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EAST HADDON HISTORY SOCIETY Northamptonshire, England

Axel Landmann - the story of a case

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The case was bought in December 1938 and for a  specific purpose. It had to be of small size, and filled to such an extent that a young boy of nine years could carry it without assistance from adults. It was intended for my use as I travelled from Finow, a small village to the North of Berlin, to England (actual destination unknown).

We travelled by the Kindertransport, which had been designed to take children of Jewish extraction from possible persecution to a place of safety. The regulations were such that parents were not allowed to accompany their children. My father was a Jew and my mother a Christian, which meant that the early restrictions on Jewish families did not apply to us, and I went to the local school with the other children in the village.

However, on Kristallnacht, the shop was ransacked for the ostensible reason that arms might have been hidden. Not only were all the clothes put in a large heap on the floor but my father had to sell the house and shop at a fixed price to a non-Jew. This was the sign that more problem were ahead and my parents looked out for a place of safety for me.

The Kindertransport offer came, the case was purchased, and in early January my mother and I travelled for an overnight stay in Berlin and an early start by train to Rotterdam. At that age, the magnitude of what was happening was not obvious to me, and it seemed like an adventure. I had been told to behave myself and was put in charge of an English Quaker lady, who acted as my escort. There was little said and the train stopped just before the border, where border police examined papers and the contents of the case. Nothing untoward was found and the train resumed its journey into Holland. All that was in my case was a change of clothing and two school textbooks with my school reports. There were four international reply coupons and the princely sum of two shillings, which was the only money allowed out.

Next morning we arrived at Harwich and went by bus to Warner's Holiday Camp at Dovercourt. It was wintertime with no ordinary holidaymakers - only other children waiting to be collected. The weather was wet and windy and sounds were magnified in the wooden chalets, which were our temporary homes. I stayed there a week before it was my turn to be collected and so moved to Northampton. My Guardian spoke perfect German and there was no incentive to learn English. One day he told me, "In future, you and I will speak only English." In three months, I spoke English!

Meanwhile my case was my constant companion. It went with me on my first holiday in Ireland in the summer of 1939, and during the war when holidays were restricted it went with me to a school camp at Castle Ashby. When I went to work in Eccles, it contained all I needed in my Salford digs, and it was the only luggage on my honeymoon. When my work involved trips abroad the case remained the luggage of choice. Despite a broken handle, mended with string, and a broken spring in one of the clasps, it is still serviceable after seventy years of use, and the present replacement is no better. It has now been donated to a museum, but will always be remembered as the story of my life.

Axel Landmann


Editor’s note: Click here to see the sculpture depicting a group of Kindertransport children ready for travel.

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