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Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
22 May 1939
Eli Fachler was born in Berlin in 1923 to Polish parents, and his sister was born three years later. His father was a trader in knitwear and underwear and he had a sister and a brother, all born in Lodz. Eli’s mother was born in Ilza, and was one of nine siblings. She was a first cousin to her husband. They married in August 1922 and came to live in Ferbellinerstrasse [?] in Berlin, behind a shop.
In 1932 the family moved to Veteranenstrasse near the big store Hermann Tietz, and moved again in 1937 to Brunnenstrasse near Zionskirchstrasse and Amklamerstrasse.
As a child in Poland Eli attended the Adas Yisroel School where the Director was Sinasohn, and also attended Cheder three times a week. Eli’s father was active in the shul, which had 500 members. The shul was smashed during Kristallnacht and his father was deported with the Poles.
Eli came on the Kindertransport from Berlin to Harwich through The Hague, and later went to Whittingehame Farm School near Edinburgh. His sister came to England in August. Their parents left Berlin in July for Poland, and were killed in 1942.
Eli was expelled from school in the autumn of 1939 and put on a train for London. He was met by Miss Mundy of the Jewish Shelter and sent back to Whittingehame, where he remained at the Farm until July 1941 when he went to the small village of Hardmead, near Newport Pagnell, where Rachel and Bob Durlacher were in charge of about 15 boys and 6 girls. In November 1941 he moved to a place in Buckingham with about 50 boys and 25 girls, where the wardens were Aviva and Ray Kornbluth.
In March 1943 Eli became assistant head in charge of Jewish Studies at Poulton House, the successor of Whittingehame School. The head was Yaacov Zurawel. Whilst there, he was instrumental in starting Bnei Akiva in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
In March 1944 Eli joined the British Army, he served at the Royal Fusiliers City of London Regiment and trained in Maidstone. He became a Lance Corporal and trained platoons to go to France. He married in 1944, and was convalescing from illness when the war ended. He celebrated VE Day in Trafalgar Square. He was transferred to the Royal Army Pay Corps and worked in Sidcup in Kent and then in London. Later he worked for the Royal Army Education Corps, where he became a Sergeant. He was demobbed in July 1948.
Eli and his wife rented a house in Letchworth and he taught Hebrew for the London Board of Hebrew Education. He then went to work for Stern and Grunbaum, who opened as butchers in Letchworth, running the grocery department.
If not for England I don’t know what would have happened to us, so for that I am eternally grateful. In Germany, before there was just ... a policeman was a figure of authority, in London he was a figure of a helper; he was there to help you.
The train eased itself over to the Dutch Border where the Dutch came in, and the cry for joy that arose from everybody there, such a sense of release, was spontaneous, overwhelming, I will never forget it, I mean … that was.
Had we known that we were, when you lived in a dictatorship like Germany, we grow up there, things become normal, you know you took it for granted that you mustn’t do this, and mustn’t do that. The minute the shackles come off, when you feel released, it was fantastic, I mean at the age of fifteen and a half I was certainly conscious of it, and most of the people that were in our group were about the same age.