Information for Veterans and their families

Elfrieda Kofler

In 1939 the Red Cross took many children from Austria - I was one of those kids.

My name was Elfrieda Kofler (now Frieda Coronel) and I lived in Vienna.

My mother heard of the Red Cross helping children aged from 5 years old leave Austria. I was 6 years old and my sister, Ruthi, was 3. My mother decided to get the Red Cross to help me. I was taken to the station with a little label pinned to my coat. I remember there were a lot of children there and I was crying. I did not want to leave my mother but she told me that she would see me soon - sadly, that never happened as I lost all my family in Riga.

First I was taken to Belgium, then Amsterdam, and lastly to England, were I was taken to Wigan, a coal mining town. We were rounded up in a social hall ran by the sisters of the Wigan Parish Church. The sisters went around to families to ask them to take a child for around two weeks until the Jewish Refugee Committee could find a permanent home for us. Many people came and all the cutest little children were taken first. Finally a lady came over to me. I remember crying and sitting in a corner. She took my hand and I went to live with her. I ended up staying 11 years.

I spoke only German initially so it was a difficult beginning for me. It was not easy for them either as there were no Jewish people living in Wigan - London and Manchester, yes. I wanted to belong so I changed my religion to Anglican, was confirmed and baptised.

In 1946, an aunt whom I had never met found me through the Jewish Refugee Committee and wanted me to join her in America. I did not want to leave my foster mother but I was under age and had no choice. It took 5 years for her to get a visa for me to enter into the States - by then I was 18 years old.

My aunt never had any children of her own and did not know how to deal with me. Remember I was brought up as a Christian and did not know much about the Jewish ways. Sadly, we did dot get on too well.

After five months I met a man I fell in love with. He was not Jewish and my aunt did not like him. She said I had never to see this man again and, if I did, she wanted me to leave her house - I left. The man was around 35 years old and never intended to marry me. He left me and I was devastated, having no friends or family.

To cut a long story short, I met a man while looking for a job on the subway in New York City - we married to in 1952 and had four children. After 19 years together we got divorced.

In 1971 I remarried and have been married 32 years. We never had any children together. We have now lived in Las Vegas, Nevada for five years and I am retired.

27th January 2011

Gill contacted me to say:

"I have just read an extract from arefugee named Elfrieda Kofler,

Elfrieda spent her 11 years in England living with my Grandparents,Mother and Aunt in Gidlow Lane Wigan. In fact my Granparents wanted to adopt her until her aunt came forward from America. She wrote to my grandfather and called him dad for many years after my granmothers death in 1961 the year I was born. After my grandfathers death we lost touch and my mother tried to find her for many ears until one day she had a surprise phone call.

Elfrieda has been over to England to visit and one of my cousins has been to America to visit.

My Mother recently told me of a visit they made to Manchester to a Jewish concert and rembers that Elfridea had had a sister Ruthi. Her parents had only been able to get enough money to save Elfrieda."
If you have a similar experience or were one of the children evacuated from Austria in 1939, please contact me via the Feedback button on the Contact page to let me know of your experience or, indeed, if you remember Elfrieda.