Last updated 2 years ago
The Story ofKINDERTRANSPORT
KindertransportRescue mission that took place during the nine months prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The United Kingdom took in nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Free City of Danzig. The children were placed in British foster homes, hostels, schools and farms. Often they were the only members of their families who survived the Holocaust.
By the early part of 1939 the German dictator Adolf Hitler had become determined to invade and occupy Poland. Poland, for its part, had guarantees of French and British military support should it be attacked by Germany. Hitler intended to invade Poland anyway, but first he had to neutralize the possibility that the Soviet Union would resist the invasion of its western neighbour. Secret negotiations led on August 23–24 to the signing of the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact in Moscow. In a secret protocol of this pact, the Germans and the Soviets agreed that Poland should be divided between them, with the western third of the country going to Germany and the eastern two-thirds being taken over by the U.S.S.R.
The first Kindertransport arrived in Harwich, Great Britain, on December 2, 1938, bringing some 200 children from a Jewish orphanage in Berlin which had been destroyed in the Kristallnacht pogrom. Like this convoy, most transports left by train from Berlin, Vienna, Prague, and other major cities in Central Europe. Children from smaller towns and villages traveled from their homes to these collection points in order to join the transports. Jewish organizations inside the Greater German Reich—specifically the Reich Representation of Jews in Germany, headquartered in Berlin (and after early 1939, its successor organization the Reich Association of Jews in Germany), as well as the Jewish Community Organization (Kultusgemeinde) in Vienna—planned the transports.
After the children's transports arrived in Harwich, those children with sponsors went to London to meet their foster families. Those children without sponsors were housed in a summer camp in Dovercourt Bay and in other facilities until individual families agreed to care for them or until hostels could be organized to care for larger groups of children. Many organizations and individuals participated in the rescue operation. Inside Britain, the Movement for the Care of Children from Germany coordinated many of the rescue efforts. Jews, Quakers, and Christians of many denominations worked together to bring refugee children to Britain. About half of the children lived with foster families. The others stayed in hostels, schools, or on farms throughout Great Britain.
At the end of the war, there were great difficulties in Britain as children from the Kindertransport tried to reunite with their families. Agencies were flooded with claims of children seeking to find their parents, or any surviving member of their family. Some of the children were able to reunite with their families, often travelling to far off countries in order to do so. Other times, they were not so lucky and discovered that their parents had not survived the war. In her novel about the Kindertransport titled The Children of Willesden Lane, Mona Golabek describes how often the children who had no families left were forced to leave the homes that they had gained during the war in boarding houses in order to make room for younger children flooding the country