AJR Refugee Voices Archive Profile picture
@TheAJR_'s groundbreaking oral history archive of testimony from Jewish #refugees from Nazi Europe who moved to Britain • Director: @bea_lewkowicz
Mar 18 15 tweets 4 min read
Henry Wuga MBE, who died yesterday, came to Britain on a #Kindertransport, settled in Glasgow & was a great chef:

"Ingrid & I got married on December 26 1944. In the middle of the war. We were in love & there was nothing to wait for, not really. We were 20…"

1/15 Image "We had the wedding in the synagogue & the function in Ingrid’s parents’ flat. A very nice party. I got one of the chefs from the hotel to do the cooking while we were at the synagogue &, well, again, we tried to do it differently. The menu is still hanging up out in the hall…"
Feb 12 11 tweets 3 min read
France, 1943: Betty Bloom (13) escapes to Switzerland. Her sister Ruth (17) stays behind with the Resistance:

"She was told by her committee there's a Jewish child in Grenoble left by her parents, an infant under a year old, in an orphanage, & the Gestapo had found out…"

"The Gestapo were coming to arrest this baby. Somehow, news got out to Ruth's committee. They wondered what can we do for this child? So, she dressed up; my sister dressed up as a German officer. With her good Berliner accent, in her 'Berlinerisch' [Berlin dialect]…"

Jan 24 14 tweets 5 min read
Lviv, 1942: Lili Pohlmann's seamstress mother Cecylia persuades her Nazi civil servant client to hide Lili & Cecylia in her flat.

"My mother said 'We are in a very desperate situation. If I go back to the ghetto with this child, we will be taken away…"

@TheAJR_ "'My son perished with my husband, but this is my other child. Please take us for the duration of this selection. The moment it’s over, we’ll go back to the ghetto'. It was November, quite dark. We followed her, not just to the German district, but to the SS & police district…"
Dec 15, 2023 14 tweets 4 min read
March 1939: Freddy Kosten & sister Claire arrive in Britain on a #Kindertransport.

"I said to my sister, 'I bet the people who are going to receive us have a car.' They had a Rolls Bentley! I was very pleased. We were very, very lucky with the people who looked after us…"

"This is the extraordinary story of how my father managed to get us to England. He could speak English. In 1907 his employer said: 'A colleague is coming from England who doesn’t know any German. I want you to take him on, teach him some German, show him Vienna.' So he did…"
Dec 5, 2023 12 tweets 4 min read
Hannah Wurzburger (5) came to Britain on a #Kindertransport:

"First I lived in a house where my aunt Betty was a domestic. At six I was put in a children's home in Hemel Hempstead called The Chestnuts due to the trees. 40 children altogether. It was a very bad place…"

1/12 Image "Only a few were refugees. We were the ones who did most of the housework: cleaning, making beds before school. They used us for all their domestic needs. Punishments & hitting. I had two friends. One was a lovely young woman of 18 who befriended me. On my birthday she'd leave…" Image
Nov 28, 2023 12 tweets 4 min read
Lia Lesser, 1939:

"Because my mother had the foresight to send me on #Kindertransport I was the only survivor of my family. This very sad day when we went to the main station in Prague & my parents saw me off & my father was very, very upset & he didn't want me to go…"

"The whole platform was full of grieving parents. I was 8 but there were babies in arms & younger children there as well. A devastating scene. I don't remember very much about the journey & I never knew I’d never see my parents again. My mother was going to follow me…"

2/12 Image
Nov 22, 2023 9 tweets 3 min read
John Izbicki, Berlin, 1930s:

"I used to go to a park nearby, close to what is now the Freie Universität. There was a sandpit, I used to play with sandcastles. One day I was approached by some boys—not my age—& offered a part to play in their game…"

1/9 Image "They were playing Cowboys & Indians. I was to be an Indian. They as cowboys would capture me, which they did. They tied me—quite firmly—to a tree. There was a small forest at the end of the park. They said they'd come back & rescue me later. They galloped away on their horses…"
Nov 6, 2023 9 tweets 3 min read
Ann Callender, Berlin, 1938:

"My mother had a sister who was a bit bohemian. She had a lot of lovers & so on. But on #Kristallnacht she committed suicide. My father had gone to see her in Munich because my mother was worried about her. So he was caught up in Kristallnacht."

1/9 Image After the November Pogrom (Kristallnacht) Ann's father was imprisoned Dachau for 5 months.

"I knew he’d been somewhere horrible but he–he didn't talk about it."

Ann was already at college in Switzerland.

"I heard things sort of 2nd-hand. Phone calls were something exotic.…"
Oct 12, 2023 10 tweets 3 min read
Leipzig, late 1920s: Fred Jonas's older brother Horst joins the Communist party:

"Jewish people, including my father, argued with my brother for hours on end. My brother warned them: 'the Social Democratic system you have now inevitably leads to fascism & Nazism…"

1/9 Image "Because they got no other way out. They can’t hand over power to the left, they have to hand power over to the right.” My father insisted, like 9/10 of the Jewish people did, it would never happen to them. But Horst was right. First he joined the Jewish Scouts boy movement…"
Sep 11, 2023 13 tweets 4 min read
Ruth Rogoff, Prague, August 1939:

"I can hardy believe how my mother got us out because it sounds so bizarre, nobody would believe it. My mother was a very put together woman. Competent, intelligent, brave. Never went to pieces. She managed very well…"

"When my father left in a hurry she stood in queues at every embassy she could, trying to get an exit & entry visa. If you knew the right people, you had more chance. But she was just a young woman with two very small children. She stood in queues & didn’t get anywhere…"

Jul 6, 2023 7 tweets 3 min read
Rolf Penzias, Munich, June 1938:

"The biggest synagogue in Munich was a beautiful building, right behind the places in Munich where all the government places were. Hitler said, 'I want that down'. I was in the Jewish vocational school then, being taught for emigrating…"


"Hitler gave us time to go over the synagogue, take all the Sefer Torah [scrolls] & books out, take some of the beautiful things inside. The synagogue was very beautiful, like those synagogues in Budapest & Berlin. In the Herzogstraße, where now there's a plaque of remembrance…"
Jul 5, 2023 9 tweets 3 min read
January 1945: Gerta Vrbova walks 200km from Budapest to Szeged:

"It was terrible. I remember I had such frostbites. I just wanted to get away from the front. From besieged Budapest. We partly walked & partly got lifts from the Russian lorries. It was quite dangerous…"

1/9 "I was 18. Another girl was 15. They were always trying to rape her. So, it was terrible. You could talk yourself out of it: I could speak Russian quite well, & I could tell them that I’m on their side, that my boyfriend is a partisan & is fighting. It wasn’t always easy…"

Jul 4, 2023 10 tweets 3 min read
Helga Ederer, Prague, postwar:

"My mother had to fight to get things returned to her. She hid quite a lot of things with Aryan friends & she didn’t get more than half back. I went with her to some people who looked after the furniture of our dining room…"

1/10 "They said, 'Yes we have it & it’s very nice. But we got used to it! What are we going to do?' So my mother had to buy them new, plain furniture so they'd would return furniture to her! She didn’t take me on other things. I was too young & stormy. Some people welcomed us…"

Jun 26, 2023 9 tweets 3 min read
Izak Wiesenfeld: Przeworsk, Poland, 1939:

"When the Germans came in the afternoon, they burnt the Shul & the Beis Hamedrash & all the Jewish houses. Everything was burnt. We had to run out. Some people had already escaped, so we broke into their houses & lived there…"

1/9 "In the Synagogue there was a special Sefer Torah, only given to extraordinary guests. Precious, & even that was burned. Four weeks later the Germans called us all out into a market place & said 'We don’t want you here. Go over to the Russian side'. We took whatever we could…"
May 25, 2023 12 tweets 4 min read
Ibolya Ginsburg, Pásztó, Hungary, 1944:

"I will tell you exactly: the Germans came in the day after Pesach & we arrived in Auschwitz the first day of #Shavuot, so that was six weeks. In six weeks they came in, they put us in the ghetto & they took us out…"

1/12 Image "We went out on horse & cart. The station was emptied of all inhabitants. These long cattle wagons were standing next to the platform. They were open & there was nothing in them, on the floor, the corner was partitioned off with blankets & there were buckets for our needs…"
May 24, 2023 16 tweets 4 min read
Berlin, 1938. Ralph Steiner, 4, is sent to Switzerland:

"I had a very fortunate time. With all the horror that was due to start, I was the most fortunate & had a wonderful life due to my mother’s foresight & wisdom. Absolutely brilliant, the way that woman thought…"

1/16 ImageImage "She was 28 when all the troubles started, she then decided to ship me away with my nanny so that she could then organise the company, her parents, her grandparents, & organise everything in peace & quiet. She managed to get containers & put all the furniture & everything away…"
May 23, 2023 9 tweets 3 min read
Rolf Penzias grew up in Munich:

"I remember Hitler driving up & down the Maximilianstrasse with his Mercedes, before 1933. When he got into power he had his escort of Stormtroopers. Imagine an open bus with seats either side, with safety belts, but they could jump off…"

1/8 Image "8 people each side. They would go into a crowd & disperse them. Oh yes, that was already 1934. The SR or the SS strapped in there, going to action in the cars. Oh, yeah. There was no way you could demonstrate anymore against Hitler…"

May 2, 2023 9 tweets 3 min read
Joanna Millan (age 3), Theresienstadt, May 1945:

"My first memories are very hazy: being very scared; being on a plane. Nobody had told me I was liberated. Leaving the camp was bad news; no one ever came back, obviously. So leaving, going on a plane to who knows where…"

1/9 Image "Didn’t know what was going on. It was really, really frightening. Those bombers: really noisy & with no seats. Very dark. So that’s sort of got… in my mind. Cause every day in the camp was the same. I was very weak, very sick a lot of the time. It was just a matter of survival"
Mar 28, 2023 10 tweets 3 min read
#OTD in 1944 Waldemar Ginsburg was living in the Kovno ghetto.

"On the 28th of March a detachment of Ukrainian militia walked in with orders to eliminate, not only the children, but anybody who was non-productive, which means the old, the sick, the ill, the disabled…"

1/10 "We were at work, I don’t know what would have happened if we'd have been there, if the able-bodied bodied men had been in the camp, but we were at work. In the most cruel manner, babies were separated from their mothers, some mothers were shot, some went with their children…"
Mar 24, 2023 9 tweets 3 min read
1947: After liberation, Judith Steinberg moves from Hungary to London & works in a garment factory.

"The boss, Mr Green, was an old either Polish or Russian Jew, spoke broken English. I asked him if I could have Friday off because of Shabbos. I spoke in German…"

1/9 "I couldn’t speak English. He said, ‘How come you speak German?’ He says it to me in Yiddish. ‘You speak German & you keep Shabbos?’ He couldn’t understand why I didn't speak Yiddish but I kept Shabbos. I said, ‘It doesn’t matter what I speak, I always kept Shabbos!’"

Mar 23, 2023 10 tweets 3 min read
Yesterday marked the anniversary of the establishment of Dachau in 1933. Willy Field was imprisoned there in 1938.

"It was a dreadful place. A terrible incident happened: Every morning & every night they had a roll call. We were counted. We had to stand in blocks of ten…"

1/10 "One morning a man was missing. They made us stand for over a day & night in the cold weather until they found who was missing. That night they shunted away in a wagon about 40 or 50 people who could not stand the cold, who could not stand any more standing there for 72 hours…"