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Herta Kammerling

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
12 January 1939
Interview number:


Dr Bea Lewkowicz

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

Herta Kammerling was born in Baden bei Wien in 1926. Her mother Margarte Plachkes nee Grosz died a few months after Herta’s birth and her father married her aunt Gertrude Plachkes, who Herta considers her mother. They lived in the 3rd district and Herta went to the Volkschule later to the Hauptschule am Loquai Platz. She describes a very happy childhood with her younger brother Otto. Her father had a business as a sausage casing maker (Darmverkaufer). 

After Kristallnacht the SS took all their belongings away and they had to move to a very small flat. Her mother was very heavily pregnant when Herta and her brother were sent on a Kindertransport to the UK. Herta was very worried that her mother would fall down on her way back from the West Bahnhof and nobody would help her. Her brother Eric was born a day after Herta and Otto left. She cannot remember much of the journey, like her husband Walter she says it was all in haze. She was not together with her brother on the trip. They arrived in Liverpool Street where they were met by her mother’s sister who took the children to the guarantors in Liverpool, Mr and Mrs Moorshak, a Jewish couple who did not have children. 

Herta missed her family terribly. She had Scarlet fever and had to go to hospital. When the nurses told her that her mother had come and it was Mrs Moorshak, Herta turned on her as she could not cope with not seeing her mother. Otto had dreams about their parents and wanted to switch on the light, so that the parents knew where they were, but adapted better than Herta. Herta started going to the Jewish school in Liverpool and soon they were evacuated to Chester, where she stayed with a non-Jewish couple. 

Through the help of a brother of her father’s, Herta’s parents had come to the UK in August 1939. But it was impossible for them to be together as a family. Baby Eric was given to a Jewish Home, where they could visit him every Sunday. Herta joined her parents in 1941 and started to work as finisher for a company called Green and Gross. She lived when possible with her parents but also in various hostels. She points out that the family unit was destroyed and that she recalls the short time they could live together in London. Herta decided to train as a nursery teacher and worked first for the Austrian nursery in Swiss Cottage and then for a War Nursery. 

In London Herta joined Young Austria, where she met Walter. This was like a family to her and very important. She married Walter when she was 18 in the registry office in Salisbury, where her parents had settled. Like Walter she wanted to return to Vienna to build up a new Austria. After a few years in Austria, she felt it was important to be near her parents and they moved to Bournemouth where they settled. Her father had continued in the sausage casing business in the UK. Herta talks about the importance of family and is pleased to have five grandsons and one great-grand daughter. At the end of the interview, she (and Walter) discuss their 72 years of marriage (and happiness). 


Full Interview


Parents weren’t allowed to get too close to the train. So I remember my mother in her dark brown coat... with her big tummy [the mother gave birth the day after the older two had left]. Not crying. I think that must have been a big feat. And then once we were in the carriages we didn’t see anybody anymore. You didn’t stand by the window unless you were the last one in, and you could look. My nightmare was that my poor mother would leave the station, and she would fall or trip and the Nazi taxis wouldn’t pick her up- wouldn’t take a Jewish person to hospital. And...I didn’t think further, but I imagined bleeding to death or something, you know? What does a twelve-year-old know? So that was my feeling.

He [her younger brother Otto] switched the lights on all the time while we were supposed to be sleeping, yes? [in Liverpool with the foster parents] It was a big bed, and the children slept in the bed. And he said, “I must switch the light on because Mama and Papa are wandering in the streets, and they don’t know where we are. And they say to themselves, “When the light goes on next, that is where our children will be”.” So he kept on switching and not sleeping, putting the lights on, so Mama and Papa would find us.

What would I call myself? ...Like- like a hybrid, darling, yes? You grew up and that was the home. Yes? And then you had to spread out- become a totally different life. Yes? And then together again another different life, and still together going on. Ja! How do you call it? I call it a hybrid.

I remember the glass on the road, the splinters & shops looted, or people being... hounded. If you hear noises behind you, you didn’t turn around again. We went to a park and I had a ball, and the ball was taken away by somebody else. You had no recourse. You couldn’t say, “So- and-so took my ball!” It was theirs in the end. And you remember a game called Diavolo? Yes? It’s two sticks with a string in the middle and you throw it up in the air and you caught it again. That was taken away. Just by children in the park. You couldn’t complain. We just walked away from it. I assume. We walked away. And I don’t know whether one blocks it out or half blocks it out.

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