Birthdate: 1 Jan

Place: Hamburg, Germany

Until the age of ten Judy lived a normal childhood with her parents and sister in Hamburg, Germany. The family was Jewish but felt foremost German. Although observing Hanukkah (the Festival of Lights), Judy’s parents were not particularly religious. Judy’s father, a businessmen, fought for Germany in the First World War and won a distinction award. Her mother, who taught singing and piano, lost two brothers in the war and their father died soon after, probably from heartache.

When Hitler came to power, their world was turned upside down and for the first time Judy felt “Jewish” rather than German; for the first time she was made to feel different. Uniformed, jack-booted men marched through the streets, their "precise mechanical steps and swinging arms suggesting frightening powers”. At school a flagpole was erected in the playground and each day as the German flag and swastika were raised the students would raise their arms in the Nazi salute while singing the national anthem and the Nazi Horst Wessel song which contained lines like: "When Jewish blood spurts from the knife, we will be satisfied”. 

When Jewish students were expelled from state schools, Judy went to a Jewish one and was impressed how the teachers there tried to keep life as normal as possible. And when it was forbidden for Aryans to work for Jews the family's much-loved housekeeper Ilme had to leave, a traumatic event for both sides since Ilme was seen as a second “mother” by Judy and her sister. 

It was obvious that there was no future for the family in Germany and her father succeeded in getting a visa for the family to emigrate to Palestine, a lucky break given how few places accepted Jewish refugees. Judy learned Hebrew and entered a boarding school which provided training in farming and agriculture. When war broke out young Jews joined the British Forces and Judy joined the transport division of the Army Transport Service while her sister joined the Air Force. 

Judy worked at the Mena camp near Cairo, taking damaged trucks for repair and then under camouflage returning them to their units. In 1945 she was discharged and met her future husband Pat Ward, a Kiwi soldier. They married in the chapel at Maadi Camp, a camp which played an important role in New Zealand military history. The day after the wedding they boarded the Strathmore for the month's journey to New Zealand where Judy found a new home in the Wairarapa.

Judy found New Zealand a beautiful country and Pat's family made her very welcome but it took considerable time to acclimatise to the different environment and culture. They established a farm in the hill country near Martinborough and raised their family there. Judy lived in Greytown and was an active member of the RSA and local community.

A New Life In Palestine

Explore this theme further: Liberation | Freedom | Post-War New Lives

In the early years of Fascist rule tens of thousands of Jews left Germany and found new homes in Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey, and many other countries. As the Nazis began invading neighbouring countries, it became increasingly difficult to leave Nazi-dominated territories but some people still managed to escape. Some Jews were saved when their governments refused to co-operate with the Nazis while others were protected by individuals with resources and influence... >> more