Rabbi shares memories of Holocaust survival with Wirral students

The ID card with German stamps that brought Bernd to freedom

Bernd's father (arrowed) in Dachau concentration camp

A precious photo of a last family holiday. Bernd with his parents and older sister Ruth

Bernd with precious items packed by his mother.

Rabbi Bernd with students from St Mary's College.

First published in News
Last updated
Wirral Globe: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

A RABBI who escaped the Holocaust has shared his story of survival with students at a Wirral school.

Rabbi Bernd Koschland, who escaped Germany in 1939, was special guest of St Mary's Catholic College, Wallasey.

He told the story of how nearly 10,000 Jewish children from across Europe who were sent by their parents to join the Kindertransport, a rescue mission made possible by the British government in the last months before the Second World War.

Aged eight, Bernd boarded a ship in Hamburg, bound for Southampton. Alone.

Now 83, the retired schoolteacher is still active as a rabbi.

In March 1939 his mother waved him goodbye.

He sailed away to a new life in England and away from the horrors of Nazi Germany.

He was one of the lucky ones. Like many others, Bernd's parents had grown fearful of the state-orchestrated, anti-Semitic attacks which were to culminate in the genocide of six million Jews throughout Europe.

It must have been a momentous decision to part with such a young child.

In deeply moving accounts of his experiences Bernd told the group of 150 History and RE students: "I regard myself as a survivor, not a refugee. I survived that which was meant to destroy.

"We must remember the past, and understand it, but it is more important to look to the future, because that is what really matters.

"It is really important that we always try to make the world a better place."

Bernd's parents both died in the Nazi concentration camps, but his sister Ruth, who is now 90, escaped to England a couple of months after he did.

She later joined the British Army's Auxiliary Territorial Service and served her new country in a British uniform, helping to defeat the fascism that threatened the world.

But the memories are hard to escape.

It was only a few years ago that Bernd, on a visit to a Holocaust memorial museum, was astonished to see a picture of male prisoners at Dachau.

One of them was unmistakeably his father, third from the left, arrowed below.

In 1938 Bernd's father and other men from their home town of Fürth, near Nuremberg, were rounded up after Kristallnacht, the night Jewish homes and businesses were damaged and synagogues burned to the ground in many parts of Germany.

The name comes from the broken glass that lay everywhere after the attack.

It was a calculated attempt to break the spirit of Jews throughout Germany.

Bernd's father was later released and returned home for a time, and it was at this point that he and Bernd's mother planned to help their children escape, even if they as adults could not.

He said: "I remember my parents asking me if I wanted to escape to safety in England, and they promised me two things: that when I was 13, they would buy me a suit with long trousers, and that they would soon come to join me.

"But of course, neither of these things could happen, and I never saw them again."

When Bernd arrived in England, he was taken to Margate and lived in a Jewish boys' home until he was 16.

He later became a teacher of religion, working for more than 30 years in secondary education.

He married and settled in London, where he still lives in close contact with his children and and grandchildren.

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