Between November 1938 and the outbreak of the war,
nearly 10 000 mostly German Jewish children were sent
by their families to Britain, unaccompanied. Children
of all ages, from infants to early teenagers, travelled
on the Kindertransport trains across Germany
and Holland, then ferries across the English Channel
to Britain. Sending children to safety in this way
was their parents’ last resort to ensure their survival.
Only a few of the children spoke English, most had
no family or friends in Britain and almost none ever
saw their parents again.
Children left behind
in a Jewish ghetto orphanage
The first Kindertransport ferries arrived
in Britain in early December 1938 each carrying about
200 children. Thereafter, about two transports per
week landed until June and July 1939, when they landed
daily. The organisation which found accommodation
for the children in Britain was called the “Movement
for the Care of Children from Gemany” (later shortened
to the “Refugee Children’s Movement”.) The Movement
generally billeted or fostered the children with local
families or settled them at orphanages or other institutions
around the country.
Of the children who stayed in Europe after 1939,
over a million were murdered immediately by the Nazis
or deported to camps
and killed or died there. There were some special
childrens’ camps, but usually children were killed
immediately because they had no capacity to work.
In some camps, such as Auschwitz,
children were the subjects of horrific medical experiments,
after which they usually died or were killed. Twin
and dwarf Jewish and Gypsy children were special targets
for such abuse. In total, 1.5 million children were
murdered during the Holocaust.