…if you hear one person discriminate against another just because he is a different colour or follows a different religion, you have to stand up and say, “Stop!”

- Harry Bibring

Harry was born in 1925 to Polish parents in Vienna, Austria. He also had a sister, Gerta, who was 2 years older than him. Harry loved going ice skating at the rink in Vienna and spent much of his time there as a child. Harry’s family observed the Jewish holidays and followed the dietary restrictions.

Harry was 12 years old when Hitler occupied Austria and immediately noticed the differences in his school. There were 13 Jewish children and around 20 non-Jewish children in his class, and they were all friends. However, the Monday after Hitler came to power, his classroom was segregated, with Jewish children on one side and non-Jewish children on the other. The children that used to be his friends ignored him, as their parents had told them not to socialise with Jews. Soon after, all Jewish children were dismissed from the school.

On the night of the 9th of November 1938, Harry remembers seeing smoke rising from the nearby synagogue that had been set on fire, this night would later be named Kristallnacht. It was a very frightening time for him. The next day Harry’s father was arrested, and a few hours later Harry and his mother and sister were taken by the Nazi police to a flat with around 50 other Jewish women and children. To make matters worse, Harry contracted appendicitis and was in terrible pain, which worried his mother a lot.

After 10 days or so, they were allowed to return home, as was Harry’s father. They found that Harry’s father’s shop – a clothes shop – had been looted and vandalised during Kristallnacht. Harry’s parents decided to try and leave the country, as many other Jewish families did.

After a failed attempt to go to Shanghai in China, Harry’s parents learned of the Kindertransport, a scheme that was securing safe passage for children to England. They managed to secure a place for Harry and Gerta, with the intention of joining them in England.

In March 1939 Harry and Gerta left Vienna on the Kindertransport. Harry remembers seeing and hearing all the hundreds of children saying tearful goodbyes to their parents. Harry himself was 13, and whilst he was older than a large number of the children making the journey, he had never travelled anywhere without his parents before.

When they reached the Netherlands, people from the Dutch Jewish community gave them food, toys and clothes. Eventually they arrived in London, 2 days after they set off. Harry did not speak a word of English, which made things very difficult for him. He also found out that the family that had agreed to take him and Gerta in only had room for Gerta, so he was sent to one of their relatives.

Harry had around 8 different addresses in his first couple of months in England, staying a week or two at each. He found this very unsettling. Harry was evacuated to Peterborough after the war broke out between Britain and Germany, where he lived with headmaster of the local school. This at least allowed Harry to improve his English.

Gerta was evacuated to Wales, so she and Harry could only stay in touch via letters. They were also able to write to their parents via friends in America, and received over 40 letters from them, each assuring that they were trying to find a way to come to England.

One day, Harry received a letter saying that his father had died following his deportation to a concentration camp and Harry’s mother was murdered in Sobibór extermination camp in 1942. Neither of his parents got to see him grow up and make a life for himself.

Harry gave his testimony at the National Holocaust Centre and Museum for as long as he was able, becoming a very close friend and supporter. He tirelessly talked of the importance of standing up to hatred and discrimination. His legacy will be protected and maintained by the centre for years to come and will continue to educate people about the Holocaust.