December 1938 saw 19 Jewish girls arrive in the resort after escaping Nazi persecution from across Germany and Austria.
They came to Britain through the Kindertransport, a rescue mission that saved more than 10,000 Jewish children prior to the outbreak of war.
For the girls that fled the Nazis in 1938 they made Southport their home – with all but one never seeing their parents again.
Harris House – so named after the owner, Miss Harris, who donated the property, 27 Argyle Road to the cause – was where the girls lived.
Southport notable Ruth Livingstone was the driving force behind the resort’s rescue efforts.
Ruth set up the Southport Branch of the British Inter-Aid Committee of the Movement for the Care of Children from Germany and persuaded local people to donate 10 shillings a week during the children’s stay. She even put on a concert at the Garrick Theatre to raise funds.
Ruth’s son Jack, now president of Lancashire County Cricket Club, said: “My mother was an amazing lady and my parents were always very warmed by the support and generosity from the Southport community.
“The girls were welcomed so warmly by everyone. I remember being surrounded by the girls chatting in German.”
An old tattered diary discovered at a church jumble sale tells the inspirational accounts of the teenagers as they adjusted to British life after escaping from Hitler’s clutches.
Helen Connolly found the diary more than 50 years ago in Southport and was “moved” by what she read and found.
The diary is believed to be the most significant wartime record since Anne Frank’s and is now on display in Manchester’s Jewish Museum.
Mrs Connolly said: “I was going through books, music and all kinds of jumble when I found the diary.
“It was tatty and old and written in this child’s handwriting and on the front it just said Harris House.
“It really moved me when I read the account from each girl,” she added.
“I always realised I was sitting on such an important piece of history but after coming across it I did not do anything about it and I just put it in my drawer.
“I showed it to my boys as they were growing up to show them how lucky they were that they never had to endure what these girls did.
“I often wondered what had happened to the girls, I always wondered how they had made out in life.
“I cried when I first read it, I just imagined being parted from my children because I had four sons,” added Mrs Connolly.
Written at the end of their first year at Harris House, each girl wrote of her family; the Nazis; the flight to freedom and the sanctuary they found in Southport.
While at Harris House the girls were taught English, elocution,needlework, modern Hebrew and Jewish religious education.
An extract from the diary reads: “Amongst all those nice people who have given us their interest and kindness we do not want to forget our teachers in this book.
“There is first of all our teacher, dear Mrs Woodman, who tried from the first days to teach us in the new language.
“In every weather warm or cold, whether it was raining cats and dogs she came to the home and we girls enjoyed the lessons very much.
“We loved her also for friendship and understanding for us which she proved in every possible way.”
Another poignant account by Lottei Grod records a young girl’s understanding of the political world around her.
It reads: “War: is it possible that a little word means such a lot? We girls heard the declaration of the war through the wireless, last week during the crisis everyone was still hoping for peace and so did we.
“Some of our parents have had the chance to go out of Austria and Germany and now this hope is destroyed.
“England, a country we learned to love and gave us such hospitality is at war, in this time everybody stands united against a cruel enemy.
“We do not want to stand aside, therefore we gave help gladly when the Rosefield Hall was prepared.
“We stand by Britain, we feel with England’s people we understand the little evacuees for we know what it means to be parted from your parents.
“Let us hope that the time is not so far when victory will come and with it a little word that will give us all joy: peace.”
Mrs Connolly said she thinks that the diary is like Anne Frank’s and that despite everything, these children all retained such a teenage zest for life.
One girl wrote: “Like some of the girls our age we are enthusiastic picture goers, during the last time in Austria and Germany we were not allowed to go into any picture house to attend any show.
“When we came to Southport one of the greatest wishes was to go to the pictures. Two hours of amusement, two hours of forgetfulness. We looked forward every week to this pleasure. We go to the Palladium and the Regal – they always have a good programme.
“Of course we have the favourite star, at the present moment it is Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, at one time Tyrone Power was our favourite, but we lost a great deal of enthusiasm when we learned that he was recently married to Annabella.”
After being persuaded by a friend, Mrs Connolly contacted the Visiter in the 80s, an account of the diary was published and subsequently led to some of the women being tracked down.
Yorkshire Television, as part of a documentary, took up the task of tracing the girls and the reunion, which took place in 1985 at Southport’s Prince of Wales Hotel, was televised.
Mrs Connolly said she never envisaged everyone coming back together.
The women came from as far afield as Australia, Vienna and Tel Aviv to recall their story, see the diary and Mrs Livingstone again.
Harris House was opened on February 12 1939 but was forced to close in July 1940 when British authorities took the view that any refugee over 16 years of age was a security risk.
[This article by Georgina Stubbs first appeared in the Southport Visiter June 2013]