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This podcast from the Association of Jewish Refugees, using material from the AJR Refugee Voices archive, explores one specific strand of the Jewish refugee experience — the Kindertransport. This rescue effort began on the 1st December 1938 and lasted until the outbreak of war in September 1939. Nearly 10,000 children, mostly from Germany and Austria, were sent by their parents to safety in England. The podcast uses testimony extracts from the archive to examine the Kindertransport from first-hand sources, to try to better understand this historical event in its depth and complexity – both for its own sake and also in the hopes of informing our understanding of refugee policies today. 

 

Please subscribe on the platforms listed below, or listen on the player. You can find more information about each interviewee featured in the podcast after the player.

 

The Kindertransport podcast is produced by Alex Maws for the AJR.

Available Episodes

More Information & Featured Interviewees

Episode Ten

Legacies

Click on each image to read interview summaries and see photos from interviewees mentioned in the episode.

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The series finale, but where does the story of the Kindertransport actually end? How has the memory of the Kindertransport affected those who experienced it, and how has it impacted us on a societal level? Historian Amy Williams weighs in and Barbara Winton, daughter of rescuer Sir Nicholas Winton discusses the link to contemporary refugee issues. As always, we are left with more questions than answers.

Episode Nine

Twenty-five Words

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Letters between the Kindertransport refugees and their parents first served as a lifeline to home, but when war breaks out all that is allowed are brief messages transmitted through the International Red Cross. Many parents try to reassure their children that everything is fine, but then for many children the letters eventually stop or they come to deliver unbearable news.

Episode Eight

Enemy Aliens

Click on each image to read interview summaries and see photos from interviewees mentioned in the episode.

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Anti-German panic sets in and following Winston Churchill's edict to "collar the lot", all adult Germans and Austrians in the UK -- including Jewish refugees from the Kindertransport who were over 16 -- become "enemy aliens". Restrictions are imposed on their everyday lives, and many are sent to internment camps. Despite this hostility, many go on to join the British armed forces to fight against the Nazis from whom they had once escaped.

Episode Seven

Identity

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Forging a sense of identity is complicated enough for most children. Now try to imagine what it must have been like for those children who came on the Kindertransport. For many it was a case of being too Jewish for Germany; too German for Britain. In what ways were they made to feel at home in Britain, and in what ways were they made to feel foreign? How did they maintain their sense of Jewishness in far-flung corners of Britain? And To what extent did they retain a sense of 'continental' identity later in life?

Episode Six

Against the Backdrop of War

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With the onset of war in September 1939, the transport of child refugees to Britain stops, stranding untold numbers of children in Europe and cutting off those children who had already arrived in Britain from their families. Ursula Gilbert recalls her experience bouncing around between homes, hostels and job training opportunities. Other refugees describe being sent to work on farms and as domestic servants.

Episode Five

Dovercourt

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In the coldest winter Britain had experienced in more than a century, refugees were housed in unheated huts, while they tried to make the best of their situation by learning English and going on cultural outings. Meanwhile a radio appeal for prospective foster parents created a weekly experience that the children referred to as the 'cattle market' in which visiting couples would walk through the dining hall looking for their ideal foster child.

Episode Four

First Impressions

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Thousands of British families respond to the call to help unaccompanied Jewish child refugees, and at long last Kindertransports start arriving. What were the reactions to the children upon arriving in a strange new country? Years later, what were the memories – positive and negative – that stuck with them about those first impressions?

Episode Three

The Decision Makers

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The events of the November Pogrom prompt Westminster to loosen immigration restrictions, allowing unaccompanied child refugees to come to Britain. What did these children understand at the time about how they ended up on a Kindertransport? Eight refugees recall their experiences and historian Louise London explains the shift in British policy.

Episode Two

What Was Left Behind

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Fred Barschak can vividly remember the menu at his father's kosher restaurant. Otto Deutsch recalls his family's humble living conditions. And Ursula Gilbert remembers attending Berlin's grandest synagogue. These are some of the happy childhood memories that stand in stark contrast to subsequent tales of antisemitic taunts and a night of unprecedented violence.

Episode One

The Journey

Click on each image to read interview summaries and see photos from interviewees mentioned in the episode.

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The Kindertransport was a loosely coordinated rescue effort in 1938-39 through which nearly 10,000 children under the age of 16 were sent by their parents to safety in England. What was that journey like? What memories did those refugees carry with them throughout their lives, of the day that they left their parents behind?

In 2003, the AJR began the process of recording the testimonies of some 250 Jewish refugees from Nazism living in Britain – a project we call Refugee Voices . In this podcast series, we have delved into that archive focusing on one specific strand of the refugee experience, the Kindertransport. We use testimony extracts to examine the Kindertransport from first-hand sources, to try to better understand this historical event in its depth and complexity – both for its own sake and also in the hopes of informing our understanding of refugee policies today. 

Extras

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@ AJR Refugee Voices 2020

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