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Holocaust survivor returns to Chalk Farm decades after escape

Ruth David told her story to children at Haverstock School

07 March, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

Ruth David with her son Simon Finch, and Haverstock School pupils Rahim Islam, 13, Abdur Altaf, 14, and Macey Kilgallon, 13

A WOMAN’S harrowing story of how she escaped from Nazi Germany to the safety of a friend’s home in Chalk Farm was shared with secondary school pupils yesterday (Wednesday) as she returned to the area.

Holocaust survivor Ruth David, who is now 89, was invited to Haverstock School to speak about her family’s ordeal leaving Germany before the Second World War and her memories of the school back then.

“When I arrived in England I stayed with my mother’s friend at Eton Court across the road,” she told the schoolchildren. “I remember looking out the window at this school and seeing children happily playing in their break. This was the first school I saw. I hadn’t seen people look that happy before. I was happy to see the girls dressed in pretty gingham dresses. I was thrilled to be watching them – they would have been your grandparents.”

Ms David arrived in England aged 10 in 1939 and stayed at Eton Court for three days before moving to a refugee hostel in Tynemouth.

Ms David, who turns 90 next Saturday, said: “I travelled alone and arrived at Liverpool Street Station. It was dirty and sooty back then. My sister was supposed to come with me but her name somehow was taken off the list. I spoke no English. “It cost £50 to put a child on the Kindertransport train and at that time people were earning £2 to £3 a week, so that was a lot of money at the time.”

Ms David has written and published two books about her experiences, A Child of our Time, and Life-lines.

She recalled her memories of Kristallnacht – the “night of broken glass” in 1938 when there was widespread violence against Jews in Germany – telling the children: “We heard the crashing of an axe on the front door, breaking glass and shouts. My older ­sister and I heard the noise and went downstairs to the garage and hid in the car. We didn’t want to be found. After a few hours, when it all went quiet, we crept inside the house. We found my uncle in a ­terrible state, my aunt in hysterics and my mum in the kitchen a foot deep in broken glass.”

Pupils gasped as they heard the re-telling of her story and what she remembered as a child.

Rahim Islam, 13, said: “It’s astonishing how brave she was.”

Ms David said: “My parents ended up in Auschwitz and were murdered. I didn’t find out until the end of the war what happened to them. But there were friends of mine in the hostel in Tynemouth who never found out what happened to their parents. I think it’s better to know than not to know.”

Haverstock history teacher Samuel Marcus said: “We think this event is especially poignant for our students, over 30 per cent of whom are from refugee backgrounds. It feels ­particularly important in the aftermath of the depressing recent figures about Holocaust denial and ignorance on a national level.”

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