For the anniversary of Kristallnacht this year I wanted to write about the Kindertransport, which, as Wikipedia explains, began after Kristallnacht:
On 15 November 1938, five days after the devastation of “Kristallnacht”, the “Night of Broken Glass”, in Germany and Austria, a delegation of British, Jewish, and Quaker leaders appealed, in person, to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Neville Chamberlain. Among other measures, they requested that the British government permit the temporary admission of unaccompanied Jewish children, without their parents.
The result of this, as Wikipedia also explains:
The Kindertransport (German for “children’s transport”) was an organised rescue effort 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. The children were placed in British foster homes, hostels, schools and farms. Often they were the only members of their families who survived the Holocaust.
The December 3, 2013, Guardian article “Kindertransport, 75 years on: ‘It was fantastic to feel at last'” includes interviews with some of the elderly Kindertransport “children” and begins:
In December 1938, Kristallnacht had just rocked Nazi Germany. The pogrom killed an estimated 91 Jews, burned hundreds of synagogues and left tens of thousands imprisoned in concentration camps. Many historians see the day as the start of Hitler’s “final solution”.
Amid the horror, Britain agreed to take in children threatened by the Nazi regime. The operation was called Kindertransport, or Child Transport in English.
Seventy-five years ago this week, the first group of children arrived without their parents at the Essex port of Harwich, and took a train to London’s Liverpool Street station.
I am now working on a second memoir — SURVIVORS AND SAVIORS: A MEMOIR OF THE HOLOCAUST — and here is a section I just wrote that pertains to the Kindertransport:
Luck or Chance – A Philosophical Distinction?
I had an email exchange with a woman who has become a dear friend even though we have never spoken to each other. We first bonded online through our respective military fiction books, and now we are in almost constant email and Twitter communication.
Bonnie Bartel Latino is two weeks older than I am and in many ways couldn’t be more different. She’s a Southerner who in her life has known very few Jews. Yet her open mindedness about people is an inspiration.
She brought to my attention via Twitter a November 4, 2017, newspaper article in The Guardian about two non-Jewish British sisters who in the 1930s traveled to Germany several times to attend operas and apparently at the same time help Jews escape from the Nazi regime. That article linked to a prior Guardian article with interviews of British now-elderly adults who were saved from the Nazis via the Kindertransport (a rescue effort to bring unaccompanied Jewish children to England from primarily Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia before WWII started).
I then emailed Bonnie that in 1988 I had hired (for a toy store in Beverly Hills for which I was a co-founder) a woman who had survived because of the Kindertransport although her parents had not survived. I wrote in email “speak”:
“What I remember most was her resentment of her parents for sending her away. She was 5, I think, from a comfortably off family in Vienna. She had never folded her own clothes before (family had maids) and now she had to do everything herself. Her older brother got to Palestine/Israel, and her older sister got across the border to Holland under fire. I’ll never forget that this woman said what saved her sister was the color of her coat that year – green – so when the Nazis starting firing (I think it was a group illegal crossing) she fell into the grass and her coat’s color saved her.”
I went on to tell Bonnie that I didn’t think I could find the woman now – I don’t remember her name – to ask her permission to use the story with her name attached. Bonnie pointed out that the woman might not still be alive.
Then Bonnie emailed:
“Even if you can’t find her again—that is a great story that could be used in the beginning to show how, so often, luck saved lives.
“Maybe luck isn’t the right word. They certainly weren’t lucky to be in that position.”
I then suggested that perhaps chance was a better word than luck.
“Yes, chance is better.
“Just by chance her coat was the same color as the grass. Had all the grass been dead, she wouldn’t have been lucky to have on a green coat.
“Chance is the perfect word.”
The experiences of living with British families were not always positive for these rescued children, and the parents of many of these children did not survive the Nazis’ ruthlessness. Yet the hospitality of the British public and the efforts of amazing people to save these children should always be remembered. (You can read about some of these rescuers at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kindertransport)
Two years ago on November 9, 2015, I published my blog post “November 9th: Remembering Kristallnacht” and included in that post a section about Kristallnacht from my memoir of living in Germany only 25 years after the end of WWII (now renamed OCCUPYING GERMANY: ON THE FRONTLINES OF STOPPING THE RED MENACE):
I said in the memoir excerpt included in that post:
On November 9, 1970, I had been sitting in the army-supplied living room armchair reading a book about the Holocaust. I had started to read the description of a 1938 event I hadn’t heard of before — Kristallnacht — the Night of Broken Glass — a supposedly “spontaneous” action against synagogues and Jewish businesses throughout Germany and Austria (Austria’s Anschluss — annexation — to Germany took place on March 13, 1938).
During the attacks on Jewish-owned property and synagogues, 36 Jews were killed, 36 severely injured, and 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps at Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald and Dachau. After Kristallnacht the government confiscated all insurance claims and imposed a fine of 1,000,000,000 marks on the Jews.
The book explained that the “spontaneous” attacks on synagogues and Jewish businesses had in fact been carefully orchestrated by the Nazis. They used the excuse of the assassination of Ernst von Rath — the third secretary of the German embassy in Paris — by Herschel Grynszpan, the son of Polish Jews who had lived in Germany until their deportation by the Nazis to the Polish-German frontier in October 1938.
The order for the “spontaneous” action against the Jews came from the Nazi leaders gathered in Munich for the annual commemoration of Hitler’s abortive 1923 beer hall putsch.
And there in front of me on the open book page was the date the action took place — the night of November 9-10. At that moment goose bumps rose on my arms as I realized I was sitting in Munich — the heart of the Nazis’ support — on November 9, the 32nd anniversary of Kristallnacht!
Click here for this complete post.
The entire OCCUPYING GERMANY memoir (under its original title) can be read for free on Wattpad at http://budurl.com/TAintro
Finally, as I also said in my 2015 post about Kristallnacht:
In two days it will be Veterans Day. As an American Jew I am very aware of the democracy protected by our military, and I am thankful for all U.S. military personnel (and their families) in the past and in the present and in the future.
Read about my new writing project SURVIVORS AND SAVIORS: A MEMOIR OF THE HOLOCAUST
And click here for the formal book proposal for SURVIVORS AND SAVIORS.
© 2017 Miller Mosaic LLC
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the author of fiction and nonfiction books/ebooks. Phyllis is available by skype for book group discussions and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Her Kindle fiction ebooks may be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription — see www.amazon.com/author/phylliszimblermiller — and her Kindle nonfiction ebooks may also be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription — see www.amazon.com/author/phylliszmiller