Kehilat Middlesbrough Newsletter No 5 January 2000 page 3
My name is Sonja Altman, nee Fleischer. I was born on 3 October 1932 in Vienna. My brother Meir was born in 1934.
In April 1939 we had exit papers for myself and my parents but none for my brother. We could only leave if we had them.
A family by the name of Sadler in Hutton Rugby were my parents’ sponsors and the Hymans in M’bro were mine. As you can imagine, my mother was frantic because papers were unavailable for my brother. We were virtually prisoners in our own home and the exit visas were not yet stamped. We received a letter for an exit date for myself on the "Kindertransport", but still not for Meir.
My mother must have known by some sixth sense or God given intuition of the impending doom that would cast its shadow over the whole world because she started packing cases and began to take me every day to the railway station to see if I could get on the train, as she feared to wait for my exit date. On 13 June we went again to the station and just by pure chance a mother at the last minute decided to take off her child as she couldn’t bear to part with it. My mother saw her chance and grabbed me and literally threw me on to the moving train - no kiss goodbye, no time for tears or hugs or soft words. The train pulled out with me, aged six, a doll, no food parcel, no papers - just a change of clothes and my label with Sonja Fleischer on it.
The journey took two days. The atmosphere was tense, and sad, with children crying. I cried all of the journey and was dreadfully ill and sick: I just desperately wanted my mother. The train made various stops to allow the officers to search the parcels - even my doll was searched. All I remember seeing was this vast expanse of sea, all round me, heaving and gray , and the thought of being so totally alone.
We arrived at Harwich and of course I had no papers. After being checked for contagious diseases, I was taken to the Jewish organization in Bloomsbury and made them understand I had a cousin, who came to see me. I stayed there for a few days, overjoyed at being with family, and when they had sorted out that I had a sponsor, I went to the Hyman family in M’bro.
I lived with the Hyman family who were kind and lovely and looked after me very well. I attended school and naturally enough was the butt of many jokes - after all, in deepest, darkest Yorkshire, how many had known Jews, let alone had one in their midst? The children were cruel though - they called me names - after all, I must have looked very strange to them and especially as I spoke no English. Mind you, when I did learn it was with a broad Yorkshire accent! Just right for Clayhall, where I now live! Sonia Altman Clayhill, Ilford, England
[Ed note: This is a short extract from "My Name is Sonja – a story of the Kindertransport", the full text of which can be read on our website]
I am the son of Malcolm and Shirley Rose, nee Goldstein. My parents were married at M’bro shul on 18 June 1952, a Wednesday, timed, so my mother always told me, to coincide with half-day closing at the grocers shop owned by my grandfather, Louis Goldstein. He was a wonderful, if slightly intimidating, man. He was a "larger than life" but very gentle and loving man, whom I can still recall with love. He was a loyal servant of the shul, as indeed was my grandmother, Bea. Louis’ brother was Benny Goldstein, who ran a shoe shop in Newport Road and he was married to Miriam Wiseman. They were parents to Reuben Grant, who now lives, as I do, in Leeds. My mother’s sister was Eve Reubens.
This potted history allows me to claim my M’bro connection which was substantial until the mid-1970s. We frequently visited and holidayed in M’bro. I have excellent memories of Redcar—my father and my brothers used to fish off the breakwater and out at sea—and particularly the rather superb ice cream at Pacitto’s.
Recently one January I visited the cemetery in M’bro,. The snow was thick on the ground. The gates were locked, and I had to creep in through a hole in the hedge from the non-Jewish cemetery next door. All the graves were covered in snow and I had to work my way round, wiping the snow off the headstones, until I found the graves of my relatives. Dressed as I was in a long black overcoat and fedora hat, I must have cut a slightly odd figure climbing through the hedge and might have had some explaining to do had the police come around!
I saw in the newsletter a letter from Ruth Hurwitz of Leeds. She modestly omitted say that her husband was best known as His Honour Judge Vivian Hurwitz, before whom I cut my teeth and learned many lessons as a young barrister in the 1980s.
Perhaps M’bro’s community is ending, but it has been the foundation for many great people and many great acheivers. I, although not born in M'bro, still proudly proclaim that it is part of my heritage. Reading the newsletter, I realise I am not alone. Jonathan Rose Leeds, England
My name is Sally Jaskiel, nee Sztrum. I am one of the four Sztrum sisters in the Strom Sisters photo on your website. I live in Brooklyn, NY. Two of my sisters live in Manchester, England, and one lives in Israel.
I would be happy to hear from anyone who remembers me from the hostel, where I lived from January 1939 to 1942. Sally Jaskiel Email:SallyJaskiel@webtv.net
[More letters on Page 4 ]
The Editor reserves the right to edit letters as appropriate
Boro Quiz no 5
Name 5 Latin teachers at M’bro High School in the 1930’s to 1950’s
Who was the headmistress at Kirby Girls School in the 1950’s?
Name 10 Kehila members who were Solicitors in the 1960’s
In what year did M’bro become a County Borough?
Whose was the first Barmitzvah in the Park Road South shul?
Who laid the Foundation Stone for the shul in Park Road South?
Which families ran a boarding house in Southfield Road in the 1940’s and 1950’s?
Where was the Shechita done for M’bro?
Which two boys had Barmitzva within a week of each other?
In which street did the Revs Kahn and Norden live?