Former U.K. PM secretly took in Jewish refugee in 1939

Attlee, who served as prime minister from 1945 to 1951 and died in 1967, sponsored a Jewish mother and her two children who fled Germany in 1939.

November 21, 2018 12:22
1 minute read.
Clement Attlee

Clement Attlee. (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)


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Former UK prime minister Clement Attlee secretly took in a Jewish child fleeing the Nazis in 1939, The Guardian revealed.

Attlee, who served as prime minister from 1945 to 1951 and died in 1967, sponsored a Jewish mother and her two children who fled Germany in 1939. One of the children stayed with the Attlee family for four months, something that the politician never spoke about. The story was revealed to the public for the first time ever in the Guardian this week. At the time, Attlee was the leader of the opposition and Labour leader.

According to the report, the child in question is Paul Willer, who is now 90, and was 10 when he stayed with the family. On Wednesday, Willer met Attlee’s granddaughter, Jo Roundell-Greene, for the first time, during an event in Parliament marking the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport. “The whole day has been emotional,” Willer said at the event, according to Sky News.

It was a remarkable kindness, a generous offer,” Willer told The Guardian. “Attlee was a modest man. He did not try and glorify himself in any way. He did it for the right reasons.”

Willer’s mother was desperate to find homes for her children, and was connected with the Attlee family through a church in Stanmore, in northwest London. The reverend connected the family with the Attlees, who were regular churchgoers and agreed to take one of the boys.

Willer remained there for four months before he was sent to a school in Northern Ireland, and today lives in Gloucestershire in southwest England.

In 1945, Attlee became the British prime minister and – among other things – oversaw ending the UK mandate of Palestine.

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