The Kurt and Gerda Fulton Legacy

Kurt and Gerda Fulton July 2014
Kurt and Gerda Fulton with their son Ian.

Kurt and Gerda Fulton fled Nazi Germany in 1939. They have left a part of their legacy to Scottish Refugee Council, a donation we are most grateful for

Having fled Nazi Germany, Kurt and Gerda Fulton knew first-hand the struggles that face refugees resettled in Scotland. The couple have left part of their legacy for Scottish Refugee Council and our work with asylum seekers and refugees.

Gerda Grunewald was born in July 1919, and her future husband, Kurt Fulton, was born in December the following year. Their childhoods were happy – spent with their respective mother and father, brothers and sisters in traditional Jewish-German families.

Throughout the Nazi’s rise to power, Germany’s Jewish population were ostracised, scapegoated and dehumanised. Though they made up less than one percent of the country’s population, the Jews were blamed for Germany’s defeat in the First World War, the hyperinflation of the 1920’s and the economic collapse that ensued. Jews were stripped of their humanity and instead became objects of blame and targets for violence.

After Kristallnacht

On 9 November 1938, 19-year-old Gerda and 17-year-old Kurt were both victims of Kristallnacht. The so called ‘Night of the Broken Glass’ was a planned and coordinated riot aimed at Jews all over Germany. Orchestrated by the Brownshirts and months in the planning, the pogrom killed 92 people, burned 200 synagogues and saw 30,000 Jewish men bundled into concentration camps.  Kurt was taken to Buchenwald.  He was released in February 1939, and immediately Kurt knew that he was no longer safe in his home country. Though he had survived the concentration camp, over 1000 had perished. Kurt knew he had to flee.

He came to the UK seeking asylum. Here he met Gerda for the first time. Both had been sponsored by voluntary organisations based in Britain, which were required to pay a bounty of £50 per person (equivalent of £2800 in today’s Britain) to allow the refugees to leave Germany. Many were not lucky enough to be sponsored, and both Kurt and Gerda travelled alone – leaving their families behind.

A new life

The couple was married in 1941 and their son, Ian, was born in the same year. The new family settled in Glasgow, where they were to remain happily for the rest of their lives. Kurt anglicised his name to Charles, joined the British Army and served in the Italian Campaign. After being demobbed in 1947, he worked for different employers before becoming Chief Technician in Mechanical Engineering at the Glasgow Polytechnic. He was active socially and politically, and Kurt served as a senior official of the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs -representing Scotland on its UK national executive.  Meanwhile, Gerda worked for many years in the tailoring and garment industry, and together they raised their son.

Neither Kurt nor Gerda ever forgot their roots and were always sympathetic to the plight of refugees and asylum seekers from all across the world. They always remained that Britain and Scotland in particular had been very welcoming to them and that they never experienced and prejudice or discrimination during what was a happy life in Glasgow.

Kurt passed away in August 1982 and the age of 62, and Gerda passed in March 2013 at the age of 93. They left behind a £10,000 legacy for Scottish Refugee Council’s work with asylum seekers and refugees, a donation we are most grateful for. Thanks to Kurt and Gerda Fulton, we have been able to reach above the target of our Refugee Assistance Appeal – helping destitute asylum seekers in Scotland.