Escape to Gwrych Castle

A Jewish Refugee Story

Author(s) Andrew Hesketh

Language: English

Genre(s): Welsh Interest, History

  • June 2023 · 304 pages ·216x135mm

  • · Hardback - 9781837600069
  • · eBook - epub - 9781915279569
  • · eBook - pdf - 9781915279576

About The Book

In 2020 and 2021, at the height of the Covid pandemic, Gwrych Castle was familiar to the British public as the setting of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! Lesser known is that, at the beginning of the Second World War, this once-grand country house in North Wales became home to around two hundred Jewish refugee children who had been rescued from Europe on the Kindertransport.

Under trying conditions, while the families they had been separated from faced the gravest of dangers, these children and their adult guardians established a Hachshara at Gwrych Castle: a training centre intended to prepare them for the dream of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine (Eretz Yisrael), where they hoped one day to be reunited with the families they left behind.

In this fascinating debut, historian Andrew Hesketh tells the story of these refugees and the community they built, shining a light on a chapter of Jewish history that deserves to be far more widely known. He recounts moving moments of friendship, respect, tension and humour as the new arrivals and local residents came to know each other, while the shadows of war loomed ever closer, and the Hachshara project found itself facing an uncertain future.


Author’s Note
‘Are you from the castle?’
Chapter 1: ‘The young generation of a great people’
1933–39: The Jews, the Nazis and Abergele
Chapter 2: ‘A field in the middle of nowhere’
Summer 1939: The gathering of the Gwrych refugees
Chapter 3: ‘On a dark night’
30 August–6 September 1939: Arrival at Gwrych Castle
Chapter 4: ‘I wanted to do something useful’
September 1939 (Part 1): Establishing the Gwrych Hachshara
Chapter 5: ‘We had good plans’
September 1939 (Part 2): Developing the Gwrych Hachshara
Chapter 6: ‘I didn’t tell them I was German’
October–November 1939: Aliens, football
and meeting the neighbours
Chapter 7: ‘An old bowler hat’
December 1939–February 1940: Blackouts, winter
and The Wizard of Oz
Chapter 8: ‘Leck mich am arsch’
March–April 1940: Learning Welsh, fancy dress,
the ‘naughty’ boys and girls, and a car crash
Chapter 9: ‘A very traumatic experience’
May–June 1940: Spy fever and internment
Chapter 10: ‘I couldn’t see any purpose to it’
July–September 1940: Departures, arrivals and divisions
Chapter 11: ‘Not quite the haven they anticipated’
October 1940–September 1941: Bombs, weddings
and the closing down of the Gwrych Hachshara
‘This place gave us a new life’
Appendix I: Nominal roll of those known to
have been at Gwrych Castle between 1939 and 1941
Appendix II: Glossary
Sources and Bibliography

About the Author(s)

Author(s): Andrew Hesketh

Andrew Hesketh was born and grew up in Derbyshire. Following his degree, Andrew trained to be a teacher and moved to work in North Wales in 1995. He is Assistant Headteacher at Ysgol Aberconwy and lives in Abergele. This is his first book.

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