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Accession Number: NEKHC:2015.22.1-4

Object: Letter

Physical Description: Typed letter, blank ink on white paper. Some pen underlining. Complete. 

Information: This letter forms part of the Dorothy Fleming Collection. The letter was sent to Dorothy's parents shortly after her arrival in Britain as part of the Kindertransport. The author knew Dorothy's mother and wished to inform her that her children had arrived safely and were well cared for. 

Further Information

This letter forms part of the Dorothy Fleming Collection. Dorothy Fleming was born Dora Oppenheimer in Vienna, Austria, and as a young child enjoyed family life with her parents and sister. The family were in increasing danger from the rise of Nazism and persecution of Jewish people. Facing this danger and increasing anti-Jewish measures, Dorothy and her sister, Lisi, were sent by their parents to England on the Kindertransport on 10 January 1939. They left Vienna by train travelling across Europe to Holland, crossing the sea to England, and boarding a train into London. Dorothy was ten years old at the time and Lisi was four, they made the journey alone with Dorothy taking care of her little sister. They had been selected by their prospective foster family, who had intended to foster just one child but after learning Dorothy had a younger sister could not bear to split them.

This letter was written in London, England, and is dated 14 January 1939, four days after Dorothy and Lisi departed from Vienna. On arrival in London the girls were met by the author of this letter, Mrs Anneliese Lerski, a friend of Dorothy and Lisi’s parents, Hanna and Erich. Anneliese had previously sent a telegram letting Hanna and Erich know their children had arrived safely, and sent a second telegram once the girls safely reached Leeds. Telegrams had to be very short so could not contain much detail, they were sent to provide Hanna and Erich some peace of mind. The letter followed with details of the girls’ arrival to England, and reassurance that they were well cared for and much adored. Anneliese had been informed that Dorothy and Lisi were to arrive on the Thursday, on a train coming in at 3pm.

The letter details the anticipation of their arrival, it was felt that the children would be tired after their journey so it had been arranged for them to stay in London for one night before travelling on to Leeds. The train arrived on time and Anneliese notes how moving it was to see the children, some of them very young, pouring out of the train. She had found Dorothy and Lisi hand in hand on the platform. The girls were intended to stay for the night with a lady called Mrs Ross, however she had not been able to make it to the station for 3pm and Anneliese could not move the girls, as they were assigned to Mrs Ross and the intended foster parents. Ultimately a witness was able to vouch for the situation and the children stayed with ‘Auntie Olga’ for one night instead, Anneliese expresses their delight at being able to care for the girls. It is reported that Dorothy had travelled well, however Lisi was very tired after the journey.

The author marvels at what good care Dorothy was taking of her sister, being so young herself. Reflecting on their journey in 2015, Dorothy remembers taking her responsibility to look after her sister very seriously, and being adamant that she would take care of her sister herself. Anneliese collected the girls from Olga’s house the next day at 11am and writes of her dilemma over whether or not to accompany them to Leeds. Travelling to Leeds from London was very expensive, so with reassurance from Dorothy that she had a good enough grasp of the English language and that she was able to care for them both, the girls were allowed to travel unaccompanied along with a third Kindertransport child also travelling to Leeds. They travelled in third class and the author relates to their parents the details of the carriage and helping them to find the best place to sit. By chance an officer of the Salvation Army boarded and stowed his luggage opposite the girls, agreeing to keep an eye on the children during their journey.

Once connected in Leeds the family who agreed to foster Dorothy and Lisi, the Halls, called Olga to inform them the girls had arrived safely. Dorothy had greatly impressed the adults with Anneliese relaying how calm and collected she had been and how Lisi had been looked after with such care. Lisi is noted as a beautiful young child who was much adored by the adults who had seen her. She had blonde ringlets and had delighted at bouncing on the train seats, being just four years old. Mr Hall had been advised that they would need collecting from the station, and the author relays their relief at getting a phone call to confirm the girls had arrived safe in Leeds.

The author also writes regarding Hanna's attempts to leave for Britain, at that time many people were trying to gain employment or permits which would allow them to move, in order to flee the danger from Nazism. Eventually Dorothy’s father, who was an optician in Vienna, was through a friend able to gain a related work permit to come to Britain.

The children who came to Britain as part of the Kindertransport were only able to bring one piece of luggage each, and they had to be able to carry it themselves. At ten years old and four years old the two sisters brought one small case each which had been packed tightly and thoughtfully. Conscious that the girls would need to take as much as possible, Hanna had dressed Lisi in many layers of clothing and underwear to try and make sure she had plenty for her new life in England. After signing off from “A & H” Anneliese added a postscript:

How many pairs of pants was the little one really wearing? It was very sensible to do it like that. But there was a little dumpling ambling along the station platform, and afterwards, when all the layers were shed, there was a very graceful and slim little girl. Fantastic!

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