Friday 21 October 2011

Norton, Jennifer A.(2010) The Kindertransport: History and Memory Sacromento: California State University.

This thesis argues that the Kindertransport was not actually a good thing. It presents several arguments:
The Save the Children Fund did not get very involved; this organisation prefers not to split families up.
The Kinder were isolated from their own people and often families were split up.
Only 10,000 children were rescued. It is estimated that about 500,000 children perished in the Holocaust.
The £50 sponsorship was mainly to guarantee re-emigration once the child had reached the age of 18.
It was funded privately in the main part; it was not a government initiative.   
Many of the Kinder did not have a happy in Britain.
Even those who were well cared for often felt guilt, loss and homesickness.
The British government and the whole world could have done a lot more.  
I would like to counter her arguments a little.
We may have only rescued 10,000 children but we offered far more asylum than any other country.
The government did not want to be seen to be involved.  We too were still recovering from the depression and inserting too many Jews into an already struggling country might cause similar anti-Semitism to what was present in Germany. This was also the argument against rescuing whole families. Aiding just the children could be seen as a humanitarian act. The asylum was meant to be temporary. It was always assumed that the Kinder would move on once they became adult.  The ultimate desire was to get them to Israel.
We only have accounts from about 1,000 Kinder. Only 10% have given their opinion. I know two who do not appear in these accounts personally: Renate Edler and Gerda Cohen. Renate died in 1986 from cancer. Both women seemed quite well adjusted and were certainly treated well in England. However, they still had some deep-lying issues about this – not least of all that they were somehow left out because they didn’t end up in a death camp. Gerda has expressed many of her feelings about this in art and poetry. Renate started writing her story but became too ill before she could finish it. Finishing Renate’s story is partly what this project is about. Some Kinder report blotting everything out completely. And what of the rest?
Then there is Holocaust denial. I mean the early version. No one could believe that something so terrible was really happening – not even the victims themselves sometimes. The Hani / Clara strand makes use of this. Would we have made more effort if we’d really known?    

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