Today, 27th January 2016, marks National Holocaust Memorial Day and South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre has a display in Yeovil Town Library, King George Street side window.
This includes two main elements.
The first is three photographs donated to the Community Heritage Access Centre in Yeovil around ten years ago by the son of a local serviceman.
They were taken unofficially by the serviceman at Bergen Belsen and look fairly innocuous until you read the descriptions written on the back:
And a Polish Jew at a new grave.
Intriguingly, the serviceman returned to Somerset after World War II and became a car salesman, but he wanted what he saw to be remembered.
The second element relates to the Kindertransport.
The Kindertransport was a unique humanitarian programme from November 1938 to September 1939. Around 10,000 children, the majority of whom were Jewish, were sent from their families in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia to Great Britain.
After the Nazis came to power in 1933 the persecution of Jews began. This reached a pre-war peak with Kristallnacht (the Night of the Broken Glass) on 9/10 November 1938. 267 synagogues were destroyed, 100 people were killed, all remaining Jewish stores in the Reich were destroyed and almost 30,000 people were taken to concentration camps.
Sir Samuel Hoare, the Home Secretary, issued travel documents on the basis of group lists rather than individual applications. Strict conditions were placed upon the entry of the children.
Jewish and non-Jewish agencies promised to fund the operation and to ensure that none of the refugees would become a financial burden on the public. Every child would have a guarantee of £50 to finance his or her eventual re-emigration.
Alan Overton, of the Christadelphian Church in Birmingham made a further commitment. He made regular trips to London’s Liverpool Street Station to meet the boat train from Germany and to collect frightened and tearful children, some as young as three.
Several Church Members provided a room in their own homes and a special centre was also established named ‘Elpis Lodge.’ Around 250 children were saved in this way.
Heritage Staff interviewed Bruce Overton, (Alan Overton’s son) in 2001 as part of Masters of Arts Research. A copy of one of the letters sent to Alan Overton and images of children saved by his efforts are reproduced below.
Dear Brother Overton,
I heard your appeal on behalf of the German refugees after the meeting last night. You were so overwhelmed with enquiries that I did not try to speak to you personally, but came home and wrote this letter.
My wife and I would be pleased to give a home to one child either boy or girl that you think would be suitable.
We have been married four years and are without children so naturally a child as young as possible would be appreciated, but owing to the urgency of the situation, we would gladly take one child irrespective of age.
We are in the position to give it a good home and to maintain it properly, but unfortunately, we are unable to pay a deposit. Hoping that you will be able to utilise this offer, We remain your sincere Brother and Sister In Christ.
Bro & Sis G. Futcher.