GLEN ELLYN, Ill. — When George Levy Mueller was eight years old, his mother put him and his three-year-old sister Ursula on a train, hoping it would save them from certain death.
"She said take good care of your sister — which I then did somehow — and then she said, 'I will come to Holland and we will be a little happy family again,'" George remembers.
His childhood had been idyllic, George said. Then came Kristallnacht, and his father and other Jewish men were rounded up and taken to Nazi camps. They were beaten, starved, and killed.
So he boarded the train, and became one of thousands of children taken from Nazi Germany as part of the "Kindertransport" rescue operation. He never saw his mother again, and believes she was killed in a concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. But he says he never forgot her.
"I remember that she was a lot of fun, very happy, musical," George said.
The train took George and Ursula to a concentration camp in the Netherlands. There, a man from the Dutch underground convinced the Nazi commandant that George and Ursula were only half Jewish, and they were put on a train to another camp. It likely saved their lives.
"There were 1,300 children from first camp that were transported to Poland, and they were all gassed," George said.
Six years after their mother put them on the Kindertransport train, the children were liberated by the American army. They made their way to Chicago, and were united with his mother’s sister and her husband.
At 88, George says he doesn’t think his childhood was as difficult as others. He became a pharmacist, and has been married to his wife Katie for 63 years. They have five children, 15 grandchildren and three great-grand children. He says he thinks was able to fulfill the promise he made to his mother, taking care of his little sister the best he could.
On Monday, Germany agreed to compensate Holocaust survivors who fled on Kindertransport trains, Mueller among them. He says he met some of his fellow survivors during a reunion in 1995, and only after then decided to open up about his life and his losses.
He continues to speak to schools and groups about his experience, hoping to create awareness of this stain on history. And he's written a book about his mother's sacrifice, and his own journey, titled "Lucie’s Hope."