Heinz Unger – Memories

Heinz Unger – born in Berlin, Germany, 9 December 1921

Profession in country of origin: Student (Berlin ORT)

Arrived in Britain as a refugee in August 1939

Kitchener camp, Harry Unger, Berlin ORT, page 1
Kitchener camp, Harry Unger, Berlin ORT, page 1 – Harry’s story

[Editor – summary]

Berlin ORT – school in Leeds not ready on arrival, so the boys were housed in Kitchener camp. The camp housed 4,000 mainly Austrian and German Jews. The camp was opposite the remains of World War One submarine pens.
British government tribunals – three classifications: A, B, C. We were not restricted to the camp and could come and go as we pleased.
A number of us worked on local farms, digging up potatoes. Then filled sandbags to protect the cathedral. This work meant extra food.
Winter was coming and warm clothing was a problem. The boys only had what they had left Germany with.
A call for volunteers for the army was sent out. The boys saw the volunteers training and drilling with broomsticks. Unsure whether there were no guns, or whether they were not trusted with them.
Accommodation in Leeds finally ready in December.
Hostel was in an old manor house with gatekeepers’ cottages in huge grounds. We were in Green Cottage – furthest from the main hostel and supervision. We had a Blackie radio. We also entertained some of the local girls.
Many nights, police or air raid wardens would drop in for a chat and a cup of tea. Our English improved rapidly.

[Editor’s note: Berlin ORT boy Gerhard Wolf was also in Green Cottage]

Kitchener camp, Harry Unger, Berlin ORT, page 2
Kitchener camp, Harry Unger, Berlin ORT, page 2

[Editor – summary]

Lives were run on army lines, with rules laid down by our guardian Colonel Levy – a stickler for discipline. Wake-up was at 6am; breakfast at 7.30. Beds had to be made up army fashion.

After breakfast everybody had a task – installation of new equipment, or gardening.

Bell at 12.30 – a substantial lunch, then announcements. Then work again until 4pm. We cleaned up and played soccer after that.

Five of us were singled out to go to work each day in a factory in Bradford – AB Products, which made Bakelite combs. I learned the basics of English swearing. Had to leave Leeds very early in the cold and dark to get to Bradford, and returned in the dark – all for one shilling a week. The hostel manager kept the rest.

Leeds had a thriving Jewish community. A fantastic club at the Jubilee Hall, with billiard tables, a reading room, and weekly dances. Their German clothes made them stand out and feel uncomfortable. With language problems as well, they felt unwelcome. But it was somewhere to go on a Sunday night and they persevered – although things did not improve. Their dancing skills did, however.

Kindly submitted by Edith Unger, wife of ‘ORT Boy’ Harry Unger