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u3a - Kindertransport Memories - Ruth Hayter

Ruth Hayter

Member of Brunswick u3a

RUTH MARIA HAYTER HISTORY

Ruth Maria Yvonne Catherina Reisch was born in Vienna on the 23rd October 1936. Ruth’s mother Yvonne Reisch was a schoolgirl aged 16. She was Roman Catholic and was born on 1st May 1920. Ruth’s father Fritz Klinkhoff was an engineering student. He was 18 years old when Ruth was born. He was known as Fred and was Jewish. We do not know if Fritz knew about Ruth. He was not named on the birth certificate. At 9 days old – 1st November 1936 – having been baptized, Ruth was put into an orphanage.

Six weeks later – December 13th – she was taken out of the orphanage and fostered by Herr and Frau Kummer. Herr Kummer held the office of ‘Notary Public’. Frau Kummer had been a children’s Governess. In April 1939 Herr Kummer was not allowed to have a Jewish child. He feared he would lose his job if he continued to house Ruth. Orphanages would not accept Ruth as she was Jewish. Jewish orphanages would not accept Ruth as her mother was not Jewish.

Meanwhile, in London, on behalf of “Gildemeester Auswanderungshilfsaktion fur Juden”, Herr Breuer wanted to hear from ‘Everyone who might be willing to save Jewish child from Austria or Germany. Barrister Walter and his wife Dora made contact. They were specific. They wanted to rescue a “girl with blue eyes and fair hair” who would fit in, in looks, with their existing family: 3 sons (born 1927, 1928, 1932) and a daughter aged 4 and a half. The arrangement must be for life. She would be a full member of the family. No question of returning her to previous relatives at any time in the future.

14th April 1939 Letter from Gildemeester via Dr. Breuer offering Ruth Reisch “who fits all your wishes” 16th April 1939 Walter’s reply: “On receipt of this letter please telegraph date and address in Vienna to which my wife can come personally to fetch the child”. Walter will take full responsibility for bringing Ruth to the UK. Formalities can follow.

In 1938 Dora had already fetched family member Ursula to the UK from Germany. It was risky then but this trip to Vienna would be even more so. What a brave lady. Walter, being Jewish, could not make either trip. 19th April 1939 Telegram. Ruth can be fetched in a fortnight – and address. As a barrister, Walter had acted for British Customs and Excise. He contacted his client to seek advice as to the possibility of smuggling a young child with no paperwork into the country. If so, how should it be done? He learned that “Yes, it would be very easy at Dover”. It would be best to go with other adults and a group of children to meet on the ferry.

The route from disembarkation to customs runs along the nearside of a low wall. The welcome party should wait on the far side of the wall. On reaching that point, the traveller should simply hand the child over the wall and continue through customs alone. They would all meet up at the far side of customs. Wednesday, May 3rd 1939, Walter, his two older sons and their Aunt Joan waved Dora off from Victoria station on her trip to Vienna. Dora had a few days in Vienna to visit Frau Kummer and get to know Ruth a little. Sunday 7th May 1939 in London, Walter, with their son Andrew and daughter Antonia took the train to Dover. They all went to meet the ferry from Dunkirk with Dora and Ruth onboard.

Sunday 7th May 1939 in Vienna, Dora having got to know Ruth a little, met her again with Frau Kummer at the railway station. Dora and Ruth boarded the train to Dunkirk but as soon as she noticed Frau Kummer had vanished Ruth began to cry. She cried continuously through the whole of the train journey to Dunkirk and the ferry trip to Dover. She only stopped crying when handed over the wall into Walter’s arms.

In the restaurant car on the train to London, a plate of biscuits was put on the table. Ruth immediately grabbed the only chocolate one. In that instant, her new sister Antonia aged 4 and a half, realised that she was no longer the youngest member of the family. She must now take responsibility and look after her new younger sister Ruth. The taxi driver from Victoria ignored Ruth’s order in rich Viennese German to take her back to her former address in Vienna.

Ruth spent her first night in England at 11 Woodchurch Road in West Hampstead, North London. Ruth arrived in England with few clothes. Antonia wished some were large enough for her, but in fact, they barely fitted Ruth. She also brought her Beucheli (comfort cushion) and Haesi, her orange-pink celluloid doll with moulded plaits round her ears and no clothes. Ruth still has Haesi today as well as the teddy bear she was given on arrival.

 Ruth H Haisi

Ruth's Haesi Doll

Now that Ruth had arrived, dozens of Walter and Dora’s relatives, friends, neighbours and colleagues who had all been following her progress with great interest, couldn’t wait to come and meet Ruth for themselves. Ruth was settling in well with Andrew and Antonia in the care of Kit Prout (Nurse) a lovely lady from North Cornwall, who lived in and helped Dora look after the children. Some weeks later Dora went for a short break to Switzerland. By arrangement, she met Frau Kummer in person and gave her all the details of Ruth’s situation and reassured her that all was positive and fine.

For greater safety at the outbreak of war, Dora got all the children out of London. Ruth and Antonia with Nurse were on their way to Cornwall. Ruth was quite upset when she couldn’t understand the Cornish accent. Was this yet another language to learn? But Ruth did understand when the locals mentioned the nearby town ‘Redruth” “I’m not Red Ruth” she kept shouting. She was taken upstairs for an explanation but it didn’t help. She just didn’t understand. What was it about that place, Cornwall? Friend Roger Stevens flung a live chicken in the air and an egg dropped to the ground!

Ruth H Child

A young Ruth

From Cornwall Antonia, Ruth and Nurse moved on to aunts in Buckinghamshire and Berkshire, and eventually, the whole family settled to a lovely house with a large garden in the country village of Little Bookham, just 25 miles from London. Ruth had a great childhood at Oaken Hill. Dora kept bees, and Antonia and Ruth had a dog, a cat, guinea pigs, and a bantam cockerel called Polesden who chased visitors up the garden drive.

Ruth H Child 2

Ruth as a child

Every day on the way home from school Ruth had permission to enter the grounds of a very grand mansion to pick mulberry leaves for her silkworms. Michael was born in 1940, and Elizabeth in 1943, bringing the total number of children to 7. Having no car, the whole family went everywhere on bicycles or on foot or by train. They thrived happily until 1954 when they returned to London and Ruth started a law degree at the London School of Economics.

 Ruth H now

Ruth now

Observations

On 1/8/1930 Walter and Dora’s daughter Ann died before her first birthday.

On 1/5/39 Walter and Dora homed Ruth. Ruth having started life in the UK at 11 Woodchurch Road NW6, started married life at 20 Woodchurch Road NW6.

Although no distinction was ever made between Ruth and her siblings, inherent differences did of course exist. While each of the siblings was musical, artistic or academic, Ruth was more athletic. This became apparent early on in Cornwall when Antonia and Ruth had to be weighed. To do this they had to be lifted up and to hang on the hooks from which the neighbour's pigs were weighed before going to market. Hanging on and dangling was second nature to Ruth, but Antonia had great difficulty.

Aged 11 and needing a passport, Walter took Ruth for a walk in the country and told her the history of her life. Ruth was overcome with embarrassment. She wished the ground would swallow her up. From then on Ruth knew the enormity of Walter and Dora had done for her. But even so, it’s is only in her 80’s that Ruth has finally found herself able to speak freely about it.

To this day Ruth will not listen to or watch anything to do with Nazism.

When Walter and Dora took Ruth in she was their 5th child. They then gave birth to a son in 1940 and a third daughter in 1943, so finally, Ruth is the 5th child in a family of seven.

On her 5th birthday, Walter gave Ruth the book of bedtime prayers for Ruth Raeburn. But it would be appropriate to conclude that with the one additional prayer that Walter wrote for Ruth:

If you question why I came

It was in the Holy name

God was saying things that He

Only could have said through me.

 

If I bar the Holy way

And refuse to let God say

What he wishes or to shine

Through my eyes the will is mine.

 

But if you question why I came 

What good reason shall I claim

Therefore let your Holy light

Little lamp of God burn bright

 

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