Jackie Young was born Jona Spiegel in Vienna on 18 December 1941. At the age of nine months, he was deported from a Jewish orphanage to Theresienstadt. After the liberation of Theresienstadt in May 1945, Jackie was brought with other young children (around ages 3 – 4) to Bulldogs Bank in Sussex. Jackie spent about a year at the house, which had been made available by Rebekah Clarke. Later on, he and other young children were accommodated at Weir Courtney, the home of Sir Benjamin and Lady Drage, in Lingfield, Surrey. The children were looked after by (among others) Alice Goldberger and Sophie and Gertrude Dann, whom Jackie later met and who showed him photos of himself as a little boy. In the subsequent years, Jackie reconnected with other Holocaust survivors who also stayed at Weir Courtney as children.
It was at Weir Courtney that Jackie’s adoptive parents met him. They were descendants from Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants. When Jackie was around 15 years old, his adoptive parents changed their name to Young. Jackie has no memories of the earliest parts of his childhood. He only found out the detail he recounts in his moving interview at the time he was about to marry his wife, Lita, in 1963. His adoptive parents had always been uncomfortable and reluctant to discuss his childhood out of fear of losing his affection and love, or even of losing him entirely. Jackie only learned that he was adopted when a schoolboy confronted him about it.
Prior to his marriage to Lita, Jackie was required to provide documents proving that he was Jewish. He learned about his birthplace, about his time in Theresienstadt, and about his biological mother—who had been murdered at the extermination camp Maly Trostenec. Jackie reveals that he had always felt unsettled by his unknown past, which to him was an incomplete picture he wanted to piece together. For example, Jackie felt drawn to places in London where Czech, Austrian and German refugees congregated. At first, his young family with Lita took all his time and energy, but his longing to find out more never abated. Finally, Jackie visited Vienna, Theresienstadt, Maly Trostenec, Prague and Yad Vashem to find clues about himself and his background. Although he has attended meetings worldwide with Holocaust survivors, the information Jackie was able to gather sadly remained limited. He managed to locate the grave of his grandmother in Vienna, and he learned that his grandfather, an uncle, and an aunt had also been murdered in concentration camps. Jackie has never learned his father’s name, which was not written on his birth certificate.
Despite carrying this lifelong burden of unanswered questions, Jackie is a man who has lived life to the fullest. He greatly enjoyed his work as a London black cab driver for 46 years. Most importantly, however, Jackie married the love of his life Lita and had two daughters, who have been very supportive of him in his search for answers. Jackie has shared his story with his grandchildren, who have also visited Vienna with him. Although Jackie believes that he has to accept the unanswered questions of his past, he acknowledges that the burden he has carried for his entire life would have been greatly lessened, had his adoptive parents been more understanding and supportive. But he bears them no grudge. Jackie is grateful for everything they sacrificed for him, and remembers them most lovingly.
Today, despite that Jackie observes with disbelief the pain that humans still inflict on one another—even on children—his message is always to reject hate, and to learn and remember the lessons of the past.
Keywords: Vienna. Terezin. Theresiensstadt Ghetto. Bulldocks Bank. Adoption. Cab Driver. Maly Trostenec. Child survivor.