My sister-in-law has just got a last minute place in the London Marathon, running on behalf of Amnesty International, a charity very close to my heart and I was a Director when I lived in Australia.
She has even more reason to want to raise money for them – her Grandfather, Great Uncle and Aunt were among the last of the children to come over to the UK on the Kindertransport. It was only after her uncle had died, that they discovered he had contributed a substantial amount of money to Amnesty International and Victims of Torture and so it seems apt that she should in some way do what she can to keep his legacy going.
I met her Great Uncle William before he died and Great Aunt Marianne, who is still alive aged 100 and they are extraordinary people. They left Austria in 1939 thanks to their mother queueing daily for hours and for months on end at the relevant departments and offices. They were sent together with a Kindertransport (Children’s Transport) which was the informal name of a series of rescue efforts which brought thousands of refugee Jewish children to Great Britain from Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1940, organised by the British Quakers. The UK took in nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Free City of Danzig. They were unable to live as a family again and most children were placed in British foster homes, hostels, schools and farms and they had to leave all their property apart from luggage they could carry. No money could be transferred subsequently and their houses were eventually appropriated by the state.
They were separated when they arrived in London. Marianne stayed with a family looking after their children and helping out in a local Steiner nursery, whilst William went to Micheal Hall, a Steiner school and lived in a hostel which he found very difficult. During the school holidays he would often work for the teachers and find jobs as he had nowhere to go.
At some point Marianne moved but forgot to register her change of address, so she was then arrested and sent to Holloway prison. She found this all very exciting and interesting as she loved new experiences! In the prison they mixed with other inmates who had committed pretty terrifying crimes but this didn’t seem to be a problem, Marianne kept herself busy doing jobs such as laundry and ironing.
After several months she was moved to the Isle of Man as there were concerns that she and other fellow Jews might be spies. Marianne said that this was a really fantastic time as they lived off government money so had plenty of food and shelter and could do as they wished, so they would go swimming a lot and do lots of activities.
After being allowed to return to London, she worked as a waitress in a Lions Corner House, later she went to work in a Camphill community looking after children with special needs. When William was unable to study to be a doctor due to having no money and hostile conditions he returned to the UK and joined the Royal Air Force and after that became a social worker focusing on dysfunctional adolescents, he was very modest in his work but praised highly for the work he did.
William led a very simple frugal life, which was why it was such a surprise that he donated such a substantial amount to Amnesty International and to Victims of Torture.
Neither William or Marianne married or had children.
Please do help her raise money for this fantastic cause – she has a JustGiving page with all her details on.