In 2003 a superb memorial, featuring a sculpture by artist Flor Kent was erected Liverpool St station. “Fur das Kind” commemorated the Kindertransport (Wikipedia reference), a rescue mission that saved around 10,000 mainly Jewish children from Nazi occupied areas just before the outbreak of WWII. Unveiled by Sir Nicholas Winton the memorial consisted of a statue of a small girl beside a transparent suitcase filled with memorabilia brought by the children, including books, toys and, poignantly, photographs of family members who almost certainly perished during the Holocaust. Sadly the design was not as successful as planned and the memorabilia was returned to the Imperial War Museum. It was replaced in late 2006 by a new memorial called simply The Children of the Kindertransport
The story of the Kindertransport rescue has been overshadowed by the Holocaust. However, it was an astonishing feat the first transport arrived in England 70 years ago on December 2, 1938, bringing 196 children from a Berlin Jewish orphanage torched by the Nazis the previous month. The work continued until the outbreak of war, although in 1940 a final transport brought 80 children from earlier transports that had stayed in Holland on the day it fell to the Nazis. The freighter itself was strafed by German warplanes.
Around 10,000 children were saved, most of them Jews, from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. None were accompanied by parents.
In an effort to deal with the “refugee problem” a conference proposed by President Roosevelt was held in the French resort town of Evian in July 1938, but despite grand words, the conference was ineffectual, as most countries continued to refuse to accept new immigrants.
Following events in Germany and Austria refuge aid committees in Britain swayed the government to permit an unspecified number of children under the age of 17 to enter the United Kingdom. Jews, Quakers, and Christians of many denominations worked together to rescue the children. Many great people rose to the moment, including Nicholas Winton, who saved nearly 700 Czech children; and Truus Wijsmuller-Meyer was a Dutch Christian who faced down Eichmann in Vienna and brought out 600 children on one train,
The Children who had prearranged sponsors were sent to London, arriving at Liverpool Street station. The unsponsored children waited in transient camps until individual families came forward to take them. The children were dispersed to many parts of the British Isles. Those over 14, unless they were fortunate enough to be sponsored by individuals and set to boarding schools or taken into foster care, were frequently absorbed into the country’s labour force after a few weeks of training, mainly in agriculture or domestic service. But many families, Jewish and non-Jewish, opened their homes to take in these children.
In 1940, more than 1,000 Kindertransportees over 16 were interred on the Isle of Man and other sites. Some boys, including Walter Kohn (later a Nobel Laureate) were transported to Canada. Many young men and women who had stayed in Britain, Kindertransportees later joined the army when it accepted “enemy aliens”.
Most of the Kinder survived the war, and a small percentage was reunited with parents who had either spent the war in hiding or endured the Nazi camps. The majority of children, however, had to face the reality that home and family were lost forever.