Oral History

Alice (Eberstarkova) Masters describes going to a home for refugee children in England after arriving on a Kindertransport

Alice grew up in a small village in Czechoslovakia. She was the middle of three daughters in a well-to-do, close-knit family. Her parents were religious and active in the Jewish community. After the German annexation of parts of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, antisemitism became more pronounced. Alice's uncle, a businessman who had moved to Great Britain, helped her parents arrange to send Alice and her two sisters on a Kindertransport (Children's Transport) to Britain. The sisters lived in a children's home in the south of England, near the coast. They had to be evacuated from the area in 1941. Alice then attended school, graduated, and worked in a book shop in London for about a year. In 1943 or 1944, she began to work as a bilingual secretary for the Czech government-in-exile. Alice immigrated to the United States in 1948.

Transcript

Then we arrived in England, which was very, very exciting. Again, it was just a big blur. All I remember is these hundreds of children with tags with the numbers in front. And a loudspeaker, people were picking up the kids that were being assigned to them. It was enormous commotion and I was, and our name was not called for the longest time. And we waited and waited for a long time, and finally our name was called, and there was our uncle picking us up. And he came with my guardian, because we each, in order to get us to England, he had to get a guardian for each of us. And that meant that he needed a signature from, for each of us. I think that's the way it worked, that each child had to have a guarantor. Now my uncle got guardians for my...all three of us. My older sister, Josie, and my younger sister, Ellie's guardian, was Dame Myra Hess, who was a pianist, a famous pianist. And my guardian was Ms. Fannie Bandit, who was a violinist. Now she, my uncle came to the station to pick us up with Fannie Bandit, my guardian, who was a, a spinster lady, very well-to-do. And she came to actually to meet us at the station, and my uncle said, "Now, we are going to drive to where you are going to live, in Burgess Hill. It's a children's home." And we were absolutely shocked about that because we thought we were going to stay with my uncle. I didn't know we were going to a children's home. And...I'm not sure, I don't know, well, of course, my uncle, it was weird. I understood why it happened, but my older sister was very upset with my uncle because she thought that he should take my little sister, who was 10 years old. But my uncle was in a very precarious position because he was just newly married, and he had a baby, and they had a small flat in London. And I think his wife was not inclined to take a child, although she says--and she was, she's very close to us now--I mean, we are very close. She says that, um, she participated, that she was the one who did most of the work to get us the, out of Czechoslovakia. But she was not the sort of person who wanted to take a child in. I mean, she just, I don't know how that, how that happened. But in any case, the three of us went to this home in Sussex. It was called Wyberley, W-y-b-e-r-l-e-y, Wyberley. It was a...used to be a convalescent home for, uh, Jewish people. It was in Burgess Hill, Sussex. It was in beautiful grounds, a lovely place, lovely home. And they built sort of an addition to the back of this huge home where we were being housed, the children were being housed. When we arrived, I, well, I can tell you how it was very painful that my uncle took us there.


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  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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