Holocaust Survivor Henry Glanz at the Oxford Chabad Society

Thursday, 31 January, 2019 - 2:38 pm

I was born on 28th May 1924 in the small town of Zolynia in Southern Poland, which was part of Austria-Hungary until the end of the First World War. I have no memory of Poland as my parents, Markus and Esther (nee Buchen), immigrated when I was a baby to Kiel on the Baltic coast of North Germany, near the Danish border, where other Jews from Kiel lived, among them the two brothers of Esther. I grew up there. My parents ran a textiles business from the family flat, first in the Reventlou-Alee, then from 1930 in the Sternstrasse. After the Nazis came to power the condition of Jewish commerce worsened due to the boycott against them. The family that had by then grown to five members, had to move into a smaller and cheaper flat in the Adelheidstrasse.


I was eight years old, when the Nazis came to power, so I only remember an unhappy childhood, being beaten up by schoolmates, while at school in the Muliusstrasse, and insulted by teachers. One teacher, Johannes Hagenah, was an exception. He tried his best to protect me from the Nazi boys, at the risk of his job. He once gave a slap in the face to a boy who didn’t want to stand next to a Jew in the gym. He shouted at the pupil: “I have no control over what you do in the Hitler youth but here you behave like a civilized human being!” I kept in touch with him until his death, a great man!


We were three children, a sister and two brothers. In 1938 all Polish Jews were to be deported to Poland. When our transport arrived at the polish border, the Poles closed it, and we had to pay the fare to go back to Kiel. Then all Jewish Polish men had to leave Germany within 48 hours, or go to a concentration camp. My father went illegally to Switzerland, got caught and was sent back to Germany, then went to Belgium. The Belgians turned a blind eye to the illegal Jewish immigrants. However, the Nazis caught him, when they occupied Belgium.


I was a member of the Zionist Children and Youth Movement and prepared for immigration to Palestine with the Youth Aliya. But with the constant restrictions by the British authorities, my immigration certificate became invalid. Instead, my sister Gisela and I were lucky to get a place on a Kindertransport. My sister, nearly 12, went one week before me. I was on the last Kindertransport, crossing the Dutch border five hours before the German invasion of Poland, arriving in Harwich on 1st September 1939, aged 15.


Esther and Joachim were first deported to Leipzig on 13th September 1939, together with East European Jewish women and children who were still in Kiel. They were housed in a Jewish school that had closed. My father, who had escaped to Belgium, tried to get an immigration visa for the family to the USA but was unsuccessful.  The last sign of life we received from my mother and brother Joachim is a letter on the 21 October 1941 from Leipzig: “My dear beloved children, keep always together in love and faith, and G-d will bless you. Both of us, with dear Joachim are thank G-d healthy. I work for a furrier and earn our keep. Achim goes to school. Papa writes often, and would like us to go to Brussels with him but unfortunately that is not possible. Keep well my dearly beloved children, we wish you all the best and pray to G-d for a speedy reunion.” My mother and Joachim were deported to Belsec in May 1942, before being sent to Majdanek, where they were killed.


After Gisela and I arrived in Britain, Gisela was sent to Kingsbury, North London to a hostel, and I went to Abergele, North Wales, where the Orthodox Zionist organization established a camp at Gwrych Castle for about 200 other children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. The castle, which was put at their disposal by Lord Dundonald, had stood empty for over 15 years and had neither electric lights nor sanitation. The first benches, tables and kitchen appliances were given by the Baptist community I the adjacent town. The refugee committee in London supplied further furniture. We worked for the local farmers to learn agriculture, while being instructed in Jewish English and general subjects. We received a friendly reception from the local population and the primitive conditions didn’t seem to bother us much. I did not see my sister for nearly 2 years, when I came to London I worked in a factory on he production of machine guns. Near the end of the war, at 20, I joined the army, and was stationed in Germany until 1947. There I found out from relatives from Poland, who survived the Holocaust, that my mother and brother, Joachim, were murdered in Majdanek. Years later I learnt from German records, that my father was murdered in Auschwitz.


Soon after my return from Germany, my sister went to Australia at the age of 20, where she sadly died at 72. She had two sons. I saw her several ties in London and Sydney.


The happiest day of my life was the 23rd November 1947, when at a wedding in a synagogue in Golders Green, I met my future wife, Roberta Cooper, who preferred to be called Bobbie. I instantly fell in love with the pretty 21 year old East Ender, with the charming cockney accent. I was 23. W were married in Croydon Synagogue, on her 23rd birthday, 11th September, 1949. She gave me a new life, and made me come to terms with the trauma of my childhood under the Nazis, and my youth as a refugee in Britain.


We had a wonderful ceremony at our Diamond Wedding in Bevis Marks Synagogue in 2006, and our fellow ember of the Stepney Day Care Centre will remember our lovely party. Our day centre is a big part of our life since we retired. We danced at the wedding when we met all those yars ago, and never stopped.


Our eldest son, Jeffrey, and his wife Lyn, live I Lusanne, Switzerland. Their daughter, Jessica, lives in York, and their son, Ben, lives in Beaumont Square. Our younger son, Mark, married an Argentinian girl, Ana. They live with their two sons, Erik and Dylan, in Buenos Aires. In spite of the long distances, we see all of them very frequently.


Near Kiel is a small town called Rendsburg, where there is one of the few synagogues which were not destroyed during Kristallnacht in November 1938. It is now a Jewish museum. I was invited to go there for a Holocaust memorial service in January 2001 by a lady called Bettina. She is the daughter of a Jewish boy from Kiel.


Stones with brass plates have been placed near the houses where the victims of the Holocaust lived. These are called Stolpersteine (stumbling stones). In 2005 the stones, designed by artist, Gunter Denning, commemorating my parents and brother, were to be placed in the pavement of the Adelheitstrasse. I was invited to attend, but sadly my wife, Bobbie, had to go into hospital the day before, so of course I cold not attend. My son, Jeffrey and daughter-in-law, Lyn, went to represent me. About 6 months later I decided to go and say a prayer at the stones. My friends from my previous visit came with some of their families, members of the local Jewish community, also the family of my late teacher, Herr Hagenah. I met his granddaughter, Bettina, and told her how proud she should be of her grandfather.

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