Ruth Barnett, 83 ‘Years later, when I was 14, my mother appeared out of nowhere, a total stranger’
again until later in the war.
Koschland went to a hostel in Margate, in Kent, before being evacuated in 1940 to a village near Lichfield in the Midlands, where he boarded with an elderly Jewish family. He exchanged letters with his parents until war broke out in September 1939. One of his great regrets is that, at the suggestion of a school friend who told him that having letters in German in wartime would incriminate him, he destroyed them. “I’ve regretted it every day since,” he says.
Koschland lost contact with his parents at that point and spent the war not knowing what had happened to them. He was told of their fate after the war had ended in 1945 by his sister, who met him from school and told him that a survivor of the camps had provided information that they had been deported and were dead, murdered either in Riga in Ruth Barnett was born in 1935, in a Germany that was already descending into Nazi tyranny. Her Jewish father was a judge who had been deprived of his post and frogmarched out of his court by the SS in 1933; her non-Jewish mother ran a cinema-advertising business in Berlin. “We had a brilliant future in front of us until the Nazis came to power,” she says.
Barnett’s father was in hiding for much of the next six years. But the fact that he was blacklisted and his life was in danger may have helped his two children – Ruth had a brother, Martin, who was three years older than her – get on the list for a Kindertransport to the UK in February 1939. Though only four years old at the time, she recalls the journey from Berlin. “I thought it was a holiday trip,” she says. Her mother, who had a short-term visa, accompanied the two children, left