Kindertransport — In 1938 London let a few Jewish children in

Posted on December 16, 2023

Statue outside London train station commemorates Kindertransport children. To escape Nazi terror in Europe, for 10 months U.K. rulers let in 10,000 mainly Jewish children, but barred their families. They closed the door on millions seeking refuge from the Holocaust.

LONDON — Kindertransport, the evacuation to the U.K. of 10,000 mainly Jewish children fleeing Nazi persecution in 1938-39, is touted by capitalist politicians and the media as an example of the British government coming to the aid of the Jewish people.

The children came from Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Poland over a 10-month period beginning in December 1938. But, “there is history and there is myth,” Andrea Hammel writes in The Kindertransport — What Really Happened, just published by Polity Press. Hammel is a professor of German at Aberystwyth University in Wales. She presented the book at the Wiener Holocaust Library here Dec. 6.

The library itself had been the target of a Jew-hating attack Nov. 2 when its entry sign was spray-painted with the word “Gaza.”

“I wrote the book to make a critical history of the Kindertransport available to a wider audience,” Hammel said, describing the real record of the immigration policies of successive U.K. governments before the Kindertransport program began. The Aliens Act of 1905 was adopted to limit Jewish immigration after tens of thousands of Russian and Eastern European Jews arrived “to escape anti-Semitic pogroms and persecution after 1880,” she writes. Further legislation in 1914 and 1919 added more restrictions.

“It is a fact that in the 1930s the U.K. government’s policy was not laying the foundation for a noble tradition. It was mainly concerned with keeping refugees fleeing Nazism away,” she said.

Between 1933 and 1945, an annual average of just 6,000 Jews were permitted entry. London also put strict limits on Jews trying to get to British-controlled Palestine.

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