The Kindertransports

From the JHC collections

LORE OLIVER COLLECTION

Small cloth-bound notebook with hand-painted cover belonging to Lore Oschinski. She sketched and wrote in this book between 17 November 1939 to 27 July 1940, after her arrival from Berlin to England via the Kindertransport. After her arrival, Lore was interned as an enemy alien in the Rushen camp for women in Port Erin on the Isle of Man, England. On the day of her internment she wrote: “Scout(‘s) Law: smile and whistle under all difficulties”.

In early 1939, Herta and Richard Oschinski sent their daughter Lore from Berlin to safety in Brussels, along with other children, where she lived with her uncle Alfred. She attended a local school in Brussels from April to September 1939. With war looming, a large group of Jewish children were sent on the Kindertransport to England. When Lore arrived there, war had broken out and her parents were still trapped in Germany. She was interned for a while at the Rushen Women’s camp on the Isle of Man. Her mother joined her in England, but her father was unable to leave Germany and committed suicide in August 1942. Lore changed her surname from Oschinski to Oliver, and worked as a nurse after the war.

 

Kindertransport Tag #283 for Lore Oschinski, Berlin, issued by the Belgium Red Cross, and with coloured wool threads corresponding to the Belgian flag. Dated 1939.

 

JOHN BREIT COLLECTION Postcard from Theophil and Paula Breit, in Vienna, Austria to their son, Johannes (John) Breit in London, England. Dated 24 August 1939. Johannes Breit was sent from Vienna to the UK on a Kindertransport. Theophil and Paula Breit were murdered in Kaunas, Lithuania. John Breit died in 2001.

 

“Letter to my parents”  Kindertransport CSH Melbourne member Frank Baumann. (Frank wrote this letter when he was eight years old).

Read letter

Readings
Memory of the Kindertransports: Complexities and Diversities Amy Williams, PhD candidate, Nottingham Trent University, UK
The transnational history of the Kindertransports Amy Williams, PhD candidate, Nottingham Trent University, UK
Quaker involvement in the Kindertransports. 
Amy Williams, PhD candidate, Nottingham Trent University, UK

There is a growing body of work that focuses on the history and memory of the Kindertransports yet the significance of the Quakers involvement still needs further study. The role of the Quakers is very important because the community organised, financed and administered Kindertransports as well as helping other refugees find safety away from Nazi persecution. They were therefore instrumental in lobbying for unaccompanied children to come to Britain. Horrified by the events of Kristallnacht the Quakers along with other communities such as the Jewish community pleaded with the British government to help the children who were in crisis. Their first plea was dismissed but on November 20th a delegation of both Quaker and Jewish individuals appealed to the government again. Some of these individuals included: Bertha Bracey, Ben Greene, Norman and Helen Bentwich, Wyndham Deedes and Lord Samuel. They were successful.

The Home Secretary Samuel Hoare, who was from a Quaker family, heard their plea. Unaccompanied children could travel to Britain. The Home Office was responsible for their visas and facilitated their entry into the country. It was the tremendous care and efforts of the Quakers, the Jewish community, and other Christian organisations who provided for and looked after these children. The Quakers worked across many communities in Europe and helped spread the word that Britain, for example, had agreed to accept refugee children. Parents registered with the Quakers in their offices and there they were issued with the documents to allow the children to embark upon their journeys to safety. On arrival, the Kinder were taken to live in hostels and homes provided for by the Quakers. Some 1,000 refugee children attended Quaker schools, illustrating how the community was concerned about the children’s welfare and futures. This is further illustrated by the fact that the community helped provide books, clothing, food, work, training and bursaries for the Kinder. Ayton School, Dovercourt Camp, Anna Essinger and Bunce Court School, and Cheadle Hulme hostel are just a few examples of the schools and hotels that the Quakers were involved with.

Their work would not conclude in 1939 rather they continued to help many people after the war and in 1947, the British and American Quakers were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work with refugees and relief.

Cover photo: Jan. 11, 1939. A camp leader rings the dinner bell for refugees at the Dovercourt holiday camp. Image: Getty images