Every decision that you make is your own decision. Good, bad or indifferent.

-Bernard Grunberg

Bernard Grunberg was born in 1923 in Lingen, Northwest Germany, around 11 miles from the Dutch border. He and his mother, father and sister were one of the 12 Jewish families in Lingen, where they led a comfortable life thanks to his father’s successful cattle-dealing business.

Bernard and his sister attended a Christian school but received religious teaching from a Jewish teacher twice a week along with the other 10 Jewish children. He had a happy childhood and enjoyed school as well as playing with his friends like any other child. He used to enjoy visiting his family in Groningen, Netherlands, where his uncle owned an upholstery factory. He later discovered that his Dutch family had been taken to Westerbork Transit Camp in the Netherlands, before being sent to Auschwitz where they were killed.

As anti-Jewish laws were gradually introduced in Germany, Bernard became more isolated. Whilst his teachers still treated him well and allowed him to leave when the lesson contained Nazi propaganda, his friends gradually stopped talking to him and Bernard was verbally and physically abused by the other children. His education suffered as a result of this, and eventually his father decided there was little point in Bernard continuing with school.

The events of Kristallnacht in 1938 led Bernard’s mother to send him on the Kindertransport to England to escape the persecution in Germany. He set off on the 12th of December 1938, age 15, carrying just a small suitcase of possessions, including an album of family photographs. As the train passed close by his hometown, Bernard’s father was able to join Bernard for 20 minutes of the journey, until they reached the Dutch border. Although he did not know it then, that was the last time Bernard would see any of his family.

Bernard lived in several different locations following his arrival in England. He first stayed in a holiday camp in Lowestoft, living in wooden cabins with no access to heating during the bitterly cold winters. Thankfully Bernard was moved to another holiday camp in Dovercourt, which had better living conditions. He also stayed at a Salvation Army home in Harwich, where he was treated well. Bernard also stayed in Waddesdon on Lord Rothschild’s estate, as well as a short stay in London.

Bernard was able to stay in touch with his family via letters until war broke out between Britain and Germany, when communication ceased. From then on, he could only remain in contact with one of his cousins, who lived in the Netherlands. However, this eventually stopped too due to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Bernard felt very alone during this time and would often cry in order to cope.

Bernard was able to use his experience with cattle to get a job at a dairy farm, and earned enough money to get by. In 1945 he met his wife Daisy, and they were married in 1947. During this time Bernard received a letter from the Red Cross stating that his parents and sister had been deported to Riga, Latvia in December 1941 and there was no other information known at that time. For forty years Bernard did not know what had happened to his family. It was only in 1986, when Bernard was invited back to Lingen for the unveiling of a memorial to the Jewish community of Lingen that he discovered his family had been deported to a camp in Riga, Latvia and eventually murdered.

Bernard was invited back to Lingen every year and was made an honorary citizen in 1993. He frequently spoke about his traumatic experience both in Germany and England and was a long-term friend and supporter of the centre.

The Collection

The museum houses documents, objects, and photographs donated by Bernard Grunberg. It is our privilege to care for these artefacts and ensure they are available for future generations. The museum's collection provides vital, tangible, evidence of the Holocaust. We are committed to ensuring we have everything we need to continue to tell our speaker's stories into the future. Please find a selection of objects below from the Bernard Grunberg Collection, you can also search our collections for further objects and information.