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Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
10 October 1945
Betty Bloom was born in 1930 as the middle daughter to parents Joseph Schütz (born in Dukla, Poland) and Baila Neuwierth (born in Korczyna, Poland). They came to Berlin and got married there in 1924 and moved to the working-class district of Wedding. They were an orthodox family. Her father worked hard in his shop selling cobblers' tools and materials. She remembers her first day in school and her mother’s delicious cooking.
These happy days came to an abrupt end when her father was arrested by Gestapo officers and sent to Poland because he wasn’t a German citizen. Betty knows that he stayed at first with his mother in Nowy Sacz but details about the time until his death in Bergen-Belsen in January 1945 are unknown. In the meantime, the situation in Berlin for Betty, her sisters and her mother deteriorated but her older sister, Ruth (born 1925) was quite alert to the situation and decided to take matters into their own hands. She urged the mother to get train tickets for herself and Betty to join a Kindertransport to Belgium without actually being on the list. Her plan worked out and they managed to enter into Belgium without visa and even accommodation for two weeks was quickly organised. Subsequently the girls came to a girls’ hostel.
Betty's mother had managed to obtain a domestic visa for England and on her way met the older girls with the youngest girls, Bronia (born 1935). People convinced her that she had to leave Bronia in Belgium or would be sent back at the UK border because she didn’t have a visa for the little girl. With a heavy heart she left the four-year old behind who couldn’t even stay with her older sisters but was sent to several orphanages. However, when the Germans invaded Belgium the older sisters were evacuated to the Southwest of France, Chateau de La Hille, near Eus. As all of this happened very quickly, they weren’t able to take Bronia along but a Belgian couple hid her through the war years and loved her like their own child.
Betty describes their arrival in Seyre in the Southwest of France as chaotic and circumstances very basic. Food was scarce and in winter it was very cold. After they settled in the Chateau and French organisations provided financial help, things improved. Books and lessons were organised (she learnt French shorthand by a Swiss teacher, Eugen Lyrer), the youngsters were quite self-sufficient, entertained themselves with music (Betty’s lifelong passion for music stems from concerts given by some of the teenage boys), some of the older ones worked on farms. She felt safe – until in September 1942 French police brought the teenagers over 15 years old to camp Le Vernet. A Swiss lady from the Red Cross, Rösli Naef, managed with the help of the man in charge of Swiss Red Cross, Monsieur Dubois, to have the teenagers released. Her sister Ruth managed to find a family who crossed illegally into Switzerland to take Betty along. Ruth’s heroic adventures are captured in her life memories. She fulfilled her dream of a life in Israel. She married a refugee from Berlin, became a kibbutz nurse and raised four children.
Betty first came to camp Charmilles in Geneva and from there to a family in Schaffhausen, where she also attended a school for home economics although she would have loved to become a nursery teacher. From there she moved on to Bern to care for a distant relative and was able to meet up with other young people from Chateau de La Hille and enjoy life. After the war she had to decide if she wanted to join her sister in Palestine or her mother in London. She decided to do the latter in order to take of her after all the years of hardship and loneliness her mother had endured. The reunion after eight years in London in October 1945 she “has blanked out”. Her younger sister, Bronia, came to London in 1946. Traumatised by the separation from her foster parents she had difficulties to get used to her mother’s and sister’s company. Betty attended secretarial classes at Pittman’s College in Finsbury Park. She met her husband Alan and they considered moving to Israel. In the end a feeling of responsibility for her mother made them stay in England. He had different businesses and Betty worked with him.
In 1990 Alan decided to change careers and Betty became a real estate agent to sell properties in the South of France to English clients. They had travelled to the French Riviera for many decades where she had cousins and because she was fluent in French this proved to be a good business model. Betty was very successful and only stopped working in 2018. She strongly identifies as Jewish- British and her message to us is: “talk about your experiences, people are interested. The more people hear about the Holocaust the more will remember and keep our memory alive and hopefully it will never happen again’.
Schütz. Neuwierth. Berlin, Wedding. Dukla, Poland. Korczyna, Poland. Nowy Sacz, Poland. Bergen-Belsen. Kindertransport Belgium. Henri and Gabrielle Ball. Elka and Alex Frank. Seyre. Chateau de La Hille. OSE. Ruth Schütz. Ruth Uzrad. Chemin de la liberté. Camp de Vernet. Rösli Naef. Eugen Lyrer. Switzerland. Camp Charmilles, Geneva. Schaffhausen. Bern. London. Pittman’s College. Shnat Sherut Scheme. Play „Die Kinder von La Hille“. Zimetbaum (paternal grandmother Nowy Sacz)
She [sister Ruth] overheard a group of girls talking about going on the Kindertransport to Belgium. With a date when they will be leaving and the stations they were leaving from. She went home and said, "Mutti" that's what we called my mother, "there's only one solution for us. You buy us a ticket- to Betty and myself a ticket for England so that we can say we are joining our uncle and aunt who were by then were in England and we will join this Kindertransport and we will follow them to Belgium." And my mother agreed to it.
Summer wasn't too bad, but the winter was awful because all we had was straw and one blanket each. And I always suffered from the cold. I've never suffered hunger. I only suffered cold. Ruth was always warm. She was hungry but she had terrible boils on her legs from nutrition, you know... I was, I had lice so I just shaved my hair off and there's a photo with my hair shaven, which to me was the second most traumatic thing because my hair was, I liked my hair.
The guide took us to his home & said, "We can't cross tonight because they caught some people crossing the border. So, we'll have to wait for another day.' The next day very early in the morning he took us [Betty + 2 others] to the border, across two barbed-wire fences. The border was in Annemasse, on the border with Switzerland. And he said, 'There's a third one you have to cross.'
We went straight across & we heard some German. It was the French-Swiss border, so we knew that's no good. So we quickly came back & decided to take the left or the other way round. Anyway, we got this, we managed to get over the third barbed wire. We were in Switzerland where we immediately got a welcome from the Swiss border guards. They said, 'You're very, very lucky because you almost ran into-' They saw it all. 'You almost ran into the arms of the Germans.'
My older sister Ruth was very advanced for her age (13). She went to the Berlin Kindertransport offices to ask if we could be accepted after father was deported. They said 'No, we must look after our German Jewish children first' [the Blooms were Polish]. So she tried to get on Youth Aliyah [to go to Palestine]. They said 'You're too young. Come back next year. We don't take them at 13'.
She came back & said to my mother that while she was at the Kindertransport, she overheard a group of girls talking about going on the Kindertransport to Belgium. With a date when they will be leaving & the stations they were leaving from. She said, 'Mutti, there's only one solution for us. You buy Betty & myself a ticket for England so that we can say we're joining our uncle & aunt & we will join this Kindertransport & we will follow them to Belgium." My mother agreed to it. I'm 100% sure if my father had been alive, he would have said no, no way. But she was so courageous that on the 22nd of February 1939 she put us on a train leaving for Belgium not having any foster family to receive us just into the unknown. She bought me a beautiful shoulder bag. She put us on the train. The train started going & she managed to follow it I don't know how to the next station. I don't know. Anyway, we said goodbye & that was it.