'I have experienced a great deal of luck': Holocaust survivor speaks in Belsize
PUBLISHED: 13:08 23 January 2019
Belsize Square Synagogue’s Holocaust Memorial event this year featured Kindertransport refugee Freddy Kosten remembering his flight to safety from Nazi-controlled Vienna just shy of 80 years after he escaped the Holocaust.
Former Government minister Eric Pickles also spoke at the event, organised by the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) and was one of many dignitaries and survivors to light a candle in remembrance.
Freddy, 90, was just 10 when he fled Nazi-occupied Vienna in early 1939.
“What do I remember?” he said. “Well, it wasn’t all that exciting. We – my sister and I – just got on a train, really.”
He spoke at the event, and he also told the Ham&High that, despite the horrors of the Holocaust, he was always conscious of his own luck.
He told this newspaper: “It wasn’t particularly traumatic for us. I came with my sister, and we were very lucky to be taken in by a lovely couple. I have experienced a great deal of luck so I am very very conscious that other didn’t have luck at all.
“There were many people who travelled with me on that particular Kindertransport who finished up in circumstances in which they lost their parents, then quite a few of us were taken in with a view to domestic service.”
Freddy, along with his sister Claire – who became Claire Rauter, the long-serving headteacher of Primrose Hill Primary School – were taken by playwright and future Labour MP Benn Levy and his wife Constance Cummings.
He remembered being picked up at Liverpool Street in “a big car, it was a Rolls-Royce”, before being ferried to the Kensington apartments of the famous couple.
“We had no idea how important or rich they were. But they were incredibly generous. They helped my mother to come over, and Benn set up a bank account with money for her.
“One day the bank manager spoke to him, worried because she had barely touched it. She wanted to be frugal! They had to encourage her to buy nicer clothes, better food and improve her standard of living.”
Before the event, the AJR held a clinic to assist Kindertransport refugees in applying for the recently announced German compensation scheme.
Holocaust Memorial Day is Sunday – January 27, the 74th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.