Rita Berwald was my mother. My name is Michele Gold, I am a docent here at the museum.

My mother was born in Leipzig, Germany on February 11, 1924. Her parents, Febus and Marie, were born in Poland. My mother and her two brothers, Harry and Peter, came from a close, traditional Jewish family and had a wonderfully happy childhood. Two years before Kristallnacht and before Mum really understood how dark the situation was to become, her eldest brother Harry, who was then 22 years of age, had left to Brazil to escape the worsening situation. From Brazil, he went to Buenos Aires in Argentina where he made his home for the next 20 years before settling with his family in Los Angeles. Two months before Kristallnacht, in September 1938, following a road accident which damaged the car of a high ranking German officer, my mother’s brother Peter had been packed off in a great hurry and sent to Switzerland. After many attempts to send him back to Germany, Peter managed to get into Great Britain. There he joined the army and spent the remaining war years in the Pioneer Corps. What Hitler’s reign of terror really meant to my mother’s childhood came with Kristallnacht, Mum was just 14 years old. A few days after the two days of state-permitted violence against Jews, an official came and sealed off the doors to her father’s business, froze all the assets, including the bank accounts. Mum’s family were given a small allowance in order to buy food and very bare necessities. Mum continued attending a Jewish school. One day, in the middle of a lesson the teacher was called out of the classroom. When she returned, she read out a number of names and told those children to put on their coats and leave. The rest of the children were told to go home quietly. My mother saw lots of children of different ages being herded into big trucks, adults, too, and they were all crying. Mum’s school had closed—no more school and no more friends. Very soon after Kristallnacht, it was decided that my mother would leave on a Kindertransport to England. A family that Mum and her family had met on holiday in Holland invited her/my mother to stay with them in Glasgow. Mum always remembered her case being packed and talking to her parents of plans when they would all one day reunite in the UK. Mum boarded the train and that was the last time she ever saw her brave parents.

The journey to England was exciting, and this dulled the pain of separation. So many young children were on the train with her—most of them looked so lost and so bewildered. Some did not know where they were going or what was in store for them. Eventually, Mum was met in Edinburgh, Scotland by her hosts on March 3, 1939. It was decided she would call them Uncle and Aunt. She was welcomed by all the family and soon became part of the family. The great warmth and love between them remained her whole life. Mum’s parents managed to escape over the Polish border but their last communication was from Krakow, Poland on January 22, 1940. They were declared dead on December 31, 1945. My mother began a new life. She learned to live without fear and her Scottish family became mother, father, sisters, and another two brothers to her. Her own parents always stayed in her heart. The medical field was one of my mother’s passions and she became a State Registered Nurse. In later years, Mum would spend the winter months with my husband and I, in Los Angeles. During her visits, she attended medical events and participated in conferences. She was a prolific writer of short stories and poems—but above all, her family, her children, and her grandchildren were her greatest source of happiness.