Alan's Departure and the Return of His Father

Alan's father and worker in the family business

While I was busy working in my father’s workshop right up to the Kristallnacht, all my friends, who had been out of school since April 1938, had been busy making plans to emigrate either with-or-without their parents.  My father was gone of course, so nothing along those lines was even being thought of by us, until his return.

My closest friends all left on the first children’s transport to England in December 1938 and I was in essence left without friends.  My mother, increasingly worried about my father’s prolonged absence, the lack of income and my future in this very hostile and restricted environment, began to urge me to do something about emigrating by myself, since she could not do so until my father was back.

Business card for the Pfeffer business

I remember standing in line to register for emigration to England via the children’s transports and to Palestine via the Jugend Alliyah.  I was of course, very much a latecomer in this process, there were thousands ahead of me and it was all pretty hopeless for a youngster without any connections in the Jewish community.

One of my close friends, who had settled in Oxford with a family, met one of the neighbors, who expressed an interest in helping someone like himself and he recommended me.  This person, not Jewish, had some very powerful connections, which included the Chair of the Board of British Jews.  She wrote him a note describing my particular plight and things began to happen.  All of this was unbeknownst to me or my mother.  In early May 1939, I was suddenly notified that I was to leave Vienna in one week’s time with the next children’s transport to England, my application had been advanced from the bottom of the pile to the top.  Later, much later, I have often wondered who was displaced by me.

My reaction to this news was one of absolute elation.  After six miserable months by the standards of those days, which were the only ones one knew, I was to be liberated.  I was greatly excited about going to England, where my friends had gone and frankly I had dreaded going to Palestine.  I was thinking of nobody but myself in my joy and anticipation.