Oral History

Norbert Wollheim describes departure of Kindertransporte (Childrens' Transports) from Berlin, and the separation of children from their parents

Norbert studied law and was a social worker in Berlin. He worked on the Kindertransport (Children's Transport) program, arranging to send Jewish children from Europe to Great Britain. His parents, who also lived in Berlin, were deported in December 1942. Norbert, his wife, and their child were deported to Auschwitz in March 1943. He was separated from his wife and child, and sent to the Buna works near Auschwitz III (Monowitz) for forced labor. Norbert survived the Auschwitz camp, and was liberated by US forces in Germany in May 1945.

Transcript

I saw, all the transports which left Berlin I saw off, because it was my function to see to it that these things were working properly. So, uh, on a typical day we asked the parents to come with the children, not only from Berlin, from, let us say those who had to come from East Prussia or from Breslau, or so, had to travel the night before, but in the morning they all were there. And there was a very special atmosphere in the air, expectation to a certain extent, there was laughing, and there were tears, and there was concern, and the last, last, uh, uh, advice by the mothers, uh, what to do and what not to do, and then at a certain time when the, the time of departure, uh, came closer, and we had, as I said, reserved wagons which, which had to be filled with these children. And the, the police had insisted that the parents do not accompany, accompany the, uh, the, uh, children to the railways because there were certain difficulties, uh, they insisted that the goodbye had to be done uh, not in, in, in, uh, in public. So, uh, uh, uh, when the time of departures came closer then I, I was ascending a chair there, that was my rostrum, and I asked the parents then that I addressed the parents, and told them that the day of departure has come, and they should say goodbye because we're under strict order by the police to take, just to take the children up to the rail, to the railways and they have to remain there. And, uh, that I ask for their cooperation and their understanding, because only that, that their behavior would guarantee the continuity of our operations. So, um, um, then the parents said goodbye and again there was laughing and crying and a last hug. And, but, later when I asked very often to myself the question, "How did I have the courage to say that to the parents?" I only can answer that at this time we didn't know and we couldn't even foresee, we couldn't surmise for a moment that for many or most, it would be the last goodbye, that most of those children would never see their parents again.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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