Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Kindertransport Thesis
The Lasting Effects of the Kindertransport
The Kindertransport, a rescue mission that transported roughly 10,000
Jewish children from Germany and its occupied territories to the British Isles
between 1938-1939, separated child from parent and permanently altered who they
became. Many of the books and articles published on the Kindertransport deal with
individual accounts or the history of the rescue efforts. The following essay will
address the major themes that occurred in the lives of the Kinder after the Second
World War. The experiences as child refugees in Great Britain had a significant
impact on the way the Kinder established national identity, dealt with the question
of religion, and approached relationships with family members.
The Kindertransport took place between December 1, 1938 and September
1, 1939, ending with the outbreak of World War II. Attempts to secure refugee
status for Jewish children in Germany and German occupied territories intensified
after Kristallnacht. On November 9-10, 1938, members of the Nazi police force
arrested and deported 30,000 Jews to concentration camps, in addition to attacking
Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues across Germany and Austria.1 The
attacks were justified by the Nazis as a response to the murder of Ernst vom Rath, a
secretary in the German Embassy in Paris, who was shot by Herschel Grynzpan, a
1 Ann Byers, Saving Children from the Holocaust: The Kindertransport (New Jersey:
Enslow, 2012), 17.
Polish Jew, on November 7, 1938, and died two days later. The Nazi government
defended Kristallnacht as a spontaneous reaction to vom Rath’s death, however the
widespread, organized nature of the violence suggested otherwise.
The news of the violence spread across Europe and the Americas. However,
many countries had been affected by the financial crisis, and limited the number of
refugees into their respective countries. Various groups within Great Britain, both
Jewish and non-Jewish, petitioned the government to allow Jewish children within
German occupied territories to enter the country as refugees. Initially the limit was
5,000, however, after a proposal to allow 10,000 children into Palestine was
rejected, the organizers unofficially adopted 10,000 as the limit for refugee children
allowed into Britain.
Proponents of the project, which included Jewish and non-Jewish groups,
came together as the “Movement for the Care of Children from Germany,” later the
“Refugee Children’s Movement.” With the help of volunteers, particularly Norbert
Wollheim, Gertrud Wijsmuller-Meijer, and Nicholas Winton, the movement
identified and transported ten thousand children from Germany, Austria, and the
Czech lands to Great Britain. The movement declared children under the age of
seventeen, with a guarantee of £50, would be allowed into Britain as refugees. The
children with the highest priority were those who were orphaned, had lost a parent,
or were in danger of being sent back to a concentration camp.
Once a list of children had been established, the families were notified. The
young travelers were allowed one suitcase that was packed in the presence of a Nazi
official. Children departed from the local train station, many under the impression
that the move was only temporary and that they would see their families again soon.
The trains travelled to the Hoek of Holland, where the passengers were placed on a
boat to cross the English Channel. The rescue operations occurred in three phases:
first from Germany, then from Austria, and finally from the Czech lands. The
movement ran out of money in August 1939, but the lack of funds was immaterial
when the war began September 1, 1939 and the rescue efforts ended.
The Kinder were either placed with pre-arranged families, sent to farms,
hostels, boarding schools, or were adopted by British families upon arrival. Those
who were to be adopted after arrival were displayed for potential families to view,
much like material goods would be bought and sold.2 The experiences of the Kinder,
once in Great Britain, varied. While some were well cared for by foster families or
relatives, others were abused, shuttled between families, or interned as enemy
aliens. The younger children attended school while the older children found work;
some chose a trade while others served the British war effort.
Contact with the family members who remained in Germany, Austria, and the
Czech lands ceased after the outbreak of the war in September 1939. There was
simply not a way to get letters into Nazi Germany. For many, it was the end of the
war in 1945 before the fate of family members reached Great Britain and
unfortunately, the majority of the Kinder were the sole survivors of the Holocaust.
Personal accounts and surveys have shown that after the war many refugees
decided not to return to the countries from where they had fled as children.3 Some
2 Bertha Leverton And Shmuel Lowensohn. I Came Alone: The Stories of the
Kindertransports, (Sussex, England: Book Guild, 1990) 146.
3 Eden; Harris; Milton; Greschler; Turner; Schneider
remained in Great Britain, while others emigrated to the United States, Israel, and
abroad. Many of the Kinder married and built families; others went on to have
successful careers in academia and politics. While the children saved by the
Kindertransport had different experiences following the end of World War II,
certain patterns emerge from their testimony. In the following pages the
psychological effects of being a refugee, the question of identity, and the issue of
family will be discussed.
As with any refugee situation, being removed from family and relocated in a
foreign country produced widespread and lasting psychological effects for the
Kinder. The Nazis labeled families as being Jewish, a racial designation, and for the
Jewish children, life was hard enough when they were with their families. They
witnessed countless acts of abuse and humiliation; family members were arrested,
businesses and synagogues vandalized, and the innocent childhood afforded to
many vanished for Jewish children in Nazi Germany and German occupied lands.
Thea Feliks Eden had nightmares about the Nazis. In her dream, “no matter what
you did they could always find you. I think I mentioned the dream to you about the
doors that you could lock, thick doors, and they could just push it open with a
finger…Of course they had that power. In the same way they took away our houses,
they took away our possessions, all they had to say, there it is.”4 Adding to the
trauma inflicted by the Nazi regime was the decision of parents to send their
children to Great Britain via the Kindertransport.
4 Thea Eden, Irene Reti, and Valerie Jean Chase eds., A Transported Life: Memories of
Kindertransport: The Oral History of Thea Feliks Eden (Santa Cruz, CA: Her, 1995), 74.
The bravery and selflessness of the parents who arranged for their children
to be transported to Britain, knowing they may never see their children again,
should be applauded and acknowledged. However, the children of the
Kindertransport were affected by this decision, in both positive and negative ways,
for the duration of their lives. The positive effects far outweigh the negative, yet the
negative impacts of the refugee movement must be discussed as well. Unfortunately,
in many cases the Kinder were the only members of their families to survive the
Holocaust. The loss of parents, siblings, grandparents, and extended family certainly
affected the survivors in negative ways, but the survivors are grateful for the
opportunity to be alive. Even those who faced abuse at the hands of their foster
parents, examples being malnutrition and sexual abuse,5 or were interned as enemy
aliens recognized the alternative was most likely death had they remained in Nazi
Others made the best of the opportunities presented to them. One of the
more notable examples was Walter Kohn. Kohn was sent to England via the
Kindertransport and eventually interned as an enemy alien. After being released in
Canada and serving in the Canadian military, Kohn enrolled at the University of
Toronto, became a scientist, and won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1998. Kohn
stated: “I was taken into the homes of two wonderful families who had never seen
me before…I cannot imagine how I might have become a scientist without their
5 Mark Jonathan Harris and Deborah Oppenheimer, Into the Arms of Strangers:
Stories of the Kindertransport (New York: Bloomsbury Pub., 2000), 133, 210, 230.
6 According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, over one million
Jewish children were killed during the Holocaust.
help.”7 Had Kohn and the other Kinder remained in Germany, it is very possible they
would have been murdered. However, the Kindertransport and subsequent
opportunities that were provided allowed for former Jewish refugees to become
Nobel Prize winners, politicians, and academics.
Understandably, the experience of being a child refugee had negative impacts
on the Kinder as well. The Kinder suffered on two levels; the first being the effects of
growing up under the Nazi regime, the second being forced to seek asylum in a
foreign country as a child without a family. While this essay does not focus on the
impact of the Nazi regime on the Kinder, it is important to note that they suffered in
their home countries in addition to suffering as refugees. During their childhoods,
the Kinder watched as fellow Jews were persecuted and arrested, homes and
businesses ransacked and vandalized, and any innocence was lost.
The psychological effects of being refugees lasted long after the war ended.
The unstable childhoods of the Kinder affected their personal relationships,
decision-making skills, and even attachments to material objects. After being
shuttled between countries and homes, losing family members in the Holocaust, and
not having many possessions of their own, the members of the Kindertransport
were forced to adapt.
In some cases, they were unable to commit, due to the instability of their
childhoods, attachment to several families, and the fear of having their world shatter
once more. The Cohen family took in Kurt Fuchel, one of the Kind from Vienna, after
he arrived in Norwich, England. Fuchel stated, “I sometimes have a hard time
7 Byers, 89.
committing 100 per cent, because I realize I’m torn between two sets of people.”8
Fuchel had his biological family and his adoptive family, both of which he had a
connection with and felt committed to. He would not have wanted to choose
between the two, and this ambiguity made it difficult to make choices in other
aspects of life as well. For others, the trauma of being removed from their parents at
a young age affected the parenting of the Kinder, making them less able to let go of
their own children even when the situation called for it.
In addition to the smaller psychological effects, the Kinder faced numerous
other obstacles, namely the question of identity, in terms of both nationality and
religion, and family. The question of identity is one that is generally discussed when
studying groups of people who have been displaced in some way, a question that
certainly applies to the Kinder. The Kinder were forced to deal with the question of
identity in terms of being German, being British, and being Jewish. The choices made
by children of the Kindertransport reflected the importance of childhood and
teenage years in determining identity, in particular the need for a supportive,
The relationship the Kinder had with their German background was a
complex one. The nation into which the Kinder had been born rejected them based
on racial background. As a child, it would have been difficult to comprehend the
hatred exhibited towards family and friends, especially because it was based on a
characteristic the children had no control over. Nazi Germany had abandoned and
betrayed its Jewish citizens. The Nazis did not discriminate between young and old,
8 Harris et al., 256.
male and female. An estimated six million Jews were murdered during Hitler’s rule,
in addition to those abused, starved, dislocated, forced to work in camps, and
orphaned. Before the war began, the children of the Kindertransport were largely
sheltered from the horrors of the Nazi regime by their parents, and during the war
news from Germany and the German occupied territories was transmitted at the
bare minimum. However, the Kinder were aware of the reasons behind their
involuntary migration to the British Isles, and after the war, stories of the nightmare
within Nazi Germany began to trickle in.
One of the major themes in autobiographical accounts was the rejection of a
German identity in the post-World War II era. Many of the Kinder refused to return
to Germany, Austria, or the Czech lands after the war, or if they did, it was merely to
visit. Especially for those whose families had perished or immigrated, there was no
reason to go back and visit. Several of the Kind, such as Thea Feliks Eden, had an
inherent dislike of being mistaken as German under any circumstance.9 Others, like
Herta Stanton, would return for holidays but chose not to acknowledge her past. 10
Most of the positive ties to their birth country had been severed when the last
members of their respective families died or fled. While there were happy
memories, especially for the older Kinder whose early childhoods occurred before
the rise of the Nazi regime, for many, the most important years in the development
of an identity occurred while in Great Britain.
Even those who did return to their countries of origin rarely had
overwhelmingly positive experiences. Those who returned permanently, mostly
9 Eden et al., 79.
10 Barry Turner, - And the Policeman Smiled (London: Bloomsbury, 1990), 281.
individuals who had surviving family members in the area, faced a variety of issues
when trying to reintegrate into German, Austrian, Polish, or Czech society. German
was generally not spoken by the Kinder while in Great Britain, so the return to
Germany and Austria meant the language had to be relearned. Cultural experiences
in Britain were no longer relevant, and for the Kinder who left their families at a
very young age, there was no basis for a return to German culture.
The Kinder who returned to their homes in countries that were now under
Soviet control, specifically East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, faced cultural
as well as political and societal difficulties. In addition to the issue of cultural
adaption, the Kinder who returned to homes behind the Iron Curtain faced a
different type of regime. Dagmar Simova, originally from Prague, followed her
surviving family members back to Prague and eventually settled in Yugoslavia. Due
to her uncle’s anti-Communist views, Simova was questioned, expelled from the
university she attended, and declared unemployable.11 While Stalin’s Soviet Union
was not Hitler’s Nazi Germany by any means, the oppression remained and
essentially the countries traded one dictator for another.
For those who did not return to their homes after the war, the question of
how to deal with their German background remained. The majority of the Kinder
spent at least six years away from German culture and assimilating into British
society. For those without a family, it would have been much easier to continue
living in accordance with British social norms. If there was no reason to revisit their
German past, many of the Kinder chose to move forward with their lives and
11 Byers, 107.
opportunities created in Britain. The attempt to reassess the idea of German identity
was not significant or useful in their lives after the war; it would only have meant
another dislocation, only this time there was not anything waiting for them, no
family, or sense of safety.
One of the more obvious reasons for rejecting a German identity would have
been the relationship between Germany and the atrocities committed during the
Holocaust. While it would be unfair to associate all things German with the Nazi
Party, there was certainly a stigma attached to German nationalism for years after
World War II. The German government was the cause of the displacement and
murder of millions of people; the Kinder did not feel a strong pull to reconnect with
their German past, especially when they were the only surviving members of their
family. It is interesting to note that while the Kinder overwhelmingly chose not to
identify as German, it was not due to a deep hatred towards Germany. There were
certainly feelings of suspicion towards Germans as a whole regarding their role in
the Holocaust, particularly for the few who returned.12 However, the majority of
Kinder did not harbor feelings of hatred, mainly because it would not change the
past. Lory Cahn, a potential Kind who was pulled from the transport at the last
second and eventually held in concentration camps, described her decision to
relinquish the hatred. “I realized that if I wanted to hate everything that had to do
with the Germans, I would not be able to live a normal life, and definitely not a
happy life.”13 Rather than linger on the question of how to reconcile a German
12 Turner, 278-279.
13 Harris et al., 246.
identity with childhood experiences, the Kinder chose to adopt the identity of the
countries and communities that welcomed them during and after the war.
The Kinder who rejected a German identity were then left with the decision
of where to settle. The Kindertransport Association conducted a survey, in which
1,368 participants, spouses, or descendants of the Kindertransport answered
questions regarding their lives before, during, and after the War. Out of 1,368
participants, the majority of the refugees settled in Great Britain, the United States,
and Israel.14 Each nation offered something different and the choice to identify as
British, American, or Israeli was most likely a combination of factors.
The decision to maintain a British national identity would have been for both
practical and emotional reasons. For those who were the only survivors, Britain was
as suitable a place as any to begin building a future. Emotional reasons would have
played a role in the decision to settle in Britain as well. When Germany, Austria,
Poland, and the Czech lands persecuted Jewish children, Great Britain rescued them.
The British provided a home, food, and safety, when the rest of the international
community had not. A sense of gratitude, indebtedness, and anger towards the Nazi
regime led the older children to participate in the war movement. The younger
children were raised in Britain, and became accustomed to British culture and the
English language. Eden explained her decision to retain British citizenship as
follows: “Maybe because I spent the formative years of my life in England, all the
teen years when you really are impressionable in many ways, and culturally I was
absorbing a lot of stuff that really helped me. But that’s where I always felt most
14 The Association of Jewish Refugees, Kindertransport Survey 2007 (Middlesex:
Jubilee House, 2007), no pages.
comfortable.”15 Refugees, who developed a deep relationship with their foster
families, especially if their biological families were murdered or displaced, had
found a new sense of belonging. Even those who lived abroad after the war
recognized England as their home, not their birth countries.
The adoption of American citizenship was mostly the result of circumstance.
Many families had applied for visas to the United States before the war broke out,
but immigration quotas were limited and the children were evacuated to Britain
before their number was called. After the war, the immigration process began again
and those who had applied and survived were notified of their acceptance. Sole
survivors often chose to immigrate to the United States because the opportunity had
arisen, and there was no harm in taking the chance; others were able to join family
members who had already emigrated. The loosened restrictions on immigration
quotas, the prospective job market, and the thought that there was not much reason
to remain in Britain contributed to decision to relocate to the United States.
There was also a large group of Kinder who settled in Israel after its creation
in 1948. As a Jewish state, there was less of a chance that the government would
turn on its citizens and begin the cycle of abuse, terror, and murder that had
happened in Germany, Austria, and the Czech lands. In a Jewish state, they were in
the majority; Israel accepted the Kinder for the same reasons the Nazi Regime
persecuted them. Even for those who did not practice the Jewish faith, the allure of
Israel was strong. As a newly formed country, the majority of inhabitants would
have been from other places. Being an immigrant was no longer stigmatized or
15 Eden et al., 79.
looked down upon, because almost everyone was an immigrant at this point. Rather
than treating the Kinder like outsiders, Israel gave a home to those who had been
cast off and abandoned by other countries. Especially for those who were the only
survivors, Israel provided a fresh start with a built-in community; a community that
could sympathize with the experiences and feelings of the Kinder.
The relationship between the Kinder and their Jewish background was not
discussed in depth in the primary accounts recorded after the war. This may suggest
that the Kinder did not desire to pursue the religious aspect of their Jewish
background. Anti-Semitism did exist in Great Britain and Judaism was not nurtured
during the war; while the families who fostered the Kinder did not attempt to
Christianize the children, they were not always encouraged to continue practicing
the Jewish faith.16 That is not to say that the Jewish families who adopted the Kinder
abandoned religious practices, there were certainly some who continued to practice.
However, the post-war accounts of the child refugees focused on other aspects of
their lives, particularly building their own families and keeping the memory of what
happened during the Holocaust and those who suffered, alive.
Both of these elements have ties to the Kinder’s Jewish background, but do
not directly correlate to Judaism as a religion. By marrying and having children the
Kinder were continuing the Jewish community, which was important to several of
the Kinder, but more in terms of community and background than the survival of the
religion itself. Alexander Gordon, a Kind from Hamberg who was interned as an
16 Harris et al., 203.
enemy alien, claims, “I was meant to survive, not because of myself, but so that we
Jews would survive and I would bring up another generation and they would live.”17
The idea that the memory of the Holocaust should be kept alive was one of
the more common ideas shared by the Kinder. Many, including Hedy Epstein, Vera
Gussing, Bertha Leverton, Inge Saden, and Robert Sugar, dedicated portions of their
lives to education, writing/editing books, and organizing reunions as a way to make
sure the victims are never forgotten and hopefully prevent the occurrence of
another Holocaust. The connection between the Kinder and the Holocaust was their
Jewish background, but the education of younger generations would have touched
on all of those who suffered during the Nazi regime to include Jews, gypsies, and
homosexuals. The lessons learned during the Holocaust and the selflessness of those
who took in children during Kindertransport could be applied to situations in the
present. Vera Gissing related the Holocaust to the violence in Kosovo in the 1990s,
and described the efforts of those who were trying to rescue children as looking into
a mirror.18 While the Kinder’s Jewish background played an important part in the
way they experienced life after the War, the religious aspect of their Jewish heritage
was not the focus.
The third major theme within the accounts of the Kinder was the affect of the
rescue efforts on personal relationships, particularly involving family. For the
youngest children (infants and toddlers), there would not have been many, if any,
memories of their biological families before departing for Britain. This would have
made assimilation into British society much easier in terms of culture and language
17 Harris et al., 258.
18 Harris et al., 258.
because they would not have had any previous experiences. In the event that they
were the only surviving members of their family, the younger Kinder may not have
had any expectations of being reunited with their birth parents. By no means would
this have been any consolation for the loss of their parents, grandparents, and
siblings, but it may have made the transition after the war easier in some regards.
For those who were reunited with their families after the war, the attempt to
reconnect would have been complex. They had been infants and toddlers when they
were sent to Britain, and were raised by a foster family; when the biological families
were reunited, the youngest Kinder would have to adjust to a family they had no
recollection of but who had made a huge sacrifice in order to secure their survival.
The older children would have faced a different set of challenges when
dealing with the issue of family after the war. Many were under the impression that
they would be reunited with their families eventually, either by returning to
Germany after Hitler lost power or immigrating. For those who were the only
survivors of the Holocaust, the news would have been devastating. The older
children were forced to adapt to a foreign language and culture while being
separated from their parents, all the while under the impression they may be
reunited with their loved ones after the war. Even after letters stopped arriving the
older Kinder remained hopeful, all the while knowing there was a possibility their
families would not survive. For some it took several years for the news of their
families’ murders to reach the Kinder; others were unable to learn the details of
In addition to the grief and sadness suffered by the Kinder was the feeling of
guilt. Guilt that they had survived while their families had perished, as well as over
their inability to save others. The guilt manifested itself in different ways, most
notably in the dreams the now orphans had after the end of the war. Hedy Epstein,
originally from Kippenheim, described the dreams she suffered after learning her
parents had been sent to Auschwitz. She wrote, “I dreamt that I was back in
Kippenheim, and that I was putting my parents on a train, and I knew full well
where the train was going, that it was going to a concentration camp, and that they
were going to their death.”19 Epstein’s survivor guilt plagued her dreams, even
though there was nothing she could have done differently to save her parents.
For the fortunate few whose parent(s) survived the war, either by hiding,
immigrating, or suffering through the camps, there were still difficulties adapting to
life with their biological families. Both the Kinder and their families felt the strain on
their relationships after being reunited. After leaving their homes as children, the
Kinder were generally not reconnected with their families for at least seven years.
By this time the children were no longer children; they were entering adolescence
and had spent the most important years in terms of development away from their
biological families and immersed in a foreign culture. By the time the Kinder were
reunited with their families, they were not the same sons and daughters they had
been when being put on the trains for Holland half a decade earlier.
The Kinder returned to their families after essentially being on their own
from 1938 to 1945. They had been required to learn a new language, and abandon
19 Harris et al., 243.
their own. The younger children were required to receive a British education while
the older ones were either trained in a trade or interned in camps as enemy aliens.
The children would have developed a sense of independence, as well as coping
mechanisms to get through the difficulties of being refugees. The families of the
Kinder would have expected to be greeted by the same children they placed on the
trains, but almost ten years had passed.
Physically, mentally, and emotionally the Kinder had changed. There was no
way for parent and child to reconnect based on shared experiences; while the
experiences of the Kinder may have been less than pleasant at times, they were not
forced to live in hiding or placed in concentration camps. Sons and daughters would
have had to rebuild their relationships with their parents based on memories from
before the war and the primordial need for children to bond with their families.
For those who had developed a positive relationship with their foster
parents, the reunion was even more difficult. The foster families had taken the
Kinder in when no one else wanted to or was able to provide for them. They
provided food, shelter, and clothing, and in the best cases, emotional support. In
Greschler’s collection of accounts, one Kind admitted she had subconsciously
substituted her foster family for her biological parents, and wanted to spend the rest
of her life with them.20 When their home countries had essentially abandoned them
and their parents chose to give their children a chance at survival by sending them
to Great Britain, the foster families were the ones who gave the Kinder a new chance
at living. Kurt Fuchel, one of the Kind who developed a positive relationship with his
20 Lori Greschler, The 10,000 Children That Hitler Missed: Stories from the
Kindertransport (SI: BookSurge Pub., 2009), 14.
foster family, was reunited with his biological parents in France in 1947. He
acknowledged that initially he did not want to meet his biological parents in Paris,
and when the time came to say goodbye to his foster family, he felt torn.21 When the
biological families returned to claim their children, the Kinder were forced to choose
between two sets of parents. There were the biological parents who made the
ultimate sacrifice to ensure their children’s survival, and then there were the selfless
English families who had opened their homes to refugee children with nowhere else
Unfortunately, not all of the Kinder who were reunited with their families
were able to rebuild their relationships after the war. In some cases, the chasm
between parent and child was too wide to cross. The separation during the war and
the trauma suffered by the families of the Kinder made it difficult to reconnect. Even
when family members were reunited in a physical sense it did not always translate
into emotional closeness. Elli Adler described her reunion with her mother as a
strange experience. “She was a stranger to me; it was terrible. It didn’t get any
easier; it was always difficult.”22 Adler’s experience with her mother after the war
was similar to others. The traumas suffered by both parent and child during the
Holocaust proved to be too great an obstacle for some families to overcome.
The relationships the Kinder formed as adults were affected by their
experiences as child refugees. Many of the Kinder decided to marry and build a
family. Some chose a spouse based on shared experiences. The spouses were not
always fellow Kinder, some were refugees from other conflicts, soldiers who fought
21 Harris et al., 233-234.
22 Turner, 272.
in the war, or survivors of the camps. One example was Rosina Domingo, a Kind who
married a refugee from the Spanish Civil War. According to Ms. Domingo, “There
were language difficulties but we had things in common… My husband had had a
terrible time. After fighting in the Civil War he escaped to France and was put in a
camp where he had to live through the winter.”23 The similar experiences would
have made it easier to for the Kinder to connect with their spouse, as well as have
the ability to understand the lasting emotional and psychological effects of being a
The relationships formed as adults occasionally impacted the familial
relationships from the Kinder’s childhood. As married adults, particularly ones with
children, the Kinder would have had more in common with their parents. They
would have understood the love and courage of their parents to place them on a
train without knowing if or when they would see their children again. Angela Carpos
acknowledged the difficulties in trying to reconnect with her mother after the war,
and how the relationship changed after she reached adulthood. She noted, “It was
very difficult picking up the relationship. She was trying to put eleven years of lost
mothering into me…I only really got close to her after I was married.”24 The Kinder
noticed a change in the relationships with their parents after marriage and children,
which may be due to the increased level of understanding regarding the decisions
made before the war.
Finally, the Kindertransport had an effect on the decision to have and raise
children. As was discussed earlier in this essay, there was idea that the Kinder had
23 Turner, 264.
24 Turner, 272.
been saved in order for the Jewish people to survive; this meant that the Kinder
needed to reproduce in order to continue the Jewish population. For others, this
gave a new meaning to their lives. Eva Hayman wrote, “When I was married and had
children- to be a mother and have a family of my own- then I suddenly felt a new
sense of belonging.”25 Those who started families would have felt like they had a
purpose, to do the best they could for their children. Having children may have
settled the feelings of survivor guilt. There were people that needed them, people
who needed to be cared for and looked after.
Building a family also gave the Kinder the chance to provide a stable and
supportive home for children, a luxury they were not afforded as children. Some of
the Kind made a vow to remain with their children regardless of the circumstances.
Robert Sugar, a Kind from Austria who was placed in Ireland, made a pact with his
friends. The pact stated, “if it ever happens again, we promise to take each other’s
children in, we will not send them to strangers.”26 Others, like Sylvia Schneider,
were unable to emotionally let go even when it was time for their children to begin
new chapters, such as marriage or children.27 After having lost family members to
the Holocaust, the Kinder would not have wanted to lose their children in any way,
even if it was due to life’s natural progressions. The Kinder desired to provide a
secure, encouraging environment for their children, to allow the children a better
childhood than they had experienced. However, the effects of being a child refugee
25 Harris et al., 248.
26 Harris et al., 252.
27 Sylvia Schneider and Eva Abraham, Holocaust Testimony of Sylvia Schneider:
Transcript of Audiotaped Interview (Melrose Park, PA: Gratz College, 1989), 2-2-47.
were sometimes inescapable and affected the Kinder’s ability to realize when it was
necessary to emotionally let go.
The 10,000 children brought to Britain through the Kindertransport were
saved due to the bravery of their parents and the selflessness of sponsors of the
rescue effort. While the Kinder were not always treated fairly, they survived the
war, and went on to build families and careers, all the while pushing for
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