Legendary Broadcaster David Attenborough Recalls the Jewish Sisters His Family Saved From the Holocaust
Legendary British broadcaster and documentarian David Attenborough made some rare comments on Sunday about the Jewish refugee children his family took in during the Holocaust.
The Sunday Times reported that the children, Helga and Irene Bejach, aged 12 and 13, arrived in Britain as two of the almost 10,000 Jewish children who were rescued from Nazi Germany by what has come to be called the Kindertransport.
The sisters had already lost their mother to illness and their older sister was prevented from taking part in the rescue due to her age — though she survived the Holocaust and is still alive at age 99. Their father, who was a prominent Berlin official, was later murdered at Auschwitz.
Attenborough recalled that his mother told him and his brothers, “We absolutely love you boys but we will have to show even more love to these girls because they are here on their own and without their parents. It is entirely up to you, darlings, if they stay.”
The brothers did not object, and the Bejachs stayed with the family for seven years, becoming what Attenborough described as “our sisters really.”
The girls ultimately departed to live with relatives in the United States.
Irene and Helga are both now deceased, but Attenborough held a reunion for their descendants last year, and Helga’s daughter Beverly commented, “I think that when he looked at all of us leaving, it hit him that we would probably not have existed if it was not for the humanitarian kindness of his family.”
As to why he is reluctant to discuss the subject publicly, Attenborough said, “I feel sort of inhibited about revealing it all because it’s nothing to do with me — it’s a credit to my parents.”