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Compassion (part 2) and truth

September 8, 2009

Idly listening to Radio 4 (what else) last Saturday morning I happened to hear Susi Bechhofer talking on Saturday Live. Susi and her twin sister Lotte were 3 years old when they were placed on the Kindertransport. Susi’s story particularly caught my attention because quite a few years ago I had the privilege of working alongside a fine social social worker who many years earlier had been one of the escorts on the Kindertransport. She had been responsible for caring those fleeing children – she might have even looked after Susi – on that terrifying journey from imminent danger, leaving all familiar things behind, across sea and land into the unknown. Lisa could only have been a teenager herself when she assisted in saving the lives of so many young children. To learn more about the Kindertransport have a look at Into the Arms of Strangers.

Susi Bechhofer’s life was saved but she was had her identity stripped from her. She and her sister were placed with a childless couple who brought them up but changed their names and actively prevented them from finding out about their Jewish and German roots. Only as a teenager did Susi discover her real names and later in life sought out and found records of her family (which she had been told had been destroyed) and even a few surviving relatives. Susi clearly felt being deprived of her identity a huge loss and one for which she does not forgive the couple who brought her up.

Compassion for herself and her sister in those who cared for them combined with the courage of those who loved them but who let them go on that fearful journey to safety. Important as these are Susi cited truth as equally valuable. She was not given truth as a child and had to seek it out in later life as an adult. “Don’t hide the truth” said Susi, “it will only come out”. She’s surely right. Susi has written about all this in Rosa’s Child.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. susi Bechhofer permalink
    January 17, 2010 6:29 pm

    I am susi Bechhofer of whom Simon jenkins write so honestly. I was touched to hear fo the young girls, who accompanied us on this journey to a safer place.. We, like they grow old!.. However it is now we can salute their courage and compassion too.. Thank you Simon Jenkins for bringin this to my attention Susi Jan 17 2010

    • Brick permalink*
      January 18, 2010 9:50 am

      Wonderful to hear from you Susi. The person I knew (she died a few years ago) was Lisa Freudenthal. She was a social worker in Kingston U Thames in the 1970’s where I worked for a time as did my wife. Lisa would have been about 18 or 19 when she worked as a escort on the Kindertransport saving many young children and, being a Jewish woman, also saying herself.

      Being a child and family social worker myself I was also touched by your account of how you were adopted and then denied access to your true history and family. This has happened to so many adopted children and I fear it still happens.

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