The first airplane flight of my life was from Paris to London. My brother Charles and I boarded a military plane that left from Paris and arrived at Croydon airport near London, as in those days there was no Heathrow Airport. I remember the excitement of sitting on the long benches running along each side of the plane. When we landed around 8:30pm., we were met by two of our uncles, Rachamin & Rapahael. We carried our luggage, and followed them to the underground station, where I was shocked to see people sleeping. That winter was cold and foggy and the war was still raging in London. Food and clothes were still rationed with coupons. From there we went by train to Stamford Hill, where we saw our relatives who were living at Rockwood Court North, Number 16. My aunt, her daughter, my cousin Marie and my cosin Albert were all there. We stayed for about two nights. About six months later, in April 1945, my parents came to join us in London. By then we had a furnished apartment, and we lived together.

My brother and I managed to find jobs in a factory, as in those days, 1944, the Ministry Of Labour directed all new, non-English speaking immigrants, to such jobs that were deemed of national importance. We worked as a team of two, drying veneer. We stood the veneer upwards, each leaf seperated from the previous one. Strangely enough, most of the people working there were central European Jews, who also couldn’t speak English. It was strange to have so many Jews working there beacause this was still during the war. Even the foreman was Jewish.

Usually we had finished our work by 1:30 or 2:00pm, so we’d ask the foreman for more veneers, but he’d tell us that there was no additional work for us to do, and that we were working too fast, “go upstairs and listen to the radio.”

In any case we came to England to join the army and after a while, our application papers for the army came. By this time our parents had joined us in London. So went for our call up, where there were several doctors asking questions about our health. My brother was questioned about his eyesight. His sight became an issue, because when I was two years old, (Charles must have been about four), he was looking at the sun through a glass bottle, another boy threw a stone that cracked the glass and cut my brothers eye. At the time his eye was examined by some expert doctors at the Hospital Rothschild, but he was left with seriously blurred vision in his left eye. As a result, the British army graded him a three, which meant he was not fit for the army. His only option was to continue doing work of national importance.

After this initial visit, I was told that I would be notified of a further visit to the army medical center and I would receive a letter in due course. Six weeks later I got a letter asking me to present myself at the army center. I had to see about four or five different doctors that day. The final doctor was very helpful. He said, “look, you’ve already been in a camp for over two years, why do you want to join the forces?” He then continued, “if the other doctors ask you any questions regarding your time in the camp, say you have terrible stomach problems from time to time and that you cannot sleep properly.” I did everything he told me, and at the end of the file they also graded me a three. I was not fit to join the army, but I could do some work of national importance.

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