Norbert Barrett (formerly Horst Baumgarten) was born in 1921 in Hockenheim. His mother was born in Munzesheim, Germany and was the youngest of 12 children. She had 4 children to her first marriage to Sammy Fleischacker, who died of a heart attack in the First World War. His father was born in Cologne and he belonged to an acrobatic troop called Oclanis. They toured Europe performing and were in England at the outbreak of the First World War. They were interned in the Isle of Man throughout and returned to Germany after the war. His parents met and married in c1919 and Norbert’s sister was born in 1920.
They lived in Karlsruhestrasse, Hockenheim, where Norbert's mother ran a shop with a deli-counter. They later moved to Schwetzingerstrasse. His father was a commercial traveller in raw materials for bakers and confectioners. When his mother’s shop closed, she sold wines. An uncle later came to live with them and he manufactured cigars in their house. The Jewish community in Hockenheim comprised c.30 families. There was a shul and Shabbos services, although they were sometimes short of a minyan. Norbert went to the Turnverin sports once a week. His father was a motor bike enthusiast and suggested motor bike racing to the Town Hall. Hockenheim later became famous for this. Nortbert’s mother was a committee member of the International Red Cross. Nortbert attended the local elementary school and the Higher School in Schwetzingham. Norbert belonged to the Oderwald Hiking Club and had Hebrew education on Wednesday and Sundays. From school he attended a Jewish engineering college in Mannheim and won first prise. He stayed on after he had passed to help teach.
They were friendly with non-Jews. One of his father’s acrobatic troupe became a leading SA man but was still friendly. Norbert felt they needed to join something to get on, even if they didn’t embrace the ideals. At Kristallnacht his father and brother were taken to Dachau and were later released. Norbert managed to get a trainee permit to England. A half-sister came as a domestic. His full sister and 2 half-sisters perished as did his parents. His half-brother, who married a non-Jew was hidden and survived.
Norbert travelled to Harwich, then London, then Liverpool, where he was put up with a family. He found it so strange that he didn’t stay and moved into a hostel, where there were boys from the Jawne School in Cologne. He worked in a cabinet-making factory run by Reuben Zeffert and his sons and often ate in their home on Shabbos. He earned enough to pay the hostel and to have treats. With Dunkirk they had to move from Liverpool and they came to the Jewish Working Men’s Club in Manchester for 1 week then to Hachsharah on Castleton Fold Farm in Middleton for 4 days. From there he was interned in Wharf Mill, Bury for a few days and then in Huyton under canvas. Then he was put on the HMT Dunera to Australia, a journey of 6 weeks, during which they were not treated well. He was interned in Hay, Australia, where they were treated well. They ran their own affairs. He worked in the kitchen and he learnt to play bridge. At the end of the 1941 he joined the Pioneer Corps and made his way back to England on the Sterling Castle Line. He trained in Illfracombe and joined a Scottish Company near Glasgow. Then he was sent to Donnington as an engineer fitter and worked on field guns. He was accepted to do an artisan course in Croydon and became a staff sergeant. At the end of the war he was sent to Egypt, servicing armaments and hand guns. He kept visiting Palestine from there. He was demobbed at the end of 1946.