We Owe Our Lives to ORT


On the anniversary of the start of the Second World War, the remarkable story of the rescue from Nazi Germany of 102 students and their teachers was remembered at a reunion at ORT House in London on Sunday 5th September. David Cohen, one of those rescued, told the reunion that he and his friends and teachers owed their lives to ORT. Until shortly before the Second World War, the students and teachers attended the ORT Technical Engineering School in Berlin. Fearful of what lay ahead, leaders of ORT managed to convince the Nazi authorities that 102 students aged 16 to 17 together with six teachers and their wives shouldbe sent to England to continue their studies at a similar ORT school inLeeds. In fact, at that time no such school in Leeds existed. Taken in by this deception, the Nazi authorities agreed and Adolf Eichman, eventually responsible for transporting millions of Jews to the concentration camps, signed a letter permitting them to leave Germany (the original letterremains today in the archive at World ORT Union’s offices in London). On 27 August 1939, just one week before England declared war, the students, their teachers and the teacher’s wives, boarded a train in Charlottenburg, Germany, eventually reaching England via Holland. Werner Simon, directorof the ORT school in Berlin who negotiated with the German authorities, stayed behind. Sadly, he and his family perished at the hands of the Nazis. Once in England, British ORT, under the leadership of Lt. Col. J.H. Levey, made arrangements for a school to be prepared. They were finally able to continue their studies at the ORT Technical Engineering School in RosvilleAvenue, Leeds. The 60th anniversary reunion was hosted by Max Abraham, one of the teachers who was saved. It was attended by some fifty people including 18 of the survivors, some of whom travelled from as far afield as Australia and theUSA to be there. Photographs of the ORT school in Berlin taken in 1938, on loan to New York City’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, were dispatched to London by AmericanORTto provide a surprise centrepiece for the reunion.