A 93-YEAR-OLD grandmother who settled in the North-East after being forced to flee Nazi Europe as a child has shared the story of how she escaped on a Kindertransport train to England.

Gabriele Keenaghan was just 12 when she was put on the train by her grandmother in April 1939.

Unaccompanied, with labels around their neck to identify them, 150 children set off not knowing if they would see their families again.

Mrs Keenaghan said: "In my mind I can still see my grandmother on the platform and every time I talk about it I get emotional.

“There were 150 children on the train and the Nazis were there with lists of people and we all had labels around our necks.

“The Nazis told the adults there had to be no emotional scenes – even though people were putting their children and grandchildren on the trains to they didn’t know where, not knowing whether they’d ever see them again.”

Born in Vienna in 1926, the daughter of a Catholic mother and a Jewish father, Gabriele was brought up by her grandmother after her mother died when she was young.

Labelled as a “mischling” by the Nazis after the Anschluss on March 1938, when Austria was annexed by Hitler’s Germany, she was sent to a Jewish school and forced to wear a yellow Star of David at all times.

The infamous Kristallnacht, known as the night of the broken glass, on the eve of Gabriele’s 12th birthday, saw windows smashed in synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses.

Fearing for Gabriele’s life, her grandmother reluctantly made plans for her to join 150 other children on a Kindertransport train to England in April 1939.

Originally from Vienna, she ended up at a school in Kent and after the war trained as a teacher at Wynyard Hall, later becoming a headteacher in Wallsend.

She visited St Alphonsus Catholic Primary School in North Ormesby, Middlesbrough, where her granddaughter Emily Smith teaches, ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Ms Smith said: “I don’t think I can put into words how proud of her I am. We thought it would be good for her to talk to the key stage two children because they study that era within the history curriculum.

"We also have quite a few refugees in our school and it means a lot to them to hear this kind of story.”

Mrs Keenaghan brought the British Empire Medal she received last year for services to education to show the children.

She said: "Their faces show surprise because they’ve never heard a story like this but they really listen and absorb it and have the intention that it will never happen in their lifetimes.

“Don’t forget that even since the Holocaust there have been many more genocides, so I’m not sure human beings have learned.

"We need to repeat the message until young people are aware that this kind of behaviour is never acceptable.”

She will be speaking at a Holocaust memorial event at Stockton Central Library on Wednesday, starting at 7pm.