John Rosen

by John Rosen.
In late 1938/early 1939, the Sainsburys were having a family dinner and discussed what they heard was happening to the Jewish people in Germany. The Sainsbury family, who were not Jewish, were a wealthy family who owned – and still own – a very large chain of grocery  stores in England. At the dinner they decided that apart from any other actions, they would take steps to participate in what would later be known as the Kindertransport.

They rented a large house in the Putney suburb of London and staffed the house with everything needed – cook, maids, housekeepers, matrons and someone to teach German speaking children ow to speak English. When my brother and I were still in Germany, our parents anticipated that we would end up living with a family in England, and our luggage included some small nominal gifts for that family.

When we arrived at Liverpool Street Station in London, by some means unknown to us, we were selected to go to THE SAINSBURY HOME. After our names were called in the large hall of the railway station, we were met by a very nice gentleman, who took us in his car to the home. On the way, he stopped and bought us some chocolate and some fruit, which delighted us. However, when we reached the house, all the chocolate and fruit was taken away which did not make us happy. (Click on each picture below to enlarge)

John Rosen (left) and brother Walter

John and some of the other "Sainsbury Boys"

Within a few days, the home was filled with twenty-two children, boys and girls, all from Germany, all speaking German and no English, all had been sent away by their brave parents. In most cases, these children never saw their parents again.

They were victims of the Holocaust.

During the first three months, we had lessons in English every day. The teachers, of course, had to be able to speak Germana nd English. Well, we learned to speak English, at least a sufficient amount so that after 3 months we were able to go to school with local English children. Like other Kindertransport children, we wrote regularly to our parents, who had managed to leave Germany and come to England. The condition of their entry to England was that they had employment as domestics on a country estate – our mother as a cook, and our father as a butler. Our mother was always a good cook, but my father had never been a butler. Regardless, they were required to leave at once for their jobs.

Within a week, England declared war on Germany. The English government decided that London would be a target for aerial bombing by the German Air Force and as a result the British government decided to send all the children in the London schools to safer destinations outside London, including all 22 kids living in the Sainsbury home. Thus ending our stay at the Sainsbury home. We were all sent to Reading, a town about 35 miles outside of London. The Sainsbury family continued to provide “pocket money” to all of the children for a considerable time.

We were in touch with our parents, who had been recently relieved of their domestic jobs, and were able to move to London where they lived, despite the continued bombing of the German Air Force. We were able to return to London and live with our parents after the war ended.

We continued to stay in touch with Alan Sainsbury (later Lord Sainsbury) as we resumed a more normal life. In 1953 my brother and I organized a reunion of the children who had been in the Sainsbury home, and Alan Sainsbury was invited to attend and was the recipient of a special presentation thanking him for all he had done for us.

John Rosen today

As I moved to the United States I visited London on a regular basis to visit my family. While there, I made it a regular occasion for a number of years to visit Alan Sainsbury, always to thank him for what he and his family had done for us kids. For saving our lives. My hope, always, was that he would be proud of what we had achieved in life, to which his help was very important.

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