Persecuting minorities beyond borders — a Holocaust child survivor’s story
by Claire DICKSON
25 January 2023
To mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2023, Eve Kugler, a child survivor of the Holocaust, told her story at an event organised by Ards and North Down Borough Council and held at Bangor Town Hall. Linda Patterson, the former principal of Millisle Primary School also contributed, speaking about the Holocaust Memorial Garden at the school.
Linda Patterson spoke about her interest in local history, and as the school had played a part in the story of the Holocaust, it was the perfect opportunity to keep this alive. Some Jewish children from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia were sent to live on a farm in Millisle, after being rescued from their homes when their parents were imprisoned by the Nazis. This transportation of Jewish children to safety in Britain and Ireland became known as ‘Kindertransport’.
The Holocaust Memorial Garden on the grounds of the school is named “Safe Haven”, due to the safe haven that the Millisle community gave to Jews during World War Two. But Patterson commented that “the farm in Millisle could only offer so much; it was the people that offered expertise and friendship”, with a lesson that “no matter how much you feel like giving up, hold on, like these ordinary people did every day of their lives.” Pupils from Millisle Primary School then read extracts from Faraway Home, by Marilyn Taylor, a novel based on the Millisle refugee farm.
Eve Kugler then gave an account of what life was like as a Jewish child in Germany when Hitler rose to power. Signs began to appear in 1933, as flyers appeared that instructed Germans not to buy from Jews or give their money to Jewish people. This affected Kugler’s family, as her father’s business began to lose out. In 1936, Kugler’s younger sister was born at home, due to measures prohibiting Jews from accessing hospitals. In 1938, Kugler’s grandfather was arrested by the Nazis at the family home. When her father was also arrested, Nazi police turned over furniture in the house, broke dishes and took the Torah from her grandfather’s bedroom, tearing it to shreds. Kugler’s father was placed in a concentration camp but got out due to a forged visa and was told to leave the country rapidly.
The family were allowed to leave Germany to go to Paris with just 40 marks each. The family were living in a French camp by 1940, due to wartime conditions. There, the Americans produced visas for some children to leave the camp and go to America. Kugler and her older sister were able to make the two-month journey to America and arrived in New York in the summer of 1941.
Kugler said that as human beings, we are all the same. We must learn to live together and respect differences, including as Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. She concluded by stating that the difference between other genocides and the war against Jews was that the war against Jews extended all over Europe — there were no borders.