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May 2019

Surviving the Nazi Third Reich - One Family's True Story

Barbara Alden

Ruth Barnett arrived in this country age four, on the Kindertransport in 1939, with her seven year old brother. The siblings experienced three different foster homes as well as a period in a hostel. They had no communication or news of their parents for ten years, so did not know whether they were even alive.


 


In fact her Jewish father had escaped on a ship to Shanghai and her non-Jewish mother, then unable to leave and follow the children, remained in hiding in Germany throughout the war. For ten years neither parent knew whether the other – or the children – had survived.


 


However, finally her father was able to make it back to Berlin in 1949 and managed to locate his wife. Through the help of the Red Cross they discovered where the children were in England. Later, they were all reunited, but being so traumatised, it was problematic trying to  re-establish family life.


 


Ruth knew very little of her parents’ struggle, and in particular of her lawyer father’s attempts to help restore German justice after the war, but in recent years, long after her parents’ deaths, she went back to Berlin and researched archives to uncover their story.


 


The result was that she felt compelled to re-create her family story as a play, ‘What Price


for Justice,’ which the Hampstead Players explored last month at an informal play-reading evening, to which Ruth herself came.


 


Those of us there all found it very moving and wanted more people to hear this story, so Ruth and I have adapted it into a shortened version suitable for a Literary Hour, titled ‘Surviving the Nazi Third Reich.’


 


Although it is one family’s particular story, Ruth wants it also to represent the countless thousands of families caught up in all wars, anywhere, whatever their cause, whether before, during or since World War Two.


 


Sadly such history continues to repeat itself, with its devastating consequences far and wide.


 


Kipling’s famous words from his 1897 poem ‘Recessional’ remain so relevant today:


Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget — lest we forget!

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