Page last updated at 06:58 GMT, Thursday, 26 January 2006

Welsh haven for Jewish children

By Bethan James
BBC Wales

Kindertransport friends

The role a now-decaying north Wales castle played in giving a home and hope to child victims of the Nazis is marked in a film screened on Thursday.

By the winter of 1938, Hitler's intention to victimise Europe's Jews was clear.

Synagogues burned, shops and homes were destroyed and, as communities were torn apart, the world awoke to the nightmare facing Jews in Nazi Germany.

Britain was shaken into action and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain agreed to the rescue of as many Jews as possible.

Suddenly, saving the children became the top priority and so between December 1938 and the eve of war, 10,000 children travelled to the UK in an operation known as the Kindertransport.

Period Kindertransport literature
Around 200 Kindertransport children went to Gwrych

Some were taken in by British families, some put in camps and others in hostels. But for a lucky 200, their sanctuary was Gwrych Castle, near Abergele, north Wales, which was given to the government as a place of refuge.

And for the first time in 60 years, some of those who lived at Gwrych have returned to their childhood haunt.

In an emotional visit, Osias Findling said: "This place created a bond which lasted for a lifetime."

Amid tears, he said: "It's very emotional to see this place again after 62 years and remember the happy days we had, and to think that the future we had was entirely different to the one we had imagined then."

Now all but derelict, Gwrych Castle has been left to crumble and decay.

But even seeing it now as a near ruin, Osias and his friends still shared the fondest of memories during the saddest of times.

Gwrych Castle, north Wales
A preservation trust hopes to revive the crumbling castle's fortunes

They recalled their Sabbath suppers, the dance every Saturday night and the day one of the organisers of the Kindertransport was married at the castle.

But most of all they remember and thank the local people for the welcome they received.

"The Welsh people were very hospitable and very kind to us, which we needed badly as children."

'New life'

"Having come from the terrible atmosphere in Germany, it was wonderful to experience a free country - a democracy.

"For the first time, we were treated like human beings, equal to everyone else. This place gave us a new life and we really felt what it meant to be free. We will be eternally grateful to the Welsh people for that."

They, like the majority of the children, never saw their parents or any member of their families again.

But they are the lucky ones, for unlike the one and a half million children who perished in the Holocaust, they survived.

Holocaust Day: A Haven in Wales is screened on BBC 2W on Thursday at 2145 GMT.


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