In 1939, three brothers – Jacques, aged 11, Oswald, 10, and little Erich, just four – were waved off a Vienna station platform by their parents, Schapse and Mina Reich. The boys did not know it, but they were never to see their parents again.
Erich – now “Sir Erich” – made a new life in Britain, having been sent to live with foster carers in Dorking, but says he has no memories at all of his parents or of life at home in Vienna.
What he does know is that for the 10,000 children and young people who came to Britain on the Kindertransport, life would never be the same again.
This week’s news that the German Government had agreed a payment to the surviving Kinder “came like a bolt out of the blue” to Sir Erich, who chairs the Kindertransport committee at the Association of Jewish Refugees.
“It’s not a life-changing sum of money,” he told Jewish News, “but it is very important because it is a recognition of what the Kinder went through. They left their warm homes, their loving parents, to live in a country where the language and culture were different and alien.”
Asked what he planned to do with the money, Erich said he would like to buy an antique from before the war, to serve as a memory to his parents. But he added: “The money is welcome, but it is too late for some of the Kinder”.
How to claim:
The Kindertransport Fund will open on 1 January 2019 and begin processing eligible applications.
Having claimed under previous compensation programmes will not bar claimants from receiving this new benefit, despite the fact some potential recipients have already received small sums under other programmes.
Eligibility criteria were determined by the German Government, and, in the case of the Kind, this means those who “escaped from the place of your residence due to an impending Nazi threat”.
- Hundreds of Kindertransport refugees to receive one-off compensation payment
- OPINION – Michael Newman of AJR: Kinder inquiries have already started rolling in this week
- Voice of the Jewish News: The children who lost their childhood