Kurt STERN 
Tourist Guide, Israel 
   
   


This is a toilette box of my mother that has accompanied me for the last 60 years where I've gone. This is a piece of soap, still has a perfume. This is a golden watch that my father had which will be given to my son.  

I'm very grateful that I was saved. It was through the strengths of my mother's courage to send me abroad. Because all my family who stayed behind didn't make it. And I succeeded in making life for myself. In 1948 I came to Israel to help to fight in the war of independence and I met my wife here. I settled there. I was a pastry chief for many years and was working in hotels. It is now 24 years that I am earning my living as a tourist guide.
Sense of life? It is a difficult question. 
I think it is to build a family, to make a decent living, not to step on other people. 

Hugo Marom 
Pilot, architect of airports, Israel


 
 
   

In 1940 during the Battle of Britain we were in Bedford and one morning I was in the street and all of a sudden there was an air-raid warning and I saw Heinkel – a German airplane. I could by that time recognize the airplanes. And it was flying overhead and I saw the bombs coming out of the Heinkel. A few seconds later a Hurricane, a British airplane came up behind it and I saw it firing at the Heinkel. That evening I sat down and wrote a letter to my parents, saying that I've decided to be either a pilot or an aeronautical engineer. My parents never read this letter, because they were Nazi concentration camp.

In November 1948 three of us who were considered to be good enough, were asked to fly 3 Spitfires, which Israeli government bought from the Czechoslovak government at the time. The money wasn't major issue. There were very few countries if at all any, except for Czechoslovakia which was willing to sell arms to Israel.

What is happiness? 

Happiness is a relationship between people, first of all. And personal satisfaction from that relationship. Of course there are interruptions in the happiness, when one thinks about the past, and when one is sad, but that's all part of life, I suppose. 

Vera Gissing 
Writer, Great Britain 

 
 
 


I lived in a little town outside Prague in Czechoslovakia. I had a very happy childhood. I had an older sister called Iva, who was bossy and elegant and very clever, all the things I was not. And wonderful parents. There just was no cloud on my horizon.


 
 


After the occupation of Czech lands in 1939 things, of course, grew steadily worse. When my mother announced at supper one evening that we were due to leave to England at the end of June, my father looked so shocked, his face turned ashen and there was such silence, he covered it with his hands and then he looked up and there were tears in his eyes. He said all right, let them go. Before I left, on that last night, my parents gave me two wonderful gifts: One was a book of empty pages, beautiful leather bound book, and father said to me: “I want you to use it as a diary. I want you to return to us with a diary full of what you did, what you thought when you were lonely, when you were homesick, so that we could sit around the table and read it together.” And mother, she took me to an open window on that last night and the sky was full of stars. And she said: “Let the stars of the night and the sun of the day be the messengers of our thoughts and our love. And in that way we'll always be close.” Those gifts proved invaluable once war started and all correspondence stopped. Because through the sun and the stars and through my diary, I kept close to my parents and I never felt abandoned.  

My foster mother was about 30 years old when I arrived and she was a little lady with a wonderful smile. But I was told, she had a bad heart. And because I was a terrible tomboy and rather noisy and untidy and everything that goes with being a tomboy, I kept being told: “Pssssssh, you must be quiet!” That was every afternoon. “You know mummy Rainford has got a bad heart, she's resting!” Well, my little mummy Rainford, she had rested in those days. In spite of her bad heart, she is still alive today, and has just celebrated her 103rd birthday. 

 
 


Her husband, when I asked him years later, why he chose me to be a member of his family, he said: “Well, I knew I couldn't save the world, I knew I couldn't stop war from starting, but I knew I could save one human life. And as Chamberlain broke his pledge to Czechoslovakia and as Jews were in the greatest danger, I decided it must be a Czech Jewish child.” 

In my career I translated and edited and re-wrote about 38 books in all and I wrote several books for children myself and then my autobiography Pearls of childhood which has been published many times.

   
 


You've got to think, O. K., we lost our parents, but they made a tremendous sacrifice by sending us away. We cannot let that sacrifice be in vain. We‘ve got to contribute something to the world and live in a way they would be proud of. 

Joe Schlesinger 
CBC reporter, CANADA 


 
 
   

Well, my parents did preparations for this trip to England. They sent us to an English teacher, a young lady who taught English. And the only thing that I remember that we were taught, certainly not to speak English, but we were taught to sing: My Bony is Over the Ocean, My Bony is Over the Sea… I don’t know why we were taught the Scottish song. Or the other song was also Scottish: And I’ll take the High Road and He’ll take the Low Road, and I’ll be in Scotland … 

That first night in England my brother and I spent at some house in London, I didn’t know where we stayed with, until I found the Winton´s scrapbook. 

 
 
   


I suddenly spotted a familiar handwriting. It was my mother’s handwriting, the letter she wrote in 39, addressed to Mrs. Winton that was Nicky’s mother, thanking her for having put us up that first night. Thanking her, as she put it, for this noble deed, which a mother would never, never forget. And suddenly this scrap-book with its charts, its official letters, its lists, numbers of people, how many pounds it all took and everything else, and the Nazi stamps, it suddenly became very, very personal.  

And then in ´41, I was sent off to a Czech school, a Czech refugee school in Wales, and I spent four very happy years there. One of the things I did at the school, which I suppose was a start of my journalistic career, except I didn’t know it; I put out the daily news bulletin. One day, it was the 6th of June 1944; I listened to the BBC news. It talked about German U-boats´ engagements with allied forces and I sat down and wrote: “It seems that the second front, that is, the invasion of Europe, had started.” It was not on the radio or anywhere else. As a matter of fact, when we sat down to breakfast, children were kidding me about it, because they said I must have dreamt it. 
But about nine o’clock or ten o’clock that morning the BBC had a communiqué from supreme allied headquarters Europe from General Eisenhower, saying: “Our troops have landed in Normandy. The invasion to Europe has started.” 

In May 1945 we flew back to Prague to look after our parents.. Then, of course, the communists came to power in 1948. And once the communists came I was lost, because I was educated in the West in England. In Prague I got myself a job with associated presses as translator, interpreter, and slowly I got into journalism, except then the communists started arresting people in the Prague bureau of Associated Press. And so I decided I have to leave the country. And I made it illegally, across the border, and went to Vienna to a refugee camp. Then I came to Canada, worked as a construction laborer, as a waiter, as a seaman, all sorts of things. I went to the university, where one day by chance I happened to wander into the office of university campus student newspaper, and that was the start of my journalistic career. 

   
 


I had been a blessed, most fortunate man. Both in my family life, in my career, I have the work I love, I have the family I love, I can’t think of asking for anything more I just get. And I owe it to one man - Nicky Winton. 

The people Nicholas Winton helped save are now all in their seventies or late sixties, grey-haired grandparents most of them. But no matter how long they live, they are, and always will continue to be, Nicky’s children. 

Tom Berman 
Biologist Israel, Kibbutz Amiad 


 
 
   


I was born in Hradec Králové, but my parents lived in Hronov. My father was the manager of the textile mill there. We were quite well to do. I was a very spoiled child. My mother was the one who insisted on getting me out of Czechoslovakia and sending me on Winton’s train to London. So I was one of the fortunate 669 children who were rescued through the efforts of Nicky Winton, Bill Barazetti and others.  

They told me that there was perhaps only one humorous moment during all the war years. There was a photographer’s shop and in this photographer’s shop there was a portrait of a small baby, which happened to be me. And under this photograph there was a sign saying that this was a typical Arian baby.


 
 
   


I was almost the sole survivor from this family and I had a very good fortune to be with wonderful people in Scotland. It was a Jewish family in Glasgow, Scotland, and the family had no other children.  

After the war I lived in Kibbutz Amiad, in the upper Galilee in Israel. I first came here in 1953. In those days the kibbutz was very different from what it is today. Now we have thriving community with lots of children running around, houses, and greenery. In those days it was just barren hills. The kibbutz here numbers about 300 people, members, and probably a couple of hundred children. 

I received the Ph.D. in microbiology. I’ve been a scientist for the last 35 years. And for the last 30 years I’ve been working on the shores of what’s known in English as the Sea of Galilee. I’ve been lucky to be a pioneer in setting up a laboratory in this country, that has over the last 30 years become a world renowned laboratory for the study of lakes. 

Karel Reisz
Film director, Great Britain

 
   


After the war I came back to Czechoslovakia and I found that my family had been destroyed. Then I hitch-hiked back to England and I’ve been here ever since.  

I really wanted to get into film. But how can one get in, where are all these happy, magic people who make movies, and I do join them. And by the purest chance I got the job to write a book about film editing. I was then a film critic and I reviewed for an avant-garde film magazine. And then I started making documentaries and films. Films are what excited me. 

   
 


Tom Schrecker
Publisher, Australia 

At the age of 6 I have started in the primary school in Prague. My father’s wholesale textile office was on Pařížská St. in Prague. I think we were very integrated and I have really no memories of any anti-Semitism. My father felt he was a Czech. He played football for the Czech under 21 national team. I was at Oxford University studying history, and after that I went into business. I worked many years for Reader’s Digest. I traveled a world for 12 years, opening up 60 countries for them on the business side, and later on I was Managing Director of the Asian operation in Hong Kong.


 
   

Amos Ben Ron
Engineer, Israel 
 
   


My mother was a famous violinist, she was a soloist. She played in concerts and before she got married, she had a great career, traveling all over Central Europe, Austria, Italy and Germany.  

 
   


And I spent the next 2 years fighting for Israel in the air force and remained in the air force until 1973. 

Lord Alfred Dubs,
Exminister and MP, Great Britain

 
   

I suppose the most dramatic early memory was, we had to tear the picture of Czechoslovak president Beneš out of our school books, and stick in a picture of Hitler. That seems to symbolize something. I remember all students were ordered to get the school to go to center of Prague when Hitler arrived on a visit. And I remember my mother was protesting. She stopped me going. 
 
   


I wanted to understand, why we’d had to leave, what it was that Hitler was trying to do and the Nazis? Why there was a war? And what was going on? So I begun asking these questions and I was passionately interested in politics at an age when most children would never thought about politics. And I then decided that if politics was the cause of all evil, maybe politics was also a way of averting evil. Years later I was put in the House of Lords and then, after Labour party won election, I was made a minister for Northern Ireland.  

I’m one of Winton’s children. And it’s a privilege in fact to have met him. Without his goodness I wouldn’t be alive. So it’s an astonishing thing.  

Joseph Ginat
Engineer, Israel 

 
   

I was taken in by Christian minister, who tried quite hard to preserve my Jewishness. He arranged a part of his church to be used as a synagogue, and we had a Torah scroll there, his wife embroidered a curtain for it. He said: “I pray in my way, you should pray according to your tradition and religion.” And this Christian minister bought us new clothes and for first time I got nice new suit of clothes, and I felt very proud. They photographed me and I felt a man. 
 

My wife and I adopted two children. First a baby-girl of Yemenite origin and three years later baby-boy of Tunisian origin