The Kindertransport memorial at Liverpool Street Station in London..
(photo credit: PAUL SIMPSON/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
It was a parent’s worst nightmare; an unthinkable decision. Send your child away to keep them safe or risk the dangers of antisemitism in a bid to keep your family together.
Between 1938 and 1939, 10,000 children were sent by their parents on Kindertransports to the United Kingdom, sparing them from the horrors of the Holocaust and World War II.
Most of the children were Jews from Central Europe including Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland, who were sent during the months leading up to World War II as Jew-hatred became rampant.
Traveling by train through Europe, the children then sailed to the United Kingdom from the Netherlands and Belgium. Many parents of the “kinder” did not survive the war, so they were usually taken into the care of pre-arranged sponsors, families who came forward, or Jewish and non-Jewish organizations.
To mark the 80th anniversary of the transports, the Kindertransport Association has taken four of those saved, together with their children and spouses, on a trip of a lifetime – loosely tracing their journey from death to freedom and survival.
Kindertransport Association president Melissa Hacker said this trip “is the last opportunity for the Kindertransport survivors to revisit sites of their lost childhoods, and memorials to their murdered parents.
“We expect this trip to be incredibly meaningful for all who participate,” she said.
The organization explained that the kinder, now in their eighties and nineties, may be able to visit their old homes in Europe.
The trip begins in Vienna, from where trains will take the group to Berlin, then on to Amsterdam. A ferry will then take them to Harwich, England. They will then board one more train to London, where they will be welcomed by local kinder and their descendants at the Kindertransport Memorial in Liverpool Street Station.
“At the Wiener Library in London, Barbara Winton, daughter of Sir Nicholas Winton, who organized Kindertransports from Prague, will speak with us,” Hacker said. “In July, we will commemorate the lives and families the kinder have created in the 80 years since they fled their childhood homes, and the families they were forced to leave behind.”
Part of the journey will include a welcome and special reception at the House of Representatives in Berlin; a boat tour of Berlin together with local child survivors and members of the second generation; and a tour of the Kindertransport research and public engagement projects in Harwich, as well as private talks with scholars.
Hacker highlighted that it is “the parents of the kinder who we will be thinking about during our two weeks of travel. They bravely and lovingly sent their children away, children as young as three and as old as 16: to safety, to freedom, to a new life.”
“No parent should be separated from their child. What they did changed the world. And we want to remember, so that we all may learn,” she said.
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