Hostels in the UK

The Boys arrived in five different groups between August 1945 and April 1948.

The first group was taken to a reception centre in Windermere, in the Lake District, and the second group to Wintershill Hall, near Southampton on the English south coast. The third group were taken to London, Polton House near Edinburgh, in Scotland, Milllisle in Northern Ireland, and Weir Courtney hostel. The fourth group were accommodated at the Jewish Shelter in London’s East End. The fifth group were looked after in London in Manor House and Cazenove Road hostels.

Eleven of the children in the first group to arrive in August 1945 were taken care of by the Quakers and sent to Butcombe Court near Bristol.

Leonard Montefiore believed that the remaining child Holocaust survivors should be cared for in Jewish-run hostels in groups of no more than 30.

The CBF had housed some of the Kindertransport children in hostels but the majority had been placed in private homes, often with families who were not Jewish. An emergency response, it was not always successful.

Food shortages and the fact that the children were expected to be problematic ruled out fostering with Jewish families.

Lack of funding forced the CBF to use the Jewish Temporary Shelter in 1946. The Shelter was unsuitable and as a result Montefiore refused to accept any more child survivors from Czechoslovakia, despite pleas from Jewish aid workers on the ground. The fifth group were brought to the UK by Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld and the CBF stepped in to help care for the children.


Montefiore appealed to a rainbow of Jewish organisations to help care for the children in a network of hostels across the country.

As a result, all the hostels had different orientations. Some were Orthodox, others more liberal. Some were Zionist-orientated, and others were not.

The Boys had witnessed horrors that were unimaginable to most people in the UK and the CBF expected that children, especially the older boys, would be difficult to control. In addition, many of the younger children were German and Austrian and the CBF were concerned that their presence in Britain so soon after the end of the war could possibly cause resentment. As a result, many of the hostels were in large country houses in secluded surroundings.

A number of the children had tuberculosis and were looked after in the Ashford Sanatorium, in Kent, and a special hostel, Quare Mead, in Ugley, in Essex.

Elaine Blond, daughter of the Marks and Spencer empire, was a leading member of the Committee for the Care of the Concentration Camp Children. In her memoirs, she records that everything was done to make the children fit in.

The staff at all the boy’s hostels were instructed to make sure that the boys were seen playing football, which was supposed to be a key sign of Britishness.

It was also important that the youngsters looked like model British children. They were given money to buy new shoes and all the boys were provided with suits by the tailoring firm Burton.


The Committee for the Care of the Concentration Camp Children met regularly to assess each hostel. As soon as the children had mastered the English language the committee began to decide on their futures.

According to Montefiore, meeting the Boys expectations was not easy, and when the children responded that they wanted “to spend seven years in this country studying to be a doctor, or a professional pianist, or become a portrait painter, we had to say, ‘Think of something else’.”

In reality, most of the children were given little choice and many of the children in Montefiore’s care have said that it was never explained what was happening to them, and why, in the years that they were in the CBF’s care.

Some of the boys attended local schools but a number of the younger teenagers were moved to boarding schools that had relocated from Germany to the UK before the war. Other boys studied at yeshivas in Gateshead, London and Staines.

Key to many of the boy’s early years was the ORT school in South Kensington, which opened in July 1946. It was a vocational school which fitted perfectly with the CBF’s ethos of collective living in a Jewish environment. ORT also had a merchant marine training ship in the Thames.

A number of the boys went to university, in particular the London School of Economics, thanks to the help of the political thinker, Harold Laski, who was a professor at the school.

The children in the two groups that arrived in 1946 were accommodated in training farms at Polton House in Scotland and Millisle in Northern Ireland. A number of the Boys spent time at the religious kibbutz Thaxted Farm in Essex before settling in Israel.

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