The story of a kindertransport survivor, a surprising friendship and happy coincidences

Posted on November 27, 2023

Lilly Maier

Arthur Kern wanted to see his family’s old apartment in Vienna, Austria, where he and his family lived before his parents helped him escape on the kindertransport, an act that ultimately saved his life. The organized rescue effort mainly took Jewish children from Nazi-controlled territory to the United Kingdom during a nine-month period between 1938 and 1939. It saved an estimated 10,000 children and Kern was one. He was the only member of his family to survive.

His decision to see his family home 65 years later, in 2003, started a chain of events he could never have anticipated. Lilly Maier, the 11-year-old girl who answered his knock at the door — only a year older than he was when he was rescued — would become his pen pal, his friend, his biographer and a historian of the Holocaust.

Maier is currently touring the United States with “Arthur and Lilly,” her biography of Kern and their lifelong friendship, the English translation of which was published in October. The book covers Kern’s life but also describes Maier’s travels to the places along his escape route, the people she met and the conversations she had with Kern, who died in 2015.

On Friday, Dec. 1, Maier will be in person at Temple Solel in Paradise Valley during its erev Shabbat service to talk about her book. Dec. 2 marks the 85th anniversary of the first kindertransport.

“It is remarkable how one person’s life can influence another’s,” said Solel Rabbi Debbie Stiel.


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