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History - Kindertransport


Kindertransport is also known as Refugee Children Movement, which was a rescue mission that took place nine months before the outbreak of World War II. The United Kingdom took mainly Jewish children from Nazi Germany and occupied territories of Austria, Czechoslovakia and the Free City of Danzig.

Lola Hahn-Warburg set the framework of rescue in 1933; Lord Baldwin, author of the famous appeal to British conscience; Rebecca Sieff, Sir Wyndham Deeds, Viscount Samuel; Rabbi Solomon Schoenfeld, Nicholas Winton, Professor Bentwich, organizer of the Dutch escape route; and the Quaker leaders Bertha Bracey and Jean Hoare, who herself led out a planeload of children from Prague; and many others. Truus Wijsmuller-Meyer was a Dutch Christian who faced down Eichmann in Vienna and brought out 600 children on one train, organized a transport from Riga to Sweden, and helped smuggle a group of children onto the illegal ship Dora bound from Marseilles to Palestine. She was the one who sped the last transport through burning Amsterdam to the Bodegraven in 1940.

The Beginning

First Kindertransport arrived at Harwich, England on December 2, 1938. It brought 196 children from a Berlin Jewish orphanage torched by the Nazis during the night of November 9. Most of the transports left by train from the major cities, crossed the Dutch and Belgian borders, and went on by ship to England. Hundreds of children remained in Belgium and Holland. The transports ended with the outbreak of war in September 1939. Last transport left on the freighter Bodegraven from Ymuiden on May 14, 1940. The 80 children on deck had been brought by earlier transports to imagined safety in Holland. The Kindertransports saved approximately around 10,000 children, most of them Jews, from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland.
There was an effort to deal with the issue of Jews trapped in Hitler’s Reich, but countries were not willing to offer them refuge - a conference proposed by President Roosevelt was held in the French resort town of Evian, attended by representatives from 31 countries. In July, 1938, the Evian Conference proved to be ineffectual, as most countries continued their refusal to accept new immigrants.

A Change in Stance 

During the pogrom of November 9 and 10, German and Austrian Nazis killed nearly 100 Jews and thousands more were exposed to violence and torture. 267 synagogues and community buildings were destroyed. Tens of thousands of Jewish shops and homes were broken into and over 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent into concentration camps. The refuge aid committees in Britain changed their stance, attempting to rescue the children. The British government had just refused to allow 10,000 Jewish children to enter Palestine. The atrocities in Germany and Austria, untiring persistence of refuge advocates, and sympathy towards Jews in some high places helped to sway the government – unspecified number of children below 17 years were allowed to enter United Kingdom. British Foreign Minister Samuel Hoare “Here is a chance of taking the young generation of a great people, here is a chance of mitigating to some extent the terrible suffering of their parents and their friends” Many organizations and individuals assisted in settling the Kinder in the United Kingdom, for example the Refugee Children’s Movement, various youth movements, the Y.M.C.A., the Society of Friends, and many other Jewish and non-Jewish organizations. Children of the Kindertransport were dispersed to many parts of the British Isles. About half lived with foster families, the others in hostels, group homes, and farms in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Those over 14 were frequently absorbed into the country’s labor force after a few weeks of training, mainly in agriculture or domestic service. During the fifth column scare in 1940, more than 1,000 Kindertransportees over 16, boys and girls, were interred on the Isle of Man and other sites. Some boys were transported to Canada, some to Australia aboard the “hell-ship” Dunera. After German U-boats sank the Andorra Star with 1,200 internees with loss of 600 lives, public pressure built against further indiscriminate internment. A large number of the deported came back, and along with many young men and women who had stayed in Britain, Kindertransportees joined the army.

Lucia Suhanyiova
British International School of Bratislava


For more on the Kindertransport see the film: The Kindertransport - Goodbye Home


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Bratislava History Project
British International School of Bratislava
Peknikova 6, 841 02 Bratislava
+ 421 2 6930 7081 info@bisb.sk


Contact : Richard Jones-Nerzic