The Kindertransport

As Nazi Germany increased its power and scapegoated Jews and others it deemed “undesirable,” many sought to leave Germany (and other countries under its control). Germany allowed this at first (even encouraged it) but no one could leave without a visa from another country.

Most countries turned Jews away or allowed some under strict quota systems. Every argument you hear today about the “dangers” of taking in refugees is a recycled one from World War II.

But some took children.

Nazi authorities staged a violent pogrom upon Jews in Germany on November 9–10, 1938, known as Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass). After the pogrom, the British government eased immigration restrictions for certain categories of Jewish refugees. British authorities agreed to allow an unspecified number of children under the age of 17 to enter Great Britain from Germany and German-annexed territories (that is, Austria and the Czech lands). They were spurred by British public opinion and the persistent efforts of refugee aid committees…

Private citizens or organizations had to guarantee payment for each child’s care, education, and eventual emigration from Britain. In return, the British government agreed to allow unaccompanied refugee children to enter the country on temporary travel visas. It was understood at the time that when the “crisis was over,” the children would return to their families. Parents or guardians could not accompany the children. The few infants included in the program were cared for by other children on their transport

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Arrival of Jewish refugees, London Great Britain: The children of Polish Jews from the region between Germany and Poland on their arrival in London on the “Warsaw”. Photographed February 1939.

Britain accepted around 10,000 children, mostly Jews, from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.

File:1939 visa issued to a Jewish woman who was accompanying a Kindertransport from Danzig to the UK.jpg

The first Kindertransport from Berlin departed on December 1, 1938; the first from Vienna on December 10. For the first three months of the transports, the children came mainly from Germany and then the emphasis shifted to Austria. In March 1939, after the German army entered Czechoslovakia, transports from Prague were hastily organized and transports of Jewish children from Poland were also arranged in February and August 1939.

The last group of children from Germany departed on September 1, 1939, the day the German army invaded Poland and provoked Great Britain, France, and other countries to declare war. The last known transport of Kinder left from the Netherlands left on May 14, 1940, the day the Dutch army surrendered to Germany. 

Jewish Virtual Library

The United States also participated in Kindertransport, but accepted only around 1,400 children between 1934 and 1945. The US government (unlike Britain) rejected proposed bills to waive immigration requirements and allow children in, so children came in with the help of various organizations and usually in small groups.

The One Thousand Children (OTC) is a designation, created in 2000, which is used to refer to the approximately 1,400 Jewish children who were rescued from Nazi Germany and other Nazi-occupied or threatened European countries, and who were taken directly to the United States during the period 1934–1945. The phrase “One Thousand Children” only refers to those children who came unaccompanied and left their parents behind back in Europe. In nearly all cases, their parents were not able to escape with their children, because they could not get the necessary visas among other reasons. Later, nearly all these parents were murdered by the Nazis…

Originally only about one thousand such children had been identified as OTC children — hence the name “The One Thousand Children”. By 2017 about 1,400 have been identified.

Wikipedia: One Thousand Children
Jewish children arrive in England from Germany.

In my story, aid organizations find a foster home in Barberry Lake, Arizona willing to take 10 children. Herman and Rose Neuman were the only Jews in town and they owned a hotel. They accepted 6 girls and 4 boys, ages 2-14, from Germany, Poland, and nearby countries. None of the children knew each other and they arrived separately over the course of a couple of months in 1939.

Social workers placed and followed the children to make sure they were in Jewish homes (unlike in Britain where there was no such requirement and many children ended up being servants) and paid the foster parents a stipend. (Reference? I read this but can not find the source again.)

After the war, only 2 of these 10 children were reunited with family. Overall, only 10% of Kindertransport children saw their parents again.

Three more of the 10 moved away as young adults. Five stayed in Barberry Lake. Their grandchildren are the subjects of my novel.

1 Comment

  1. How to Speak Like a Baptist – Out of Egypt

    August 30, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    […] I wrote a scene where Phoebe asks her mom for religious advice for her cousin Ruth, who is visiting. All four of Ruth’s grandparents (including the two she shares with Phoebe) are Jews who came to Barberry Lake as children via the Kindertransport. […]

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