December 12: Kindertransport

My parents, passengers on the Konigstein, were saved in March 1939 by Venezuelan president Eleazar Lopez Contreras.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Kindertransport Sir, - My parents, passengers on the Konigstein, were saved in March 1939 by Venezuelan president Eleazar Lopez Contreras. The alternative was certain death. With my consent, they had decided to leave me behind in Vienna, hopefully waiting for my place on a Kindertransport. I arrived in Harwich in May 1939, sponsored by Canford School in Wimborne, which had awarded me a "scholarship" - my only qualification being a Jewish refugee of school age. The headmaster acted in loco parentis. I finally left Venezuela four years ago, having been declared an enemy of the regime, and am today a proud citizen of Israel, without trauma; thank God ("The no-parent kindertransport," December 4). HANS ANTON BROD Ashdod Sir, - It's always a treat to read Amnon Rubinstein. Although, politically, I often don't agree with him, his articles are always intelligent and articulate. This time he came close to dealing with the problem that's been bothering me for years. Rubinstein pointed out that Britain's "act of humanity" was sullied by the condition that the children had to arrive without their parents. But the other thing everyone tends to forget is that this same "humane" British government, during those fateful years, also controlled the gate to the land of Israel. In keeping that gate locked, they doomed millions of desperate Jews. THELMA JACOBSON Petah Tikva Sir, - Amnon Rubinstein noted that the children arrived ohne Eltern, without parents. I believe we were the only complete family (four children, plus parents) who came to England via the Kindertransport. We spent four months, from October 1938, in a refugee camp in Zboncyn on the Polish-German border. Then in February 1939, my three older siblings were given places on a Kindertransport boat, and a few days later my parents and I (20 months old) got permission to join them. A photo of us appeared in the British newspaper The Star on February 15, 1939, captioned: "Fifty-six Jewish refugees arrived in London today. Only two of them were grown-ups. Here they are with their family of four." RENEE MOSS (NEE IRENA ALPERN) Netanya (Freiburg) Sir, - Amnon Rubinstein's op-ed reminded me of how these Kinder, 60 or more years on, still have a relationship. Every year they come to Israel from Britain, the US and elsewhere to meet with those now living in Israel. Their get-togethers take place at Nofei Hasharon, a retirement home in Netanya where some prominent Kinder used to live, and some still do. When they get together they have a lot to talk about, and it's not all about the "old days." Time is passing, and many of these people will not be with us much longer. So let's give them credit while they're still here. LEONARD ZURAKOV Netanya Sir, - The parents who bravely sent their children away, undoubtedly the unsung heroes of our history, saw it as their only hope of survival. Fifty years after these children arrived in England, the only safe haven that opened its doors before World War II, two of these Kinder organized a reunion in London, to which about 1,000 of them turned up. Bertha Leverton and Shmuel Lowensohn subsequently edited a collection of their stories called I Came Alone describing this "no-parent" journey. I too, having made several documentary films, decided to research the subject of the Kindertransport. Encouraged by TV's documentary Channel 8, I made a film called Kinder Exodus, 1939. Broadcast in 1999, it is now in 10 museums worldwide. The first train left Berlin on December 1, 1938, arriving in Harwich, England, on December 2. They continued to arrive until September 1, 1939 when war broke out. Out of the 10,000 Jewish children who arrived in England during that time, about 1,000 came to Israel after the war. I chose 10 of the many I interviewed for my half-hour film recalling their traumatized childhood, up to their successful adulthood. Had it not been for the fact that my grandparents immigrated to England in the early part of the 20th century, I might have been in the same situation myself, or even among the one and a half million children lost in the Holocaust. HILARY GATOFF Herzliya Pituah Shocking bias Sir, - Sarah Kreimer's "Olive harvest 5769" (Up Front, November 28) provided a personal perspective on an important but intricate topic. The complex issues involved such as law, land, history and national narrative require fuller attention - certainly more than Kreimer's simplistic account. However, as a board member of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Kreimer's participation in the recent International Sabeel Conference is more worrying. Sabeel is a radical NGO which virulently demonizes the State of Israel. Its director, Naim Ateek, employs anti-Semitic theological themes and imagery, as reflected in his 2001 Sabeel "Easter message," in which he said, "It seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him... The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily." Sabeel representatives have also met with Iranian President Ahmadinejad, which clearly demonstrates their priorities when it comes to human rights. That Kreimer and ACRI see fit to partner or even associate with Sabeel is nothing short of shocking and casts serious doubt over their ability to judge not only the issue of the olive harvest, but human rights as a whole. The protection of human rights, Arab and Jewish, requires objectivity and nuance, not partisan bias. DAN KOSKY NGO Monitor Jerusalem