Kindertransport (Children’s Transport) is the name of a number of rescue missions that admitted nearly 10,000 refugee children to Great Britain from Nazi Germany and German-annexed territories (Austria and parts of former Czechoslovakia) between 1938 and 1940. The children were placed in British foster homes, hostels, schools and farms.
Following the escalation of anti-Jewish measures that culminated in the wreckage of Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) on 9-10 November 1938, the British government waived certain immigration requirements in order to allow the entry into Great Britain of unaccompanied children (most of them Jewish), ranging in age from infants to seventeen, from Germany, Austria and parts of the former Czechoslovakia. The British Government was spurred to act by British public opinion, and the relentless efforts of refugee aid committees, most notably the non-denominational Movement for the Care of Children from Germany, (an umbrella organisation representing Jewish, Quaker and other non-Jewish groups working on behalf of refugees), that planned and co-ordinated many of the rescue missions.
Private individuals as well as refugee aid agencies promised to find homes for all the children. They also promised to fund the operation and to guarantee that none of the refugees would become a financial burden on the public. This would include financial provision for each child’s care, education and eventual re-immigration, (as it was expected that the children would stay in the country only temporarily). Implicit in the agreement was the understanding that no parent or guardian could accompany the children. Care of infants (included in the operation), was to be given by other children on the transport.
The first Kindertransport with nearly 200 children arrived in Harwich (Great Britain) at the end of 1938. Jewish organisations (for example, the Jewish Community Organisation) inside Germany prepared the lists for the transports. These agencies gave priority to children most at risk — children whose parents were either: incarcerated in concentration camps; were too impoverished to care for them; homeless, or orphans.
Children met their foster families once they arrived in London. Children without pre-arranged foster parents were housed in facilities located at summer holiday camp sites (such as Dovercourt near Harwich), in hostels, school dormitories or on farms all over Great Britain.
In the aftermath of the war, some children of the Kindertransports became British citizens, some migrated to Israel, to the United States, Canada or Australia. Most of the children were never re-united with their parents, who were murdered during the Holocaust.