Frank Henley’s memories of leaving Germany, recorded in a 1989 interview by Alan Dein for the Central British Fund.
Courtesy World Jewish Relief and British Library Sound Archive
With the government’s permission, aid workers on both sides of the channel worked frantically to find funds and homes for the children in Britain, and to organise the first transports. Desperate parents rushed to get their children on the lists. To be granted a travel document each child had to have a sponsor or guarantor – an individual or organisation willing to cover the costs of their care and re-emigration, to ensure they would not become a burden on the British state.
I don’t know how I came to be among the 200 children included in the first Kindertransport…there now ensued a frantic rush to meet all the official requirements during the remaining few days. Passport photographs were needed for the travel document. Then there was the medical examination….Another task was to pack the one permitted suitcase which, inevitably, led to painful decisions about what to take and what to leave…
Gisela Eisner, ‘Cottage Pie on Tuesdays’, unpublished memoirs. Wiener Library Collections.
24th February 1939. Dear Diary, you already know that I might be going to England and that I am attending a course in English… I’d like to be back in Karlsbad if Hitler wasn’t there. He’s very disagreeable….I’ll be writing more tomorrow. I still don’t know any English. Gerti!
Excerpt from Gerda Stein’s diary. Translated by Gerda Mayer (Stein) in unpublished memoir ‘The emigrants’. Wiener Library Collections. Gerda was one of the many children rescued from Czechoslovakia by the work of Nicholas Winton and Trevor Chadwick, who brought her and 19 other children back to England with him on the last plane to leave Czechoslovakia on 14th March 1939.
The platform, though packed with parents and children, was strangely quiet…It was not long before the train pulled in. As soon as it stopped we were hurried on board giving us scant time to find a corner of a window for a wave and a last look – not realising that for most of us it was indeed to be the last.
Gisella Eisner, ‘Cottage Pie on Tuesdays,’ unpublished memoirs. Wiener Library Collections.
It seems I am going somewhere again. No mention of where. I enjoy the attention. I am got out of bed one night. It is late.At the station hundreds of children. Noise, screaming, everyone crying. Get on to the train. Hugs, kisses. My parents have to leave me. I want my mother. I cry. I scream.
Ilse Majer Williams, unpublished extracts of memoirs, Wiener Library collections. Ilse was only 11 years old when she came to Britain unaccompanied.
On 14th March 1939, my Gerda flew by plane to England. Mr Chadwick who took 20 children along with him is taking Gerti to his family. God bless him and them. You, Gerti, are starting a new life. Good luck!
Gerda’s father, Arnold Stein, in ‘baby’s tagebuch’ a diary he and his wife kept for Gerda. Translated by Gerda Mayer (Stein) in unpublished memoir ‘The emigrants’. Wiener Library Collections.
Most children came to England by train and then Ferry from the Hook of Holland to Harwich, as described by Frank Henley in the interview playing at the top of the page.