Jewish Persecution: Saving the Children: Kindertransport ---Journey to Safety
January 27th is Holocaust Rememberance Day...each of us must take a few moments to pause and reflect.
Hoping this little child and no others will have to face inhumane treatment
Whispering to Me Down Through Time...
Whispering in the winds that rustle through the branches as I sit safely on my porch I think I hear:
"Did you know?
Did you hear us and turn a deaf ear?
Were you safe at home with your family?
Were you yet unborn?
Have you been told of what happened to our families and to us?"
In his own words...
Weep not for me
.Weep not for those that we lost.
Weep now because atrocities such as these are still happening today.
Eight decades later.
What prompted my renewed interest in understanding and being more aware of what happened to my Jewish brothers and sisters was a fictional book that I read by the author Danielle Steele.
The novel is entitled Echoes and it was a novel that was a diversion from the type of story she usually tells.
In it she speaks of Kindertransport---a topic about which I had no knowledge.
After I finished that book I went to our town's library to find a book on the topic. There were none in so I had to order one and soon it came. The title was Kindertransport and it was the retelling of one person's experience with this life saving transporting of 10,000 children mainly Jewish to England between 1938 and 1939.
And no I am not Jewish. When I speak of my Jewish brothers and sisters I speak of them that because we are after all one family.
In Search of Answers
After I finished that first book from the library, I knew that I still had gaping holes in my knowledge of this time period and on this topic. So I returned to the library and ordered several more books and a DVD that details this year long event.
As I watched the one DVD tonight a realism washed over me.
Had it not been for Kindertransport and OTC (One Thousand Children) it is very likely that most of the Jewish population in that part of our world would have been totally annihilated which of course was Hitler's wish.
That very thought shook me to my core.
Find Out More
There is so much to know about the treatment of the Jewish people that happened just prior to the beginning of World War II, during, and after as well.
This article will only scratch the surface. Hopefully after reading it, you will find books, DVDs, documents, and living individuals which will fill in the gaping holes in these writings.
It was decided that children under the age of 16 could travel unaccompanied to England. Someone would take them into their home and would care for them while they were there.
This life saving transporting of children was known as Kindertransport (kinder meaning children ). It was begun just after the Kristallnacht---the night of the broken glass which was destruction of Jewish property, breaking store front windows, doors, and strewing property in the street. This was orchestrated and carried out by German authorities.
Everyone was in agreement it was time for the kindertransport to begin. Danger was so real and palpable. They could wait no longer.
A Tag Similar to This One was Placed Around Each Child's Neck
Preparing for the Journey
The agreement was that a sponsor would promise to be responsible for this child for as long as was necessary.
Children were transported to Palestine and to England during the Kindertransport reportedly 14,000 children were taken to safety. (The number of children does vary from source to source. But the point is there were many.)
The families, children and the parents of these children were told that as soon as there was no longer any danger to them, they would be returned to their families.
When the children were readied to make the trip to England they were allowed one suitcase and were allowed to bring out of Austria nothing of value.
A tag with a number on it was hung around their neck and a similar one placed on their suitcase.
On at least one of the train rides the children had a most harrowing experience.They had traveled some distance on their journey when the train stopped.
Onto the train came fearsome looking German soldiers.
They began opening some of the suitcases of the children no doubt leaving the contents strewn about the area. Needlessly, these same soldiers screamed at and frightened the children.
Obviously the children were quite shaken by this occurrence. Imagine if you can how they must have felt.
They were already snatched away from their parents not really understanding why they had been forced to leave especially the youngest ones. They are traveling to somewhere away from their families and then on board comes the frightening individuals shouting and ordering them about.
Tragedy on top of tragedy. Insult to injury I would submit.
Children Helping Their Parents
The stories that those that were children of the kindertransport experience are at once inspriing and riveting.
Many of those very young children had been asked by their parents before they left home to try to find them a job so that they could follow them to their new home. And many of those young children did all they could to try to bring their parents to be near them.
Some would go door to door asking if help was needed. They would explain what a helpful addition to their household they would be: sewing, doing carpentry work, cleaning, any chores that needed to be done.
Some made up letters and hand delivered them around the neighborhood.
The good news is that as a result of the efforts of some of these children their parents were brought out of harm's way and they were reunited with their children.
A New Day Dawned...Bittersweet for Many...
One young boy, Kurt, at age seven left home as part of Kindertransport.
He remained with the woman and man who had become his 'family' till he was age 16. Miraculously his parents survived and he was to go live with them.
He did not want to go. He did not know them. They of course thought they knew him but all of this time had passed and they really did not. What a bittersweet reunion.
Filled with elation at seeing him for the first time in all of those years, his father ran his fingers through his curly hair. Kurt hit his dad as a way to rebuff the touch. The 'father' he had lived with for those nine years told him never to do such a thing again.
While he did not want to go with them, he did go. They had a very hard time of it.
Even as an adult his sadness and longing for his 'adopted' family was evident.
He did say that -that he knew how fortunate he was but it had been very difficult.
A story that tore at me was the one told by a now grown woman.
It had come the time for her to travel on the train. She had gotten on and was waving at her family. The window was lowered so that she and others could lean out and hold hands with their family till it was time for it to leave the station.
Her father kept hold of her hand even after the train began to move and she asked him to let go. He could not move very fast as he walked with a cane. He did not let go and she was pulled from the train. She could have fallen under it but thankfully did not. Bruised and bleeding but in the arms of her father, she remained with them.
At age 20 she was down to 58 pounds after having been in eight concentration camps.
Her main concern, her mantra I would imagine, was to remain STRONG. She committed herself to making it to the END...no matter what the end would be.
The recounting of the experience of Alexander Gordon touched me profoundly.
At age 3 his father died. Not too long after that his mother had to go away to work. That left him an orphan. Someone advised him to register to take the train to England. He did so and remained there till he was 16.
At age 16 all of the young people who had traveled to their country became internees. Plans were made to deport them
Alexander among a group of 2500 (double the capacity allowed for their ship) were forced onto the ship. Those who did so were holding guns which had bayonets on them.
They were on the HMT Danera. It set sail and a German U boat spied them and torpedoed it. the torpedo hit the ship but was deflected!! It did NOT explode!!
The ship finally landed in Australia after two months. He along with his fellow passengers were almost starved to death. They had little to eat or drink for two months!!
They were given a box of food as soon as they came off the ship.
Alexander said, with exuberance, "That was the best food I ever ate. Two cheese sandwiches, an apple, and a banana. And there were second helpings. The best food I ate in my whole life!!"
He said he realized then that he was destined to survive.
"Not for myself he said but so that Jews would survive. And when I look at my children and grandchildren I know there was a purpose for my life". Those words were spoken with much emotion.
This is Not Just Data: These were Living, Breathing Souls
Name of Camp
Type of Camp
Estimate of Number who Were Murdered
Liberated in 1945 by Soviets
1, 100, 000
Liquidated by Nazis in 1942
Closed by Nazis in 1943/reopend in 1933 liquidated in 1944 (July) by Nazis
Liberated in 1944 by Soviets
Liberated in 1944 by Soviets
Near Prague, Czech Republic
Liberated in 1944 by Soviets
Why the Data was Included
As I read about the children's escape to freedom, I could not help but think of the Exodus that I had read about in the Bible.This was an Exodus too.
And how thankful we are that there were those who intervened to make it happen.
As I was thinking about and recording what I have read recently, my mind kept returning to the homeland from which the children fled.
Their fathers and mothers were being wrenched from their homes and carried off to be confined or exterminated. Some, not many, but some were able to flee this nightmare of destruction that had been inflicted upon them.
The data on table was included because I felt we needed to know the numbers. The numbers shown are only a small fraction of those who lost their lives.
As I typed in the numbers and it was rounded off to an even number my hands shook. Because even to omit one person in the 'count' of how many perished is a HUGE error. That one person could have been my Aunt, my Uncle, my niece, sister, mother, father. It could have been your relative or friend. Putting it in that context it was difficult to put numbers on the table for fear that someone was forgotten.
And one thing we must never do is forget.
"You Can't Stop at Remembering..."
There was so much I did not know. So much I still do not know about this time in our history. I know there are many who are here who will read this who can add so much to what I consider only a cursory glance at this topic.
And today horrid inhumanity to man and woman and child persists.
When we hear others say if they had one wish what would it be...and many respond: world peace.
And some of them are being sarcastic.
But really, wouldn't it be wonderful? To pick up the paper and read only of goodness and calm...I know it is idealistic but we can never give up the hope that one day perhaps that could be true.
After completing this learning experience about a topic I knew nothing, I realize it again falls to me and you to try to make a difference however we can.
Many of the survivors who are alive largely due to Kindertransport have said that when they hear of refugees in today's world they know they cannot help them all. But they can help some of them at least.
. They do this for many reasons but one is because there are so many they cannot repay that helped them all of those years ago.
"You can't stop at remembering, " one survivor said. "You have to do something."
DV---Into the Arms of Strangers
Kindertransport Olga Levey Drucker
Remember Me Irene Watts
Rescuing the Children Deborah Hodge
The Children of Willesden Lane Mona Golabek
Ten Thousand children, true storeis told by children who escaped the Holocaust on Kindertransport Anne Fox
The Tiger in the Attic: Memories of the Kindertransport and Growing up English Edith Milton
Saving Children from the Holocaust Ann Byers
Throw Your Feet Over Your Shoulders: Beyond the Kindertransport Frieda Stolzberg Korobkin
© 2014 Patricia Scott