Frank Bright at home near Ipswich 2005
From Berlin To Auschwitz: Part 5
Frank Bright had been working as slave labour in a propeller factory in Friedland (in what is now Poland). He was liberated in 1945 by the Soviet troops advancing into eastern Europe.
"I acquired a bicycle. Although I couldn't ride it I learnt very quickly and was able to ride to the Czech border and the railway people put on a train for me to go to Prague.
"Prisoners of War converged on Prague because it had a working railway system. The authorities there had put beds into schools and were prepared so I spent several weeks there. They also organised an issue of shoes, clothing, meals and cinema tickets.
"I registered with the Red Cross. I had tried to help unload bags of flour but collapsed almost immediately. I spent several more weeks in hospital with pleurisy, got out and then it was suggested I went to the Sudetenland.
VE Day 1945, Trafalgar Square, London
"German people were leaving en masse so I was told that a factory that made optical instruments for the German Army was going to start producing tool-making equipment.
"While I was in Prague I did have a look at my old house (the Brichta family had fled from Berlin to Prague in 1938). I didn't qualify for a flat and the Czechs wanted to put me into an orphanage, which I didn't want having been in institutions for most of my life."
Fortunately the Red Cross connection paid off "Some distant relatives in London heard of me and they offered to get a visa for me. They had to pay the British Home Office £500 for it which was a lot of money in those days. However, one condition was that I couldn't work for 6 months.
"Britain was seen as a safe haven by Jews. It stood for having fought the Germans. The fact that there have been questions since about what could the UK could have done for the Jews in the pre-war period didn't come into it.
"The fact that Britain was standing alone until the US entered the war at the end of 1941 was the only thing that gave us hope for a long time. It was invigorating. If you didn't have hope, you would have committed suicide."
Frank Bright's UK visa application photo 1945
So Frank left Czechoslovakia and flew to London in June 1946 "I came by plane on short hops via Frankfurt and Brussels. I think we landed at Hendon. I didn't speak English and didn't know how to get from St John's Wood tube station to my relatives. I eventually got a cab and turned up on the doorstep of these relatives who I'd only met briefly once before in Vienna in 1935."
Frank remembers the meeting as being emotionally-mixed "It was, but I didn't have much feeling for them. They probably felt emotionally obliged to help, but when it came to practical help there wasn't much they could do."
But Frank eventually got on his feet "As I couldn't work for 6 months I learnt English and then opted to try and become a toolmaker. I did a type of apprenticeship called an 'improver' for about four years but there was clearly no future in toolmaking - it was a dying industry.
"After several years of evening classes and other courses I became a civil engineer. I got married, but because we couldn't find housing we moved to Canada where I was an engineer.
"When there was a recession there we came back and by a stroke of luck I was offered a draughtsman's job for the local authority in the new town of Hemel Hempstead.
"I've remained in local government ever since, eventually moving to Suffolk County Council, and that's how I ended up at Martlesham Heath where I'm very much involved in the work of the Martlesham Aviation Society.
"I do feel British now - more so than many British!"
As of 2006, Frank is slowly trying to write his story down for a book. He's also one of many Jewish people trying to claim compensation from the German government for the loss of his family's property and life insurance from when they fled from Berlin in 1938.
In the summer, when the Martlesham Heath Control Tower Museum is open to the public on Sundays you'll find him helping out there. It's surrounded by a housing estate now, but during the war the former airbase was used by the RAF including British war-hero Sir Douglas Bader .
last updated: 18/01/2008 at 17:00
Have Your Say
Tell us what you've made of Frank's story.
I went to Poland and Auschwitz this year and was very moved by the whole experience. To read Frank Brights story and to know he survived such atrocity, gives you faith in the human spirit to survive against all odds. What a incredible man.
A very adaptable brave man may you continue to have a good life
What happened to you and all those poor innocent men woman and children is heartbreaking, its hard to beleive such cruel things have happened, but they have. My heart breaks.
I met Mr. Frank Bright at the MHAS over an year back when I along with one of my friend went to see the museum. He was very kind and he showed us the place around. He even took us to the underground air shelter and to the roof of the museum. That time I had no idea that he had had such a tough childhood. I am looking forward to read his book.
Wow. I would never have guessed that Frank was anything but a born english gentleman/old codger like the rest of us. This is a story that needs to be told again, and again.
I wonder if you could pass this on to Frank Bright. I am trying to trace my grandparents Jonas (John) and Rosa Storch transported to Theresienstadt from Breslau around 1941/42. Does he know of any listings of names? Many thanks. Stanley Bates
Excellent story, full of insight into what went on and quite moving. Frank is a wonderful man.
The Suffolk man who campaigned against the slave trade