Author: SOPHIE WILLIAMS
Former Labour leader Clement Atlee took in a child refugee from Nazi Germany in the months leading up to the Second World War, it has been revealed.
Mr Atlee, the then leader of the opposition, supported a Jewish mother and her two children helping them leave Germany for the UK.
Paul Willer told the Guardian that he was brought to the UK and resided with the Atlee family for four months.
Mr Willer, now 90, said that his mother, a single parent, planned the family’s escape from Germany following Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938.
She asked her brother to approach churches in the UK to take her two children. Two families agreed with Mr Willer being sent to live with the Atlees and his brother being given refuge with another family in London.
Letters of guarantee from the two families allowed her to slip into the Netherlands and then to Britain.
Mr Willer described Mr Atlee as “a gentle man.”
“Atlee was a modest man. He did not try and glorify himself in any way. He did it for the right reasons.”
“He was very good with the children and affectionate. At breakfast, we would gather around the table and he played this game where he held out a coin and asked whose monarch’s head was on it. Whoever gave the correct answer was allowed to keep the coin,” he said.
After four months, Mr Willer left the Atlee family and attended school in Northern Ireland.
He now resides in Hartfordshire.
In 1945, Clement Atlee won the general elections, defeating Winston Churchill in a landslide victory. He is most remembered for creating the National Health Service and improving social services in the country battered by the effects of war.
Mr Willer is set to meet with the late prime minister’s granddaughter Jo Roundell Greene, a Lib Dem councillor from Somerset.
In response to the news, Deputy leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson wrote: “Clement Atlee is an absolute hero of mine. A truly great, kind and decent man, his determination for social justice and helping the most vulnerable remains an inspiration to all of us in the Labour mobementy to this day.
“This story says it all.”
While Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “A moving story about former Labour prime minister Clement Atlee whose family, like many others, took in a child escaping the horrors of Nazi Germany. It’s 80 years since the Kindertransport, a historic rescue mission which still humbles and inspires us.”