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With Foster Family

My uncle made me 2 suits: 1 with long trousers, 1 with plus-fours. Made with Scottish wool. I took those with me [on his Kindertransport], all I had to wear. It was not many days till I found out that not a single boy, not a single man, had plus-fours.

The first breakfast [at his foster family's Bournemouth home], I remember distinctly. Grandmother, father, mother & another boy. That boy said 'Hello!' I didn’t know what to say. I only knew one greeting. So when he said 'Hello!', I said 'Good-bye!' In front of me was a dish, which I didn’t know what it was, a jam of some sort. So I took that dish & started eating it. The person next to me said 'That’s not only for you, that’s for everybody.' By then I already got through half of it. It was marmalade. You can imagine. The grandmother was quite a funny woman. The one thing I remember was she said 'It is lovely to look into a glass of water'. I remember that distinctly. She said nothing else. And I thought 'Is there anything wrong with that woman, or is she teaching me something or what?' The lady went out one evening & when she came back, she took off her fur coat & left it on the floor. This was the way things are, I thought. 'It’s all right. The floor is clean' she says. But I couldn’t understand why she should do that. I learnt a lot about English habits."

I was a little distressed [in the Jewish old person's home in Walton-on-the-Naze where he was housed after the Kindertransport]. The great aim was to get a family to take you into their home. Nobody ever showed any interest in me. I was most upset. I thought ‘Why don’t they’? From there we were shipped to another refugee camp: Clayton House, near Ipswich. My father placed an advert in the British pharmaceutical press before they went to Shanghai, March of 1939, asking if anybody would want me. A pharmacist in Glasgow volunteered, a Christian family. I stayed with that family. But, at that time, school-leaving age was 14. The thought of me going to school after 14 or even going to university never entered their head. As far as they were concerned, I was 14, I didn’t need to go to school, I needed to find somewhere to work. I was a fairly badly behaved child, not very good.They were Christians anyway, so in the end, after about 2 or 3 months, they went to the Jewish community in Glasgow & said ‘For God’s sake, take this bastard away!’ You know, to put it bluntly, I think. I was 14 & a bit stroppy.

Luckily for me—this is how I never plan anything, it always works out alright—luckily for me there was a family in Kirkcudbright called Sassoon. David Sassoon, an artist. They had a seaside hut on Carrick Shore. They were offering holidays to refugee children in this hut. The Jewish community put me there. It was absolutely idyllic, one of the happiest holidays I can remember. Other refugee boys were there. I’m still in touch with them. I got back to Glasgow & the Jewish community was running a hostel for refugees in Hill Street. I was put there. But war started on September 3rd. A group of us were sent to a farm in Perthshire. Then we were taken off that farm & put onto a smallholding. Lovely place, a Mrs Campbell, a village called Glencarse. In the summer holidays I worked on a pig farm, taught me a lot about pigs. Then the Jewish community in Glasgow opened a Jewish evacuation hostel for Jewish children in Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire, & I was shipped there. Went to Castle Douglas High School for my 3rd year at school & then Kirkcudbright Academy for my 4th & 5th. I didn’t have parents who'd gone to war. I was being looked after, we had plenty to eat, we had no problems. Money wasn’t a problem, everything was done for us. It was alright, fine.

I think my life in particular—I’m not sure about all our lives—seems to have been punctuated by tragedies that turned into… good luck in a variety of ways.

I don’t remember much of the [Kindertransport] journey. I have this feeling I had a lack of feeling.I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t particularly pleased. Apparently I said to my sister 'I bet the people who receive us have a car.' They had a Rolls Bentley. I was very pleased with that. They lived in a house. The house is listed & quite famous. An architect called Walter Gropius came to England at that time & this was the only house that he designed for private residence–ever. A Gropius & Fry design: 66 Old Church Street. I slept there through the Blitz. There’s one vivid memory of the Blitz. I slept next to a curved bit of glass which was a house feature. I’d got up. There was a lot of noise. Looked out through another window at searchlights & then went to visit the lavatory, at which time a landmine exploded not very far away. It blew in that window, that curved window. I came back & there it was on my pillow. That was my only near-miss of the Blitz. We had a shelter in the bottom of the house which nobody ever used.

My first day in Manchester? Do you really want me to tell you? They were very nice people but the first day we were having tea & I cut up the lettuce. I was told you don't eat lettuce cut up. It was London lettuce, you eat it with your hands. So I got tears in my eyes. That was my first day. I don’t want to… I should imagine it isn't easy taking on another child when you've got 3 but they saved my life. They were very good people, but maybe it was home-sickness? I don't know. What was strange was the fires—the black grate. In Germany we didn't have that. It was very strange. I was nearly 14. All of a sudden you were away from your parents. It was very difficult. I was very fortunate. It was a nice home. A kosher home. She was a wonderful cook. They thought they had a cheap help as well, you know. But they were good people. Maybe in those days—I wasn't 14 yet, 3 months before I was 14—maybe in those days people got girls to help them in the house at that age, you know. But it didn't matter. But I never went to school.

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.

It was a horror. I mean, you can imagine. All of a sudden I'm with an elderly couple who don't know a single word of German. I don't know a single word of English. I'm six years old and I don't know what's happening to me. And… they- I think they thought they would have to return me somewhere, because I just could not stop crying. And eventually they put me to bed and… …I eventually went to sleep. I distinctly remember the next morning… By then I’d obviously stopped crying. And I don’t know whether there was some sort of innate… response in me to all this that was happening, and I realised that there was nothing I could do about anything. And crying wasn't going to get me anywhere. And… I think this is a philosophy I've now had for the rest of my life, that bad things happen and getting oneself into an absolute tizz… doesn’t make it any better. It just makes it worse.

Caerau. It's a little mining village in Glamorgan. Very small, very friendly. We were all put in a local hall. They gave us orange juice and then people chose. “I'll have that child”, “I'll have that child”. And the family that took me, tell me- I was the last one chosen, because they thought I was mentally deficient. Because I didn't speak English. And I was really lucky. I mean, really lovely family.

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