“Being free as 12 year old was the single most important thing in my life”. Marc Schatzberger
A truly engaging speaker, it was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity for the audience to listen to Marc who spoke of his childhood and the impact the holocaust had on his life.
Born in Vienna, Marc was the son of Jewish parents from Poland. His Father (a frontline soldier in WWI) and his mother (a graduate from the Vienna Conservatoire) were both patriotic Austrian citizens, and gave Marc a very enjoyable early childhood with summer’s spent in the Austrian Lakes.
In early 1938, as Marc entered Year 8, he spoke of his first experience of the rapidly growing influence of the National Socialist German Workers' Party when his school friend, Gunter, overnight stopped talking to him. He soon learnt that this was because Gunter’s parents had told him to stay away from his ‘Jewish’ friend.
Marc, along with all the other Jewish children, were no longer allowed to play in parks – one of the traditional joys of childhood. Very soon his family were amongst many wishing to leave Vienna - yet had no place to go.
At 12 and a half years old, Marc’s parents were faced with the agonising decision regarding sending him on the Kindertransport to London – along with 10,000 other children.
Marc spoke emotionally about feeling his parent’s anguish and grief as they waved him off (along with the other 80 bereft parents), and how when he wrote to them from the train – number card around his neck - he tried to talk of the good things to lift their spirits.
Arriving in Harwich by ferry, Marc was overwhelmed by the feeling of freedom. Travelling via Liverpool Street (which today honours the child refugees with the Kindertransport Memorial), his destination was the Jewish Refugee Children’s Hostel in Margate where he was taken care of … and enjoyed spending his sixpence a week pocket money at Woolworths!
He kept in regular contact with his parents until war was declared and suddenly his birth country became the enemy country. Tragically, he lost both his parents at Auschwitz. The analogy Marc gave was poignant – 7 times the number of people at Glastonbury this year lost their lives at Auschwitz - part of the 6 million who lost their lives during the Holocaust (the population of the whole of Yorkshire and Manchester combined).
The girls relished the opportunity to ask Marc a number of questions, which he answered with great detail and honesty. It was a truly inspiring visit, and one every individual in the Jubilee Hall will remember for a long time.
“I am just one of the luckier ones.” Marc Schatzberger