Holocaust Memorial Day: ‘You’re in England. You’re safe. I always remember that.’
- Credit: Archant
Henry Jonas, 86, of Golders Green, and his family fled Germany in 1939 when he was 12-years-old. His father’s family had lived there for 200 years. His granddaughter, Louise Marciano, 26, of Muswell Hill, chose her grandfather as the person that inspired her most for a school project when she was six-years-old.
“My father was arrested and was in Dachau for five weeks. When he came out of the camp we left. My father’s family had lived in Germany for 200 years and he was in the wine trade,” said Mr Jonas.
“We had an extremely comfortable life. But suddenly people weren’t so friendly. I remember being spat on. I saw these young boys wearing white socks with pom-poms and marching – they were the Hitler Youth – and I said I wanted that. But my mother said, ‘Oh no’.
“When we left, I was a young boy so for me it was a fantastic adventure. A train all the way to Paris! I didn’t realise how traumatic it was for my parents until I got older.
“When we arrived here, my father stood to attention for the guards. He was used to German officials who were terrifying. But the man said, ‘You’ve got nothing to worry about. You’re in England. You’re safe’. I always remember that.
“What is important to me is to remember the past but not dwell on it. I look at my children and my grandchildren, and I think that is the future.”
Mr Jonas’ granddaughter Louise Marciano, said: “When I was six or seven we had to do a project at school about someone that was inspirational and I chose my grandfather.
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“I couldn’t contemplate being uprooted or not being able to speak the language or being separated from my parents.
“When I was that age what particularly struck me was that he had to change his name from Heinz to Henry. His aunt said she didn’t want the other children calling him 57 flavours. I always knew him by Henry.
“When I have children I will be sure they understand what our ancestors have gone through and how we are lucky to be around.”