3. Arrival in Great Britain
DH: With parents in Southampton to to meet her father’s sister who was on her way from Germany to China, 1939
LB: Leslie on Kindertransport train, top centre, 1938. "here we have a group of children in the compartment of a German train, immediately after leaving Germany and crossing into Holland. This was posed for a Dutch photographer, who wanted to take this picture. And, apart from myself, there are at least two other boys who came from the Jewish orphanage. I am at the top centre of this picture, looking rather anxious, I must say. Despite the fact that we just crossed into safety, the German-Dutch border, I must say that I do look rather anxious and like a boy who doesn’t quite know what the future holds, which indeed I didn’t. "
Most Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria found it very difficult to enter Britain. However, by September 1939 about 70,000 Jews had been granted refuge in this country. The main area of settlement was North-West London.
Among those who obtained entry visas were many women who came as domestic servants. Almost 10,000 Jewish children were admitted without visas on Kindertransports. Several thousand men arrived on transit visas, which allowed them to re-emigrate to other countries.
The Jewish community in Britain responded actively to the desperate plight of Jews in the Third Reich. The Central British Fund for German Jewry was set up to raise funds. The CBF guaranteed the government that it would bear all costs of maintaining the Jewish refugees. The Jewish Refugees Committee and other Anglo-Jewish organisations found homes for the children and accommodation and jobs for the adults.
In February 1939 these organisations and their Christian and charitable counterparts were housed in Bloomsbury House, London, a lifeline for many a desperate refugee. Initially, many refugees were destitute and faced a desperate struggle to maintain themselves and their dependents, while also coping with the emotional and psychological aftermath of enforced emigration.
Some sections of public opinion, and some organisations, remained hostile to the refugees. For many refugees, their cruel separation from homes and loved ones and their flight to a strange land was a bitter and traumatic experience.