MEMORIES OF CHANUKAH 5699 (DECEMBER 1938)
Written as Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Kindertransport. (This poem was written by my aunt, Mrs. N. Wagschall, who was niftar suddenly this past Rosh Hashanah.)
As we have just lit the fifth Chanukah light
I cast my mind back to that memorable night
The fifth night of Chanukah, fifty years ago
When Vienna's streets were covered with snow.
We had been busy packing all day
And soon, very soon, we'd be going away,
Having to leave our dear parents behind
With heavy hearts and a troubled mind.
Rav Schonfeld had really worked under strain
But his tireless efforts had not been in vain.
Battling with committees, he had won the fight;
Our children's transport was leaving tonight!
In a taxi Papa sat with us three.
For Haschi for sure an adventure it would be.
Blanca, too young still to worry or care;
But for me this parting was very hard to bear!
At the station, children's excited faces;
They had gathered there from various places.
With a trembling voice, Papa gave us a brochoh
Entrusting us to Hashem's Hashgochoh.
The train was moving, we were on our way;
Morning had broken, and brought another day.
We were sitting, chatting, the time moving fast;
We made new friends — so the hours passed.
But suddenly, our train stopped in its track —
Were we in trouble? Would they send us back?
No! On the frozen lines the train had got stuck,
We hoped to proceed soon — but no such luck!
After seven hours we were moving again.
The blizzard had meanwhile turned into rain.
It was getting dark; soon it would be night.
Where would we see the sixth Chanukah light?
But Hakodosh Boruch Hu's help is always near,
Our group received the news with great cheer:
Gaby Fischer would kindle for us a menoire;
Our spirits were lifted by the chasdei haBoire!
Six lights shining in the window of our train.
We were moving on — it was snowing again.
We crossed the Dutch border just before noon;
Today was Friday. It will be Shabbos soon!
To a Rotterdam transit camp we were taken,
To quarantine barracks so cold and forsaken!
Still, soon it would be Shabbos again,
Peace at last, after so much strain!
The management were refugees, like us,
We were not treated with too much fuss.
We got ready for Shabbos, tried to look bright
As a man lit the seventh Chanukah light.
At the camp over Shabbos we wanted to stay,
Till after havdoloh, then we'd be on our way.
But suddenly, a new event shattered our peace:
The barracks were needed for new refugees!
It was hatzolas nefoshos, so we were told;
The new transport was waiting in the bitter cold
A hetter had been given for us to go;
Whether it was true we were never to know!
We were packing, in tears — gone was our joy.
Each one of us felt like a Shabbos goy.
A six-year-old cried: "But I can't take my case!
It's muktze!" she sobbed with a tear-stained face.
Hours later, during the Channel crossing
The seas were raging, our ship was tossing.
"Our punishment!" my mind was in turmoil.
"Would we live," I wondered, "to see British soil?"
But then we had landed, the storm had passed,
To a Harwich guest house we were taken at last.
Over a steaming glass of lemon tea
Our spirits rose — not for long, you will see.
The landlady said (so embarrassed she looked!):
"I'm afraid, for today these rooms are booked.
Remember, today is `Chogge' Eve;
I'm frightfully sorry, but you must leave
Our freie transport leaders at once agreed.
Chillul Shabbos? Much they cared indeed!
By then, our minds were totally numbed;
We couldn't think straight and so we succumbed.
We arrived in London, at Liverpool Street,
Standing on the platform with frozen feet.
We stamped the ground as the wind was blowing,
To keep the blood circulation going.
When three stars appeared, we couldn't keep still;
Taxis gave us a free ride to Stamford Hill.
A warm welcome for us there, everyone so kind
To us, quite exhausted in body and mind.
Mr. Weissmandl* welcomed us there that night
To kindle for us the eighth Chanukah light.
His "heimishe" nussach was music to my ears.
"Home from Home" I thought — drying my tears.
*Reb Moshe Dovid, a brother of Reb Michoel Ber.
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