The Kindertransport (also Refugee Children Movement or "RCM'") is the name given to the rescue 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.
After Kristallnacht in 1938 a delegation of British Jewish leaders appealed to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Neville Chamberlain and requested that the British government permit the temporary admission of Jewish children. In Germany, a network of organisers was established, and these volunteers made priority lists of those most at risk: 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, 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.
The children were placed in British foster homes, hostels, and farms. The RCM ran out of money at the end of August 1939 and decided it could not take more children. The last group of children left Germany on 1 September 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland.
Most of the rescued children survived the war. A small number were reunited with parents who had either spent the war in hiding or survived the Nazi camps, but the majority, after the war, found their parents had been killed.
Task for students:What do you think are the messages of these memorials? Compare the memorials with the ones for Finnish war children; can you find any differences? What do you think are the reasons for these differences?
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Frank Meisler's Kindertransport memorial stands outside Liverpool Street Station. The Sculptor was one of the children that was saved in the operation.
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Memorial Near Friedrichstrasse Railway Station, Berlin.
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