A pair of teenage refugees who met in North Wales found their own ‘true love affair’ at Gwrych Castle.
One of the most recognizable buildings in the area, Gwrych Castle has become widely recognizable for hosting I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! in 2020 – but its history and the fascinating stories inside stretch further back.
During World War II, Gwrych Castle served as a refuge for 180 Jewish children who came to Britain as part of the Kindertransport effort.
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The children arrived at the castle in 1939 as part of the 10,000 Jewish refugees who fled to the UK from Nazi-occupied countries and at the time only refugees aged 17 and under were allowed into Britain.
Among these were teenagers Herthel and Gerhard, who met at the castle at the age of 14 before starting a new life in London years later.
The couple lost almost all of their family to the Holocaust, and their years at Abergele Castle were a time when they could “still be children” and their “true love affair” began.
Posted on Facebook, Gwrych Castle said: “Herthel and Gerhard were part of a group of about 200 Jewish refugee children who came separately from different parts of Germany just before the war as part of the Kindertransport program and they were both living at the castle. .
“They were from Leipzig and Breslau respectively aged 14 and met at Gwrych Castle! They always described it as the most wonderful moment. They stayed for two years and were taken care of by a group of people. ‘older Jewish men and women until they leave and start a new one After meeting at the castle it was a true love affair, they dated for seven years then married at age 21 and had two sons.
“They returned to visit the castle in 1949 and took these photos as they still fondly remember. They had lost almost their entire family in the Holocaust, so the time at the castle was a time when they could still be children after their lives were turned upside down by war. “
A family member contacted by Gwrych Castle Trust shares photos and history of their ancestors.
On their Facebook page, one person commented: “Great true story how our local castle on the North Wales coast which was home to so many children xx”
Another said: “At least some happiness in very dark times. What a story for the castle.”
One person wrote: “How nice to have been able to come back to where they met. Hope they lived a happy life.
Another posted: “This is such a poignant story. Thanks for sharing.”
And one person commented: “It is beautiful to see such beautiful memories of the past in such a beautiful place xx”
Professor Nathan Abrams, founder of @ThinkJew and lecturer at Bangor University, previously told North Wales Live: “The castle provided a training center to help prepare young Jews for emigration to Israel, or to make aliya, as it is also called. .
“They were taught to live in a kibbutz (a community traditionally based on agriculture), so they would have been taught to cultivate and lead a farming life while they were there.
“Gwrych Castle provided the perfect environment, being located in a rural area which is, of course, perfect for farming.”
Professor Abrams said the young people were prepared for life in Israel during their stay at the castle, receiving a Zionist education in addition to their agricultural training.
The castle also hosted the very first national gathering of Bnei Akiva, a global religious Zionist youth movement.
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Gwrych Castle Trust has since restored the photos of Herthel and Gerhard and shared them on their Facebook page.
If you have any stories or photos of the castle you can email Gwrych Castle at [email protected]
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