“It saved my life,” explained Bob Kirk, 97, who arrived in Harwich from Germany aged 13 in May 1939. “It gave me the possibility of a new life and a new family.” Bob’s parents were deported to Riga, Latvia, and murdered. Bob praised the British government, who gave permission, but stressed that it was down to local communities to organise transport, accommodation and other support.
Dame Stephanie Shirley, 88, who was five when she first arrived in Harwich, told the Guardian that she had often reflected about what might have happened if she hadn’t been put on that train, “And how things are different because I was put on the train; how it gave me resilience and strength.” A successful businesswoman, she is one of the UK’s foremost philanthropists. When she received a £2,150 cheque from the German government in restitution, she donated the money to Safe Passage, a charity which helps today’s child refugees find sanctuary.
Dame Shirley and Bob Kirk were among 10,000 children rescued from Germany and Austria shortly before the outbreak of war. Many of them never saw their families again.