What was the Kindertransport? King Charles honours rescue of Jewish children

King visits memorial to 10,000 refugees taken to Britain to escape the Nazis

King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla visited a Kindertransport memorial at Dammtor station in Hamburg. PA
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Britain’s King Charles III visited a memorial on Friday to 10,000 children who were rescued from Nazi Germany during the Kindertransport.

The statue in Hamburg is called The Final Parting and shows the young refugees leaving for Britain with their belongings in a suitcase.

Most of their parents were murdered in the Holocaust.

It was one of several commemorative moments during the king’s state visit, where he spoke of the “special bond of friendship” that grew between Britain and Germany from the ruins of the Second World War.

What happened during the Kindertransport?

After a wave of Nazi terror on Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, in 1938, there was a growing clamour in Britain to rescue Jewish children from Germany.

The government responded by approving visas for citizens aged 17 and under, but left it to charities and private donors to pay for them in Britain.

Appeals for foster homes were broadcast on the BBC World Service and trains were organised to bring children to safety from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland.

In Germany, news of the rescue effort spread by word of mouth and Jewish groups helped to find children in need. The Nazis let them leave but banned their parents from giving them money or valuables.

The children typically went by train to Hook of Holland in the Netherlands, before boarding a boat to Harwich on England’s east coast, then another train to London Liverpool Street.

One British humanitarian, Sir Nicholas Winton, is personally credited with rescuing 669 children by finding host families and raising money to put them on trains. He died in 2015 aged 106.

The last Kindertransport (“child transport”) from Germany left on September 1, 1939, the day the Nazis invaded Poland and unleashed war.

How did King Charles remember the Kindertransport?

In his speech to the German parliament on Thursday, the king said it “saved the lives of more than 10,000 Jewish children from Nazism, and gave them safe passage to new lives in Britain”.

On Friday, he viewed the Hamburg sculpture by Frank Meisler and Arie Ovadia, which was installed in 2015.

A similar statue at London Liverpool Street is called The Arrival and shows children reaching Britain with their suitcases.

Another memorial in Berlin called Trains to Life — Trains to Death honours both the rescued children and those who boarded trains to concentration camps.

How else is King Charles commemorating the war?

In Hamburg, the king was expected to lay a wreath at a ruined church that was destroyed by Allied air raids in 1943.

It is a first for a British monarch to pay such a tribute to the German victims of the war.

In his speech on Thursday, the king saluted the late Queen Elizabeth II for her role in the “immense achievement” of post-war reconciliation.

“Heeding the lessons of the past is our sacred responsibility, but it can only be fully discharged through a commitment to our shared future,” he said.

Updated: March 31, 2023, 11:28 AM