Reunion of war veteran refugees
In September, a reunion of refugees in the British forces was hosted by the Imperial War Museum and attended by some 200 veterans and their families.
The occasion, sponsored by the AJR, the Leo Baeck (London) Lodge and the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, also served to launch a book by Dr Helen Fry entitled The King’s Most Loyal Enemy Aliens.
A generous tribute was paid to the refugees’ contribution to the war effort by Field Marshal Lord Bramall, former Chairman of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, followed by an historical overview by Dr Fry, accounts of their experiences by four veterans, and a screening of the film Lift Your Head, Comrades about refugees in the Pioneer Corps. A day of deep emotion for surviving ‘Enemy Alien’ veterans able to attend the event.
Eric Sanders, born Ignaz Schwarz in Vienna, arrived in England in October 1938. He volunteered for the army in February 1940 and was assigned to the 88 Company of the Pioneer Corps stationed in France. In 1943 he volunteered for ‘hazardous duty’ and was trained for Special Operations Executive to be dropped behind enemy lines. He trained as a radio operator and was stationed in Italy from September 1944. After the war, he returned to Vienna as a translator in the British-Austrian Legation Unit, which was reconstructing laws for the new, democratic Austria.
Susan Lustig, born Susan Cohn in Breslau, emigrated to England on a domestic permit in July 1939. In 1943 she was called up for war work and joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service initially as a dental orderly before transferring to a PoW camp in Buckinghamshire with the Intelligence Corps. Here in March 1944 she met her future husband, Fritz Lustig.
Willy Field was born William Hirschfeld in Bonn. Following Kristallnacht he was taken to a prison in Cologne. In November 1938 he was moved to Dachau concentration camp. Having emigrated to England, he was interned and he eventually boarded the troopship Dunera for Australia. In 1941 he volunteered for the British Forces and returned to England to serve in the Pioneer Corps. He transferred to the Royal Armoured Corps, training as a tank driver, and saw frontline fighting in France, Belgium and Holland.
Colin Anson, born Claus Leopold Octavio Ascher in Berlin, left for England with the Kindertransport. In December 1940 he joined the Pioneer Corps. As part of 87 Company of the Pioneer Corps, he played in a band and orchestra around Wales. In 1942 he volunteered for ‘special duties’, training in a German-speaking Commando unit. He took part in the invasion of Sicily, suffering a serious head injury. He later served in Italy with the Intelligence Section of No. 2 Commando Brigade. After the war he returned to Germany as part of the British Control Commission, engaged in the denazification process.