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Eve Kugler

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
Arrived in the US 1941, arrived in UK 1990
Marriage
Mode of Arrival:

Eve Kugler, nee Eva Kanner, was born 1931 in Halle an der Saale. Her mother Mia Kanner came from Leipzig and her father Salomon was born in Halle. He and his father owned a small department store in Halle, called ‘Kanners’. Eva had an older sister called Ruth and a younger sister called Lea. Eva’s own memory starts when she arrived in the USA on a Kindertransport from France in 1941. She cannot remember much before that date. Confronting her ‘amnesia’ when she was almost 50, she published her mother’s memoirs, (Shattered Crystals) which helped her to fill the gaps.

 

In 1934 Eva’s father applied for a visa to Palestine but as he was a businessman and classified as ‘low’ danger of imminent arrest, the visa for emigration to Palestine was not granted. During Kristallnacht Eva’s family home was ransacked and her father arrested and sent to Buchenwald. The mother organised  a fake visa and the the father left for Paris. Eva and her sisters moved in with her grandfather in Leipzig, while her mother tried to organise their departure. At the end of June 1939 with one suitcase each and a total of 40 Deutschmarks, the family flew to Paris, where they were reunited with the father. 


When war broke out, the father was arrested as a German national and the mother was left destitute so the hildren were given to to a home for displaced Jewish children run by the Jewish welfare organisation, OSE. Eva and her older sister went to Villa Helvetia in Montmorency on the outskirts of Paris in November 1939. Her mother managed to get a job as a cook in another OSE home in Eaubonne and her little sister was sent to a OSE home for smaller children. In May 1940, before Paris was occupied by Germany, the OSE homes resettled to the centre of France. Eva and her sisters were sent to Chateau Montintin. Although their mother could not travel with them, as her papers were only valid for Paris and surroundings, the mother managed to join them a bit later in Chateau Montintin, where she resumed her role as a cook. Their father also made it to Montintin, after his release from internment.

 

In 1941 the United States issued a rare visa for several hundred Jewish children trapped in French concentration camps.  When the French Resistance could not spirit the children out of the camps, the visa was given to the OSE.  Eve and her sister Ruth were not supposed to get the visas, as they had both parents in Montintin, but two places became available when two girls became ill and could not travel. They travelled from France to Spain and Lisbon and boarded the SS Mouzhino which left Portugal on the 10th of June 1941 (in total 331 children were sent to the US, on three different ships).

 

In New York, Eva lived in three different foster homes. The first ones were with friends of her mother’s from Leipzig. She was not very happy and felt different from the children in school. She first went to primary school in Mount Vernon and ended up in Hunter’s College, which she loved. In 1946, her parents and her little sister arrived in New York. Her younger sister had been hidden by the French restistance, first in a Catholic convent and then on an isolated farm. Her parents had survived four French concentration camps, twice miraculously spared from deportation to Auschwitz. After five years of separation, the family had to get used to being together again. 


Eva studied at the University of Pennsylvania and became a journalist. In her second marriage she married Simon Kugler in 1991 and moved to London. She is an active speaker on the Holocaust and has her own website (http://www.shatteredcrystals.net/). She still feels troubled by the fact that her own memory only starts with the arrival of herself and her sister in the USA.  

My memories of Halle are… very small, and very fleeting. I remember going with my grandfather to a farm in order to get milk, because he was very, very observant of kashrut and the milk that you would buy locally was not suitable. I remember going with him when I was about four. I remember when my mother’s younger sister got married in Leipzig because I must have been about three. I was a flower girl. She got home, got married in this big apartment. I was throwing flowers along the way. I think, looking back on what happened, what must have stayed in the back of my mind was the Nazis everywhere…which I think greatly, hugely, hugely frightened me. Because, oh, and I do remember also going on a picnic by the river and lying in the grass looking at the trees with the sky. All beautiful, as you can see, happy, sylvan memories. And then I remember leaving Germany, in 1939. We flew out. And I remember looking down from the plane at the rows of the houses below. And that, on one hand, are basically my memories of Germany.

I went around for years and years plagued by the fact that I really had very little memory of anything that happened to me before I stepped off the ship, when I was not quite eleven, and landed in New York and walked down this wooden pier. And that used to be my memory of when my life really started. And this plagued me. It really drove me crazy. And I was I think in my forties, when I finally, and I will say ‘got the nerve’, because I thought about this for a long time. And I asked my mother to tell me what happened. What happened to me, to my sisters? What was my life like? Tell me everything.

But it was a very difficult adjustment [when her parents arrived in NYC after five years of separation] for me because initially I’d forgotten all my - my German. Most of us did. We made a wilful effort. We didn’t want to have anything to do with German, we didn’t want to admit we were German, so we remembered nothing. And so I had to re-learn my German. My mother’s English was sparse. But she was a linguist; they learnt French very quickly, they learnt English. So there was a language barrier, but the greater barrier was the fact that my mother felt that she wanted to pick up where we left off

And my mother, who was in 1997 she was 93 years old. That was when the book was published. And she used to say, “How’s it going? How is the book doing?” Now, she wasn’t looking for being famous. She wanted everybody to know. She said, “Everybody has to know what happened during the war. What happened to us. People have to learn.” And so I- it sounds grandiose, but I feel now along with other survivors I have a duty to my parents, and to the survivor community, to share this story. I think it’s…it’s a way of people having to learn. And I find that no matter what programs there are, the reaction to someone who tells a story and says, “I was there and this is what happened to me” always has the most – most immediacy, the most influence.

And that learning what happened to - to the Jewish people, how, how terrible it was, and you know, how six million people, including over a million children, perished. That this is something which should not be repeated. And if you understand it and take in what happened, hopefully, that you will do what you can in whatever small way even if it’s just speaking to other people, and telling them about what you’ve seen, and telling them, sharing even just this experience to try and make people see that they should... stop killing each other.

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@ Refugee Voices 2019