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"Rescued from the Nazis" by Julian Borger is a review of the book "I Seek a Kind Person," which tells the story of a person's rescue from Nazi persecution.

“Rescued from the Nazis” by Julian Borger is a review of the book “I Seek a Kind Person,” which tells the story of a person’s rescue from Nazi persecution.


In 1983, when Julian Borger’s father committed suicide in London, his family believed it was due to recent events. His father, Robert Borger, worked as a psychology lecturer at Brunel University and had been passed over for a promotion at work. After his wife, Wyn, gave him an ultimatum about his infidelity, Robert left their family home. However, when Julian contacted Nancy Bingley, who had fostered Robert after he fled from Austria as a Jewish refugee in the late 1930s and lived in Caernarfon, Wales, she stated, “Robert was the Nazis’ final victim. They ultimately caused his death.”

Borger was already aware of how his father had arrived in Britain, but he was unaware that his grandparents had placed an advertisement for Robert in the classified section of the Manchester Guardian. After the Anschluss in 1938, Austrian Jews were desperately seeking ways to escape the Nazi regime that was tearing apart their lives, destroying their places of worship, and inciting hatred in the streets. Many advertised their skills as domestic workers such as butlers, nannies, housekeepers, and chauffeurs, but when it came to their children, they made a direct appeal to the compassion of readers. Leo and Erna Borger’s advertisement for their son stated: “I am looking for a kind person to educate my intelligent 11-year-old son, who comes from a good Viennese family.” Within a year, 60 children were advertised in this manner, with the numbers decreasing once Britain’s Kindertransport program began.

In his book “I Seek a Kind Person”, journalist Borger takes on the task of uncovering his father’s story. His father, Robert, had kept quiet about his childhood trauma to his family. Borger also shares the stories of other children who were advertised in the Manchester Guardian. He describes these advertisements as brief and urgent, lacking any specific details. These ads were like glimpses into parallel lives that were initially connected to his father’s before branching off into separate paths.

The book is a combination of a family memoir, a group biography, and a captivating mystery. It is evident that Robert was fortunate to have loving and generous hosts who helped him find a home through the classified ads. Borger shares the story of Liese, an 18-year-old who worked as a maid for her host family and experienced exploitation disguised as charity in Britain. He also recounts Gertrude Batscha’s experience of being taken in by her host, Annie, to improve her image among her friends at the Women’s Institute, and being immediately put to work. After the war, Gertrude received a letter informing her that all of her close relatives had passed away, causing her to have a breakdown and needing help to get into bed where she cried for three days.

Not all of the children who were part of the Manchester Guardian were able to reach Britain. The story of Fred Schwarz, who was advertised by his parents as a “Healthy Modest Viennese Boy”, and his older brother, Frits, has all the elements of a Hollywood film. When Frits was captured by a Nazi patrol and faced with the threat of being sent to Dachau, their parents knew they couldn’t wait for a response to their advertisement. The two brothers then embarked on an epic journey to Cologne and eventually to the Netherlands, using various modes of transportation such as cars, motorbikes, trains, and walking. They spent the duration of the war in different internment camps, including Westerbork, a Dutch holding camp near the German border, and Auschwitz, where they witnessed the horrors of the Nazi genocide. Remarkably, both brothers survived and were able to share their story.

Most of the children in the ads are now long dead, their tales of pain and displacement living on through their descendants, many of whom suffered their own inherited grief. Through hisĀ research, Borger gains a greater understanding of himself, his father and the trauma experienced by Holocaust survivors: how they can beĀ undone by the weight of their loss and their guilt at having lived where others perished. He reveals how Jewish survival wasnā€™t necessarily aĀ matter ofĀ resilience or blind luck. ItĀ could happen because an anxious parent saw the shifting political winds, put their faith in the kindness of strangers and placed an ad.

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Source: theguardian.com