…we need to develop our own sense of right and wrong that can withstand any pressure to conform to the herd mentality which can so easily take over our lives.
- John Fieldsend in A Wondering Jew 2014

John was born in 1931 in Czechoslovakia, and moved to Dresden, Germany when he was very young. He lived with his parents, older brother and dog, and has fond memories of his childhood. In particular he remembers the snowy winters, and sledging in the hills, as well as building models. His family were not particularly religious, and John cannot remember ever visiting a synagogue as a child. He knew more about Easter and Christmas than any Jewish festival.

However, this did not stop John and his family being on the receiving end of antisemitism. John can remember Hitler visiting Dresden in the mid-1930s, and even though John’s family remained indoors they could hear his amplified voice insulting the Jewish people. John can also remember having to go to hospital around this time after cutting his head. The doctor said that he needed stitches but refused to treat John’s cut as he did not “stitch Jews”, so just put a plaster on instead. John still has a scar from this.

John’s friends, who were just young children, turned on him due to being Jewish. He remembers them calling him and his brother names. John’s brother even ran to retrieve his father’s Iron Cross that he had received for his service in the First World War, to prove that they were loyal Germans.

John’s family decided to flee to Czechoslovakia and stay with John’s grandparents, where they thought they would be safe. However, before long the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia, and it became dangerous for them to live there. John can remember his father being interrogated by a Nazi officer for pruning a tree.

John’s parents decided to send John and his brother on a Kindertransport to Britain, where they would be safe. John can remember his father teaching him how to say “I can’t speak English” in English and saying goodbye to him and his brother. John later found out that he owed his place on the transport to Nicolas Winton, who saved over 600 children from Nazi persecution.

He and his brother first went to a Jewish boarding school in Hanover, before boarding a train to England. They arrived in London in 1939, and were met by John’s foster family, who took them to Sheffield. John’s brother stayed with a different family close by to John.

John was evacuated to Bedford during the Blitz, but other than that he had a happy life with his foster family and stayed there until 1961 when he got married. They ensured he spoke English well and received a good education.

After the war, in 1946, John received a letter and 3 family photo albums from his parents via the Red Cross. Initially John thought his parents were alive, however upon reading the letter he realised they had not survived the war. He found out they had been deported in 1943 to Poland, where they likely met their fate.

John has been a great friend to the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, and has also spoken at several different schools, providing his testimony, and answering questions so that young people would learn to reject discrimination and hatred in the future.