Edith Kohner was a Jewish refugee from the Sudetenland. She and her husband and two young children came to Northern Ireland as part of the Kindertransport.
Travelling by train and boat, the Kohner family left Czechoslovakia on 26th July 1939 and arrived in Northern Ireland on 7th August 1939. On their arrival at Dover, soldiers beckoned for Edith and the children to come forward from the boat. Edith cried with happiness, having become accustomed to Nazi rule including being forced to the back as a Jew. When they arrived in Northern Ireland, the family spent 4 weeks with the Berwitz family in Belfast, Co. Antrim before travelling onwards to Millisle, Co. Down.
She came to be an administrator of the kindertransport resettlement farm at Ballyrolly House, Millisle, Co. Down. She undertook the role with her husband Franz Kohner. Daughters Ruth Kohner and Dinah Kohner accompanied their parents.
There was a lot of administration required. The British government viewed refugees from Germany and Austria as “enemy aliens”. They could only live in assigned areas and had to adhere to a 2200hrs curfew. The Kohners looked after paperwork such as each refugee’s Alien Registration Book. They also handled permits issued by the local police to permit refugees to leave the farm.
After leaving the Jewish Resettlement Farm, Edith remained in Northern Ireland, settling in Newcastle, Co. Down.
The people here are very kind and very helpful and we have made many friends so it was the best place for us to stay.
Edith Kohner interviewed by Culture Northern Ireland in 2005.
The extended Kohner family lost a total of 23 members during the Holocaust. At the age of 93 years old, she took part in the filming of a 30-minute documentary ‘A Kinder Place, A Different World’. Primary 5 pupils from Millisle Primary School, Millisle, Co. Down produced the short film. When asked if she and her daughters liked living on the farm, Edith responded:
They liked living sweetheart. Never mind where. You just like living.
Edith Kohner passed away in 2009. She was fondly remembered by all those who lived with her at the Kinderfarm in Millisle, Co. Down.