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