My first 23 months in the United Kingdom May 1939 to April 1941
An incredible experience for a German Jewish Refugee Boy aged 15 to 17 years
Arrived by Kindertransport train at Liverpool Street Station London
Next day by Royal Scott train from Euston to Glasgow
Welcomed by Mrs. E. Hurwich, my Guarantor
At Queen’s Park School, Summer Holiday in Kirkcudbright with Sassoon Family
September outbreak of War
Evacuated with school to Perthshire
Back in Glasgow at Mrs Hurwich
At High Court in Edinburgh found guilty of “Corresponding with the Enemy” Arrested as Dangerous Enemy Alien Category A
Interned in 7 different Internment Camps finally on the Isle of Man
Released as “Friendly Enemy Alien due to Religious Persecution Category C” Nothing untoward found by MI 5.
Returned to Glasgow to my Guarantor Mrs. E. Hurwich
Now 17 years old
From the time of leaving Nürnberg by Kindertransport train on the 2nd May 1939 to arriving
in Glasgow on the 5th May, 3 traumatic days have elapsed.
With tearful emotion you say Goodbye to your parents, will we ever see each other again?
The Train journey was horrendous. Young children 6 to 9, who had never been separated from their Mutti and Papi before, were crying, no howling is a better description.
We all had a label round our neck, name and age. Allowed one small item of luggage.
Many hours later we crossed into Holland. The Nazi guards had left and the atmosphere and the mood changed. Even the youngest child felt the difference, we were in free country.
At the first station, Dutch Ladies calmed the tension with Hot Chocolate, White Bread Sandwiches and Red Apples. An oppressive weight lifted from our shoulders. Another few hours to reach Hook and the overnight Chanel crossing to Harwich. How many of us had ever been on a Boat before? We have finally arrived in England, Hurrah!
Train to Liverpool Street Station, 170 exhausted children after a 36hour journey, awaiting
being collected by their Guarantors, Friends or people willing to take a Refugee Child.
Kind people took children, but it was a bit of a “Cattle Market” siblings were separated not to see each other till WHEN? However, we are now in a country willing to admit us and be saved from the Nazi Terror.
A night in a hostel with 2 others, destination GLASGOW. In the morning from Euston Station London to Glasgow Central, 6 hours on the famous Royal Scott an amazing journey. I had used trains a lot in Germany- all wooden seats. Comfortable soft upholstered seats on this luxurious train. Taken to the Dining Car, Lunch with Silver Service and waiters wearing white gloves, we were spellbound.
Grete Gummers, my mother’s cousin, awaited me at Platform 1 Glasgow Central and took me to my Guarantor Mrs. Etta Hurwich at 169 Queen’s Drive, a Front Door Flat in a typical Glasgow tenement. A very kind welcome by this kind and amazing Lady, herself an immigrant from Latvia in the 1890’s. Her family had grown up, son Simon still lived at home.
A comfortable home, my downstairs room, bright, comfy but OH the tightly tucked in blankets, no downies!!
How do you settle in? Sparse English to communicate, different food and meal times tea with milk, tinned pineapple, chopped fried fish. What impressions did Glasgow make? A large grey city, parks, tramcars well stocked shops and friendly people. I was immediately enrolled at Queen’s Park School to learn English. As the only foreign boy I was made welcome. Given the nickname “57” as in “Heinz Baked Beans”
Mrs. Hurwich and son Simon managed an Upholstery Factory, A maid looked after the household. I was no longer to wear shorts and I was kitted out with suits. You go along with the local customs. I felt comfortable as part of a friendly family and meeting daughter Bessie, husband Frank and granddaughter Barbara and friends.
Letters to Mum and Dad in Nürnberg flowed regularly. Having left home at 14 to work as an apprentice chef in a hotel in Baden Baden, helped me not to feel homesick.
July 1939 Summer holidays, invited by the Sassoon family, David and Vera in Kirkcudbright. I spent many weeks with sons Joey and Jackie at their basic beach house on the Solway Firth. No electricity, water from a well at LOW tide only, cooking on a Primus stove. An idyllic seaside existence. My first time on a beach, swimming, sailing and learning about tides (40 foot in the Solway Firth) recedes for over a mile and returns like an express train. Dangerous quick sands and Jellyfish stings. How lucky to have such a blissful time in Southern Scotland, beaches, games, cricket, rounders, mountains countryside Belted Galloway Cattle, Rabbits and other wildlife. An unforgettable time, completely new experiences with a family who remain lifelong friends.
The clouds darkened on my return to Glasgow. War was declared in September 1939.A sombre time, preparations for “blackout curtains, air raid sirens, police checks on Aliens, an insecure time. How can I be in touch with my parents? No mail, no telephone, all connection with Germany ceased immediately. My uncle Sallo Würzburger lived in Brussels, Belgium, still neutral. Letters to my parents went via Brussels to Nürnberg and came back by the same route. At least we were in touch.
Back at school, in October the government decided to evacuate all children from towns to the country in case of air attacks. I went by train to Perthshire, billeted at a friendly family farm at Guildtown and attended the village school by bike. The large farm was another new experience. Horses, Cattle, Barley, Potatoes (Tattie Howking) Hay making. I enjoyed helping everywhere. The only signs of War were the pilots training at a local airport.
Plentiful good farm food, pheasant, chicken, eggs, milk and cream. No shortages. I became fascinated with horses, formed a particular friendship with “Clyde” groomed and fed him but was not allowed to leave his stable if he decided not to let me out.
Some weeks later transferred to Perth Academy. They did not like my English and I went to Balhousie Boy’s School, a Junior Secondary. How fortunate was that, as the Headmaster Mr Borthwick took me under his wing and nurtured me. I had an inspiring 6 months there, was allowed to use both languages for exams. The highlight was studying Shakespeare’s Macbeth, this bloodthirsty history of a Scottish King. I was fascinated, a completely new experience. I can still recite whole passages, it had such an impact on me. ‘Double double toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble” the witches “Here’s the smell of blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand”. Tragic Lady Macbeth.
“Out out brief candle, life’s but a walking shadow”. It just enthralled me.
Decades later with daughters and grandchildren on the way to skiing in Aviemore, when passing Birnam, they had to quote Macbeth: “When Birnam wood moves on to Dunsinane”
What a demanding father!!
November 1939, transferred to Rossie House, Forgandenny a sort of boarding school.
30 Glaswegian boys and girls. A beautiful house in a large estate. A village post office for sweets and treats and of course there were GIRLS! exciting. A happy stay. We were well looked after.
I befriended the estate Game Keeper Mr. Mc Candlish. We had a Pack of Foxhounds and he taught me Fly Fishing for Salmon on the river Earn. For a boy of 16 these were thrilling new experiences. To school in Perth by Bus, Train or Bike. Stopped at an Army checkpoint to show our Identity Cards, on the lookout for spies. My card showed “Nationality German”
The young soldier panicked Alarm! Here is a German. His card proves it- just what they had been briefed to look out for. He called the Corporal who called the Sargent who sent for an Officer. “Let the Laddie go to school” he decided. End of incident.
In spite of the War not going well, we were sheltered and safe. On Sundays when the kids were at church, I was allowed to bake cakes for afternoon tea in the kitchen. Cooking and baking must be in my genes. I made several good friends at Rossie House, one was another Jewish boy Max Barlaski. Never any hint of Antisemitism or anti German feeling.
1940 a New Year dawns.
No news from my parents, just hope they are well.
February, my 16th birthday, Perthshire becomes a Protected Area, even Friendly Enemy Aliens have to leave. Back home to Glasgow to the Hurwich Household. No possibility to return to school. Bought a bicycle for 15 shillings and explored the Clyde coastline. I love the outdoors. Misread the map and had an extra 30 miles cycling to reach home. The Hurwich family are members of Queen’s Park Synagogue where I join them for the Jewish Festivals. At weekends, Simon and a friend kindly “schlepped” me to walk round 18 holes to Barassie Golf Links followed by High Tea at Ferari’s No 10, a superb restaurant. How kind to be taken.
Glasgow middle class life style I am learning!!