Easels of paper in an Irvine hotel lobby are reminiscent of the sides of milk cartons:
"Does anyone know a Fritzy Hacker from Berlin?"
"Does anyone know Suse Rosenstock from Worms?"
They're messages from "kinder," Jewish children shuttled out of Nazi-occupied Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland as part of the "Kindertransport" before World War II. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the start of that rescue mission.
The "kinder" are now mostly in their 80s. About three dozen of them -- plus their adult children and grandchildren -- recently gathered in Irvine for the Kindertransport Association Conference. The association hosts the reunion every other year, as the number of "kinder" dwindles.
German-native Hilda Fogelson, who lives in the Los Angeles area, came to the conference with her two sons. She remembers growing up in Berlin.
Fogelson says at first, life was pretty good. Her dad owned a successful business on Alexanderplatz, in the heart of Berlin. She played regularly with her best friend who lived next door. But after a while, the girl's parents refused to let her play with Fogelson because Fogelson was Jewish.
"Why?" Fogelson began to question. "What's wrong with me?"
Then things got worse.
"The kids would put rocks in the snowballs and they knew we were Jewish because we were going to the subway to go to Jewish school," she recalls. "They would try and hit us with -- you know, things like that. Every day something happened."
Laws in Germany banned Jews from parks and swimming pools. Businesses began to put up signs saying they would not serve Jews. The government increased taxes on Jews. They were forced to give up most of their silver.
Then came Kristallnacht, the "night of broken glass," in November of 1938. Rioters in Germany and Austria destroyed Jewish businesses and burned down synagogues.
Fogelson says her dad took her and her older sister on the streetcar through the heart of Berlin to see the aftermath. He told them he never wanted them to forget it.
"As we were going along, we could see the synagogue burning that I went to," she remembers. "We could see a lot of stores with the name 'Jude,' you know, 'Jew.' And the store windows broken. My father had told us before, 'We shouldn't say anything. People shouldn't realize we were Jewish. That woke my dad up. Up to that point, he always thought this is a passing thing. The world is not going to let this happen."
After Kristallnacht, activists in England pressured officials there to approve the transport of Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied areas, but families would have to pay a guarantee of 50 British pounds per child -- a lot of money for the time.
Quakers helped escort the children. Fogelson's father paid to get 13-year-old Hilda and her two sisters to England. Around the same time, seven year-old Susie Goldsmith's father, a well-known attorney, got her and her brother on the first Kindertransport out of Vienna.
"The day that the train left, all the grandparents and the aunts and uncles went to the station, but nobody was allowed near the children," Goldsmith recalled. "They were all kept far away from the children. And all I remember is I cried from that moment until I think we got out of Austria, out of Germany and into Holland."
Goldsmith says her first happy memory of that time came when the Kindertransport train reached Holland.
"You could hear everybody yelling -- these wonderful, happy yells starting. So we knew something good was happening," Goldsmith says. "And the windows of the train opened up and the ladies in Amsterdam handed us sandwiches. And they were rye bread and they were thick with butter. That, I remember."
The Kindertransport lasted nine months, until World War II brought it to an end. About 60 percent of the children never saw their parents again.
Both Fogelson and Goldsmith were lucky. Their parents made it out alive and reunited with the children. On their separate journeys, the two eventually made it to California. Fogelson's family ended up in the Los Angeles area, where her dad's brother lived. They bought a chicken ranch in Van Nuys, where Fogelson remembers her poetry-loving dad reciting Johann Wolfgang von Goethe poems to the chickens.
"They knew German poetry!" Fogelson says with a laugh.
Fogelson went on to major in international relations at UCLA. She became an inner-city school teacher. Goldsmith's family ended up in San Francisco because her brother really liked the opera, "The Girl of the Golden West," about California's Gold Rush. Goldsmith says she just wanted to lose her accent and become a "California girl."
"And it was wonderful. I made very good friends," Goldsmith says. "Nobody believed the stories that we told, so we learned not to talk about our experiences. Nobody thought that a civilized country could be so cruel."
At the end of the Kindertransport Association reunion, kinder and their families hold hands and snake through a hotel ballroom, singing a song of peace. They had spent two days attending sessions about Jewish history, about their shared experience and about how to keep their long-hidden stories alive.
"Where most American Jews have, like, a Mezuzah on the outside of the house, we didn't," says Ellen Goldsmith, Susie Goldsmith's daughter. It was absolutely forbidden. It was on the inside of the house, but not on the outside, where it could be seen publicly. And when I wanted to wear a Star of David when I was seven, my mother said, 'No.' And I said, 'I'll buy it.' And she said, 'No.' As it turned out, I did buy it and I wore it. And she was terrified for me."
Ellen Goldsmith says it wasn't until years later that she made the connection between her Star of David and the yellow star her mother was forced to wear to identify her as a Jew.
Both "kinder" Hilda Fogelson and Susie Goldsmith speak to schools in California about their experiences. Fogelson has even spoken to kids in Germany.
"The young people that I speak to there, they weren't even alive and they sometimes ask that question: 'Do you hate us?' And I say, 'No, I don't hate you, but your grandparents,'" Fogelson laughs. "It's not very nice. [But] that's the truth."
Fogelson says she's shown her family where she lived in Berlin, but she still gets uneasy when she hears German.
"After a while, I just want to leave. I can't be here any longer, you know?" Fogelson explains. "But I sort of felt it's important that I do it, too. That the Germans see they didn't kill us all. I'm alive."
It's a lesson that resonates with the 86-year-old's children.
"Although it's a tragedy, it's still also in a way a source of pride that my mother survived," says Fogelson's son, Steve Fogelson. "On one hand, you feel you have this tragic history. And on the other hand, you feel you take pride in it."
Susie Goldsmith wants to make sure the story of the Kindertransport is remembered. She considers herself one of the "lucky ones," someone who survive the Holocaust without going to a concentration camp.
"I think the Holocaust has to be remembered," says Goldsmith. "We have to remember what happened [so] it'll never happen again. Yet it happens. Whether it's Jews, whether it's Armenians, whether it's a nation in Africa. It happens all over the world, over and over again."