Peter Mittler reveals how the War has helped shape his life

After 70 years, eminent academic - and Kindertransport survivor - Peter Mittler is opening up about his experiences of the War.

Professor Mittler, 80-year-old Emeritus Professor of Special Needs Education at the University of Manchester, has published his memoirs, Thinking Globally Acting Locally: A Personal Journey (AuthorHouse). It begins with the story of how, as an eight year-old Viennese boy, his parents sent him to Britain on the Kindertransport to escape Nazi persecution, and how his "rather unusual" early experiences were to shape the rest of his life, leading to his ardent interest in special needs education.

The first chapter recalls his experiences of the Anschluss, the takeover of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938.

He tells People: "There was a lot of excitement on the streets and I was intoxicated by it but I soon realised that there was a huge threat."

He was put on the Kindertransport, arriving in the UK in 1939. "I could see some parents and children were crying but I had little inkling of the seriousness of what was happening."

He lived with a foster family before being reunited with his parents in 1942.

He says: "I had to become very independent and reflecting now, I realise that although everything that happened had its traumatic side, it was a real character-building experience."

Professor Mittler has since spent his career helping the liberation of others. He has devoted decades to the human rights of people with disabilities, advising the government and United Nations.

He graduated in psychology and worked as a clinical psychologist before moving to Manchester in 1968 to head a research centre for special educational needs at the University. He is a member of Cheshire's Menorah Synagogue.

    Last updated: 11:02am, January 6 2011