Harry Bibring

HARRY BIBRING

Harry Bibring was born on 26th December 1925 in Vienna.

In 1939, before the “Anschluss” of Austria, he and his family were living in the 6th district in Vienna in a flat here they had a good standard of living. His father had a men's-wear business in Vienna’s 15th district.

After the “Anschluss” Harry had to leave the Gymnasium and was allocated to go to a secondary school which was designated to have all the Jewish children who had to leave the Gymnasiums. After Kristallnacht the family were locked out of their flat for a week and they had to stay in a flat which used to house about 50 Jewish women and children in one place. His father was taken to jail on his way to work on the 10th of November and released at about the same time that the rest of the family was allowed to return to their flat. Harry’s father's business was looted and destroyed on the 10th November and it was when they all got back to the flat that his parents decided they had to leave Vienna. At first the family was planning to go to Shanghai but his father was robbed on his way to the travel agent trying to buy tickets. It was then that it was decided that Harry and his sister would come to England on the Kindertransport and the plan was that the parents would follow as soon as possible. That never happened. Harry’s father died of a heart attack on the van when they tried to take him away in November 1940. His mother then lived with her sister in lodgings until they were both deported first to Izbica and then to Sobibor in about June 1942.

Harry’s father arranged for a Mr. Landsman, with whose mother he had had some contact in about 1936, to act as guarantors for them and he picked them up when they arrived: “I remember going to the Vienna West Bahnhof with my sister and our parents to get on the train at 10pm on the 13th March 1939 with about 600 other kids. The following day the train went slowly through Germany until it reached the Dutch border. Once it crossed over into Holland we were met on the platform by Jewish volunteers from Holland who gave us sweets and toys. We crossed to England on the night ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich and arrived at Liverpool Street station in the afternoon of the 15th March 1939.”

After war broke out on 3rd September 1939, Harry was evacuated with the school he was attending in Hackney, to Fletton, near Peterborough. He was billeted there with the Headmaster of the local grammar school who was a devout Christian and had never met a Jew in his life. After finding out that Jews do not have horns, he was interested in Harry’s experiences and was very kind.

After his 14th birthday he left school and returned to London. His sister was evacuated privately with the family of the man who arranged their Kindertransport so he went to live with him in the empty house. He started to work for him for 15 shillings per week as shop and errand boy. He did not like this one bit and so he moved out and moved into lodgings in the same house where his sister was living who, by then, had returned to London and had also broken away from this family.

On his 18th birthday, he applied to join the RAF for flying duties. He passed all the physical and educational requirements but when it came out that his mother was alive and living in enemy territory, he was turned down on the grounds that, if captured, this would be a tool they could use to get information out of him. They offered to enrol him in the Pioneer Corps but he did not fancy digging latrines.

After a while, he enrolled in evening classes at the Polytechnic in Regent Street. He enrolled on a five year course, then continued with further evening class studies there and at other colleges until he became a qualified Chartered Engineer and also had management qualifications. In all, this took about 14 years of evening studies as he had to earn a living at the same time.

Towards the end of the war in early 1945, he met Muriel through her brother, who he had met about six months earlier and was a good friend. Until then he lived in various lodgings but when Muriel's mother heard that he was fending for himself in strangers’ houses she asked him to live with her. That enabled him to get to know Muriel better and they got engaged in 1946 and married in 1947.

Harry continues to live in London.