Monday 25 July 2011

The Kindertransport

I’ve watched some interesting archive films about the Kindertransport today. It is quite extraordinary that the German authorities actually allowed it to happen. They were probably happy to be rid of some of what they considered to be the superfluous Jewish population. Children were allowed one suitcase, one piece of hand luggage and ten Reichmarks. When they reached the German border, the German authorities were quite brutal. However, Dutch and English officials were much friendlier. Some Dutch women even brought the children hot cocoa.
On the whole, the children were well received in England though one or two were made into servants. They did have to have sponsorship - £50.00 each – the equivalent of about £1000 in today’s money. Some were fostered straight away, whilst others had to go to holding camps to start with. Note, in the film, there were flowers on the breakfast tables. Was this effort made just for the film? A little like Theriesienstadt all over again?
Once the war started, it was harder for children to keep in contact with their parents. Lengthy letters were replaced by 25 word telegrams. A few more characters than Twitter, then?
Those over the age of 16 became enemy aliens and were interned – in many cases transported to Canada. Later, because of poor conditions in those internment camps, they were allowed back to England provided that they joined the forces.
The hope remained that the end of the war would bring reconciliation between parents and children. It often didn’t, because the parents had been killed in the death camps. And even where parents did survive and parents were reunited with children, it was difficult. Six years is a very large slice of a child’s life. Most of them had become very English.

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