The Kindertransport: Humanity in the Darkest of Times

I’ve been reading a book I picked up in a used book store about a month ago called The Children of Willesden Lane. It’s a novelized account of a fourteen-year-old Jew named Lisa Jura, who escapes Nazi-controlled territory through what was known as the Kindertransport.

In the years leading up to World War Two, citizens from the British Empire and other parts of the world took in Jewish children from Nazi occupied parts of Europe and paid for their passage.  This route to freedom was named the Kindertransport (Kinder is German for children.) A total of fifteen thousand children were rescued. Although it’s only a drop in the bucket compared to the Jewry that was destroyed, just for interest I invite you to read the Wikipedia article on the Kindertransport. Near the end is a list of prominent people who were saved and their contributions to the world. It’s quite long and makes you wonder what was lost in all the humanity that was not saved.

The Children of Willesden Lane is not the best-written of books, but I love it for the story. It gives the reader a ground-level perspective of what it was like for these children to be separated from their families and sent to a foreign land. In many cases, the children on the Kindertransport were the only members of their family to survive the Holocaust. The story is also an account of the British resolve and resistance during the Battle of Britain. It’s uplifting to know that even in one of the darkest chapters in Human history, people found the civility to open their homes to these children, and contribute money to pay for their transportation. Even in the worst of times, there are still people who still manage to react with humanity.


4 thoughts on “The Kindertransport: Humanity in the Darkest of Times

  1. One novel of the Holocaust that touched me so deeply that I taught it many, many times during my years of teaching is The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss. It is a novelization of her own experience during WWII. One of the things that struck me most is the preface, in which the author says she did not try to write a historical novel, but just one about her life in hiding with a Gentile family who were not “heroes” in the traditional sense of the word, but simply ordinary people — with their own faults and failings — who nevertheless did an extraordinary thing.

    I never had a group of students who were not touched by this novel in some way.


    • Thanks for sharing that with us. There are so many good books on the Holocaust. My favorite is The Book Thief. Even though the Holocaust is such a horrible event, there is the opportunity to teach our kids what is right when our morals conflict with the expectations of those in authority over us.


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