Monday, January 22, 2024

The Kindertransport Kids


 By Sherri Stewart

Within months of Adolph Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in 1933, tens of thousands of Jews left the country. However, that emigration quickly began to slow as it became increasingly difficult to obtain a visa

Meanwhile, the persecution of Jews in Germany and Austria increased dramatically, reaching an all-time high on November 1938, with Kristrallnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”). In one night more than one-thousand synagogues were destroyed while firefighters stood idle; more than 7,500 Jewish businesses were vandalized or looted; Jewish hospitals, homes, schools, and cemeteries were damaged; almost one-hundred Jewish people were killed; and thousands of Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

After Kristrallnacht, very few countries opened their doors to Jewish refugees. Throughout the late thirties and early forties, Jews struggled to find countries that would offer them refuge. However, one possibility opened up—Kindertransport. As long as parents agreed to let their children go and not accompany them, the children could travel to Great Britain, which relaxed their immigrant quotas for kids seventeen years old or younger.

Parents checked their children over one last time. Then came the goodbyes. Younger kids were told they were going on a great adventure. “There was laughter and crying and one last hug,” recalled social worker Norbert Wollheim. The Jewish children, clutching their sealed suitcases, then boarded the train to become child refugees in England. For most of the children who left Germany or any of the other Nazi-occupied countries, it was the last time they ever saw their parents. Between 1938 and 1940, about ten-thousand Jewish children made their way to Great Britain on the Kindertransport. Although the rescue of children is now viewed as one of the few successful attempts to save European Jews from the Holocaust, it was anything but.

It took a major mobilization effort to get the children to Great Britain. Guarantors—people who agreed to pay for the children’s upkeep—had to be found for children who wanted to immigrate. The government refused to finance the support of the children. For some children, family friends agreed to take the kids in, but most foster families answered advertisements in the paper, such as, “Please help me bring out of Berlin two children (boy and girl), ten years, best family, urgent case.”

The fates of the Kindertransport children varied. Vetting of foster families was lenient if at all. Some children headed to homes where they were expected to work as servants, and many were abused. Often the children were sent to live with non-Jewish families and forced to assimilate. They quickly had to learn a different language, eat different foods, and forget about their families.

The schools made the situation worse. If the children spoke German, they were often called Nazis and treated as such. This was also a time when antisemitism was growing in England, which led to much abuse in homes and schools alike for these children.

For most of the kids, the day they boarded the transport train was the last time they ever saw their parents. For those who did reunite with their families, the transition was often difficult, and brought up complicated issues of familial assimilation, trauma, and language.

Today, the Kindertransport looms large in Britain’s memories of World War II, as a time that exemplified England’s generosity in saving ten-thousand children from certain death, but it’s hard to imagine the trauma and guilt the parents must have felt for their sacrifice.

“The Heartbreaking WWII Rescue That Saved 10,000 Jewish Children From the Nazis.” Erin Blakemore, Pi

Selah Award finalist Sherri Stewart loves a clean novel, sprinkled with romance and a strong message that challenges her faith. She spends her working hours with books—either editing others’ manuscripts or writing her own. Her passions are traveling to the settings of her books and sampling the food. She traveled to Paris for this book, and she works daily on her French and German although she doesn’t need to since everyone speaks English. A widow, Sherri lives in Orlando with her lazy dog, Lily. She shares recipes, tidbits of the book’s locations, and other authors' books in her newsletter.
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What Hides behind the Walls

If the Nazis stole your house, wouldn’t you be justified in stealing it back now that the war is over?

When Tamar Feldman admits to her husband, Daniel, and mentor, Neelie Visser, that she broke into her former home, they scold her for taking such a risk. Tamar is tired of being careful. She’s tired of living in the present, as if the past doesn’t matter. But the painting of the violin girl in her former bedroom draws her back again and again. She finally steals the painting to return it to its former owner. Now maybe this small act of justice will help her start to heal. What Tamar doesn’t realize is the past isn’t finished with her yet; in fact, it’s as close as the walls in her house and even follows her to Paris.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting today, and Happy New Year to you and your family. Every time I hear of this effort, I have such mixed feelings. First, happiness that this was happening but then upon hearing the reality of the mixed results, sadness and grief.