Basque Child Refugees from Northern Spain welcomed in Keighley and Bradford, 1937-1939

To mark the 80th Anniversary of the arrival of child refugees a talk and an exhibition will be held in Keighley Local Studies library on Saturday 28th October at 2.00pm by Simon Martinez and John Birkbeck..

On the 13 September 1937, the Morton Banks Sanatorium in East Riddlesden and the Dr Barnardo children’s home on Manningham Lane, Bradford were turned over to voluntary groups to house children from Northern Spain.

These children had been evacuated at the height of the Spanish Civil War to avoid bombing and hunger following the bombing of Guernica forever immortalised by the painting by Pablo Picasso.

Keighley welcomed 100 of these child refugees and the adults who accompanied them.

They were very happy in Keighley. One later recalled ‘it was a town of twenty to twenty five thousand people, not pretty, not ugly, without a coastline but with swimming pools, a big park, and three cinemas (later there was one more, The Ritz) The Picture House, The Regent, and The Cosey Corner, and a lake which in winter froze over.’

This is a rare opportunity to hear two experts on this often forgotten piece of history speak together. John Martinez is the son of one of the refugee children Ruperta Martinez, (see picture) and he is a leading figure in the Basque Children organisation.

http://www.basquechildren.org

Ruperta Martinez

John Birkbeck’s grandfather was a significant figure in the lives of the Basque children who came to Keighley in 1937 and he has gathered a wealth of knowledge about the experiences of local refugees.

The event is free and all are welcome.

 

Holocaust Memorial Day

Friday 27th January is Holocaust Memorial Day.

To mark the occasion, a display has been mounted in Ilkley Library featuring the hostel ‘Loxleigh’ that was established in 1939 on the corner of Mount Pleasant and Cowpasture Road.

During the tense pre-war period the British Parliament had agreed to admit an unspecified number of children from Hitler’s Germany who were in danger of being sent to concentration camps. Agonising decisions were made by parents to send their children alone on the ‘Kindertransport’

In Ilkley, a committee for the Care of Refugees was established and the hostel was opened, made possible by the efforts of the local Quaker community and earlier immigrants from Europe, many of whom had been successful in business in the West Riding.

The display features the stories of some of those who passed through the hostel including Sigi Wassermann and Edgar Klugman who came on the kindertransport and the story of Arnold Vanderhorst who came in 1945. Arnold had survived the war by hiding in woods near Arnhem. After the war, malnourished, Arnold was sent to the hostel in Ilkley to recuperate and then to join a new foster family in Ilkley.

On Friday, January 27th at 11.00 at City Hall, Bradford there is the annual Holocaust Memorial Day event, all are welcome.

On Monday January 30th at 11.00 in Ilkley there will be a short walk and talk from the Ilkley Library to the Kindertransport hostel in Cow Pasture Road by Nigel Grizzard.

Here we reproduce an extract from ‘Ilkley at War’ by Caroline Brown

Refugees in World War Two

The first boys coming to the hostel in Ilkley arrived on 6th March 1939, all of Jewish ancestry. These boys were aged between fourteen and sixteen and attended schools in Ilkley. Some of those placed in Ilkley came with the last children’s transport from Germany at the end of August 1939. One of the boys later described to a reporter of The Ilkley Gazette his joy at meeting a brother in England after he had lost all hope. It had been the last train to leave Germany with passengers bound for England. Another boy described waving goodbye to his parents and then a rush to get to the ship.

 ‘A very nice station master wired to Ostende for us in order to hold up the ship a few minutes…we arrived at Ostende and ran across the quay; the passengers on board were waving to us – and porters threw our luggage on board. Saved!’

Once on board ship he recalled:

‘It is fearfully wet and stormy. There are so many emigrants; it is all so sad – so many people who have lost their fatherland. We rejoice when we see the lights of Dover but we are so exhausted.’

 He describes the hostel at Ilkley:

‘I found myself in a very nice little room, with green curtains and a little cupboard and bed…everyone was very kind but I felt terribly lonely and I was tired to death by the unfamiliar work.’

 Members of the Ilkley Quaker Community later recalled the difficulty they had in locating these children in the gloom of Leeds Holbeck Station in the blackout.

In August 1939, a writer and teacher from Vienna, themselves refugees, became permanent wardens. In the months and years that followed, many other refugees, younger and older, passed through the hostel fleeing from persecution in Europe, sometimes sleeping eight to a bedroom.

iaw156x

The six boys who arrived at the Hostel in Mount Pleasant, Cowpasture Rd, Ilkley from Dovercourt on 6th March 1939 as refugees from Vienna under the care of the Ilkley Committee for Refugees. Their ages are 14 – 16. Mr H Ferry, Warden of the Hostel is on the right.

Many of the boys learned occupations such as agriculture, joinery and mechanics and entered employment in various parts of the country; others were preparing for emigration and did not remain long. Some joined the forces and others were able to join relatives in Britain and overseas..