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Latest News 26 March 2024

Remembering Henry Wuga: Hope and humanity always shine through

We were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Henry Wuga, who has passed away at the age of 100. From escaping Nazi Germany to his arrest in the UK for being a spy, Henry Wuga experienced a great deal in the 100 years he was alive. Henry will be greatly missed by Blesma and all those who knew him. 

The windows of Henry Wuga's home rattled and the air pulsated with shouts and offensive songs as the Nazi stormtroopers marched through the streets below. 15-year-old Henry and his family watched wide-eyed as a savage frenzy descended on the streets of Nuremburg; passers-by were beaten up, windows were smashed and furniture was thrown from windows in the foaming epicentre of Hitler's malevolent empire. 

It was the start of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, when Jewish businesses across Germany were ransacked and synagogues destroyed. Some 30,000 men were arrested and sent to concentration camps in 1938 - nothing would ever be the same again.

Henry Wuga School
A picture of a young Henry Wuga on his first day of school in Germany.
Henry Wuga Child Portrait
Henry was only 15 when he was sent to Scotland via the Kindertransport to escape Nazi persecution.

As Henry approached his 100th birthday in February, this year, the memories were still vivid and he shuddered slightly as he recalled what would be the start of a remarkable personal journey. He was evacuated from Nazi Germany to the UK on the Kindertransport, was locked up just after his 16th birthday accused of being a German spy, and went on to become a successful businessman living in Scotland. Much later, he became a loyal supporter of Blesma, volunteering on ski trips for several decades.

"I was very lucky to escape Germany, it was terrible time. People were being beaten up and homes smashed to pieces. I remember they slashed all the duvets so feathers were swirling around everywhere."

Henry's parents wanted him to escape the country as anti-Semitism ratcheted up, and managed to secure him a place on the Kindertransport - the rescue operation that brought some 10,000 children to the UK from Germany between 1938 and 1939.

"Most of the children were aged six or seven and had never left home, so were very upset. They weren't crying, they were howling. It was a terrible sound. The older ones tried to comfort them, but we were also terrified and that was made worse by the Nazi soldiers patrolling the train. It was only when we got to the Dutch border that they left and the atmosphere lifted. Kind women then gave us apples, sandwiches and hot chocolate."

The children were put on ferries to Harwich and then transported to London's Liverpool Street Station where they were put with families who had volunteered to care for them until it was safe to return home. Henry eventually travelled to Glasgow where a distant cousin had helped arrange a home for him.

"It was all going very well but when war broke out we were evacuated to Perth and that is where my trouble started. I wrote letters to my parents back in Germany, but they were intercepted and I was deemed to be 'corresponding with the enemy.'"

Henry Wuga Family
Henry Wuga with his family back in Germany, before he managed to escape Nazi persecution.

At the age of just 16, and with limited English, Henry found himself in front of the High Court in Edinburgh, where he was sentenced to internment.

"I was labelled a dangerous enemy alien, but was too young for internment so I spent time in remand homes before ending up at an internment camp on the Isle of Man.

"They were so convinced my innocent letters home contained coded messages that they felt I needed to be behind barbed wire. At one point, I got a new room-mate who asked me lots of questions and tried to get me drunk. I subsequently learned that he was working for MI5 to expose me as a spy. It was a traumatic experience but in other ways it was good as I was with a lot of older people - academics, artists, archaeologists and lawyers - and it was an incredible education. It was like a university for me."

After 10 months and a series of tribunals, Henry was allowed to return to Glasgow where he met his wife-to-be, Ingrid Wolff, a fellow Kindertransport escapee. They were married two years later and remained devoted to each other for 75 years, until Ingrid sadly passed away in 2020.

Henry was granted British citizenship in 1946 and built an events catering company with Ingrid. On retirement, they put their love of skiing to good use by helping Blesma Members learn to skibob. Henry was introduced to Blesma after meeting the Skibob Association of Great Britain's Ray Holland on a skiing trip. Ray was instrumental in both Henry and Ingrid becoming a core part of the team that coaxed Blesma's Members onto the slopes for life-enhancing experiences.

Henry Ingrid Skibob Alps
Henry and Ingrid were superb at helping Blesma Members gain confidence on the slopes.

Ingrid, who was awarded a British Empire Medal in 2019 for her services to Holocaust education, was also an integral part of the trips, with soothing advice for first-time skiers, as well as expertise for the more accomplished.

Henry and Ingrid were ever-present at the annual ski activity weeks in Austria for almost 20 years, staying friends with many of their fledgling skiers for years afterwards. 

Henry had two daughters, four grandsons and three great grandsons. He was awarded an MBE in 1999 presented by the late HM Queen Elizabeth II for his work with Blesma and for charitable fundraising. 

A month before passing away and on the eve of his 100th birthday, Henry shared: "We live in particularly difficult times, and it can feel depressing. But you just have to get on with it and look forward. We may have to endure darkness for a time, but hope and humanity always shines through."

Henry Ingrid Outsidehouse
Henry and Ingrid were passionate skiers and skibobbers. Over their lifetime, they have done so much to help Blesma's Members and educated thousands on the Holocaust.

©Header image of Henry and Ingrid taken by Robert Burns Photography - All Rights Reserved

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