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Freddy Kosten

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
16 March 1939
Mode of Arrival:

Freddy Kosten was born Manfred Kösten in November 1928 in Vienna. His mother came from a large family in Krakow – Freddy recalls visiting the maternal family regularly but not often. Freddy grew up near the Augarten in Vienna in the 20th district and has happy memories of playing there and also skating in the winter time. He does not remember many incidents of Nazi discrimination but thinks this is due to his young and naïve nature and also being protected by his parents.  Freddy’s father who came from Ukraine served in World War I and was a war photographer. Later he worked in the medical instrument supply business and also made use of his knowledge and talent for languages.   Freddy and his older sister Claire came on a Kindertransport to London and his parents followed shortly after. They were taken in by Benn Levy – a famous playwright- and his wife, the actress Constance Cummings. They lived in 66 Old Church Street, Chelsea which is a famous building by Walter Gropius. The couple helped the family financially to settle in and paid for Freddy’s schooling. His father was interned on the Isle of Man (Camp Douglas) but managed to find work in his profession (medical instrument industry) later. In the camp he had made the acquaintance of Ferdinand Rauter, an Austrian pianist and accompanist (to the singer Engel Lund), who founded the Austrians Musician group and the Refugee Musicians Community. Ferdinand Rauter later married Freddy’s sister Claire. Freddy’s parents joined a synagogue in Kensington where he also celebrated his Bar Mitzvah, but he has not identified with any religion since. After boarding school in Eastbourne he attended Magdalen College and Imperial College (1945-49) where he studied mining geology. On graduating he went as a civil servant to the Gold Coast [a British colony on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa from 1867 to its independence as the nation of Ghana in 1957] and remembers many fascinating adventures there and with Balfour Beattie in East Africa and later in Nigeria. He remembers seeing Kwame Nkurmah [first Prime Minster of Ghana] and Jomo Kenyatta [first Prime Minister of Kenya]in person at public events.  He married Helen – a colleague of his sister and also a teacher - in 1962 she returned with him to Africa. She had a passion for making movies, some of which can be seen at the British Commonwealth and Empire Museum in Bristol. They have two children, who were born in London. Returning to London he left the civil service and joined the National Environment Research council (NERC) and later became Data Protection officer at Greater London Council until his retirement. He identifies as European- British. Freddy is grateful that the tragedies in his life turned into opportunities coming to Great Britain. 

Yes, I remember the- I had the visual memory of a newspaper the day after the Anschluss... which came out with a monster headline “Umschwung!” or something. It was not a Nazi sympathising newspaper, and I think they disappeared from view very rapidly. I remember people marching in the streets. I remember Jewish women being made to scrub pavements which was a- One could see from our window. I don’t honestly think... I was bright enough to be affected deeply by it all. I just sort of accepted this is what was happening and... eventually got on a train and got out of it

But we had to move schools; that was quite clear. The first week after the Anschluss, when I went back to school... I immediately assumed my role as prefect next to the teacher. Ignoring signs and whispers from Jewish children in the front row, “Come down. Come down.” I was that stupid. And I waited until the teacher actually said, “Well, I think you can’t be prefect any more. Why don’t you sit there...” or something. So in retrospect, I was astonishingly either innocent or stupid or both – about the whole... Nazi business.


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@ Refugee Voices 2020