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13 November 2014

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You are in: Shropshire > History > 20th Century > Kindertransport to Shropshire

Anne Fox as a child with her parents in Berlin. Anne escaped Germany on the Kindertransport - her parents died in the Holocaust.

Anne Fox with her parents in Berlin

Kindertransport to Shropshire

Sigi Faith and Anne Fox were two Jewish children, evacuated to Britain on the Kindertransport just before the start of World War II. Find out about their journey to Shropshire, and the legacy of being a Kindertransport child.

November 2008 marked the 70th anniversary of a decision that saved the lives of thousands of Jewish children.

"In Germany as a Jew one felt inferior, even hated. At Oswestry School I was... treated as an equal, joined in everything... it was great"

Sigi Faith

Hitler's rise to power in 1933 was followed by the widespread persecution of Jews. It culminated in the Night of Broken Glass or Kristallnacht on 9 - 10 November 1938.

Across Germany and other Nazi-controlled areas, synagogues were burned and Jewish homes and businesses were ransacked. More than 90 Jews were killed and thousands more were rounded up to be sent to concentration camps. 

A few days later the British government decided to allow children from Nazi-occupied Europe into Britain.

Around 10,000 mostly Jewish children joined the Kindertransport between December 1938 and the outbreak of war in September 1939.

The children travelled unaccompanied by train and boat to Britain, saving them from almost certain death.  According to the Association of Jewish Refugees, 90% of the children lost their parents in the Holocaust. 

Although some of the children were mistreated, many lived happy lives in Britain.

Sigi Faith's journey from Germany to Shropshire

Sigi Faith, the entrepreneur who founded the Faith Shoes business, arrived in England on 15 December 1938. Aged 10, he was put on a train from Hamburg to Holland where he boarded a ship bound for Harwich.

Jewish refugee children on the Kindertransport

Jewish children on the Kindertransport

According to Sigi, his parents made the journey tempting: "My mother said 'we're going to send you to England and you're going to have a great time. When you get there the Queen will welcome you with a big bunch of flowers' and it was all very exciting."

Despite reassuring words, Sigi recalls that his mother was very upset because she knew the possibility that they'd never see each other again.

In the event, his parents made it to Shanghai and were reunited with Sigi 10 years later.

Arriving in England in 1938, Sigi Faith was taken to a refugee camp near Ipswich to join around 700 other children waiting for placements.

Sigi Faith, founder of Faith Shoes, who came to Oswestry School with the Kindertransport

Sigi Faith, who founded Faith Shoes

Sigi believes it was luck that led him to Shropshire, and Oswestry School. All his memories of the boarding school are happy ones: "Very different to what I'd been used to at the refugee camp. Suddenly I was in paradise."  

"In Germany as a Jew one felt inferior, even hated. At Oswestry School I was... treated as an equal, joined in everything... it was great."

Sigi Faith at Oswestry School

Sigi Faith at Oswestry School

Sigi says the British Government's decision to allow the Kindertransport in 1938 was very generous, but even more generous were the people who accepted the kinder: "They were taken in by very ordinary working class people, by aristocracy, the whole country took in children. Wonderful." 

Sigi Faith enjoyed six happy years at Oswestry School where he became captain of cricket and head boy. He went on to build his Faith Shoes business.

Anne Fox tells her story

Anne Fox was 12 when she came to Britain on the Kindertransport.

Anne sailed to Britain on the SS Washington with 100 other children unaware that the separation from her parents would be permanent: "Four of us were in one cabin. We had bunk beds and I thought it was very exciting."

Anne's journey took her to London and then Bedfordshire. Finally her brother, who had joined the British forces, arranged for Anne to join the Bunce Court Boarding School which had been evacuated from Kent to Trench Hall near Wem.

Anne Fox (nee Lehmann) with her brother in Shropshire

Anne Fox with her brother in Shropshire

"We were kind of isolated in this large house... on a hill... most of the children were from Germany, from Austria or from Czechoslovakia. We spoke a lot of German... and it was a very friendly family-like atmosphere. I liked Shropshire, it was beautiful, we were far away from the bombing."

Anne (whose maiden name was Lehmann) lived in Shropshire from 1941 to 1943 when she left school. She didn't know her parents had died until after the war. 

Anne's father died in Theresienstadt, a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. Her mother probably died in the gas chamber on arrrival at Auschwitz in September 1944.

Legacy of the Kindertransport

Anne Fox recalls that she had to be very independent as a child on the Kindertransport. She kept things to herself and had to grow up quickly: "And I felt that the only way I could be happy again...  if I married and had my own family."

Anne Fox

Anne Fox

Anne met an American soldier just before the end of World War II and she went to the United States as a G.I. bride. She still lives in the States where she has four grand-children.

Anne wrote a book about her childhood: "My Heart in a Suitcase", Vallentine Mitchell, 1996.  The stage show of the book has been seen by thousands of children across the United States.

Anne's translation of her parents' letters written before they were deported in 1943 were published in 2005: "Between the Lines", Comteq Publishing.

last updated: 17/06/2009 at 15:33
created: 02/12/2008

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