A former Jewish-German refugee child who came to Glasgow on the Kindertransport has returned to Central Station to launch a new learning program with secondary school pupils.
Henry Wuga MBE, 98, joined Poppyscotland and Gathering the Voices on Friday May 6 to help launch new lessons for Scottish schools, based on his story and that of other young refugees during the Second World War.
Students will also be encouraged to reflect on these stories and the issues facing more recent refugee children, including the millions of Ukrainians currently fleeing their war-torn country.
Aged just 15, Mr. Wuga escaped the horrors of Nazi Germany in 1939, leaving his parents in Nuremberg.
He then made Scotland his home, marrying Ingrid, who also escaped via the Kindertransport, and running his own catering business.
Mr Wuga met 10 S2 pupils from Shawlands Academy under the clock at Central Station, where he first arrived in Scotland. This was followed by a discussion between Henry and the students about his experiences, the Holocaust and modern day refugee children in Scotland.
The content focuses on the video testimonies of three Kindertransport escapees and Holocaust survivors, Mr. Wuga, Rosa Sacharin and Karola Regent. The program is designed to help students understand the plight of the Jewish people under the Nazi regime and the experiences of young refugees past and present.
Mr. Wuga discussed with the students their thoughts on the lessons and answered a few questions.
The only son of successful caterers, Mr. Wuga enjoyed a happy childhood before the Nazis took over. Then he witnessed growing anti-Semitism, from school bullying to the horrors of Kristallnacht in 1938, when Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues were attacked.
As tensions grew, her mother secured her a place on the Kindertransport, an international humanitarian program that brought around 10,000 children to Britain in the months before the outbreak of war. After arriving in Glasgow, he continued to attend school and work on a farm in Perthshire before being wrongfully accused of espionage after writing letters to his parents in Germany.
His name was cleared and after the end of the war he returned to Glasgow, where he took up a job as a chef. Unfortunately, his father died of a heart attack during an air raid in 1941, but he managed to bring his mother, who survived the war thanks to the help of a Catholic neighbor, to Scotland. His wife, Ingrid, also lost many relatives and close friends in the Holocaust.
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Mr. Wuga said, “It was very interesting to meet the students and answer their questions. I think it’s so important to share my story with a new generation while I can.
“When I arrived here 83 years ago, it was a shock – I didn’t speak the language well, the food and the customs were new. But Glasgow was very welcoming and I made it my home.”
Gordon Michie, Head of Fundraising and Learning at Poppyscotland, said: “We are extremely grateful to Mr Wuga for supporting us and sharing his heartbreaking story with a new generation of Scottish children. His first-hand testimony is an important addition to our learning program and will encourage young people to reflect on issues that are all too relevant today.
“Sadly, millions of children around the world continue to be uprooted from their homes, fleeing war, persecution and poverty. We hope this will foster a better understanding of the experiences of refugees, past and present, of the challenges they face when they arrive in Scotland.
Gathering the Voices is a project to record audio and video testimonies from Holocaust refugees who have a connection to Scotland and to educate current and future generations about their resilience. It is made up of three ‘second generation’ refugees and their partners, who have collected over 50 freely searchable interviews. www.gatheringthevoices.com.
Dr Angela Shapiro, of Gathering the Voices, said: “We hope that focusing on the stories of Mr Wuga and other young refugees will help bring the lessons to life. Young people can learn about the Holocaust and the resilience of refugees who escaped Nazi-occupied Europe, and the lessons we can all learn from those who lived through it.