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Part of the Family - Christadelphians, the Kindertransport, and Rescue from the Holocaust



Part of the Family - Christadelphians, the Kindertransport, and Rescue from the Holocaust is a new book about the interaction between Christadelphians and Jewish children during the time of the Second World War. As part of the Kindertransport movement in 1938 and 1939, over 250 Jewish children were brought into Christadelphian homes and hostels––many of their stories being previously undocumented. This book records the experiences of 10 of these individuals.

Their stories are emotive and inspiring – and over and over, those who were interviewed for the book echoed one another, stating, “I was part of the family.”

Ursula’s Story

As an example of this relationship, Ursula Meyer was housed by the Sawyers, who were Christadelphians. In illustrating how much they loved her, she told a story:

At one point, the Sawyers lived on the corner of the road in Birmingham. After the German bombing raids began, Birmingham was under blackout regulations: all lights had to be off and special curtains had to be put into the windows. Unfortunately, in this particular house, when a car drove by, its headlights lit up the the bay windows, and it looked as though some of the lights in the house had flashed on and then off.

One night, a home guard sergeant noticed this flashing from the Sawyers’ house. Convinced that this was some type of signal to the German air force, he broke down the door, and looked for the one who had been making the signals. Ursula was German – and so when this man burst into the Sawyer household and saw her, he was certain that he found the enemy agent. He was armed, and he was ready to shoot.

And that’s when something amazing happened. As the Home Guard officer prepared to pull the trigger, Norman Sawyer, the head of the house, Ursula’s foster father, stood in between the sergeant and Ursula and said, “You shoot me first.”

Eventually, the situation was neutralized – but Ursula has never forgotten how her life was spared that night.

Such is illustrative of the love and care that these children received in the homes of their Christadelphian foster parents.

Background

Yet, considering the tragic history between Christianity and Judaism, what made this obscure Christian sect act on behalf of the Jewish children?

Over and over, those who had been saved explained. It was not simply humanitarian reasons. Indeed, it was to save a life, but it was moreso because Christadelphians held very fervent beliefs about the Jewish people, and those beliefs compelled them to action:

Susanne Woodin stated that her Christadelphian foster mother told her: “True Christians do not hate Jews. Jesus was a Jew...In fact true Christians love Jews and try to help them. That was why she had wanted to give a home to a Jewish child.”

Ernst Huehns, in his autobiography The Luckiest Boy in Germany, wrote “Mr and Mrs Clamp were very religious, being Christadelphians, and they believed that the Jews were God’s chosen people. It was for this reason that this small sect had decided to help German Jewish children and that was why I went to them.”

But it was not just the former refugees who explained this. Harry Whittaker, a Christadelphian who housed two Jewish refugees during the war, wrote in his book, Abraham, Father of the Faithful:

“I will bless them that bless thee…There is good biblical reason for believing that God has carried over the same principle to the nation which is Abraham’s seed...The thing has proved its truth in history scores of times over, and in every generation dictators and statesmen have been blind to the simple best policy for the true well-being of their peoples. The Battle of Britain was won not by the skill and daring of a handful of highly-trained young men but by the kindliness which received Jewish refugees into homes in this country, because they were the distressed seed of Abraham...The stage of history is peopled with the ghosts of Jew-hating nations. Rapid decay or sudden catastrophe was the ‘inevitable hour’ of them all, whilst Israel lives on...beloved for the fathers’ sakes.”

It was because of their beliefs that the Christadelphians acted this way. Compelled by what they read in the Hebrew Bible about Abraham the promises that were made to him – reading “I will bless them that bless thee,” and recognizing the Almighty’s love to Abraham, the Christadelphians acted on behalf of the Jews.

Conclusion

Part of the Family - Christadelphians, the Kindertransport, and Rescue from the Holocaust details the actions that this small Christian community took for the sake of the Jewish people, and records the stories of ten of these former refugees. In experiencing the kindliness of the Christadelphians, these children truly became part of the family.

Part of the Family is available on Amazon (search “Part of the Family”).

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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