Franz Kohner was a Jewish refugee from the Sudetenland. He and his wife 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.
Franz came to be an administrator of the Kindertransport resettlement farm at Ballyrolly House, Millisle, Co. Down. As a qualified barrister, he was able to look after immigration papers, ration coupons, and documentation. He undertook the role with his wife Edith 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. Franz Kohner also gave classes in German, taught violin and athletics, and gave lectures to the army and to schoolchildren.
The extended Kohner family lost a total of 23 members during the Holocaust.