Jewish refugee group marks 80th anniversary with project planting 80 trees

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Jewish refugee group marks 80th anniversary with project planting 80 trees

Oak planted in Lochside Park in Castle Douglas, Scotland, and was sponsored by Flora Selwyn in memory of her parents who helped her escape the Shoah

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Local community leaders look on as the Lochside Park tree is planted (AL Photography)
Local community leaders look on as the Lochside Park tree is planted (AL Photography)

It was a groundbreaking project in every respect when the first of 80 native oak trees was planted this week in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Association of Jewish Refugees.

The first tree in the 80 Trees for 80 Years project was planted at Lochside Park in Castle Douglas, Scotland, chosen for its proximity to Ernespie House where many Jewish child refugees were evacuated during the Second World War.

It was sponsored by AJR member Flora Selwyn, a Jewish refugee who settled in Scotland, in loving memory of her parents, Lily and Heinrich Schmerling.

Flora said: “In 1938 our flat in Vienna was ransacked by the Gestapo, who took my father forcibly to Buchenwald. My mother, brother Erwin and me, aged four, fled by train to Switzerland.

“The Swiss would not allow us to stay because we were not citizens. Fortunately, we were eventually able to reach sanctuary in the UK, where we were grateful to be sponsored by a friend of the family”.

Flora’s father escaped to Palestine and the family was reunited 10 years later.

AJR 80Trees Lochside Park. L-R Edward & Agnes Issacs, Morag Courten, Carolyn Yates, Cllr Iain Howie, Elisabeth Manson (AL Photography)

AJR’s 80 Trees for 80 Years campaign will see native oak trees planted around Britain in honour of people and places that symbolise the enormous contribution made to every walk of British life by refugees who escaped from Nazi Europe. Each tree will have a time capsule telling a refugee’s story, planted at the roots of the tree.

The charity’s chief executive, Michael Newman OBE, said: “As well as helping to mark the heritage of our members and a place of historic interest associated with them, the plantings enable the AJR to give back to and create a living legacy within the country that became home to the Jewish refugees. Britain’s native oak trees are in decline and new trees are desperately needed. We hope these 80 special trees will be appreciated by future generations and provide natural habitats for other native species for many decades to come.”

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