From Kindertransport to Language
Having been a Jewish seeker all my life I became a Quaker in 2008. While the Quakers certainly saved many Jews in the Holocaust they were by no means the only organisation to do so. From early 1939 the Red Cross took children to England and Sweden where my three-and-a-half-year-old brother was fostered and became a Swedish citizen. British Jewish synagogues raised money and set up small hostels and schools for Jewish boys and brought in children who they fostered and helped families to enter Britain and settle, some near Leicester. Some Christian churches helped, the most important of which were the Christadelphians, a small pacifist, fundamentalist sect who believe in the importance of Jesus the Jew and his people. They were well organised and worked tirelessly, housing many Jewish children, young Jewish men and some families.
The actual Kindertransport was organised by Nicholas Winton, an affirmed agnostic, knighted in his nineties, to whom I owe my life. I arrived at Liverpool Street Station on 1 July 1939 aged seven and a half with a small suitcase, my passport, birth certificate and label around my neck but no sponsoring family to collect me. My mother, unable to find a sponsor family, in desperation had simply put me on the train into the arms of young girls. I had no idea what was happening but had learned three valuable English words: ‘Thank you’ and ‘Toilet’. Mrs Winton, who helped at Liverpool Street Station, contacted the Christadelphian refugee office in Rugby who sent an elder couple from the Coventry Ecclesia to rescue me. I grew up in their home in Kenilworth, nurtured by them and their friends, and have since had a fulfilling life. Many members of my family were not so fortunate. It is important that we keep the facts as accurate as possible. Peter Kurer (9 April) and others may be interested to look on the Wikipedia website where they will find detailed information and photographs of eminent Quakers and Jews and the statues of Nicky Winton and Kinder at Liverpool Street Station.
Nicky himself would say: ‘That’s over and done with. Get on with the next job!’ But let us keep the record straight.
A debt of gratitude
It’s not often that I find myself in tears at Meeting, but it happened on Sunday at our business meeting when we received a letter from Bath Meeting to tell us that they had decided to sell their Meeting house rather than go ahead with the major renovations for which we had sent a donation.
We had friends in Bath in the 1980s and worshipped there quite regularly. It was such a beautiful building but, more than that, it marked two important life events for me. I was worshipping there in the 1980s when my father died suddenly and unexpectedly. No mobile phones then, of course, and we had driven home to Cornwall before I heard and I had to set out again. I’ve always been glad that I knew just where I was, and in worship at the moment he died.
The second event was that the newly formed Quaker lesbian group met at Bath Friends Meeting House at its second weekend meeting. This was during the miners’ strike of 1984-85. Our first meeting had been in Cardiff.
These meetings were quite daring in those days when many traditional Christians, including even some Quakers, considered homosexuality to be sinful, and some Meetings would not accept us. Many did, however, and we stayed for the whole weekend, sleeping on the Meeting house floors.
I’m in my eighties now and live in a care home, so those days are past for me, but I’m told that many modern young lesbians stay in guest houses these days! How times change! We owe a debt of gratitude to the many wonderful Friends who welcomed and still welcome lesbian groups to their Meeting houses, and to their Sunday Meetings for Worship, especially the many wardens who found things for us which we had forgotten to bring. I’m sure they still do! I do wish Bath Friends joy and peace in their new surroundings.
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