Kitchener Camp

I was one of the lucky ones [in Buchenwald]. The fellow who shaved me said ‘3 tips for you: keep your eyes open, your mouth shut & your legs moving. People were whipped. Some committed suicide. We were forced to witness an execution. Not very pleasant. We were inside a large forest in winter. I don’t know what other prisoners did but I looked at nature & forgot about the fence. The snow-covered trees were a sight to behold. In the meantime the German Jewish Refugee Committee in connection with the [UK] government after Kristallnacht instituted a scheme - have you heard of Kitchener Camp? It was for ex-concentration camp inmates only. They allowed us to come on a 9-month permit.

How were we received? Well, they didn’t put the red carpet out [laughs], they didn’t realise Big Dick was coming you see! Well, nice, you know, we were allocated our quarters, told what to do, given little tickets for the dining room & stuff. We were taken to help out possibly to a farm & I did some hop picking. We got paid for that. Apart from that we got 6d to buy our food, that was our pocket money. We had reasonable lives there. Then the war broke out & they came to classify us A, B & C aliens. Anybody A status went straight to the camp. B if you were a bit iffy but you were tolerated. C you were a friendly alien. Then a bit later they came & gave us a transfer into the army. I was definitely C – do I look like an enemy alien? My wife came over & stayed in Sandwich. Then there were other wives so they made room in the camp for wives. My wife stayed in the camp for a while, so although I had to sleep, you know we were, we had to find our marital pleasures elsewhere. Eventually she went to London when I joined the army & was sent abroad.

The ORT school, in principle, was there just to teach the children a trade so that they’re able earn some money when they go to a foreign country. We arrived at 2am. Liverpool Street station was absolutely terrible. It looked .. but quite honestly everything was of no importance; the importance was really being out of Germany. We went to Rowton House which was a ‘Obdachlosen Asyl’, a down & out house sort of thing. We stayed 1 night & had 3 coaches waiting outside the next morning. & all the people from the East End at that time - there must have been God knows how many women there who gave us grapes, cigarettes, chocolate, apples. It was unbelievable. Then we went to the Kitchener camp. There we had really a lovely time, as such. The weather was beautiful; we had something to eat, & I looked after my children, or my pupils. I arranged on a Shabbat & kept them going. It was like a holiday camp. I worked in the carpentry department & enjoyed it thoroughly. On Saturdays we could go out all afternoon, to Sandwich. I expect the boys had girlfriends there. It was very nice. There were about 3000 people there. It was quite a camp. Most of the boys I’m still in contact with. We meet in Brent Cross every Thursday. We meet, my boys.

I stood on the platform all by myself in a London railway station. What now? I thought: I can’t use my £3, I can’t go to a hotel. In that split second a huge policeman came & looked at me: 'Woher kommst du?' He was Jewish! He said 'I'll take you to the shelter.' There was a shelter in the East End. He said: 'I'll put you into a taxi. Du gebst den ganef sixpence, no more.'
At the shelter another yiddlech came & said: 'Lie on the bed if you want, sleep if you want, don’t get undressed. If you get undressed you won't find your things tomorrow morning. They are all ganovim.' So for the first hour I sat on my bed, looking. Then somebody said 'Go to sleep, we will watch you. Nothing will happen.' Nothing did but I had nothing to eat for 30 hours. It was terrible."
The next day Frank went to "the Jewish Agency" (Woburn House): "'Ya, come in, sit down. Do you come from Vienna?' She questioned me. Suddenly next to her was a big trolley & on the trolley was a box stacked with £1 notes, there must have been £10,000. The telephone rings. She gets up & walks away. I said 'Just a minute, oh no,' I said, 'That we don’t do.'
'What’s the matter?'
'I am not being left alone by myself,' I said, 'No way! I won't be left alone with all that money here.'
'As long as you don’t take it, what are you worried about?'
So finally she came back & said 'What is all the shouting about?'
I said 'How can you leave me alone with all the money?'
'Well, why not? Did you take any?'
I said 'No I didn’t.'
“There you are. Here is £1, good luck to you. Now what was it you want?'
I said 'What can I do?'
She said 'I have given you £1, go back to where you have come from & come back tomorrow morning.' So I walked a bit here & there, I had a bit of something to eat & drink & by 8 o’clock the day was gone. The next day she said 'Do you want to go to the Kitchener Camp?'
'I will go anywhere you want.'
'Well there is a transport going to the Kitchener Camp in Sandwich.'
So I went there.