee based in Glasgow, who has just turned 100 years old.

In May 1939, as pre-war tensions were rising in his home country of Germany, he escaped to Scotland via a child safety mission known as the Kindertransport.

By the time World War II began, he was in Glasgow, a place he now calls home.

He and his wife, Ingrid, spent their later lives visiting Scottish schools to educate the younger generation about the Holocaust.

Reflecting back on his many years of life, Henry said: “I may be 100 but I don’t feel 100. To be 100 is quite an idea.”

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Henry’s daughters say he is well known for his bow tie

Henry was born in Nuremberg in 1924 to Karl and Lore Wuga.

His family was Catholic on his father’s side and Jewish on his mother’s side and he was raised Jewish.

At age 14, he was forced to leave school and began an apprenticeship as a cook in a hotel.

After six months, Henry decided to go home on 8 November 1938 – the day before Kristallnacht, the night of violent Nazi attacks on synagogues and Jewish businesses.

In May the following year, he was able to escape the country via the Kindertransport to Scotland, where he was interned as an “enemy alien” after the war began.

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Henry with his mother and father outside their family home

“New language, new food and new people, ” said Henry of his first encounters with Scotland.

“You just have to cope with it and people being very friendly in Glasgow, it certainly helped.

“They took me in and allowed me to do certain things and I became a Glaswegian.”

When he was sent to Euston Station in London to get on the Flying Scotsman, he thought he was in Paradise.

“A train with upholstered seats and a dining room with waiters wearing white gloves, serving hot chocolate out of silver teapots, it’s not the kind of train I was used to so that was a very welcoming sight,” he said.

At 16 years old, Henry was accused of corresponding with the enemy and was taken into custody for sending letters to his parents via uncles in Paris and Brussels.

As a result, he was interned on the Isle of Man, but tried his best to embrace the experience.

Academics, professors and musicians were among some of the people in the prison, but he still was not free and spent 10 months there.

“On the Isle of Man, I was obviously behind barbed wire,” he said.

“I was interned because I was perceived to be a dangerous enemy, I coped with what I found and then took out the best I could.

“It was very wonderful to be surrounded by people like that. I was only 16 so I took all that in.”

Henry returned to Glasgow and attended a refugee club, where he met people from similar backgrounds, including his future wife Ingrid Wolff, who had also come to Scotland via the Kindertransport.

They married in December 1944 and together the couple had two daughters, Gillian and Hilary.

Henry and his wife set up a kosher function catering business, which continued for 30 years.

In their later life, they toured Scottish schools and educated children on the “horrors that went on in the Holocaust”.

“My wife Ingrid and I, we felt we had to fight against him to tell people how terrible Hitler had been,” he said.

“So Ingrid and I went to hundreds of schools all over Scotland and talked to young people for many years.

“What’s particularly important to me is that my two daughters have continued where Ingrid and I left off. They go to various schools in Scotland.”

Michael Newman, CEO The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) said it was an “honour” capturing Henry’s testimony and that he was a “much-loved member”.

“On behalf of us all at The AJR, we wish Henry Wuga a hearty mazel tov and huge congratulations on the occasion of his 100th Birthday.”

To celebrate his birthday on 23 February, Henry will be joined by all his family and he will be presented with a card from the king.

On Saturday, a big party is being thrown with 70 guests, including family from Cardiff, Sheffield, London and Edinburgh.

“I must say it’s a bit overwhelming,” he admitted.

“All the cards coming in, all the phone calls coming in and then you see all the friends you have, it’s quite overwhelming.”

Giving advice to his younger self, Henry has some wise words.

“I would advise to be kind to people,” he said.

“To have the right outlook, listen to people, not to believe everything.

“To see what people are like and try and help anybody that’s in difficulties.”

Jewish charity celebrates Holocaust refugee’s milestone birthday

Posted on February 18, 2024

Marianne Phillips and sculptor Frances Segelman who was commissioned to create a  bronze bust of Marianne <i>(Image: The Fed)</i>
Marianne Phillips and sculptor Frances Segelman who was commissioned to create a bronze bust of Marianne (Image: The Fed)

A Prestwich Jewish charity has celebrated a Holocaust refugee and volunteer’s milestone birthday.

Marianne Phillips, who has told her story through The Fed’s ongoing My Voice project, celebrated her 100th birthday on Valentines Day.

Marianne is treasured by all of her friends at The Fed who wished her well.

She first became known to The Fed when she signed up as a volunteer in 1997.

From there on she supported well over 25 families and individuals in the local Jewish community with her inimitable sensitivity, kindness and care – especially working with many people facing loneliness and isolation.

Marianne Phillips, a My Voice project storyteller, turned 100 this month 

As The Fed got to know Marianne better, it was discovered she had gone through the traumatic events of Kristallnacht in November 1938, and that the following August she left Berlin on the Kindertransport, bound for England.

In 2017, My Voice project volunteers began to work with Marianne to record her experiences before during and after the Second World War.

Over the next two years her life story book was completed and published in 2019.

“This is My voice, My Life” has since been presented to Yad Vashem (the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre) in Jerusalem, The Wiener Holocaust Library, Manchester University John Rylands Library and The Israel National Library.

Marianne has spoken to hundreds of school children and students about her experiences during the war years as part of My Voice’s educational aims.

Last year, in recognition of her dedication to Holocaust education, My Voice together with Yad Vashem UK, commissioned a bronze bust of Marianne by sculptor Frances Segelman.

The exquisite likeness will remain alongside her book as a lasting legacy of her experiences as a Kindertransport refugee, and an inspirational survivor who made Manchester her home.

Marianne left Berlin in 1939 on the Kindertransport, bound for England 

Juliette Pearce, The Fed’s My Voice manager, said: “Marianne is a truly wonderful, vital and optimistic lady, who cares immensely about sharing the lessons of her traumatic past with future generations.

“To say she is ‘an inspiration’ does not do her justice.

“It has been an absolute delight to work with her over many years, including on the My Voice Guardian Programme.

“She experiences immense pleasure and satisfaction from her involvement in this – meeting young people who have pledged to learn about her story, and share it with others, to ensure that even after she is no longer able, her voice will be heard.

“Marianne is cherished by all of her friends at The Fed and we wish her a hearty Mazal tov on this incredible milestone birthday. Ad mea v’esrim!”

California Department of Education brings survivor testimony to Bay Area schools

Posted on February 16, 2024

Holocaust survivor Lisa Brinner (left) with California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond at an event at El Cerrito High School last month. (Photo/Courtesy California Department of Education)

More than 100 students in public high schools across West Contra Costa County took part in an inaugural, district-wide educational program last month, hearing powerful testimony from East Bay Holocaust survivor Lisa Brinner.

Now 95, she was only 11 when she was sent out of Austria on a Kindertransport, which saved children from the Holocaust but separated them from their parents. Brinner lived with a foster family in England before moving, at age 15, to San Francisco, where she was reunited with her entire immediate family.

“Of all the Kindertransport people, there were many who never saw their parents again, so I was fortunate,” Brinner said during the Jan. 25 event, held at El Cerrito High School just before International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Brinner’s appearance marked the launch of an oral history speaker series organized by the California Department of Education (CDE) that will continue at school districts across the state. The series aims to give students a deeper understanding of the Holocaust by allowing them to hear directly from survivors and their family members, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond told J.

“This is a great thing that serves many purposes and promotes awareness of the Holocaust,” Thurmond, who also co-chairs the Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education, said in a phone interview. “It’s a great way to address and counter antisemitism. We think it’s an engaging way for students to learn about history.”

The West Contra Costa Unified School District serves nearly 28,000 students in Hercules, Pinole, San Pablo, Richmond and El Cerrito. At El Cerrito High School, where Brinner spoke, student leaders showed up representing the Jewish Student Union, Muslim Student Association and Amnesty International Club, among others.

“We loved that there was a diversity of students in the room,” said Thurmond, who personally picked up Brinner from her home in Albany and drove her to the nearby school.

“This was connecting students with someone who lives right there in their community,” Liz Sanders, director of communications at the CDE, said in an interview.

During the two-hour program, students who were listening to Brinner’s testimony remotely — five high schools in Richmond, San Pablo, Pinole and Hercules — were able to communicate through interactive display boards and webcams. Students asked Brinner about her experience fleeing on the Kindertransport, how she felt being separated from her parents at a young age and what the journey was like, among other questions.

At one point, a teacher asked Brinner her thoughts about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In response, Brinner — whose late husband, William Brinner, was a renowned Near East scholar at UC Berkeley — offered a hopeful message that one day there would be peace in the volatile region.

“She gave a beautiful answer about how her life has taught her we can always restart, how we always can have actions that plant for peace, how there’s always an opportunity to begin again,” Sanders said.

The event, which kicked off with a catered breakfast for Brinner, students, faculty and local elected officials, signaled the start of a promising new program at school districts throughout the state, including in small towns where there are no survivors available to give their testimony.

“We are getting lots of interest, especially from rural districts that might not otherwise have the resources or connections to hear directly from a survivor,” Sanders said.

“We’re hopeful that we can do this in other communities across the state,” Thurmond told J. “This was a first try for us.”

To prepare for last month’s event, the CDE partnered with the Jewish Family and Children’s Services Holocaust Center. Anita Friedman, executive director of JFCS and co-chair of the Governor’s Council, and Holocaust Center director Morgan Blum Schneider reviewed the materials to ensure they aligned with best practices for Holocaust education.

The JFCS Holocaust Center has committed itself to strengthening Holocaust learning in classrooms statewide. In 2022, it launched the California Collaborative for Holocaust and Genocide Education.

“We are proud to be able to connect these resources with districts and schools across California,” Sanders said.

Before it’s too Late

Posted on February 14, 2024
 Eight decades later, longtime Londoners retrace their childhood escapes on Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld’s kindertransports
Photos: Family archives

Following the horrors of Kristallnacht in November of 1938, Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld, a 26-year-old charismatic and forward-thinking British rabbi and educational pioneer, travelled to Vienna and organized the first Kindertransport of close to 300 Orthodox Jewish youngsters.

At the time, Rabbi Schonfeld was doing the bidding of his mentor from his days in the Nitra yeshivah, Rav Michoel Ber Weissmandl, who begged him to bring out as many children as possible and put them in the schools Rabbi Schonfeld was running in London.

The young rabbi used his clout as presiding rabbi of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations and executive director of the newly formed Chief Rabbi’s Religious Emergency Council under the auspices of his future father-in-law, Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz (he would marry Judith Helen Hertz in 1940), in order to convince the British government to waive all visa requirements and not put a cap on the number of refugee children entering the country, as long as there were trains to transport them.

Following Rabbi Schonfeld’s initiative, Kindertransports seemed to take on a life of their own. With tireless organization, bravery and unending dedication, over two dozen groups and private activists worked in parallel, and in the nine months prior to the outbreak of World War II, the UK took in nearly 10,000 children from Nazi-controlled territory — Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and parts of Poland. The children, who were placed in British foster homes, hostels, schools, and farms, were often the only members of their families who survived the Holocaust.

For Rabbi Schonfeld though, that initial rescue work was just the beginning. For the next ten years, this remarkable Holocaust hero went on to rescue thousands of Jews, breaking every rule in the book as he practically singlehandedly brought several thousand youngsters, as well as rabbis, teachers, shochtim, and other religious functionaries to England, doing his best to provide his charges with kosher homes, Jewish education, and jobs. He had no problem bending the rules all the way if it meant saving a Jewish life – and so, for example, any Jewish man became a tzitzis knotter or kashrus supervisor or shul shamash in order to get a visa and a temporary “paid” job (sometimes paid by the Religious Emergency Council).

During the war, time and again he urged the British government to bomb Auschwitz; and at the war’s end, he repeatedly traveled back to the devastation to bring child and adult survivors to England — wearing a military-style uniform he created himself to give the impression that he was an army officer. For the next few years, he recovered hidden children and spirited many others away from Communist Eastern Europe.

Rabbi Dr. Schonfeld passed away in Adar 1984 (on his 72nd birthday), and in honor of his 40th yahrtzeit this week, four long-ago Jewish refugees who’ve been living in the UK for eight  decades — just children at the time, who owe their survival to his and other Kindertransport initiatives — share their stories

The Ones Left Behind

I think I was the last bar mitzvah in Gleiwitz before they destroyed the shul on Kristallnacht

Iwas born in the place where it all started, the Polish town of Gleiwitz in Upper Silesia, close to the German border. Gleiwitz is actually where World War II began. On August 31, 1939, Nazi forces posed as Poles to stage a “false flag” attack on Gleiwitz’s German radio station. By the morning of September 1, Hitler was already using the faked attack — called the “Gleiwitz incident” to justify his invasion of Poland. War had begun.

I went to a Jewish elementary school until age 11, and then a state secondary school, where we Jews had to sit at the back. When the teacher came in, the class stood up and greeted him with a shout of “Heil Hitler!” Then they recited a prayer in German. I remember my parents cautioning me, “If you see any groups marching with the Nazi flag, don’t show your face. Go and hide in a shop. Because if you don’t answer the Hitler salute, they’ll beat you up.”

My bar mitzvah was held in Gleiwitz’s synagogue on Parshas Balak, in July of 1938. I think I was the last bar mitzvah boy there, because the shul was burned down on Kristallnacht. We lived nearby and on the morning of November 10th, I saw our shul building smoking, burned out.

On a farm not too far from Gleiwitz, my older brother Kurt was part of a group doing “hachsharah,” learning farming and irrigation techniques in preparation for travel to Palestine. On Kristallnacht, they were all arrested and taken to Buchenwald. My father, who was also arrested and deported, met Kurt in Buchenwald.

At that stage, Jews could still leave Germany — but only if they had somewhere to go. My mother turned to a relative in London, Rabbi Dr. Adolf Buechler, principal of Jews College, who agreed to pay 50 pounds sterling (a substantial sum at the time) to bring Kurt out of Germany. So in the last days of 1938, my brother was released from Buchenwald on condition that he would leave the country within 24 hours. He looked terrible — still wearing the same clothes he had been arrested in weeks before, and his head shaven. We said our goodbyes, and Kurt left.

Realizing that the situation under Nazi rule was becoming intolerable, my parents wanted my older sister to get out, too. They discovered that she could obtain a visa to enter England if employed as a domestic worker, and so we said goodbye to her, and she traveled alone to London, where she did housework in a doctor’s house for five shillings (twenty-five pence) a week.

Then it was my turn. As soon as my mother heard that a Kindertransport was leaving to England, she got me a place. The Nazis had their rules. In order to secure permission to leave, she had to add “Israel” to my name, changing my legal name to Alfred Israel Buechler. I needed a police record stating that I was not a criminal, a doctor’s note certifying my health, and a tax certificate stating that I owed no taxes to the German Reich. After arranging all of this, my mother brought me to Berlin, where we said goodbye at the train station.

I joined a large group of about 150 others, and we travelled by train from Berlin to Hamburg, where we boarded a Jewish-owned ship, the Washington. In lieu of a passport, I had an identity card — with a big J stamped on it — and in my purse, just ten German marks, which was all the money we could take out of the Reich. When we reached Southampton, I prepared all my paperwork, which my mother had carefully sorted, but it was a different world — the British didn’t ask for a single document. They just welcomed us and waved us through immigration and customs.

In Waterloo station, London, British couples came to pick up children they liked, but nobody wanted the older boys. Who would want a boy of 14? Kurt came to get me, and I went with him and a few other boys to a refugee camp in Suffolk, near Ipswitch. That stay lasted just a few months, after which I was sent, together with a boy from Danzig, to a hotel at the other side of Ipswitch. We were given a room up in the attic, and we woke early in the morning to work as shoeshine boys for the hotel guests, who left their shoes outside their rooms. We also had to wash the hotel’s dishes in the huge kitchen sinks.

After that stint, I wound up at Bloomsbury House in London, headquarters of the Kindertransport organization, a kind of clearinghouse. The committee sent me to work in a school kitchen in North London, and as the Battle of Britain raged overhead, I learned to cook, a skill which suited me and led to a career as a chef and caterer.

Together with Kurt and my sister, we rented an apartment in Willesden Green, London, a very Jewish area at that time. I didn’t have too much Jewish knowledge then — I worked on Shabbos and on Yom Tov, because I just didn’t know.

I don’t think we knew exactly what was happening in Europe. In 1945, when the German Reich was finally defeated, I got in touch with a classmate who was half-Jewish. The Nazis had made her clean the streets from horse droppings, and they cut her rations in half, but she survived. We sent her money to come over to England, and then we found out what had happened to our parents.

My father was killed before my mother. He had been sent to Buchenwald on Kristallnacht, but a month later was allowed to come home. When the Nazis confiscated all Jewish property, my father kept some of his valuables, which he then tried to sell. Someone informed on him, and he was arrested and imprisoned in Gleiwitz. My mother was in touch with him, sending notes, maybe even food, until one day he just wasn’t there anymore. The next thing she knew, she received a container of his ashes from Buchenwald. The elderly Jews were deported from Gleiwitz next, and by 1942, the entire community was gone. My parents had gotten all three of us out, but were left there to be murdered.

In 1960, I met my wife, Miriam. Miriam is Dutch; her family endured three years in Bergen-Belsen, but all came safely out. We married in Holland, and I soon found that my father-in-law was a very frum man. I promised him we would keep a kosher home and keep up our shul membership, and thanks to that, I’m a proud member of Ilford Federation shul. I’m the longest-standing member and the oldest by now — a lot of the Jews have moved away, and we’re surrounded by Muslims.

A few months ago I met King Charles at an event at the Central Synagogue in London commemorating 85 years since the Kindertransport. We were told to dress sharp, so I wore my Shabbos suit and cappel, and a poppy for commemoration day. The king was a real friend — he sat down next to me at the table for us “Kinder” alumni and asked questions. I had plenty to share with him about my life.


Never Alone

Rabbi Schonfeld promised me that he would take all the children along, regardless of their citizenship, on condition that I wouldn’t speak on the train, because if the guards heard Czech, I’d be in trouble. Everyone was officially Hungarian

IN 1948, I had just turned nine, and was living in a Jewish children’s home in Nove Mesto, outside Bratislava. We were about 20 children, cared for by a kind, devoted couple who didn’t have children of their own. I was happy and didn’t ask too many questions, because I didn’t think people had answers, or maybe I was just too young?

I have only vague memories of my parents. They’d given me over to non-Jews in 1944, in order to save my life, and I can count myself fortunate in that I was spared the trauma of seeing them being taken away. In 1945, my father’s brother took me back from the non-Jews, but after looking after me for some months, he put me in the Jewish children’s home. I think he thought that this way, I might have a chance of being able to get out on a Kindertransport and have a better life.

And he was right. Rabbi Dr. Schonfeld came to the home to arrange what was to be his last Kindertransport, but he was only officially permitted to take Hungarian children. I was crying bitterly, because he would be taking my best friend to England. Rabbi Schonfeld asked me what was wrong, and I told him (through an interpreter, because he didn’t speak Czech). He promised me that he would take all the children along, regardless of their citizenship, on condition that we wouldn’t speak on the train, because if the guards heard Czech, we’d be in trouble. Everyone was officially Hungarian.

We arrived before Pesach in a hostel in Woodberry Down, near Stamford Hill. I don’t know how much I knew about Yiddishkeit, although the children’s home was traditional. Nice people came to take us out around London, maybe to the zoo and such. After Pesach we were sent to Dr. Schonfeld’s Avigdor school, and at the end of the school year, I was adopted by a family in Cardiff, Wales, who I lived with until I was married.

It’s ironic that I was very lonely in my “new family.” I’d been used to being among other children my age, and I missed my friends terribly. In Wales, I knew no one, and there was nobody I could speak Czech with. That was a blessing in a way, because I quickly picked up English, and by age 11, when we took a scholarship exam to get into high school, I was one of only two girls in the class to obtain that scholarship.

I have everlasting gratitude to my adoptive family for sending me to Gateshead Seminary after I’d finished the local Welsh high school. It was perfect for me. I thirsted for the learning and loved the atmosphere, the company, and the lifestyle. Mr. Kohn, the principal, took me under his wing.

I remember my parents only vaguely, and I also remember my uncle, my father’s brother. I married a pharmacist, but when my husband, Rabbi Joe Freilich, decided to leave his profession, rent out our London house, and join the Gateshead Kollel, I was fully on board. During the eight years we lived in Gateshead, my uncle from Slovakia came to London twice, on his way to visit his son in Canada. Both times, though, I was just after giving birth and couldn’t travel to London. I corresponded with him, and years later, I made a stopover in Canada to see his son, my cousin. It was a very emotional reunion — finally, a real relative. Blood is thicker than water, although we didn’t have much in common, as my cousin had married out. He told me what his father had told him — that when the Nazis came to their printing press, my uncle was saved because he immediately ran out, but my father remained to wash the ink off his hands, and was captured and killed.

I’m forever grateful to all those who helped me, and especially Dr. Schonfeld, an amazing man who changed the lives of so many. He had such guts, such authority. No one ever argued with him.

Turns out that my first mechutan was with me in the children’s home in Nove Mesto. Now our children are married and we are both enjoying the nachas.

My parents had perished not knowing what became of me, but Hashem saved me through the efforts of Rabbi Schonfeld. A little girl named Eva became the mother, grandmother and great-grandmother of a large frum family, and if I were not living this life myself, I could never have believed so much nachas could happen.

Luck of the Irish

Two policemen boarded the train, and I froze. One of them asked each child for his passport and visa, while the other checked our cases. I was asked to open my suitcase, but the passport checker simply ignored me

MY father came from Chop, near Munkatch, Ukraine, where his father manufactured uniforms for the Austro-Hungarian army. After both his parents died young in an epidemic, my father picked himself up and went to Germany, where he studied the textile trade. When he began to hear Hitler’s speeches on the radio, my parents left the country and moved to Slovakia. As the Germans gained power and invaded town after town in Slovakia, my parents relocated again and again, trying to remain a step ahead of the monster.

My parents knew that entering a ghetto would be the beginning of the end, so they kept moving to evade capture. But I was a toddler with long blond hair, and I was sent inside the ghetto to bring packages. My mother gave me items to bring to certain Jewish families, and I went in under the legs of the armed guards, then walked out again. I also brought my mother’s food parcel to a Jewish man hiding in a hut in the forest. People on the run stopped at our house for food.

My father was an expert on dyeing yarn, and he would travel to textile factories as a consultant. The Gestapo once knocked on our door when he was out. My mother opened up. “This is not Family Rosenfield, and we are not Jewish!” she snapped, and slammed the door in their faces. They went away, and two weeks later when they came back, my father was home, and he repeated the same angry denial. By then my parents realized the net was tightening, and we had to split up.

They must have paid the childless Slovakian peasant couple they left me with when I was four years old. There was no bed there for me, so I slept on a row of three chairs. I spent most of my time out in the fields, and when I was hungry, I picked plants. Before leaving me in the countryside, my mother had carefully shown me the vegetables and wild plants I could eat, which mushrooms were edible and which were poisonous. When I was especially hungry, I’d pick carrots from someone’s field, wash them in the stream, and eat them.

My older brother was left somewhere else, and my parents hid separately. My father was caught. The Germans saw he was circumcised and sent him to Theresienstadt, then Auschwitz. But although I have the piece of paper from Yad Vashem, translated from the Nazi records, that lists him as having perished in Auschwitz, my father survived. He escaped and spent two and a half years in the forest with the partisans. Apparently, he’d cut his way out of the cattle car and jumped off a moving train in the night, so that he never arrived in Auschwitz, although the Germans recorded his death.

The Russians drove the Germans out of Slovakia, and after the war, we were lucky to be alive and reunited (my parents collected us from the families that hid us), although my father wasn’t well, and the Soviets had seized control. I was sent to the Jewish school in Bratislava, while my older brother made his way to a kibbutz in Eretz Yisrael with a Mizrachi group. I remember the Joint distributing clothing and chocolate. I got a wonderful coat from them.

About ten days before Pesach of 1948, I met a tall rabbi walking down the street in Bratislava. I had never seen him before, but he introduced himself as Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld and asked me if I wanted to join a group of 148 Jewish children whom he was taking to Ireland.

I said I’d never heard of Ireland. The rabbi told me that he’d spoken to my father already, and my parents had agreed that I should leave Slovakia. He explained that his transport had been completely full, but a boy on the list had become ill and couldn’t travel, so I could go. I wasn’t sure I believed him, but even as a ten-year-old, I knew everyone wanted to leave this Communist country. I don’t know what language I spoke to Dr. Schonfeld in, but it certainly wasn’t English, because I didn’t speak any English. Yiddish? German? Slovak?

At that time, my parents were living in a small town near the border with East Germany. Two days after I first met Rabbi Schonfeld, I officially became an “orphan” and joined the group of children leaving Bratislava on the evening train (adults were not allowed to leave). But I had no passport and no exit visa, just a printed piece of paper with an identity number. I was walking through the train corridor showing my paper to the other children, when suddenly, the wind blew through the open window, and my identity document blew out of my hand and out into the countryside. Now I really had nothing at all.

Two policemen boarded the train, and I froze. One of them asked each child for his passport and visa, while the other checked our cases for customs and excise. I was asked to open my suitcase, but the passport checker simply ignored me. He didn’t ask me anything at all, as if I wasn’t there.

Finally, we were in London’s teeming Liverpool Street Station, where the commanding figure of Dr. Schonfeld suddenly appeared. It was just a few days to Pesach, and most of us were put up for Pesach in a building that belonged to the Adass community; it later became Rav Dunner’s seminary.

After Pesach, it was time to fulfill Dr. Schonfeld’s plan. Coaches took us to Holyhead, where a boat ferried us across the Irish Sea overnight. We arrived in Dublin in the morning, and the community hosted us in their shul for breakfast; we were then driven up to a village with a beautiful Victorian castle, which would be our home for the next year.

Later I learned that Clonyn Castle had been purchased by a Jewish businessman from Manchester, and he’d allowed Dr. Schonfeld to use it for his refugee children, a place for us to recuperate and regain our physical and emotional health after the trauma of the war.

Once in Ireland, we couldn’t go to school, because we didn’t speak Irish or English. Instead, we had Rabbi Yisroel Cohen as our rebbi, and the madrichim who took care of us also did a bit of teaching.

We learned a little, but mainly we played. It was like camp for 11 months, where we had our fill of games and sports, healthy fun, and fresh air. We played football (soccer), table tennis, hide and seek, and we ran races. I was a good boxer, so the staff bought me boxing gloves, and I developed my punching. I’d always been able to punch, knocking down non-Jewish kids with a punch when they’d pick fights and throw snowballs back in Slovakia.

The ruach was really strong, and Shabbos was special, with a lot of singing and leibedig davening. Dr. Schonfeld came to check up on us several times, and I even remember playing a good game of table tennis with him. (I’ve told the Irish part of my story on Irish television documentaries and on the radio program, “The Children of Clonyn Castle.”)

Before the next Pesach, it was time to leave the castle. Thirty of us went to a kind person’s mansion in the Irish port of Dun Laoghaire over Pesach, and I returned to London in the summer. Back in London, a certain young woman came to meet us at the train station and pretended to be my aunt. I don’t know how she knew me, but she knew that I had nobody and wanted to care for me somewhat. Although some Clonyn Castle children were adopted by families, I remained alone, no brothers, no uncles, no one. I went to Rav Gedalia Schneider’s Ahavas Torah boarding school, then Rav Moshe Scheider’s yeshivah in Stamford Hill and boarded there. This young lady would bring me nosh to school on Fridays, and she even invited me to her wedding, but I was young and suspicious, although later our families became very close.

My teenage memories of Schneider’s are full of kind rebbes and warm chassidish parents. I remember one Yom Tov when the school bought me a nice new jacket. During my years learning in the yeshivah, I saw greatness. Rav Tovia Weiss and the Sternbuch brothers all learned there with tremendous hasmadah, and among the Morrocan boys, Rav Nissim Toledano and Rav Yaakov Toledano stood out, too. My rebbe, Rav Moshe Schneider, often invited me to eat at his table. In his old age, I slept in his room so he wouldn’t be alone and brought him food when he was hospitalized, and I can tell you that his mind was constantly on davening, learning, and on how the yeshivah was doing.

Years later, my parents and younger brother got permission to emigrate, and left for Eretz Yisrael. I remained in London though, first teaching in Avigdor and Yesodei HaTorah schools to pay my rent, then working as a kashrus supervisor in Sunderland for a time. I eventually learned the fur trade back in London. In 1963, I married, and today we enjoy the nachas and the fruits of those interim years.

In the Nick of Time

I was lucky, seeing my father waiting for us in Liverpool Street Station. But would my mother and sick younger brother be able to make it out of Germany?

I arrived in England on May 3, 1939, from Leipzig, Germany. As opposed to the other children on these transports, my father was in England already. He was on a business trip to London during Kristallnacht, and my mother was so afraid that he’d be arrested on his return that she told him not to come back. My father arranged places for my sister and me on the Kindertransport, and my oldest sister traveled on her own passport, with the Kindertransport organizers keeping an eye on her.

The atmosphere was very uncomfortable in Germany then. While my early childhood in Leipzig was lovely, we’d really felt the difference when Hitler came to power. We had a spacious apartment, and we used to go on vacations to Switzerland and Holland.

After being harassed in a non-Jewish school, we moved to the Jewish school, the Carlebach Schule, where Rabbi Felix Carlebach was our teacher. Soon, though, we couldn’t even go to shul, and it seemed like everyone was looking for ways to escape Germany.

Then came Kristallnacht. My parents were originally Polish, so we ran to take shelter in the Polish embassy — but they didn’t want us. We had a close connection to the Boyaner Rebbe of Leipzig, Rav Yisrael Friedman, and when their apartment was vandalized during Kristallnacht, my mother took the Rebbe and Rebbetzin in. Others may have been afraid to associate with a rabbiner, but my mother wasn’t. They stayed with us from November until after Pesach. The Rebbe’s plan was to move to Eretz Yisrael, but in order to leave Germany, they needed their documents, which the Gestapo was holding in their offices. My mother went along with the Rebbetzin. My oldest sister waited outside, but my mother warned her not to wait around too long, “If I don’t come out in half an hour, you go home.”

When my mother and the Rebbetzin entered the department they needed, they saw that the name of the official was Friedman. My mother took advantage of this by commenting in German that he would surely be able to help this man with the same name. The official then became very accommodating and released the documents, and the Rebbe and his wife lived out their days in Eretz Yisrael.

While my father was there to meet us when we arrived at Liverpool Street Station, my mother and younger brother stayed behind, because my brother was very ill with rheumatic fever, and my mother was afraid to move him. She eventually found a specialist who agreed to come to a Jewish patient, and he told her that my brother could travel. As soon as she heard that, they were off, and were able to reach England in August — just before the outbreak of war on September 1.

We didn’t know much English, but we’d all been told, “If you hurt someone or make a mistake, just say ‘sorry,’ and the English people won’t be upset with you.” For two weeks we joined my father in a boarding house in Stamford Hill. I remember the cook served chicory, which I’d never seen before and thought looked like grass, but I still love it to this day.

When my mother and little brother arrived, he was still so ill that the doctors in London decided he had to be placed in special care. Parents were not allowed to visit sick children in those days, but my brother sent a desperate message to my father: “If I have to stay here an hour longer, I’ll die.” He came home. People told us that in Edgware, just out of London, the air was better, cleaner, so we rented a house there.

But it was a bit too English for us, and we were told that all the Leipzigers were in Hendon, so eventually we rented a flat in Vincent Court, which was full of landsleit. Slowly, the Hendon Adass was established, with the help of Dr. Schonfeld. Our family felt right at home there, since my father and his brothers had all been Adass-niks in Germany, and they were part of the core shul founding membership, a good percentage of which were Leipzigers. To this day, we are ever thankful that we were among the fortunate ones who could rebuild our lives and raise our families.

Out of the ashes

Posted on February 13, 2024

JAN WOOLF ponders the images of humanity that emerge from the tormented, destructive process of the Kindertransport survivor Frank Auerbach

Frank Auerbach, The Charcoal Heads
Courtauld Gallery

“IFEEL there is no grander entity than the individual human being… I would like my work to stand for individual experience.”

This statement of Auerbach’s features prominently in his exhibition Charcoal Heads; drawings from the 1950s and ’60s being shown in this combination for the first time. Monumental but deeply human, it is this contradiction that makes them extraordinary.

Down and dirty with charcoal, stuff from burnt trees, trees that could have been from the forests of northern Europe where so much awful stuff happened, he gropes for the essence of a person. Frank Auerbach was sent to England aged seven by his German Jewish parents to save him from the Nazis. This is context!

As is the fact that he was taught by David Bomberg at the Borough Polytechnic Institute after he left school aged 16. His resonance with that teacher was strong. Bomberg prodded his students to “define their experience of matter.” He wanted them, Auerbach recalls, “actually to apprehend the weight, the twist, the stance of a human being anchored by gravity: to produce a souvenir of that.”

So he pushed and scraped that charcoal, creating a new way of drawing that he considered equal to his paintings – painting that rose from the surface in heaps and whorls of paint. There are six of them here, alongside the 17 drawings of five sitters important to Auerbach, one of them a self-portrait that I think is equal to Rembrandt’s.

Yet unlike Rembrandt’s there is no real eye contact – it is only implied.

He worked and scraped at his surfaces, often damaging them and patching them up, scraping again, erasing, and ripping at the paper using his charcoal and chalks much like archaeological tools. Sometimes the drawing had been discarded and returned to months later, bearing the scars like a mined landscape.

We learn that a flourish of drawing, like a victory roll, overlays some drawings when he felt he’d nailed it, that something had been discovered or excavated. Sometimes a hint of coloured chalk which can give the feel of a charge of electricity. One portrait, or rather head, of Gerda Boehm is done in oil paint over charcoal on paper. It’s a drawing in paint with a reddish under-layer smouldering beneath the surface. It looks like ash on a nearly extinguished fire, but still full of energy.

The artist did not want to make just another picture of a person but “an independent image… that stalks into the world like a new monster.”

I thought the show well curated and the writing on the wall were nice accompanying pieces, not the usual art bollocks. This, next to a Head of Leon Kossof: “Auerbach commented that in London during the decade or so after the end of the second world war there was a sense of survivors scurrying around a ruined city. The drawing can be seen as a distinctly post war portrait that carries themes of vulnerability and resilience.”

I took my old school pal – desk mates 1961-6, the years when Auerbach was working on many of these heads.

“What d’yer reckon?” I ask her.


“Go on.”

“Given the amount of time he’s spent on each one, he’s searching. Not for perfection but an aspect. Like classical music, you know it when he’s hit a chord.”

So I wondered, as a seven-year-old removed from parents that are killed, if he searches faces until he finds an inner worldly attachment, until the person he is drawing speaks back, emerges from the shadows. We can’t know this of course, but like all great art it doesn’t give you the answer but invites you in to find your own.