Walter Bingham, who turns 100 years old in January, witnessed the burning of books in 1933 and still remembers the events of Kristallnacht.
He saw the destruction of Jewish synagogues and businesses in his home city of Karlsruhe, Germany, and his father, who had a business of printing train timetables, was arrested and sent to Warsaw.
Walter was 15 when he embarked on the journey to Liverpool Street Station in 1939 as part of the Kindertransport, which resulted in the evacuation to safety of over 12,000 children.
To this day, when he closes his eyes, Walter still sees his mother waving goodbye to him at the train station.
Now, 85 years later, the International March of the Living, a global Holocaust education charity committed to keeping the Holocaust memory alive, brought Walter and two other survivors back to Germany last month to retrace their journey to London.
Together with International March of the Living’s Deputy CEO, Revital Yakin Krakovsky, and founder and chairman of UK March of the Living, Scott Saunders, Walter and the two other survivors — who now all live in Israel — flew to Germany to visit the places, schools, and homes they grew up in.
This time accompanied by family members, they then travelled from Germany by train through the Netherlands, by boat to England, and then again by train into London’s Liverpool Street Station — the same journey they took 85 years ago.
Walter told the JC: “I was especially struck, standing again on the deck of the boat going over to England from mainland Europe, by that feeling of unknown that I experienced all those years ago.
"I was older than most other Kinder, but it was a similar feeling for us all, of not knowing where we were being sent and how life would unfold once we were separated.”
Walter near Kristallnacht burned synagogue (Photo: Sascha Schaefer)
"There were occasions where I had tears in my eyes when looking again out over the sea. It was absolutely moving.”
After arriving in England, Walter went on to live a remarkable life.
To pay back the country he credits with saving his life, he enlisted in the British army, where he rescued British soldiers under fire as an ambulance driver during the Battle of Normandy in Schnitz 1944, for which he received an honorary decoration from King George VI and also the badge of honour of the French Legion.
He was then assigned to an intelligence unit and sent to Germany where he participated in the investigation of Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop.
After the war, Walter began working as a journalist, a profession in which he still works today, and two years ago entered the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest working journalist and the world’s second-oldest radio host.
Walter also worked as an actor in commercials and as a wizard in the first two Harry Potter movies, a role he would have reprised had he not made aliyah to Israel in 2004.
At 95, Walter became Israel’s oldest skydiver, and has plans to do it again. Last year, Israel’s President Herzog was a surprise guest at his birthday party.
At the end of his journey last month, Walter was greeted at Liverpool Street Station by his grandson and two great-granddaughters, who live in Radlett, the station’s director and the director of Anglia Railways.
Walter and the two other Kinder, George and Paul, then made their way to Hyde Park for a memorial ceremony with Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and children from London’s Immanuel College.
During the ceremony, Chief Rabbi Mirvis said he was “so privileged” to be in the presence of the three Kinder.
He said: “Right now, the Jewish world is filled with darkness. We are engaged in war. The future is uncertain. If ever there were people from whom we could gain inspiration at this time, of how to transform darkness into light, it’s the three of you.”
A documentary on the journey of the Kinder is due to be released.