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Woman Who Fled Germany As Teen Ended Up Fighting For British Army During WWII

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Woman Who Fled Germany As Teen Ended Up Fighting For British Army During WWII

Today marks VE Day - a day when the whole country comes together and remembers the end of World War II, paying tribute to those who fought for us.

Although today is seen as a day of celebration, it's important we don't forget the very real human cost of the war. But from tragedy there's also many inspiring stories, with tales of real-life heroes and heroines.

One such story is that of Henny Franks, who was facing persecution from the Nazis as a Jewish teenager in Germany when the war started but who made it to England and ended the war as a proud fighter for the British Army.

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Henny, 96, appeared on Dan Wootton's talkRadio show where she shared her incredible story.

In 1939, Henny and her two young siblings were smuggled out of their home in Cologne via the Kindertransport mission, which saw around 10,000 children moved to the UK.

She told Wootton: "I didn't know what would happen to my parents then. I just hoped I would get to see them again but... unfortunately, I never saw my father again, or my grandfathers.

"My father went to a concentration camp. I found that out very late, I never knew what happened to him. Nor did my mother, she died before I found out. That upset me very much. I think about it every day."

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Although, tragically, Henny's dad was taken away, her mum was able to make her way to Italy with others and eventually ended up in Switzerland.

Henny Franks as a child (centre). Credit: Henny Franks
Henny Franks as a child (centre). Credit: Henny Franks

Meanwhile, Henny was living in the UK with an aunt and uncle, completely unaware what was happening to her parents. After just six months in the UK, Henny could speak English and took up a voluntary role at the women's branch of the British Army - known as the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

Henny told Wootton that she now considered herself English, joking that when she first joined the army and marched through the streets she 'felt more English than the English'.

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Heroic Henny is quick to play down any suggestion that she's a hero, humbly telling Wootton: "I don't know about that." But she added that she did enjoy being in the army.

Two-years after VE Day, Henny was reunited with her mum. She also met the man she would go on to marry, who also served in the army.

When Wootton asked what message Henny would share with young people who don't know much about World War II, she said: "It makes no difference, the colour of your skin, we're all human and if they're nice to you then you're nice to them. And English people are the nicest people."

Henny is now a great-grandmother and is looking forward to her 97th birthday next month.

Featured Image Credit: SSAFA: The Armed Forces Charity

Topics: World War 2, Inspirational

Claire Reid
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