Should Kinder of the Kindertransports be Considered Holocaust Survivors?

by Ralph Mollerick

The title of this essay may be argued in ways that depend on the definition of who is a Holocaust Survivor.  A visit to the KTA website and a click on the History tab, will take the reader to frequently asked questions.  The first question addresses this topic: “What is a Holocaust Survivor?”

The answer is simply stated as: “A Holocaust Survivor is a person who was displaced, persecuted, and/or discriminated against by the racial, religious, ethnic, and political policies of the Nazis and their allies.  The Kindertransport children are child Holocaust Survivors”.

For most people, this definition would suffice.  Unfortunately, for some Survivors this definition has been met with arguments that question the degree to which people suffered.  For example, some years ago, I attended the Holocaust Child Survivor Conference in Rockville, MD.  Most, if not all, of the attendees had traumatic experiences regarding their time spent in slave work camps or concentration camps.

During a workshop, a lady who was sitting next to me explained that she was a nurse in a camp and was forced to maintain a work schedule of twelve hours a day and seven days a week until she became sick.  She turned to me and asked from what camp I survived.  I explained to her that I was not a survivor of a camp, but was fortunate to be on the Kindertransport sent to England as a survivor.

The lady turned to me and responded: “You were lucky and should not consider yourself a survivor because you did not suffer.”  She looked at my wife who is American born and obviously not a survivor, and told her to leave the workshop.  In other words, camp survivors could not describe their experiences beside those who did not suffer.

While my wife considered leaving the workshop, I felt obligated to take a different position.  I explained that while Kindertransportees did not suffer the horrors of the camps, we, nevertheless, suffered in other ways.  We were placed on trains without our parents, sent to a foreign land where different customs and language needed to be learned; most of us never saw our parents again; we lost our posessions; our education was interrupted; we lost support and nurturning from our parents; and for most, this included loss of a comfortable life in our homes and in the communities where we once lived.

The lady apologized and said that she had not realized the losses we had suffered.