Q & A with Kurt Fuchel

BIRTH DATE: September 11, 1931

BIRTHPLACE: Vienna, Austria




DO YOU HAVE CHILDREN? Two daughters, three step-daughters


1. How many siblings did you have?

No blood siblings; one “foster” brother in England

2. What profession were your parents in?

Father: Bank Manager in Austria, miscellaneous jobs in France & U.S. Mother: none in Austria, bi-lingual Secretary in U.S.

3. Do you have any memories about the rise of Hitler?

Hearing a tram conductor curse because he had pulled the bell on the wrong side of the car; before the Anschluss, traffic in Austria ran on the left; afterwards, on the right. This caused considerable confusion.

4. When did you leave for England and what do you remember about your trip?

I left on a Kindertransport in February of 1939. My strongest memory of the trip was the large, cavernous hold of the ship, illuminated by bare bulbs, and Red Cross nurses giving us tea throughout the night.

5. What was your life like in England? Where were you living? Were you living with a family or in a group home?

My situation was unusual: I knew where I was going. A Viennese shoe salesman was visiting Norwich (which was a shoe manufacturing town), and he got in touch with the Jewish community, and explained the dangerous situation to them. The result was that many volunteered to take a child. I stayed with Percy and Mariam Cohen until 1947.

6. Do you know what happened to your family in Europe?

Yes: my parents left Austria, and made their way through Italy into the South of France. They traveled eastward, and eventually settled in the Tarn Region, where they were hidden by good French people. However, of those of my extended family who stayed behind, only two out of 12 siblings of my grandfather survived.

7. How do you feel this experience affected you?

I became used to “going with the flow” and not affirming myself, so I am not an assertive person. I lack confidence in social situations, and I frequently feel like an outsider, and stand apart. While I was in England, I knew that my parents might someday come and reclaim me, and, as a consequence, I have difficulty with making a 100% commitment.

8. Please write any suggestions, statements or thoughts for the future generations reading this material.

The exodus of children in the Kindertransport was not a unique persecuted people have always tried to send their children to safety. Examples are the emigration of the children of ordinary, Christian British citizens to Canada at the outbreak of the war, and Operation Pedro-pan which saw Cuban children sent to Florida as Castro took over.

The lesson is that all children are worth savings, so ordinary citizens should be prepared to help in any way they can during a crisis which puts children’s lives and well-being in danger.