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Natan Zohar

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
July 1939
Interview number:


Dr Bea Lewkowicz

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

Natan Zohar was born in February 1931 in Vienna as Otto Sonnenschein. He remembers a happy childhood in Vienna’s third district with outings in the Prater and looking up to his brother Jakob “Jackie” who was nine years older.

During the November Pogrom (Kristallnacht) his father was taken to Dachau but his mother bribed someone at the Gestapo Headquarters and he was released. At this point they realised that the family had to get out of Austria. His father sent a photo of Natan to a business contact in London in order to find a foster home for him. The Tober family in Bow, London, who already had five children decided to take him in. Natan arrived on 6 July 1939 in London on a Kindertransport. He remembers saying goodbye to distraught parents at Vienna’s main station and despite his young age having to look after an even younger boy during the voyage. His father gave him pre-paid postcards to post on his voyage and Natan shows one of these during the interview which was mailed from Frankfurt.

His foster family was very welcoming and Natan settled in quickly. At the beginning of the Blitz, Natan was evacuated to Burlescombe in Sommerset and taken in by the Hookway family. Again, he found a welcoming and nurturing family whose only son treated him like a younger brother. In the meantime, his own brother Jackie illegally immigrated to Mandate Palestine with his Betar group from Vienna and joined the Jewish Brigade. His parents were not able to enter Palestine. Having arrived from Vienna on a ship in Haifa, at arrival they were interned by the British in Atlit and then deported to Mauritius and detained until the end of the war.

When Natan was getting closer to Bar Mitzvah age, it was decided that he should rejoin his Jewish foster family in Manchester where they had evacuated to after their house in Bow was destroyed in the Blitz. In 1945 he returned with the Tober family to London and remembers celebrating VE day. When he learnt what had happened to his parents, the Jewish Agency organised his immigration to Palestine in 1946 to rejoin them. As he was too young to join the IDF, he started working with HEMED, the Haganh Science Corps. Later, he fought in the War of Independence and changed his name from Otto Sonnenschein to Natan Zohar.

He met his wife Ruth who was born in Kovno, Lithuania, they got married in 1957 and came to London for Ruth to finish her studies at St. Martin’s School of Art. Natan started working for an engineering firm as a sales technical engineer. He is looking back on a long life with gratitude to all the wonderful people who crossed his paths, in particular Ruth.

Key words: Sonnenschein. Vienna. Betar. Maccabi. Kindertransport. Tober. Synagoge Seitenstettengasse. Anschluss. Habonim. Hashomer Hatzair. Illegal immigration to Palestine. British Internment in Mauritius. Haganah. Palmach. War of Independence. Safed. Tzfat. Palestine. Youth Alyiah. Alyat HaNoar. HEMED. Mauritius. Hookway. Burlescombe Somerset.


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