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Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Simon Weinstein was born in Radzivilov, Poland (now Ukraine), in 1938, into a middle class orthodox Jewish family. He was held in the ghetto in Radzivilov after the German invasion of USSR and witnessed atrocities, but escaped with his family and survived in hiding. He came to Britain in 1948 via Displaced Persons camps in Bytom (Poland) and Hofgeismar, near Kassel. His family settled near his uncle in Nottingham. His mother died and his father left for Israel, but Simon integrated into British society through National Service and he became a mathematics teacher. Keen to help Beth Shalom Centre in Nottinghamshire.
There are still little Hitlers about and there are still situations where people have to leave their country, otherwise they die. So they become refugees. Give them an opportunity to live. And if it means making room for them in this country or another country, so be it. There is room.
They were horse-thieves. But they had enough humanity not want us killed; in so much as they gave us sanctuary. There was a river. [My father] went in first to check the depth of the river. It came up to his neck. He went back for us & carried each of us across the river until we got to the other side, he knew someone who lived in a house. He thought ‘We’ll get immediate hiding in this house’. But the person was reluctant But the person was reluctant to take us on but he gave us good advice, where to go, what to do, etc, etc.. And for the next two years we hid in different places. We had to move because the Nazis and the Ukrainian militia were always on the lookout for Jews. That was the first important thing, apparently, you know, winning the war wasn’t as half important as finding and killing Jews.
We were out playing in the hay fields and we were playing hide and seek and I was hiding and suddenly I heard some voices. It was some Ukrainians that were coming and it was Ukrainian militia, with uniforms. And they came to me and they said, ‘What are you doing here?’ And I said, ‘I’m playing hide and seek, and I’m waiting for my friends to get me.’ And they accepted that and went away. And the miracle of that story is, which I realised afterwards, was that I was able to speak to them at all, because my native tongue was Polish, and Yiddish, but certainly not Ukrainian. What my father had done, he’d prepared us for such an event by teaching us Ukrainian. And just enough Ukrainian for me to be able to get by telling them that I’m not a Jew, I’m really a Polack, and I’m playing with my friends. Otherwise, not only would I have been killed, but the whole family that were hiding us, and my family would have been killed too.
Hitler & Nazi Germany condemned Jews just simply for being Jews. Not for what they’d done or said. They weeded them out deliberately with a lot of hard work & calculation, even if they were hiding under assumed names, even if they were partly Jewish, even if their grandparents were Jewish. They just wanted to get rid of a certain trait. He felt that that was the way forward. What a terrible idea. The fact is that he was able to manifest his idea. And we gave him permission to do so—the German people gave him permission. The average German. He was manipulative & gained power. But there should have been enough pressure to get rid of him. If enough people were prepared to do something about it, but they weren’t. They were prepared either to go along with it because it suited their cause or they were given bribes of position etc, or because they were frightened, or finally, this is the most important thing of all, because they were apathetic. The sort of people who turn a blind eye when people are being kicked & beaten up in the street & don’t even tell the police. There were lots of those & those are the ones that need to feel ashamed & that they did wrong. They could have got rid of Hitler before he did as much as he did.