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3 Oct 2014
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Ilse's Story

Ilse Ryder was evacuated from Prague as part of the kindertransport in January 1939. She recognised the little boy in the photo with Nicholas Winter in last weeks story, and now wonders if he might have been responsible for helping her too..

Hannelore, Peter Niethammer, Ilse Stein, Hansi Neumann, Erich Mayer
Leaving Prague, Jan 12, 1939

Ilse was ten and, as one of the oldest, was put in charge of the little children. Three year old Hansi Neumann was one of them. He flew with her by plane from Prague to Croyden.

Isle was from Vienna and she'd come to Prague with her mother after she'd been excluded from school for being Jewish. Her parents were divorced.

Unlike the children Nicholas Winton saved, Ilse's group were being moved by the 'Barbican Mission for the Jews'. This was an organisation with a mission to convert Jewish children to Christianity. Ilse had been to services in Prague; her parents were agnostic and didn't feel strongly about this aspect of her rescue.

children and parents waiting to say goodbye
children and parents waiting to say goodbye with L to R: Hansi Neumann and parents, Peter Niethammer and mother, Ilse Stein, Hannelore and mother and Erich Mayer and mother

Ilse remembers the parents were heroic at the farewell. They behaved in a very casual way, as if this was a reasonably ordinary occasion. Ilse had never flown before and she was excited. No one cried or was distressed.

There was an official reception at Croyden Airport. The Barbican Mission was run by a Mr and Mrs Davidson who met their plane and took them to Brockley by bus.

At Brockley, they stayed in a children's home. It had expanded hugely to cope with the influx of refugees. The matron was known as Mother, and there were Aunties Kathleen and Frances. They were very kind but there was a huge problem with Homesickness.

The story of Hansi, the little boy in the photo is tragic. His parents were sent to the concentration camps, and Hansi died in the children's home of an inner ear infection.

Hansi, being held by Nicholas Winter
Hansi, being held by Nicholas Winter

Ilse was very lucky in that her mother came over two months later on a domestic permit. First as a parlour maid, and was then promoted to be a cook. Ilse didn't get to see her that often. The home continued to proselytize, and Ilse says she fell for it 'hook, line and sinker'. She loved the certainty of it all. Her mother was once refused access to Ilse on a rare afternoon off because she was involved in a prayer meeting.

Eventually Isle's mother became a science teacher and they were able to live together. They kept in touch with the family of another little boy at the home, whose parents had put them in touch with the Barbican Mission, and had later helped Isle's mother to find domestic work in Britain.

Ilse isn't sure where the Barbican Mission got it's funding, and she wonders whether Nicholas Winton had something to do with it.

Waving goodbye
Waving goodbye

Another chance to read Nicholas Winton's story from his son.

The Barbican Mission to the Jews became part of Christian Witness to Israel in 1976.

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