Tag: Kindertransport

200 copies of Escaping Hitler arrive in Thorpe St Andrew

Today counts as one of the most exciting of my life, alongside two marriages, two births and two graduations… 200 copies of my debut book Escaping Hitler arrived from Pen and Sword Books at my Norwich home.  I love it!  The cover is glossy, the scent of ‘new print’, evocative photographs and foreword by a national figure.  It is everything I dreamed it would be, my debut book, a proper hardback with my name on the spine… I could not be happier.  Within two hours of the delivery van arriving here, Victor and I drove over to Joe Stirling, the subject of the biography, where he was patiently awaiting our arrival.  Joe is also thrilled with how the book looks and I signed a copy for him.  We left him embarking on a marathon read – I doubt he will not go to bed tonight!  Here are some photos so that you can share this special day with me.  Tomorrow we will set up an online store from this site – hopefully from the weekend Escaping Hitler will be open for business!

Norwich reads about Escaping Hitler

Today, January 5th 2015, Eastern Daily Press and Evening News both carried a two page article about Escaping Hitler and its launch on 4th February.  Written by leading journalist Rowan Mantell, the piece is extensive with many photographs of the Kindertransport boy who became Sheriff of Norwich.

The timing is fitting, for today Pen and Sword Books advised me that the book is now published and ready for sale on their website.  The review copies will be sent out very soon and I should receive my first box of books by the end of this week.  Cannot wait!

Try this link to see the article, but I do fear it may not work.  Apologies. Look out next week at this blog for the new online store where you will be able to buy your signed copy of Escaping Hitler.

Thanks for your patience



Anniversary of first Kindertransport into Harwich

1-003 Gunter ID card front
Günter’s Child passport for the Kindertransport with Nazi stamps

Today, 2nd December 2015 is the 77th anniversary of the first Kindertransport train to arrival at Harwich laden with desperate and frightened Jewish children, seeking sanctuary from the tyranny and anti-Semitism of the Nazi regime. The train was from Berlin. In the following July 14 year old Günter Stern left his parents behind in the Rhineland, travelling to Harwich, destined for freedom and a future. Two years ago, during the 75th anniversary commemorations of this incredible rescue project we took 89 year old Joe Stirling (born Günter Stern) back to Harwich to witness an amazing performance of Suitcase 38, on the very platforms where he had first stepped on British soil.  We witnessed this man relive a momentous part of his life through the words and actions of young writers and actors.  His story will be told in my debut biography, Escaping Hitler, to be published by Pen and Sword during January 2016.  Signed copies, both by Joe and me, will be available to buy direct from this blog from end January.

Joe Stirling and Cast of Suitcase Press
Joe meets the cast after the show.


Joe sits on platform at Harwich watching his younger self with his one suitcase.


In the first month of 1940, during a particularly hard winter, young Günter Stern arrived by steam train into the town of Lydney in Gloucestershire.  Only five months earlier he had arrived in England on a Kindertransport, fourteen years old with only one small suitcase.  His guardians, the Free family of Birmingham, secured him a place at Yardley Grammar School, only to find the school evacuated to Lydney before he could even begin his education.  So began three years in a classroom, on the playing fields and walking in the Forest. The boy from the Rhineland is to this day indebted to the wonderful people of Lydney, particularly Eddie and Doris Allsopp, who took him into their hearts and made the boy into the man who become Joe Stirling less than a year later.

I am delighted to say that in April next year I will be taking the boy back to Lydney.  Not the real one, sadly at 91 he will not travel that far, but his biography, Escaping Hitler: A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and His Future.  His story of life before Lydney, the people and places in Lydney which shaped the rest of his life, his future once he left there for ever. The photographs that reveal so much.  I have been invited by Lydney Town Council to be a part of their Annual Town Meeting, give a short presentation and display the book for their interest.  It will be a pleasure.




Photos show the house in Springmeadow where Gunter lodged with the Allsopps, and Lydney station where he would have arrived, excited but nervous, about to start his education.

Youtube Footage showing Joe Stirling speaking to Norwich Sunday Assembly July 2015

This piece of footage from Norwich Sunday Assembly shows Joe Stirling, the hero of my biography Escaping Hitler, talking recently to a packed hall about his early life.  At 90 years old he is still able to hold an audience in the palm of his hand. The book, to be published in January 2016 by Pen and Sword Books, will give all this information and so much more, including anecdotal stories from those who were and still are close to him.  The book covers nine decades of this man’s wonderful life from his childhood in Nazi Germany to his arrival in England on the Kindertransport, his education and life with two foster families, joining the British Army, meeting his wife, living in Attleborough, joining the Labour Party, working with Shirley Williams on her first by-election, taking high office in Lions International, setting up his own pioneering travel company Stirling Holidays, bringing up four children, travelling the world, becoming Sheriff of Norwich and finally discovering the fate of his parents.   Keep an eye on this blog for more information about publication dates, signings and how to buy your own signed copy….


Yesterday during a canvassing visit to Norwich for the Liberal Democrats, Baroness Shirley Williams, Liberal Democrat Peer, was reunited with Joe Stirling.  They last met 61 years ago during her first ever By-election as a Labour candidate.  Joe, then Labour Agent for Norwich, was sent to help out the young 23 year old in her efforts to become an M.P.  Shirley Williams has kindly written a foreword for Escaping Hitler: A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and His Future, the biography of Joe Stirling, written by Phyllida Scrivens.  This debut book will be published by Pen and Sword during January 2016.

Reunited after 61 years
Reunited after 61 years

Suitcase1938 One Year On

Joe Stirling and Cast of Suitcase PressThis time last year it was the 75th Anniversary of the first Kindertransport train arriving in England from Nazi Germany.  Seven months later fourteen year old Gunter Stern escaped Hitler using the same route.  Victor and I took Joe to see a performance of Suitcase1938, an interactive promenade play about the Kinder, in Harwich during late November 1939.  The cast were delighted to meet a real refugee and he really enjoyed his day.  Victor and I then took two of our best friends (Judith’s father was also on the Kindertransport) to see the final performance at Liverpool Street.  This can be now be viewed on their website at http://www.suitcase1938.org or via the youtube link below.  Look out for Victor, me, Judith and her husband David, all singing along at the opening of the piece (1 minute 12 seconds!). It was a wonderful experience on both occasions and the video is well worth a view.