Judy Benton (a daring escape story)
Judy arrived in the UK on the Kindertransport on 26 July 1939 after a life-changing 24 hours.
It was a seemingly ordinary day when 17 year old Judy returned home in Meissen, Germany. As soon as she arrived, she knew something was wrong. The door was wide open and her parents and sister were gone. A neighbour hurriedly told her that the Gestapo had taken her family and would soon come back for her.
Judy took just minutes to pack a small case, grab her papers and some money and head off to nearby Dresden where she knew there was a synagogue. They told her a Kindertransport train was leaving that night from Leipzig and advised her to try and muscle her way onto it. She had no ticket and none of the official 'movement' paperwork that the children travelled under but this was her best chance.
When Judy arrived at the station, the platform was teeming with distraught mothers and screaming children. One lady thrust her youngster at Judy, begging her to take care of them on the journey. That was the moment, Judy thought of her daring plan.
She hurriedly left the station and ran to a nearby 'party shop' where they sold fancy dress outfits. She selected a white apron and a hat with a red cross on it and back at the station quickly took charge of some youngsters hoping to pass herself off as their nursemaid.
She was banking on the idea that the German SS soldiers would automatically respect her uniform and let her through, and she was right. After a nerve-racking journey, she made it through each checkpoint and arrived safely in London.
Judy aged 17.
World Jewish Relief still retains original records for many of the refugees the organisation helped in the 1930's and 40's. Our case file for Judy shows that soon after arrival she was sent to an agricultural training centre. This was likely to have been a way of ensuring she could stay in the country despite not having a guarantor. If we could prove that she was in training to go to Palestine and only needed temporary refuge in the UK, the Home Office would agree to let her stay.
Judy's case file
As it happened, war broke out and Judy didn't need to remain at the training centre for long. It was long enough however for her to meet Julius, the man she would marry and live a long and happy life with.
Now 97, Judy says 'It was surpising to see my records, I didn't know you had these and I found out new information even after all these years'.
Judy receives her case file
During the war, Judy got a job sewing uniforms for soldiers. Her needle skills would came in handy years later when she volunenteered for World Jewish Relief, knitting blankets for poorer Jewish communities in eastern Europe.