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Eve Willman

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
27 April 1939
Kindertransport with friend of the family
Mode of Arrival:

Eve Willman was born Eva Willman on the 2nd June 1933 in Vienna to an assimilated Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. Her father’s family originated from Hungary and her father and his three brothers were all educated. Her father was a GP who met the mother, who was a dancer at the Theater an der Wien, when he treated her. Her name was Wilhemine Krainz and she came from outside Vienna. They lived with Eve in a flat in the 4th  District where her father also had his surgery. Eve has no memories of Vienna or the Kindertransport which she boarded in late April 1939 with an older girl whose parents were friends with her parents. Gerti later told her, that she held on to her the whole trip and even when they were picked up by Eve’s uncle at Liverpool Street station and taken to Hinckley, Leicestershire, to their foster parents.

 

Eve’s first foster parents were Reverend Price-Jones and his wife, but soon she moved on to a family in Cambridge, which she remembers positively. Her uncle – a brother of her father’s – who as a rabbi didn’t find this family could provide the Jewish upbringing Eve needed and so she moved on to Jewish family in Cambridge. The Refugee Committee thought that Eve had to do too much housework and so she moved to another family in Berkhamsted. Finally, the Refugee Committee allowed her uncle to take her in and happy times began. Eve says she couldn’t have had better parents as her aunt and uncle raised her like their own child in a loving and caring environment. Eve doesn’t know why her parents didn’t emigrate- she presumes that they felt fairly safe because her mother wasn’t Jewish. Her father in fact survived hidden by her maternal grandparents in a small place outside Vienna. Her mother was killed in an air raid in 1944. Her father visited her in England in 1946 and brought her teddy bear which she still has. This first meeting after a long time was difficult, especially as Eve had forgotten all her German. She would have followed her father’s plan to come and live with him in Vienna if he hadn’t died of a heart attack in 1948. Eve visited her maternal grandparents in Austria (her paternal grandfather died before the war and her grandmother was murdered in the Holocaust) but the language problem and the cultural and emotional divide was large. Eve defines herself as English-Jewish.

 

She studied biochemistry in Edinburgh and after graduating had different research jobs until she started teaching biology at grammar schools. She eventually became a Research Bio-Chemist at London University. Eve is very close to her cousins with whom she grew up, their children and grandchildren.   

 

 

Key words:  

Vienna. Hinckley. Cambridge. Berkhamsted. West Hartlepool. Biochemistry, Edinburgh. Alfred Willman, Rabbi Nikolsburg/Mikulov,  Kindertransport.

Maybe sort of I have a fleeting memory of running across one of the rooms in the- in the flats but... Nothing really… I mean I've seen photos of- of my parents. And I've seen my father anyway. But you know, I've no sort of living memory at all.

Well I only know from the- the... person I came with. Gerti was her name. She said- she told me that I held her hand all the way, on the journey [with the Kindertransport from Vienna]. And I remember stopping. It must have been at the border. And people came, and they gave a- a sweet drink. And then we carried on. And when we got to Liverpool Street, my uncle- my- an older brother of my father's, he- he was waiting at Liverpool Street for us. And we spent the night in London. ... And then the following morning, my uncle took Gerti and me to Hinckley. ... Well she said I just clung to her the whole time, and that even when they wanted me to give me a bath and put it to bed, you know, I still wanted her to come with me. But then you know we were separated.

You know, I accepted you know, that was... the way it worked [how the Refugee Committee placed children]. You know, I think all the love that I had from the age of eleven, and... You know, I couldn't have had better parents. And I don't know how one feels towards one's real mother and father. But I couldn't have, you know- feel any- any more, I don't think. And you know my- I looked after my aunt, you know, when she- when she was ailing. And you know, we were very - very close.

I get very upset at, you know, any changes. And... you know I hate any separation of any sort- you know, a saying goodbye or packing suitcases and... I... I feel I- I don't really want to get so close to, to people because I, you know, everyone that you get close to you know you- seems to you know, you- has to go, in some way or another.

I always feel happier in, in company you know, that have either been through the Kindertransport or come from- who are refugees. You know, you feel immediately more comfortable, because you don't have to explain anything, or you know, they've been through the same thing as you have. Because sometimes it's quite difficult to explain to people, you know, what you do, and why you do it and... you know... what’s happened.

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@ Refugee Voices 2019