Bertha Leverton, MBE

Refugee teenager who founded the Kindertransport Reunion


It all started when our mother Bertha Leverton realised that her eldest granddaughter, who was 15 in 1988, knew nothing of the harrowing details of how she, at exactly the same age, left her parents and came unaccompanied to a strange land and a different language and culture. It was then that she came to the conclusion that the following year, 1989, would be the 50th anniversary of Kindertransport, which had brought her to Britain. It was time, after 50 years of not talking about what had happened, to finally discuss the past.

Singlehandedly she took matters in hand and put an advertisement in Jewish newspapers asking for anyone who had also been on the Kindertransport to contact her for a possible reunion.

At the time she had no idea that from such a modest beginning a large scale international platform of connection and education would develop. It was especially poignant as the vast majority of these children’s families ended up in the death camps. This made the desire for connection between them even stronger.

Aided by her organising skills, Bertha Leverton, who has died aged 97, adapted herself to their needs; she understood exactly what was important to them as she herself was one of them. It was because of her warm and caring personality, that she was such a success. She dedicated herself to the movement for over 20 years, created a newsletter and encouraged the development of Kindertransport archives for educational purposes.

She made Chanukah and Purim parties for the Kinder – for some who had been adopted by non Jewish families these festivals were a vague memory. She also made barmitzvahs for the over 70s who had never had one.

The reunion opened up other opportunities for reflection. Hundreds of Kinder wrote books about their experiences and lectured to audiences. Bertha, herself, compiled a book of stories from the Kindertransportees, I Came Alone. It was followed by the documentary, Into the Arms of Strangers, written and directed by Mark Jonathan Harris and produced by Deborah Oppenheimer in 2001, which won an Oscar that year for the best documentary.

Evidence of her wisdom can be seen in the second stanza of a poem she wrote in 1990: Sit for a moment and recall/ The good not bad things done by all/ The pleasant moments that you shared/ When for each other you had cared.

Bertha Leverton was born in Munich to Rosa and Moshe Englehard, who miraculously survived the war having moved to former Yugoslavia and then Portugal. They were fortunately reunited at the end of the war with their children in England.

She was the right person at the right time, with the right personality to break the silence of 50 years. So, we, her daughters, found ourselves sharing our mother with another few thousand people. As we were already grown up, we found this our privilege and honour and were very proud to have our mother receive the MBE from the Queen and to be invited with her Kinder group to dinner with Prince Charles. So many people wanted to interview her and she became a natural and extremely proficient speaker. Yet she still remained just as proficient and modest as she had always been, and continued making kneidlach at Pesach for us.

She accomplished a great deal in her life and was loved and admired by many. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks wrote her a very warm letter on the occasion of her aliyah to Israel, where she spent her last 12 years with her family. Her last words were: “I want to help you”. She is survived by her daughters Mirry Reich from Israel and Shula Kohn from London, by several grandchildren and great grandchildren.


Bertha Leverton: Born January 23, 1923. Died December 1, 2020

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