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The story of the six-year-old brought to Abercynon to escape Nazi Germany

Credit: Shirley Sleight

At the age of six, Elga Kitchener came to Wales as a Kindertransport refugee to escape Nazi Germany, in June 1939. On the same day, her mother gave birth to her only sibling.

The Kindertransport (German for "children's transport") was a rescue effort that took place in the months before the outbreak of WWII.

Elga's aunt Dinah would be caring for her in Abercynon until the family could be reunited in Wales. But Elga never met her sister Judis and she never saw her mother, great-grandmother or uncle again.

Ruth and her daughter Judis. Credit: Shirley Sleight

The women were killed in Auschwitz. Judis was just a toddler.

Elga's uncle Siegfried died in the Litzmannstadt Ghetto on 11 September 1942, aged 33.

Elga with her parents Ruth and Charlie. Credit: Shirley Sleight

Before coming to the decision to send Elga alone to Wales, her parents Charles and Ruth Kitchener had been writing to relatives in America and the UK, appealing for an affidavit.

In the late 1930s, Jews needed affidavits - statements written on oath - in order to leave Germany. This was one of the bureaucratic hurdles facing German Jews who were trying to emigrate.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum said the list of hurdles Jews faced when trying to leave the country was "overwhelming".

Charles and Ruth sent a letter to their relative Frank Hoffman in America in the hope of receiving an affidavit. Tragically, a spelling mistake in Elga's name meant that the one they received was invalid. Elga's daughter Shirley said this must have been "heartbreaking" for the family.

A letter from Charles, Ruth and Elga appealing for an affidavits to leave Germany.

In 1952, seven years after the war, Elga gave birth to her daughter, Shirley.

Shirley said her mother had always spoken about the trauma of the Holocaust.

I was aware of my grandparents and what had happened in Nazi Germany, it was part of my upbringing.

– Shirley Sleight
Shirley with her father Joe and mother Elga. Credit: Shirley Sleight

Shirley's mother, Elga, left her a number of letters from the WWII period. Shirley said she was aware of them even as a child. She said her mother used to read through the letters from time to time.

"The letters and her memory was all she had from her past."

Elga (right) with her cousin Sue. Credit: Shirley Sleight

Shirley said that during the Holocaust, when Jewish people were sent to gas chambers, they were asked to write a final letter to their family. They could only write 25 words and the wording overseen by officials.

The letter below was sent to Elga from her relatives. Some of the words are obscured but the visible text roughly translates as the following:

"Beloved Elga, Received your letter. Write soon. We are all healthy. Hope you too. Judi is... Still have old job. Kisses from Grandma, Judis, Ruth."

This was the last Elga heard from them.

Credit: Shirley Sleight

On Shirley's first day of school, at the age of four, her mother gave her some words of advice before she entered the school gates:

Remember you’re Jewish and be proud that you’re Jewish but be careful who you tell.

– Elga Kitchener
Shirley said there has to be hope that antisemitism will be wiped out. Credit: Shirley Sleight

Shirley said, "Holocaust Memorial Day is a time we can remember the atrocities that can occur but there’s also hope that we will never discriminate against our fellow human beings again.

"It is a time for me personally to recall all the lives that were torn apart and all those who perished during the Holocaust. I pray that never again should we witness such atrocities anywhere in the world."

I fear with the rise of antisemitism being reported in Europe... I’ve always known there has been antisemitism but there has to be hope that it will be wiped out and won’t be given the power to take any more lives.

Antisemitism happened in my past, I’ve never personally had anything said to me at all. Hopefully it will not rise up again.

– Shirley Sleight