Compassion (part 2) and truth
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.