Ellen Rawson

Ellen Rawson (née Herrmann) was born on 17 January 1922 in Kӧnigsberg in East Prussia, then a part of Germany. 

She grew up in an extremely happy family, with her friendly, outgoing mother Margarethe, and her thoughtful father Hans. Hans worked in the family business supplying materials to tailor shops in Europe. He fought for Germany in the First World War and received the Iron Cross. The family were Jewish and would go to synagogue together every Friday night.
Ellen swimming with her aunts and brother Gert. The family often holidayed on the beaches at what was then Swinemünde, which was Ellen's mother's place of birth.
Ellen's father, Hans (left), and his brother, Theo (right), in their military uniforms during the First World War.


Ellen’s brother, Gert, was born on 31 December 1922.Seven years later, their brother, Heinz, was born.

As children, Ellen, Gert and Heinz played lots of games and their mother used to make time in the afternoons for them to play records. Ellen also loved and collected books. Ellen’s parents were great bridge players and Ellen herself started playing at the age of eight.

Ellen with her mother and two brothers. This photograph was taken by Ellen's father during a family outing, and is one of a pair. Ellen's parents switched places so her mother could then take a picture of their father with the children.
The inside of Ellen’s family business.

Both my parents were born into family businesses, my mother in Swinemünde and my father in Königsberg.

The family business emblazoned with the Herrmann family name.
This postcard is addressed to Ellen Herrmann in Königsberg and has a franked stamp dated 20 April 1937 (which features swastikas and notes that it commemorates Hitler's birthday).


When Hitler came to power, Ellen’s life didn’t change very much to begin with. But as the years went on, things got much more difficult and Ellen had to leave school when she was 15. 


In 1938, Ellen travelled to Mannheim, Germany, to train as a dressmaker. During the November Pogrom, she witnessed an antisemitic mob going down the road, smashing up Jewish homes and businesses.

This is Ellen’s permit, which allowed her to come to England. It includes her date of birth, her parent’s details, and place of origin.

It was after these terrible events that people began to think seriously about getting children out of the country. Ellen’s mother wrote to lots of people abroad and the only positive reply she got was from the Ladies’ Committee of the synagogue in Seymour Place, London, who guaranteed places for some children to go to England.

Ellen’s mother told her she would be leaving via the Kindertransport. Margarethe packed her clothes and a few small items she thought that Ellen might be able to sell in England, because children were only allowed to take a small amount of money.

Ellen eventually arrived in London. After a week in Islington Hospital due to a suspected case of scarlet fever, Ellen was collected by a lady from the Committee. She had lost her domestic help at home, so Ellen was told to cook, clean and do everything in the house. She would regularly sit on the stairs and cry. 

Ellen was allowed to eat with the family in the dining room, but she couldn’t be paid as she didn’t have a work permit, so only received pocket money. It was an unhappy time for many reasons, and the most difficult part was that Ellen couldn’t speak English and it took her some time to pick it up.

The official stamp on the back of Ellen's entrance papers reads "...on the condition the holder does not enter any employment paid or unpaid while in the United Kingdom."
This letter is from 1941 and pertains to Gert's internment by Britain under a blanket scheme targeting potential enemy aliens, due to his German nationality, during the Second World War. Ellen is asking for her brother to be released

Ellen’s brother Gert also found refuge in England, entering with an agricultural working permit, but her youngest brother and parents were not able to escape. Communication between them and Ellen was restricted to sporadic Red Cross letters.

She was sent from one family to another (around eight in total) working like this, usually for just a fortnight. Sometimes she was happy with the family, sometimes not. Eventually, she found a job as a machinist in a Jewish firm.

Later Ellen married and moved to Nottingham where she settled.

A letter confirming Ellen tried to help release her brother from an enemy internment camp he was taken to after he entered the UK.
Clockwise from above: Ellen's parents; her brother, Heinz; a newspaper clipping announcing Ellen's parents' marriage.

Ellen’s parents were deported to Riga on the very last transport from Königsberg and shot on arrival. Her brother Heinz was forced to do slave labour and died a week after liberation, before Ellen could establish any contact.

Later in life Ellen became a close friend and supporter of the National Holocaust Centre and Museum and gave her testimony as long as she was able. Her testimony and the objects, documents and photographs she has donated continue to provide a crucial role in Holocaust education.



In preparation for deportation to concentration camps, Jewish people were forced by Nazi authorities into enclosed districts. Isolated from the general population, the people in the ghettos suffered under miserable living conditions rife with starvation and diseases.

Eisernes Kreuz (Iron Cross)

The Iron Cross was a German military medal. It symbolises Germany’s fight for its national identity in confrontation with Napoleon. Irrespective of social rank, it honoured distinguished service for the good of the nation.


On November 21, 1938, the British parliament decided to accept an unspecified number of children under Nazi persecution into Britain. It was up to various charitable organisations to guarantee their upkeep so that no costs would fall onto the state. Everything happened in great haste and rather improvised. Later on, the rescue effort for Jewish children became known as ‘Kindertransports’ after the German word for children, ‘kinder’.

November Pogrom

The November Pogrom – also known as Kristallnacht – marked the climax of organised, state-sanctioned terror against Jewish people in Germany before the Second World War. Jewish people were robbed, mistreated and murdered across Germany from 7 until 13 November 1938. Everybody could see this violence and destruction, as a good part of it happened in broad daylight.

Buchenwald Concentration Camp

Buchenwald Concentration Camp was established by the Nazis in 1937 and was one of the largest camps in Germany. Jews, Roma people, political prisoners, gay men Jehovah’s Witnesses and prisoners of war were imprisoned at Buchenwald, as well as ‘asocial’ prisoners who were incarcerated due to their inability to find work. Between 1937 and 1945 approximately 250,000 people were imprisoned at Buchenwald, over 56,000 of whom were killed. Many prisoners died due to illness, malnutrition, executions, medical experimentation, and the hardships of slave labour. In January 1945 approximately 10,000 prisoners – mostly Jewish – arrived at the camp after being forced to endure death marches. In early April, as US forces approached the camp, the Nazi paramilitary group SS began to force inmates on further marches out of Buchenwald. The US Army liberated 21,000 prisoners from Buchenwald on 11 April 1945.


Ravensbrück Concentration Camp was built in 1939 and was the largest women’s concentration camp. A small men’s camp was added in April 1941 and a youth camp, Uckermark, became part of Ravensbrück in June 1942. In total around 120,000 women and children and 20,000 men from over 30 different countries were imprisoned at Ravensbrück, including Jewish and Sinti and Roma people. Around 20,000 to 30,000 prisoners died in Ravensbrück, through starvation, from having been experimented on, from being worked to death, or selected for death for being considered too weak to work. A gas chamber was built in January 1945 and approximately 6,000 prisoners were gassed here. Shortly before the end of the war, the International, Danish and Swedish Red Cross evacuated around 7,500 prisoners to Sweden, Switzerland and France. Around 20,000 prisoners were taken on death marches. The Soviet Troops liberated the camp on 30 April 1945 and found around 2,000 prisoners who had been too sick to go on the death marches. 

Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration and Death Camp

Auschwitz-Birkenau is the most infamous of all Nazi camps and consisted of three main camps, known as Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II – Birkenau and Auschwitz III – Monowitz-Buna. There were also around 45 sub-camps around these sites. Over 1.1 million people were murdered at this site, and over 90% of them were Jewish.

Hartheim Castle Euthanasia Centre

In early 1940, Hartheim Castle in Austria was converted to be used as a killing centre for those with physical or mental disabilities (or those perceived to have these). From May 1940, people were killed using carbon dioxide in gas chambers. It is estimated that around 30,000 people were murdered in Hartheim Castle. 

Ongoing, state-organised persecution of Roma people

Historians estimate that between 200,000 and 500,000 Roma and Sinti (historically often labelled as ‘Gypsies’) people were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators in what is now called the Roma genocide. Many more were imprisoned, used for forced labour or subject to forced sterilisation and medical experimentation. Roma and Sinti men, women and children were already being targeted for persecution and imprisonment before the Second World War. As the Second World War began, the genocide of Roma and Sinti people intensified – including in occupied territories such as Austria. The persecution of Roma and Sinti and the Roma genocide took place alongside the Holocaust that saw the murder of six million Jews.

Dachau Concentration Camp

Dachau Concentration Camp was established in March 1933, initially to house political opponents. Dachau was used as a model for all later concentration camps. In the 12 years of its existence, over 200,000 people from all over Europe were imprisoned in Dachau, including gay men, Sinti and Roma, ‘asocials’, criminals, Jews and, later, Soviet prisoners of war. Once the Second World War started, living conditions in Dachau drastically worsened. Approximately 41,500 people were murdered in Dachau; one third of these died in the final six months of the war.  Approximately 25,000 prisoners were sent on death marches as Allied troops approached. The camp was liberated by American troops in April 1945. 


The Nazis planned the mass-deporation of European Jews to extermination camps in German-occupied Poland. The Jews were forced to gather at local sites, such as a synagogue or town square, and then crammed onto freight or passenger trains, with limited or no food or sanitary conditions. Journeys often lasted several days, and sometimes they took a few weeks. Many of those packed onto these trains died during the journey to the camps through starvation or overcrowding.