Oral History

Norbert Wollheim describes working for the Kindertransport (Children's Transport) program, arranging for Jewish children to leave Germany

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.

Describes working for the Kindertransport (Children's Transport) program, arranging for Jewish children to leave Germany


So I took over, uh, the technical re... the responsibility for all technical arrangements to be made in order to bring the children out of Germany. The project was 10,000 children, as I said. Now that was not easy because we had no experience in this field. The children were selected by, by the welfare organizations in the different cities of Germany, and then, uh--I don't like to go into the procedures--uh, in a simple way they got their permits, with the help of the English consulates in, in, in Germany. Uh, but we had to see to it that they were transported out of Germany, so, uh, and that was not an easy job, because there was no, no, no, no, uh, uh, uh, fax, uh, there were no fax machines, and there, there, there was no, uh, dialing system for telephones, and so. So this, uh, and, uh, uh, the Gestapo [German secret state police], under which supervision all of this certainly had to be done, was very meticulous, they wanted, uh, exact records to be checked, so all this preparatory work, uh, uh, required a lot of, uh, preparations, and later we even were allowed to, uh, send escorts from Germany with the children to England, and these had to be selected. And this was not easy because the Gestapo, uh, gave, uh, permission for these escorts only under the provision that they would return to Germany from England in order to continue the work. Uh, so what I had to do was to uh, to uh, to uh, to not only prepare the records but also to see to it that on a certain day on a certain morning all these children were, were collected in Berlin, for instance, where we had special, uh, railway wagons which would take them on the way via Bergen, Hannover, to Hoek van Holland or Flushing, and to Harwich in England, where the committee in England [cough]--excuse me--was waiting for them to be then distributed [cough] at Liverpool Street Station in London to foster parents or to homes or wherever it was. And, uh, so it had to be organized in such a way that they all had to come at a certain day at a certain time in order to be ready and then--because the trains left approximately, I think at nine or ten o'clock in the morning, that's not important--but people had to come there to a certain--so the arrangements had to made with the railway system and arrangements had to be made with, to be made with the police also, so, uh, uh, uh, and we also had taken over the responsibility, so that the police, uh, to keep order, so that the police should not interfere because certainly it was a tense situation because the parents then brought their children in order to, uh, uh, hand them over in to our custody to, to transport them to England.


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