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Frank Meisler's Kindertransport memorial (2009) at the Gdańsk Główny railway station in Poland.

The Kindertransport (German for "children's transport") was an organised rescue effort 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.[1]

World Jewish Relief (then called The Central British Fund for German Jewry) was established in 1933 to support in whatever way possible the needs of Jews both in Germany and Austria. Records for many of the children who arrived in the UK through the Kindertransports are maintained by World Jewish Relief.


  • Policy 1
  • Organisation and management 2
    • Last transport 2.1
  • Occupations 3
  • Transport arrangements and the ending of the programme 4
  • The Habonim Hostels and Kindertransport 5
  • Records 6
  • Recovery 7
  • Nicholas Winton 8
  • Wilfrid Israel 9
  • Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld 10
  • Internment and war service 11
  • American Kindertransport 12
  • Notable people saved 13
  • Post-war organizations 14
  • In popular culture 15
  • Personal accounts 16
  • Winton train 17
  • See also 18
  • References 19
  • Further reading 20
  • External links 21


Arrival of Jewish refugee children, port of London, February 1939

On 15 November 1938, five days after the devastation of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, in Germany and Austria, a delegation of British Jewish and Quaker leaders appealed in person to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Neville Chamberlain. Among other measures, they requested that the British government permit the temporary admission of unaccompanied Jewish children, without their parents.

The British Cabinet debated the issue the next day and subsequently prepared a Bill to present to Parliament. That Bill stated that the Government would waive certain immigration requirements so as to allow the entry into Great Britain of unaccompanied children ranging from infants up to the age of 17, under conditions as outlined in the next paragraph. No limit upon the permitted number of refugees was ever publicly announced. Initially the Jewish refugee agencies considered 5,000 as a realistic target goal. However, after the British Colonial Office turned down the Jewish agencies' separate request to allow the admission of 10,000 children to British-controlled Palestine, the Jewish agencies then increased their planned target number to 15,000 unaccompanied children to enter Great Britain in this way.

On the eve of a major

  • The Kindertransport Memory Quilt Exhibit at the Michigan Holocaust Center
  • Interview with Ester Golan
  • Kindertransport Memorial Collection at the Leo Baeck Institute Archives, New York, New York.
  • Refugee children in the Netherlands
  • The Kindertransport Association - Organization for Kinder and their families in the United States
  • Educational site focusing on the children arriving in Britain.
  • About World Jewish Relief's (formerly the Central British Fund) role in Kindertransport
  • The Kindertransport Webpage maintained by the Association of Jewish Refugees in London, UK, with links to the Kindertransport Association of the United Kingdom.
  • A collection of personal reminiscences and tributes from people who were rescued on the Kindertransport, collected by the Quakers in 2008.
  • Accounts of the Quaker contribution to Kindertransport on the Search and Unite website.
  • Link to information about the film "My Knees Were Jumping: Remembering the Kindertransports" (1996)
  • Link to information about the film "Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport" (2000)
  • Link to information about the British documentary "The Children Who Cheated the Nazis" (2000)
  • World Jewish Relief (formally known as The Central British Fund for German Jewry)
  • Wiener Library in London (holds documents, books, pamphlets, video interviews on the Kindertransport)
  • Archive of ten refugees in Gloucester in 1939
  • Through My Eyes website (personal stories of war & identity - including 3 Kindertransport evacuees - an Imperial War Museum online resource)

External links

  • Baumel-Schwartz, Judith Tydor (2012). Never Look Back: The Jewish Refugee Children in Great Britain, 1938–1945. West Lafayette, Indiana:  
  • Turner, Barry (1990). And the Policeman Smiled. London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.  

Further reading

  1. ^ "Kindertransport". History Learning Site. July 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Baruch Tenenbaum. "Nicholas Winton, British savior". The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. Retrieved 3 September 2009. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Oppenheimer. Into the Arms of Strangers. p. 98. 
  5. ^ Oppenheimer. Into the Arms of Strangers. p. 76. 
  6. ^ World Jewish Relief
  7. ^ a b "Kindertransport and KTA History". The Kindertransport Association. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  8. ^ Fieldsend, John (2014). A Wondering Jew. Radec Press. p. 29.  
  9. ^ "Bremen Passenger Lists (the Original)". Bremen Chamber of Commerce and the Bremen Staatsarchiv. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ The Times (London). 3 December 1938. p. 14. 
  12. ^ The Times (London). 12 December 1938. p. 13. 
  13. ^ "600 Child Refugees Taken from Vienna; 100 Jewish Youngsters Going to Netherlands, 500 to England". The New York Times. 6 December 1938. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  14. ^ "Quakers in Action: Kindertransport". Quakers in the World. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  15. ^ "Kindertransport". Quakers in Britain. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  16. ^ Rose Holmes (June 2011). "British Quakers and the rescue of Jewish refugees". Journal of the Association of Jewish Refugees. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  17. ^ Eric Bramsted. "A tribute to Bertha Bracey". Quakers in Britain. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  18. ^ Klinger, Jerry (21 August 2010). "Beyond Balfour". Christian In Israel (The Jerusalem Post). Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  19. ^ a b c Hasson, Nir; Lahav, Yehuda (2 September 2009). "Jews saved by U.K. stockbroker to reenact 1939 journey to safety". Haaretz. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  20. ^ a b Keesing, Miriam (21 August 2010). "The children of tante Truus". het Parool. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  21. ^ Tarmon (Tremberg) and Levy, Asher, Shimon (1989). Habonim in Britain 1929-1953. Israel: Irgun Vatikei Habonim. pp. 155, 196–203. 
  22. ^ Golabeck, Mona; Cohen, Lee (2002). Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival. New York: Warner Books.  
  23. ^ "ČD Winton Train - Biography". Winton Train. České drahy. 2009. Retrieved 3 September 2009. 
  24. ^ "Nicholas Winton, the Schindler of Britain". Louis Bülow. 2008. Retrieved 3 September 2009. 
  25. ^ "UK's 'Schindler' awaits Nobel vote". BBC News. 1 February 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  26. ^ Muriel Emanuel; Věra Gissing (2002). Nicholas Winton and the rescued generation : save one life, save the world. London: Vallentine Mitchell.  
  27. ^ Naomi Shepherd: A Refuge from Darkness Pantheon books, New York, 1984. Published as Wilfrid Israel, German Jewry's Secret Ambassador by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, in 1984; in German translation by Siedler Verlag, Berlin; and in Hebrew as שגריר ללא ארץ, the Bialik Institute in 1989. This biography won the Wingate Prize for the best book on Jewish subjects for 1984.
  28. ^ See the entry Solomon Schonfeld, and the book Holocaust Hero: Solomon Schonfeld, by Dr. Kranzler (Ktav Publishing House, New Jersey, 2004).
  29. ^  
  30. ^ Gurock, Jeffrey (Editor). America, American Jews, and the Holocaust: American Jewish History. Taylor & Francis, 1998, ISBN 0415919312, p.227
  31. ^ "Child Survivors of the Holocaust - Harry Bibring".  
  32. ^ Barker, Nicolas (24 July 1996). "Obituary: Hans Fellner".  
  33. ^ "Lily Renee, Escape Artist : From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer". Indie Bound. American Booksellers Association. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  34. ^ Robbins, Trina (2011). Lily Renee, escape artist : from Holocaust survivor to comic book pioneer. London: Graphic Universe.  
  35. ^ "Kindertransport and KTA History: Kaddish in London". The Kindertransport Association. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  36. ^
  37. ^ IMDB listing
  38. ^ League of Professional Theatre Women biography
  39. ^ "Deborah Oppenheimer: Biography | The Kindertransport". Bloomsbury USA. Archived from the original on 1 March 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  40. ^ "Books News: Carnegie Medal 2003". Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  41. ^
  42. ^ ČTK (1 September 2009). "Train in honour of Jewish children rescuer Winton leaves Prague". České noviny. Neris s.r.o. Retrieved 1 September 2009. 


See also

On 1 September 2009, a special Winton train set off from the Prague Main railway station. The train, consisting of an original locomotive and carriages used in the 1930s, headed to London via the original Kindertransport route. On board the train were several surviving Winton children and their descendants, who were to be welcomed by the now hundred-year-old Sir Nicholas Winton in London. The occasion marked the 70th anniversary of the intended last Kindertransport, which was due to set off on 3 September 1939 but did not because of the outbreak of the Second World War. At the train's departure, Sir Nicholas Winton's statue was unveiled at the railway station.[42]

Winton train

  • Bob Rosner (2005) One of the Lucky Ones: rescued by the Kindertransport, Beth Shalom, Newark (England). ISBN 0-9543001-9-X. -- An account of 9-year-old Robert from Vienna and his 13-year-old sister Renate, who stayed throughout the war with Leo Schultz OBE in Hull and attended Kingston High School. Their parents survived the war and Renate returned to Vienna.
  • Brand, Gisele. Comes the Dark. Verand Press, (2003). ISBN 1-876454-09-1. Published in Australia. A fictional account of the author's family life up to the beginning of the war, her experiences on the kinder-transport and life beyond.
  • David, Ruth. Child of our Time: A Young Girl's Flight from the Holocaust, I.B. Tauris.
  • Golabek, Mona and Lee Cohen. The Children of Willesden Lane — account of a young Jewish pianist who escaped the Nazis by the Kindertransport.
  • Edith Bown-Jacobowitz, (2014)"Memories and Reflections:a refugee's story", 154 p, by 11 point book antiqua(create space), Charleston, USA ISBN 978-1495336621, Bown went in 1939 with her brother Gerald on Kindertransport from Berlin to Belfast and to Millisle Farm (Northern Ireland)[more info|]
  • Newman, Otto, British sociologist and author; Escapes and Adventures: A 20th Century Odyssey. Lulu Press, 2008.
  • Oppenheimer, Deborah and Harris, Mark Jonathan. Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2008, Bloomsbury/St Martins, New York & London) ISBN 1-58234-101-X.
  • Segal, Lore. Other People's Houses - the author's life as a Kindertransport girl from Vienna, told in the voice of a child. The New Press, New York 1994.
  • Smith, Lyn. Remembering: Voices of the Holocaust. Ebury Press, Great Britain, 2005, Carroll & Graf Publishers, New York, 2006. ISBN 0-7867-1640-1.
  • Strasser, Charles. From Refugee to OBE. Keller Publishing, 2007, ISBN 978-1-934002-03-2.
  • Weber, Hanuš. Ilse: A Love Story Without a Happy Ending, Stockholm: Författares Bokmaskin, 2004. Weber was a Czech Jew whose parents placed him on the last Kindertransport from Prague in June 1939. His book is mostly about his mother, who was killed in Auschwitz in 1944.
  • Whiteman, Dorit. The Uprooted: A Hitler Legacy: Voices of Those Who Escaped Before the "Final Solution" by Perseus Books, Cambridge, MA 1993.
  • A collection of personal accounts can be found at the website of the Quakers in Britain at
  • Leverton, Bertha and Lowensohn, Shmuel (editors), I Came Alone: The Stories of the Kindertransports, The Book Guild, Ltd., 1990. ISBN 0-86332-566-1.
  • Shirley, Dame Stephanie. Amazing memoir begins with her arrival in the UK as a five-year-old Kindertransport refugee, she went on to make a fortune in a man's world and then gave it all away. An entrepreneur, workplace revolutionary and today, one of Britain's leading philanthropists. ISBN 978-1-782-348313.
  • Frieda Stolzberg Korobkin (2012) Throw Your Feet Over Your Shoulders: Beyond the Kindertransport, a first-hand account of a child of the Kindertransport from Vienna, Austria (

Personal accounts

The End Of Everything Ever - a play for Children by the New International Encounter group which follows the story of a child sent from Czechoslovakia to London by train.[41]

Nicky's Family a 2011 Czech documentary film includes an appearance by Nicholas Winton.

In BBC1's The Kindertransport Story, three rescued children, now in their eighties, tell their moving stories. Also taking part in the programme was Lord Attenborough, whose own parents took in two girls after responding to the urgent appeal for foster families.

The English German Girl, a novel published in 2011 by Jake Wallis Simons, a British writer, is the fictional account of a 15-year-old Jewish girl from Berlin who is brought to England via the kindertransport operation.

Far to Go, a novel by Alison Pick, a Canadian writer and descendant of European Jews, is the fictional account of a Sudetenland Jewish family who after fleeing to Prague use bribery to secure a place for their six-year-old son aboard one of Nicholas Winton's transports.

My Family for the War, a young adult novel by Anne C. Voorhoeve, recounts the story of Franziska Mangold, a ten-year-old Christian girl of Jewish ancestry who goes on the kindertransport to live with an Orthodox British family.

Sisterland, a young adult novel by Linda Newbery, concerns a Kindertransport child, Sarah Reubens, who is now a grandmother; sixteen-year-old Hilly uncovers the secret her grandmother has kept hidden for years. This novel was shortlisted for the 2003 Carnegie Medal.[40]

Austerlitz, by the Anglo-German novelist W G Sebald, is an odyssey of a kindertransport boy brought up in a Welsh manse who later traces his origins to Prague and then goes back there. He finds someone who knew his mother, and he retraces his journey by train.

In the novel The Remains of the Day and subsequent film adaptation, two teenage refugee sisters fleeing Germany are employed in Lord Darlington's household, only to be dismissed soon afterwards when Darlington, a Nazi sympathiser, reads the work of Houston Stewart Chamberlain.

Kindertransport: The Play, is the name of a play by Diane Samuels, which examines the life, during World War II and afterwards, of a Kindertransport child. Among other things, it presents the confusions and traumas that arose for many kinder before, and after, they were fully integrated into their English foster-homes; and, as importantly, when their real parents reappeared in their life, or more likely and tragically, when they learned that their real parents were dead.

The Children Who Cheated the Nazis, narrated by Richard Attenborough is a British documentary film by Sue Read and Jim Goulding, first shown on Channel 4 in 2000. Attenborough's parents were among those who responded to the appeal for families to foster the refugee children; they took in two girls.

Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, narrated by Judi Dench and released by Warner Bros., won the Academy Award in 2000 for best documentary feature. There is also a companion book by the same name. The film's producer, Deborah Oppenheimer, is the daughter of a Kindertransport survivor.[39] The director, Mark Jonathan Harris, is a three-time Oscar winner.

The first documentary film made on the subject of the Kindertransport was My Knees Were Jumping: Remembering the Kindertransports, which was shown, and nominated for the Grand Jury Prize, at the Sundance Film Festival in 1996 and released theatrically in 1998.[37] The director, Melissa Hacker, is the daughter of the costume designer Ruth Morley who was a Kindertransport child. The film is narrated by Joanne Woodward[38]

In popular culture

[36] In the United Kingdom, the

The Kindertransport Association is a national not-for-profit organization whose goal is to unite these child Holocaust refugees and their descendants. The association shares their stories, honors those who made the Kindertransport possible, and supports charitable work that aids children in need. The Kindertransport Association declared 2 December 2013, the 75th anniversary of the day the first Kindertransport arrived in England, as World Kindertransport Day.

[35] In 1989,

Post-war organizations

  • Benjamin Abeles (from Czechoslovakia), physicist
  • Yosef Alon (from Czechoslovakia), Israeli military officer and fighter pilot who served as air and naval attaché to the United States, assassinated under suspicious circumstances in Maryland in 1973.
  • Andre Asriel, (from Austria), composer
  • Frank Auerbach (from Germany), British painter
  • Gretel Beer (from Austria), British cookbook author
  • Harry Bibring (from Austria), British historian and lecturer[31]
  • Leslie Brent (from Germany), British immunologist
  • Julius Carlebach (from Germany), British sociologist, historian and rabbi
  • Rolf Decker (from Germany), American professional, Olympic and international footballer
  • Alfred Dubs, Baron Dubs (from Czechoslovakia), British politician
  • Susan Einzig (from Germany), British book illustrator and art teacher
  • Walter Feit (from Austria), American mathematician
  • Hans Fellner (from Austria), British bookseller[32]
  • Bill Graham (from Germany), American impresario and rock concert promoter
  • Vera Gissing (from Czechoslovakia) British author
  • John Grenville (from Germany), British historian
  • Heini Halberstam (from Czechoslovakia), British mathematician
  • Eva Hesse (from Germany), American artist
  • Hans Jacobus (from Germany), German journalist
  • Walter Kaufmann (from Germany) Australian and German author
  • Walter Kohn (from Austria), American physicist and Nobel laureate
  • George Kovacs (from Austria), American innovator in lighting fixture design
  • Bertha Leverton MBE (from Germany), British founder of the Reunion of the Kindertransport
  • Gerda Mayer (from Czechoslovakia), English poet
  • Frank Meisler (from Danzig), architect and sculptor
  • Henry Mendelson (from Germany), former chairman of the Australian Council of Christians and Jews
  • Gustav Metzger (from Germany), artist and political activist resident in Britain and stateless by choice
  • Ruth Morley, nee Birnholz (from Austria), American costume designer for film and theater, created the Annie Hall look
  • Otto Newman (from Austria), British sociologist
  • Hanna Peiser (from Danzig), Israeli sculptor and artist
  • Arno Penzias (from Germany), American physicist and Nobel laureate
  • Hella Pick CBE (from Austria), British journalist
  • Sir Erich Reich (from Austria), British entrepreneur
  • Karel Reisz (from Czechoslovakia), British film director
  • Wolfgang Rindler (from Austria), British / American physicist prominent in the field of General Relativity
  • Paul Ritter (from Czechoslovakia), architect, planner and author
  • Dr. Fred Rosner (From Germany), Professor of medicine and medical ethicist
  • Sir Walter Salomon British founder of Young Enterprise in England in 1962/63 which has since spread throughout Europe
  • Joe Schlesinger, CM (from Czechoslovakia), Canadian journalist and author
  • Lore Segal (from Austria), American novelist, translator, teacher, and author of children's books, whose adult book In Other People's Houses describes her own knocked-from-house-to-house experiences
  • Dame Stephanie Steve Shirley DBE (from Germany), British businesswoman and philanthropist
  • Michael Steinberg, (from Breslau, Germany—now Wrocław, Poland), American music critic
  • Sir Guenter Treitel (from Germany), British law scholar
  • Philip Urbach (from Germany), Principal Lecturer at the Polytechnic of North London
  • Hanuš Weber (from Czechoslovakia), Swedish TV producer
  • Kurt Weiler (from Germany), producer animated cartoons (DEFA)
  • Dr. Ruth Westheimer (from Germany) American therapist and sex expert
  • Lily Renée Wilhelm, Comic book pioneer[33] (graphic novelist, illustrator)[34]

A number of children saved by the Kindertransports went on to become prominent figures in public life, with no fewer than four becoming Nobel Prize winners. These include:

Memorial to Nicholas Winton at Prague Central Station

Notable people saved

In 1939 Sen. Robert F. Wagner and Rep. Edith Rogers proposed the Wagner-Rogers Bill in the United States Congress. This bill was to admit 20,000 unaccompanied Jewish child refugees under the age of 14 into the United States from Nazi Germany. However, in February 1939, this bill failed to get Congressional approval.[30]

In contrast to the Kindertransport, where the British Government waived immigration visa requirements, these OTC children received no United States Government visa immigration assistance. Furthermore, it is documented that the State Department deliberately made it very difficult for any Jewish refugee to get an entrance visa.[29] And it was even harder to secure the appropriate papers for their parents, hence most had to remain in Europe.

The One Thousand Children (OTC) was a similar but much less organised effort to transport unaccompanied children, mostly Jewish, to the United States. The program brought about 1400 children aged between 14 months and 16 years to the United States between November 1934 and May 1945. Like the kinder, these OTC children were forced to leave their parents behind in Europe; many of them were later murdered by the Nazis.

American Kindertransport

The British internment period for friendly enemy aliens generally lasted only a few months, until they were processed by the government and released.

As the camp internees reached the age of 18, they were offered the chance to do war work or to enter the Army Auxiliary Pioneer Corps. About 1000 German and Austrian prior-kinder who reached adulthood went on to serve in the British armed forces, including in combat units. Several dozen joined elite formations such as the Special Forces, where their language skills were put to good use during the D-Day Invasion and afterwards as the Allies progressed into Germany.

In 1940, the British government ordered the internment of all male 16- to 70-year-old refugees from enemy countries — so-called friendly enemy aliens. Many of the children who had arrived in earlier years were now young men, and so they were also interned. Approximately 1000 of these prior-kinder were interned in these makeshift internment camps, many on The Isle of Man. Around 400 were transported overseas to Canada and Australia (see HMT Dunera).

Internment and war service

Another example is that of Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld, who also individually brought in 300 children. These were all Orthodox, and he was very insistent they went to Orthodox foster-homes and followed Orthodox Judaism.[28]

Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld

The very last transport from the continent, with 74 children, left on the passenger-freighter [7] This was a rescue action, as occupation of the Netherlands was imminent, with the country capitulating the next day. This ship was the very last to freely leave the country.

As Holland was under attack by German forces totalling 750,000 men from May 10, and bombings had been going on, there was no opportunity to confer with the parents of the children. At the time of this evacuation, these parents knew nothing of the evacuation of their children: according to unnamed sources, some of the parents were initially even very upset about this action and told Wijsmuller-Meijer she should not have done this. After May 15, there was no more opportunity to leave Holland, as the country's borders were closed by the Nazis.


During the war years many Kindertransport children served in the British armed forces, the nursing professions, in food production and in war-related industries. Several thousand remained in Britain when the war ended, and as adults made considerable contributions to Britain's services, industries, commerce, education, science and the arts, for the defence, welfare and development of their country of adoption.

Transport arrangements and the ending of the programme

Flor Kent's Kindertransport memorial, unveiled by Sir Nicholas Winton outside Liverpool Street Station in 2003.
Flor Kent's memorial, relocated to the station's concourse in 2011.

The Nazis had decreed that the evacuations must not block ports in Germany, so most transport parties went by train to the Netherlands; then to a British port, generally Harwich, by cross-channel ferry from the Hook of Holland near Rotterdam.[8] From the port, a train took some of the children to Liverpool Street Station in London, where they were met by their volunteer foster parents. Children without prearranged foster families were sheltered at temporary holding centres at summer holiday camps such as Dovercourt and Pakefield. While most transports went via train, some also went by boat,[9] and others aeroplane.[10]

The first Kindertransport left [7][11]

The first train from Adolf Eichmann himself, but was initially turned away. She persevered however, until finally, as she wrote in her biography, Eichmann suddenly "gave" her 600 children with the clear intent of overloading her and making a transport on such short notice impossible. Nevertheless, Wijsmuller-Meijer managed to send 500 of the children to Harwich, where they were accommodated in a nearby holiday camp at Dovercourt, while the remaining 100 found refuge in the Netherlands.[12][13]

Many Quaker representatives went with the parties from Germany to the Netherlands, or met the parties at Liverpool Street Station in London and ensured that there was someone there to receive and care for each child.[14][15][16][17] Between 1939 and 1941, 160 children without foster families were sent to the Whittingehame Farm School in East Lothian, Scotland. Whittingehame was the family estate and home of the late British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, author of the Balfour Declaration.[18]

The RCM ran out of money at the end of August 1939 and decided it could take no more children. The last group of children left Germany on 1 September 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland, and two days later Britain, France and other countries declared war on Germany. A party left Prague on 3 September 1939 but was sent back.[19] Because of the outbreak of war, the border with the Netherlands was closed for some time, although the Netherlands remained neutral and was not invaded until 10 May 1940.

Days after the invasion, 74 children boarded the last known boat transport to leave the Netherlands, on 14 May 1940,[20] the same day as the bombing of Rotterdam and the Dutch army's surrender to Germany. It was the last boat to leave the port of IJmuiden (near Amsterdam), and was also the work of Wijsmuller-Meijer. She had collected 66 of the children from the orphanage on the Kalverstraat in Amsterdam, part of which had been serving as a home for refugees.[20]

Many children were still in the Netherlands and Belgium when Germany occupied those countries, ultimately resulting in many of their deaths at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators.

The Habonim Hostels and Kindertransport

In the UK a number of members of Habonim, a Jewish youth movement inclined to socialism and Zionism, were instrumental in running the country hostels of South West England, where some of the Kindertransport children were placed. These members of Habonim were held back from going to live on kibbutz by the effects of the Second World War. Other Jewish youth movements in the UK including Bnei Akiva also subsequently participated in this work by running additional hostels.[21]

These hostels were turned into centres for study of secular and Jewish subjects as well as temporary homes for the children. They were run on communal lines. About 120 of the Kindertransport children grew up during the war years at these hostels at Exmouth, Dawlish, and South Devon. Bnei Akiva ran a number of hostels including at Gwrych Castle in North Wales, Bromsgrove and Farnham. The hostels themselves were large family mansions that were made available by their owners and helped by both the British government and the Jewish social and charitable organizations. Some of the Habonim members also participated with the older children in helping to farm and to grow agricultural produce to aid the war effort. The languages used were a mixture of German, Polish, Czech, Yiddish, Hebrew and English.


Records for many of the children who arrived in the UK through the Kindertransports are maintained by World Jewish Relief through its Jewish Refugees Committee. On the supply of authorised documentation, copies of these documents can be supplied to family members at a small fee to cover administration costs.

Frank Meisler's Kindertransport memorial (2008) near Friedrichstrasse Railway Station, Berlin.


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.[22]

Nicholas Winton

Before Christmas 1938, a 29-year-old British stockbroker of German-Jewish origin named Czechoslovakia separated from their families by the Nazis, setting up an office at a dining room table in his hotel in Wenceslas Square.[24] He ultimately found homes for 669 children.[25] Winton's mother also worked with him to place the children in homes, and later hostels, with a team of sponsors from groups like Maidenhead Rotary Club and Rugby Refugee Committee.[19][26] Throughout the summer, he placed advertisements seeking British families to take them in. The last group, which left Prague on 3 September 1939, was sent back because the Nazis had invaded Poland – the start of the Second World War.[19]

Wilfrid Israel

Hilfsverein (the self-help body), he urged a plan of rescue on the Foreign Office and helped British Quakers to visit Jewish communities all over Germany to prove to the British government that Jewish parents were indeed prepared to part with their children.[27]

Last transport

The first party of nearly 200 children arrived in Harwich on 2 December, three weeks after Kristallnacht. In the following nine months almost 10,000 unaccompanied, mainly Jewish, children travelled to England.[6] There were also Kindertransports to other countries, such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Initially the children came mainly from Germany and Austria (by then part of the Greater Reich). In March 1939, after the German army invaded Czechoslovakia, transports from Prague were hastily organised. In February and August 1939 trains from Poland were arranged. Transports out of Nazi-occupied Europe continued until the declaration of war on 1 September 1939.

This document of identity is issued with the approval of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to young persons to be admitted to the United Kingdom for educational purposes under the care of the Inter-Aid Committee for children. / This document requires no visa. / Personal Particulars. / (Name; Sex; Date of Birth; Place; Full Names and Address of Parents)

In Germany, a network of organisers was established, and these volunteers worked around the clock to make priority lists of those most in peril: teenagers who were in concentration camps or in danger of arrest, Polish children or teenagers threatened with deportation, children in Jewish orphanages, children whose parents were too impoverished to keep them, or children with a parent in a concentration camp. Once the children were identified or grouped by list, their guardians or parents were issued a travel date and departure details. They could only take a small sealed suitcase with no valuables and only ten marks or less in money. Some children had nothing but a manila tag with a number on the front and their name on the back,[4] others were issued with a numbered identity card with a photo:[5]

On 25 November, British citizens heard an appeal for foster homes on the BBC Home Service radio station from Viscount Samuel. Soon there were 500 offers, and RCM volunteers started visiting possible foster homes and reporting on conditions. They did not insist that prospective homes for Jewish children should be Jewish homes. Nor did they probe too carefully into the motives and character of the families: it was sufficient for the houses to look clean and the families to seem respectable.[3]

Within a very short time, the Movement for the Care of Children from Germany, later known as the Refugee Children's Movement (RCM), sent representatives to Germany and Austria to establish the systems for choosing, organising, and transporting the children. World Jewish Relief (formerly the Central British Fund for Germany Jewry) were involved in the rescue operation.

Für Das Kind
Vienna, Westbahnhof Station 2008, a tribute to the British people for saving the lives of thousands of children from Nazi terror through the Kindertransports.

Organisation and management


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