Some of the 300 Boys who were to leave on the first flight from Prague to the UK gather in front of the
Jan Hus Memorial statue in Prague before leaving for the airport in August 1945.
In 1945, at the end of World War II, the British Government offered to bring 1,000 orphaned child survivors of the Nazi concentration camps into the UK. However, only 732 child survivors could be found and of these, there were only 80 girls. Most were in their teens, although a few were younger. Their survival was partly down to youth and a determination to live, but also due to unexpected acts of kindness, serendipitous opportunities and pure luck.
Under the auspices of the Central British Fund (today known as World Jewish Relief), these children were flown from Eastern Europe to the UK between August 1945 and March 1946. Special hostels were established in various locations including the Lake District Scotland, Northern Ireland and Southampton.
There followed the difficult process of rebuilding lives in a new country, lives that had been physically and emotionally traumatised by a nightmare past. Yet they drew on the strength of their group to move forward, both individually and together, supported by inspirational youth leaders who realised the importance of keeping the children together. And so, even after leaving the hostels, they remained a closely-knit, affectionate and devoted band of brothers and sisters and became known collectively as ‘The Boys’.
Some of The Boys left England later on to move to America, Canada and Israel, but their friendships continued. They established their own charitable organisation, the ’45 Aid Society, to provide support to members in need and raise money for good causes. Each year has been marked by an annual reunion, celebrating their liberation and survival.
To mark the 70th Anniversary of their Liberation in 2015, the children and grandchildren of The Boys have created a Memory Quilt to commemorate their parents and keep their memory alive. The individual squares talk of lost families and communities. They allude to unimaginable horrors that cast indelible marks on their lives. There are incredible stories of survival, success in creating new families and businesses and making a contribution to British society. And above all, the love of family that lives on.