This morning, Year 6 had the honour of listening to the testimony of Gabriele Keenaghan (BEM) who escaped Austria on the Kindertransport.
Her moving testimony started with what life was like for Jewish people and how anti-Jewish laws came into force in the 1930s. By 1938 she was not allowed to go to the same school as her friends. She was the only one in her class who was separated as her Father was Jewish. Gabriele was not even allowed to play in the park across from her house.
Anti-Jewish Laws cards
She remembers Kristallnacht as she was at a Catholic convent. All the children and nuns were very scared throughout the night. After this night, she never saw her Jewish Father again. She said this night changed everything and she would never forget it.
Gabriele also remembers the German soldiers marching through the streets as in 1938 Vienna welcomed the Nazis.
As her mother had died before the war, Gabriele’s Grandmother looked after her. Her Grandmother was the one who organised for her to go on the Kindertransport to Britain. She does not know how her Grandmother managed this but she is eternally grateful. Gabriele showed us her name tag and the bear she brought with her on her long journey to Britain.
Gabriele was initially welcomed in Britain but had to move a few times when the war started in 1939. By the time she reached 16 years of age she was classed as an enemy alien by the British Government because Austria was seen as a supporter of the Nazis. She had to report to the police once a month.
The Catholic Community for Refugees sent her to a nursing college and she qualified as a nurse. After the war, she met her husband and had her family. She was also able to fulfill her own dream of becoming a teacher.
Gabriele said that even though she went through these very difficult experiences she is not bitter.
She told the children never to be bitter; be better.