The speaker for our June meeting, Tim Mulroy, gave an interesting and informative talk, titled The Kinder Transport which had a personal twist. The history of Kinder Transport, from the Nazi regime in Germany and Austria, was outlined, but Tim concentrated on the story of Nicholas Winton, a London stockbroker, of Jewish origin, who became known as the “British Schindler”.
Visiting Prague late in 1938, Winton was asked to help provide assistance to Jewish refugees in Czechoslovakia. From this he set up an organisation to help children, from Jewish families at risk from the Nazis, bringing them to Britain and placing them with foster parents. This required negotiation with many authorities and persuading the British government to issue visas.
Between December 1938 and the declaration of war in September 1939, eight trains left Prague, bringing 669 children to safety. A ninth train, due to leave on 3rd September, with a further 250 children was not allowed to depart as war had been declared.
Tim then told the story of the Kohn children, Gerta 12 and 10-year-old twins Hans and Hanna who left on the eighth train, with Gerta due to follow on the ninth. The twins were met, at Liverpool Street Station, by sponsors from a Sheffield sponsor group, Hans went to live with a Rotherham family and Hanna to one in nearby Crookes. to keep them in close contact with one another. Neither could speak any English on arrival, but within a year both had passed the 11+ examination and went to grammar school. It is believed that their parents and sister perished in Auschwitz. Hans changed his name to John and was formally adopted by his foster parents, the Mulroy’s. He studied to be a doctor, married and had four children, including twins, and practiced medicine in Rotherham until retirement. Hanna trained as a teacher and eventually taught German in a Jewish School in Liverpool. John died a few years ago, Hanna married, but had no children, she is now 90 and continues to enjoy life.
The twist in this story is that our speaker, Tim Mulroy, is the son of John (Hans) who came to England on the Kinder Transport in 1939.
In 1988 Esther Rantzen, told Nicolas Winton’s story for the first time and reunited him with some of the children he saved, on her “That’s Life” programme. He was knighted in 2003 and died in 2015 aged 106.