Sir David Attenborough: My 'sisters' from the Kindertransport

The Bejach sisters from Germany were taken in by the Attenborough family during the war. Sir David has hosted a reunion for descendants of both families


Sir David Attenborough has spoken about the sisters from Berlin his family took in after they had fled Nazi Germany through the Kindertransport.

The sisters, Irene and Helga Bejach, arrived in the UK just before war broke out. Their father was head of public health for a Berlin district – he was killed in Auschwitz in 1944. Their mother had died of tuberculosis. Because of her age, elder sister Jutta was not permitted to join them.

The Sunday Times reports that that the Attenborough brothers were told by their mother Mary: “We absolutely love you boys but we will have to show even more love to these girls because they are here on their own and without their parents. It is entirely up to you, darlings, if they stay.”

The girls spent the next seven years with the Attenboroughs, leaving after the war to join an uncle in New York.

Sir David last year hosted a reunion for descendants of both families and, speaking at the weekend, described the girls as “our sisters really”. But he felt inhibited talking about it as it was ‘nothing to do with me – it’s a credit to my parents”.

Now Helga’s daughters have released her diaries, letters and other documents to Leicester University (the family home of the Attenborough family was in Leicester).

Irene died in 1994, Helga in 2005. Jutta, who eventually joined them in America, is now 99.

The sisters maintained their links with the Attenboroughs. Sir Richard Attenborough invited family members to his New York film premieres. One of Helga’s grandsons was inspired by Sir David to become an environmentalist.

Helga’s daughter, Beverly Rich, said that as guests left the reunion, Sir David appreciated the significance of his parents' benevolence.

“I think that when he looked at all of us leaving, it hit him that we would probably not have existed if it was not for the humanitarian kindness of his family.”




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