Kurt Strauss and Society of Friends

Kurt Strauss photographed by Simon Palmour

The Kurt Strauss Family Papers are available in The Wiener Library archive. You can view them by coming to the Library and asking for Document Collection 1697.

I was born in Germany in 1930 of Jewish parents. By 1938, anti-Semitic feeling in our neighbour-hood was such that my father sent my mother and me to live with her parents in their flat in Prague. My father hoped to join us after he’d tied up some loose ends, but never made it, landing in a concentration camp instead. However, also in 1938, my brother had been sent to Sidcot, a Quaker boarding school in Somerset, and thanks to his efforts, and those of his Quaker Headmaster together with other assorted Quakers in London and Germany, my father was rescued and brought to England in the Spring of 1939. My mother and I followed not long afterwards, in one of the Kindertransport trains, she posing as a carer and I posing as one of the Kinder.

So we began a new life in a hostel for German refugees run by the Quakers in London. When war was declared and the bombings began, our hostel and its residents were evacuated to a farm in Bucks. After that, my mother was found a job as a housekeeper for a widowed Quaker in Surrey, and I was allowed to accompany her. Later my mother was given a new job working for two Quaker spinsters in North London, while I was shipped off to a school in Sussex. Meanwhile the refugee hostel had been re-evacuated to North Wales. By this time, 1941, I was old enough to go to Sidcot, totally unaware that all my board, lodging and education were being paid for by the Quakers, and probably holiday travel as well. My brother, who had left Sidcot shortly after we arrived in England, was by then deemed to be an enemy alien and was interned, first on the Isle of Man and then in Australia. In 1942, due to the intervention once again of the Quakers, he was allowed to return to England. I stayed at Sidcot until the end of the 6th Form and left in 1948.

This story was submitted by Kurt Strauss and suggested by David Irwin at the Library of the Religious Society of Friends.

On 16 November,  Dr Jenny Carson gave a lunchtime talk about the Friends Relief Service at The Wiener Library. For a recording of the lecture, contact the Library.