On November 9 and 10, 1938, the Holocaust began in earnest. During that night the Nazis brutally destroyed Jewish homes and synagogues, and forever changed the lives of Jews. The shattered Jewish glass covered the streets of Germany and Austria. The "Kristallnacht", as it was called by the Nazis, meaning "Night of the Broken Glass", marked the first organized mass violence against Jews in Nazi Germany and occupied Austria. One hundred Jews were killed that night, and 30,000 Jewish males were arrested and then deported to nearby concentration camps. More than 1,000 synagogues were vandalized, many burned to the ground.
Immediately after this night of terror, an urgent appeal was made to the world to at least save young children from the horrors and potential death of the Holocaust. The appeal was considered, but then rejected by nearly all countries in the world, including the U.S. Congress. Britain stood alone in the world's neighborhood opening their heart to the peril of the Jewish children.
Jewish, political and religious leaders in Britain were so horrified with the plight of the Jews under the Nazis that they quickly whipped together the Kindertransport plan, and in only a few weeks, the trains were carrying Jewish children to safety in Britain. Given the world's adamant refusal to take in any Jewish refugees leading up to the war, it was astounding that Kindertransport happened at all. The final trains left Germany just as the invasion of Poland shut the rails for good.
Almost entirely overlooked in the history books, the Kindertransport trains rolled for just nine months, starting on December 2, 1938 and running until war was declared on September 3, 1939. During this short period of time nearly 10,000 Jewish children between the ages of 3 and 17 were transported throughout Great Britain to England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland living with private foster families, in orphanages, in hostels, and working on farms.
They all left with the same promise from their terrified parents: "British charity groups will take care of you while we arrange visas for mommy and daddy to come too. We will see you soon!"
It was not to be.
Despite their frantic attempts to escape, 90 percent of the parents did not survive the war. They also wound up on trains, but they were boxcars bound for death camps.
For parents to put their beloved children on trains alone, not knowing if they would ever see them again, was an act that only desperation could force. It was a time of terror, not of choice.
While these few children managed to escape the Holocaust, one and a half million of their peers died at the hands of Hitler's Germany.
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