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Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
8 April 1939
Harry Gilbert was born in Stargard, Pomerania in May 1924. He spent his childhood in Magdeburg then Berlin. His father had a feed business, and later became a rep for other firms. He went to synagogue only on important occasions. When his parents’ marriage failed, Harry and his elder brother lived with their mother. he left school aged 14 and worked as a delivery boy. Harry and his mother left for Manchester on her Domestic permit in April 1939 (his brother went to Israel 1936; father was sent to Theresienstadt where last news was Oct 1942). Harry worked in a hotel kitchen in Manchester until he was sent to Huyton as enemy alien circa June 1940 and then on the HMT Dunera to Australia. He spent 18 months in Hay then Tatura camps. Returned to UK where did war-work, in an aircraft factory mostly, until 1944 when he was able to join up (Suffolk regiment then Royal Scots). He fought in Belgium and took part in the Rhine crossing and Reichswald battle, then he was in the front line overland as far as Celle. He visited Berlin to see if he could find any family members without success. He stayed in Germany with the army until 1948 doing interviewing as part of War Crimes Investigation Unit. Upon return to UK he held several jobs but was always taking evening classes at night and became a qualified accountant in 1957.
[after Kristallnacht, Berlin] I came to the place of work, which was a scene of utter destruction. The glass was shattered; the books from the displays strewn on the pavement and inside didn’t look any better. The place had been looted and practically destroyed. So my last task was to clean up all the mess outside and inside and it was also the end of my job as a delivery boy.
The day came when we left Berlin from Bahnhof Zoo on the way to Holland and the ferry across to England. When we approached the border, the train was cleared… there were border police there. First the train was searched, then we were searched. It seemed an eternity until we were allowed back on the train, the train moved on and across the border. There were the first signs in Dutch. Everybody cheered; there were tears, and it was great.
If we can give young people, and people in general, something of our experience, to let them know what it means to have lived through that period and what lessons one can take from that: It started with pin pricks, with burning books, it started with boycotts, it became a matter of denunciation, a matter of persecution, and it ended up with people being killed.