Jewish survivors of the Holocaust
Collins, Renate, 1933- (1 of 3) The Living Memory of the Jewish Community
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The Living Memory of the Jewish Community
Collins, Renate, 1933-, (speaker, female)
Sinclair, Ilse, 1921-, (speaker, female)
Part 1: Renate Kressova, in England called Renate Kress. Born July 7th 1933. Jewish family, not orthodox. Christened. Earliest memories of going to kindergarten. Living with grandmother, aunt and mother. Germans had taken over the school and were everywhere, but were kind and helped her across the road. Her aunt was Aunt Selma. Grandmother's name not remembered. Only child in the whole family. Selma was Gran's sister. She thought she was christened not because of religious beliefs, but for political reasons. Father came from a German banking family. Mother from Bohemian background and artistic. Her father was a banker and her mother a nurse. They lived in Kostelni, Prague, near a park, and near the river, in an apartment. The last year her father seems to have lived away with his sick father ... not known where. They went to visit at the weekends. Renate was not attached to her mother as much as she became later to her adoptive mother. She experienced no kisses or hugs as she got later from her Welsh parents. She had no nanny. Her grandmother seemed always to be around. Her mother was only about 19 when she was born, her aunt was also always around too ... sculpting. She feels her grandmother would have been warmer with her and more loving, but her mother wanted her to be brought up hardened. Her Aunt lived in another apartment in the same house, but joined them for meals. She enjoyed watching her aunt sculpt. Her mother was a nurse in the local hospital and as such lasted longest and she was kept alive because of her usefulness, until 1942. They never went to the synagogue, nor did she have Jewish instruction. She was not aware that she was Jewish. Most children of her school were sent away too, so maybe the area was a Jewish one, or the school Jewish. She remembers their flat as being dark and stark, but with light coloured walls. Tanya, the doctor's daughter, was put in charge of her on her journey to England. She was prepared for leaving home. There was correspondence between her mother and the Welish couple, who she was going to ... and photos of them to be looked at. It took about six months for the preparation. Mr. Winton found the couple and wrote to mother about them. Mother expressed great satisfaction on learning that Renate would be academically enocuraged. There was no "Good Bye". She had chicken pox and her mother carried her to the station, and at the last minute wanted to hold her back, but the doctor persuaded her to hand her over and so she gave her to Tanya. Only one parent was allowed to see the children off. The German soldiers lined at the platform. She remembers that and the whole journey. The night on the train to Hook of Holland, and a ferry to Harwich, and a train journey to Liverpool Street station. Mr. Winton was apparently at the university and did all this as part of a project. He was not at the station to meet them. Apparently a baby was thrown into Tanya's arms at the last moment, about 3-4 weeks old, and taken care of by an accompanying adult. No idea what happened to the baby. Tanya apparently went into the Navy and eventually married an Italian. Tanya's mother came over after the War, and brought a few things for Renate. She never saw Tanya again. In London, on the platform, she saw this black-coated man with a hat and a dog-collar and was handed over to him. She hardly spoke any English, just yes and no. At Paddington Station she wanted to go to the toilet, so he asked a lady to take Renate and give her a penny for the door ... but she could not reach to unlock the door, and screamed the place down in German or Czech, and so he gave another penny to another lady to rescue her. She remembers the train journey to Wales. She was put to bed with a kiss and a cuddle. Next morning she was taken to church, and after the service she joined some girls, who were collecting hymn books and was laughing with them. One of those girls is still a friend to her now, and used to live next door but one to her in Porth, South Wales. She immediately warmed to the family but found the language barrier frustrating. When she wanted a glass of water, took them all the way round the house until they found a tap. There was no bathroom, and the toilet was in the back yard. Later evacuees started to come and flood the whole valley. Her host and later adoptive father was a Baptist minister. The house was rented, one of a terrace of four. She arrived in Porth on the 2nd of July, 1939. She remembers her birthday a week later. Her first cake ever, and candles for her to blow out. The family treated her as their own. They could not have children, and made her a member of the family immediately. Even now she is part of the place, and is remembered by everyone. She wrote to her parents and her mother got upset to hear that she was learning rude words, though she thinks she was reasonably timid.
Interviewee's note: Born Renate Kressova, called Renate Kress on England. Describes earliest memories, living in Prague. Christened, although of Jewish parentage, not orthodox, not aware she was Jewish. Her first six years. Preparation for leaving Czechoslovakia; correspondence with Nicholas Winton; memories of her train journey; boat journey; arrival at Liverpool Street station; train journey to Porth, South Wales. Life in Wales with foster parents who treated her as their own. Contact with cousin Liesl, who passed on news of her parents. Officially adopted at aged 14. Grammar school, commercial college, work for BOAC in Porth. Meeting Dave, marriage. Talks about her adoptive parents, her sons, cousin Liesl. Esther Rantzen's TV programme, featuring an appeal to "the last children out of Prague"; she appeared on the show, met Nicholas Winton. Letters from her real parents to her adoptive parents. Red Cross letter, 10 June 1942, forwarded to Porth, last word from her mother. Looking back at the events of her life, sad but also loved.