Walter Kammerling

Walter Kammerling was born in 1923 in Vienna. He grew up in the 2nd Bezirk with his parents and two older sisters. His father had owned a chocolate factory (Alba) but the factory went bankrupt. After that the father became a travelling salesman. Walter went to the Sperlgymnasium which became a Jewish school soon after the Anschluss. He describes the Anschluss and Kristallnacht. He was told that he was going to the UK on a Kindertransport and he left in the first Kindertransport from Vienna to the UK. He cannot remember much of the journey. He can remember saying good-buy to his father who was in hospital at the time. He describes the journey as a haze. In the UK he was sent to Dovercourt. One of his sisters came to the UK on a domestic service, the other was too old for the Kindertransport and too young for a domestic permit.


From Dovercourt, a women came to take three boys to the Jewish community of Belfast, who sent them to a farm in Northern Ireland Gormans Farm, Ballyrolly, Millisle, Donachadee, County Down. The farm hosted refugees and Bachad Chaluzim (religious Zionists). Walter stayed there until 1942 when he decided to do war work, when he moved to Sutton and worked as a metal machinist. He then moved to London and first lived in Finchley and then in the War Workers Hostel (15 Elsworthy Terrace, Swiss Cottage).

 

He got very involved with Young Austria (in Paddington), attending many outings and Heimabende. It is at Young Austria where he met his future wife Herta. In 1943, Walter joined the British Army and was called up in 1944. He joined the Suffolk Regiment and was sent to Holland. When he was on leave, he got married to Herta in 1944. The army repatriated the young couple to Austria, where they wanted to help to build a new Austria. They both joined the Communists. Walter returned to a very different Vienna and found that his parents and sister were sent to Terezienstadt and deported and killed in Auschwitz. He sat his matric exam and studied to be an engineer, as a Werkstudent in the Technischen Hoshschule Wien.

 

In 1957 Walter and Herta decided to go back to the UK, where Herta’s parents had settled and they moved with their young sons to Bournemouth, where he continued to work as an engeneer.  Walter was very involved with the Reform Synagogue in Bournemouth and is now active in the Liberal Synagogue. He also goes to schools to tell his story. Walter has been married to Herta for 72 years and stresses how lucky he was to have met her in Young Austria. He also considers himself lucky that he could work in a profession which he loved. He regrets not having had a grown-up relationship with his parents and that he could not appreciate them as an adult.

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@ Refugee Voices 2019