A 96-year-old Jewish man who escaped to Scotland during the Holocaust recounted his feelings about the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day, saying, “It was a unique occasion, fantastic and such a feeling of relief that Nazi Germany had been defeated.”
As the May 8 anniversary of Nazi Germany’s defeat in World War II approaches, Henry Wuga spoke about his past to Scotland’s Daily Record in an interview published Sunday.
Wuga, who was born in Nuremburg, was still a teenager when he fled Nazi Germany on the “Kindertransport,” which evacuated children threatened by antisemitic persecution in the late 1930s, just before the war broke out.
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“People forget how much of a close-run thing the war was,” he noted.
Wuga managed to leave the internment camp and worked as a chef in Glasgow. When the news of the defeat came, “We didn’t go to the big celebrations in George Square — we just had a quiet celebration at home with [my wife] Ingrid and her parents after we heard about it on the radio.”
“It was a bittersweet time as my mother was still hiding in Germany,” he said. “You can imagine what it meant to us that the war had ended.”
A month later, Wuga was told his mother had survived the war.
“We were so happy. The feeling was unbelievable,” he said. “It took two years to get permission to bring my mother to live with us in Glasgow.”
Wuga vividly remembers the rise of Nazism, especially because Nuremburg was a center of Nazi activity, including massive annual outdoor rallies.
“When Hitler came to power, you could feel the antisemitism everywhere,” he said. “There were only two other Jewish boys at school and they made us sit at the back of the class. It was terrible. At school, they would sing a song, ‘Two Jews in the water hollow, one Jew drowns, we hope one will follow.’”
“The atmosphere was horrible. We knew we couldn’t stay there,” he recounted.
Wuga succeeded in getting a place on the Kindertransport in 1939, and remembers, “When we got on the train to head for the Dutch border with all those young children, the noise was unforgettable. It was one huge howl from 150 children. I have never forgotten it.”
He later met his wife Ingrid, a fellow refugee, in Glasgow. They married in 1944 and now have two daughters and four grandsons.
“It’s so important we remember what happened then and celebrate the outstanding occasion of VE Day and think about the sacrifices people made,” he said.
Due to the coronavirus, however, Wuga’s celebrations will be virtual this year: “This year, I will be marking the occasion by having a digital get-together with my family on Zoom — it’s a wonderful invention and so useful at a time like this.”
“These things should never be forgotten,” he said.