Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Preserved: local farm that was a haven for Jewish children

By Linda Stewart

Published 26/08/2014 | 09:00

Robert Lilley (with his hand on his hip) was one of the Jewish refugees who found temporary housing at the farm in Millisle, Co Down
Robert Lilley (with his hand on his hip) was one of the Jewish refugees who found temporary housing at the farm in Millisle, Co Down

It was a safe haven for Jewish children fleeing Nazi terror.

Now a sleepy farm on the Ards peninsula that is renowned worldwide as a refuge for children escaping the Holocaust has been granted listed status.

The Department of the Environment has confirmed that the former houses and stable block at the farm on the Ballywalter Road near Millisle have been listed as buildings of "special architectural or historic interest".

Around 300 Jewish children found sanctuary at the farm between 1938 and 1948 after they were saved by the Kindertransport movement.

Many children travelled to Northern Ireland from across Europe wearing a label marked 'Millisle, Co Down' around their necks.

North Down mayor Andrew Muir, who has been battling to have the buildings listed for two years, said there have been concerns about the condition of the remaining buildings and that only listed status will secure their future.

"I am delighted Kindertransport Farm has finally received the recognition it deserves and acquired listed status," he said.

"Not only has one of Northern Ireland's key historic sites been saved for future generations, but the current owners will now be able to move forward with repairing and restoring the building under the listed building grant-aid scheme if they so desire.

"For the past two years I have been lobbying the Environment Minister to make this happen and as recently as a few months ago I again pressed him for a decision," he said.

"Preserving this historic site has always been important to me, made greater last year.

"As mayor I was able to meet Larry Kitzler, a local man associated with the farm during the Holocaust Memorial event I organised in January 2013 and local pupils from Millisle Primary School where Kindertransport farm children attended back in the 1930s and 1940s.

"Kindertransport Farm is closely linked to the Holocaust and Northern Ireland's own war history, especially the past it played in saving the lives of so many Jewish children.

"Listing of the farm provides us with an opportunity to learn from the past and build a new shared future where the spirit of Anne Frank and ideals of respect, inclusion and acceptance prevail without discrimination."

Victor Greenberg, a survivor of Auschwitz who was brought to Millisle at the age of 16, described a daily regime that began with religious worship in the farm's synagogue followed by a morning of English lessons. The children played sports and games in the afternoon, while the stronger ones would do their share of market gardening. The children living on the farm also had fond memories of visiting nearby Donaghadee where the local cinema proprietor would allow them cut price admission.

Most of the refugees lost their families in the Holocaust and were eventually moved on to the larger Jewish communities in England.

The only one who still remains in the area is retired civil servant Mr Kitzler.

He settled in Millisle with his mother Julie after his time at the farm.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I was very, very young when I was there. I don't know whether this is a real memory, but I have a memory of me sitting in my pram at the end of the lane."

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