My Big Sister Ursula

A Jewish Girl from Germany

by Bro. Mark Sawyer

South Brisbane Ecclesia, Queensland, Australia



My mother and father “adopted” a German Jewish refugee girl, Ursula, who arrived at our home near Birmingham, England in August 1939, the month she turned 15. I was only two at the time and so she became my very big sister. She came from the Hanover area with a small suitcase, a packet of sandwiches and no English.

It seems to me to be all the more poignant that Ursula arrived during the month just before war was declared on 3rd September 1939. She must have been among the last to escape. My parents were stirred by the strenuous efforts at the time of Bro. Alan Overton of Rugby. Ursula was met at Liverpool Street station in London by my late aunt, Sis. Elsie Craddock, whom she must have thought was her foster mother, and then escorted by Sis. Elsie to another London station for another train journey to Birmingham to meet my parents. Altogether a pretty daunting experience for her!

During the war she trained as a nurse and was baptized but left the Truth after a short time. The pull to marry a fellow Jew was too strong. In 1947 she emigrated with her cousin (Suzy, also taken in by Bro. and Sis. Wakefield) to what was then Southern Rhodesia and thence to South Africa where she met and married her husband, a Jewish architect in Cape Town. She and her husband and her two children plus grandchildren now live in Boca Raton, Florida, USA. Ursula will be 84 in August.

My father had meningitis and died suddenly in 1942 but is still remembered by Ursula for the way he protected her on the night a demented Home Guard sergeant broke down our front door accusing Ursula of signaling to enemy bombers during air raids. My mother always kept in touch with Ursula and her husband Max until she died in 1983. She stayed with them twice in Cape Town. I have kept in touch with them regularly since then and my wife Rachael and I have visited them three times – twice in Florida and once in Cape Town. Ursula’s husband Max is effusive in his gratitude to Christadelphians and to mother and father in particular without whom he says he would not have had the love of his life. They are practicing reform Jews and have no real Messianic hope.


Ursula and Max taken in Cape Town in November 2003.


The fascinating book ...AND THE POLICEMAN SMILED written by Barry Turner has several references to the role of Christadelphians in relation to the Kindertransport children. One of them reads (referring to the influence of Christian homes),”But Ursula had no wish to leave her Christadelphian foster mother, even though she did have to go to Sunday School. Everything else about her home she liked very much and, according to one RCM visitor, she was ‘well instructed in the Jewish religion’”. This combination of facts appears to refer clearly to Ursula and my widowed mother.