Escap­ing the Nazis on the Kindertransport

Emma Carl­son Berne
  • Review
By – October 1, 2017

Escap­ing the Nazis on the Kinder­trans­port by Emma Carl­son Berne | Jew­ish Book Coun­cil

Escap­ing the Nazis on the Kinder­trans­port tells the sto­ries of the 10,000 Jew­ish Euro­pean chil­dren who were the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the pre-World War II logis­ti­cal feat that res­cued them from the hor­rors of the Nazis, send­ing them to host fam­i­lies in Eng­land. This book breaks down the big, almost unfath­omable num­bers into bite-size sto­ries of those who ben­e­fit­ed from the Kinder­trans­port and those who orga­nized it against all odds.

Eight chap­ters focus on indi­vid­ual chil­dren, describ­ing their lives before, dur­ing and after the Kinder­trans­port, mak­ing the now elder­ly, and often deceased par­tic­i­pants’ sto­ries cur­rent for today’s read­ers. First-per­son writ­ing from Kinder­trans­port par­tic­i­pants, in com­bi­na­tion with hand­writ­ten page num­bers and fam­i­ly pho­tos, make the book feel like a pri­ma­ry document.

The book goes into hor­ri­fy­ing detail about spe­cif­ic indig­na­tions the chil­dren expe­ri­enced dur­ing the rise of the Nazis, such as being kicked out of school, and includes pho­tographs of Euro­pean syn­a­gogues ignit­ed by Nazis burn­ing to the ground, Kristall­nacht, and Jews being round­ed up and arrest­ed by Nazis.

There are also scenes of the mun­dane lives of the chil­dren before the Kinder­trans­port that shows their par­ents’ jobs, their day-to-day lives, and their homes, evi­denc­ing that they were loved and cher­ished. One girl, Ursu­la Rosen­feld, whose father was arrest­ed and lat­er mur­dered by the Nazis, wrote of leav­ing her moth­er: The part­ing was ter­ri­ble. That’s the one thing I have nev­er for­got­ten my whole life. And [my moth­er] had been so con­trolled. She’d always been a sort of sol­id sup­port to us and sud­den­ly she showed her feel­ings and it was ter­ri­fy­ing, real­ly ter­ri­fy­ing. You saw this face that showed all the hurt and agony she’d been through… I would have liked to have had a hap­pi­er image of my moth­er. That’s the only image, this con­tort­ed face, full of agony. It’s very sad.”

There are clear descrip­tions of the children’s emo­tions through­out the Kinder­trans­port, their fos­ter place­ment, and beyond: their ter­ror, lone­li­ness, and anger; their guilt for hav­ing sur­vived when their par­ents did not, and grate­ful­ness for the chances their par­ents took.

The final chap­ter describes the lives of Kinder­trans­port chil­dren after the war. Many went on to pur­sue high­er edu­ca­tion, start busi­ness­es, mar­ry and have chil­dren of their own.

Young read­ers will take away from this sto­ry that in the face of over­whelm­ing hor­ror, small­er, brave acts can change the course for many.

Addi­tion­al resources in the book include a time­line, glos­sary, lists of addi­tion­al web­sites and a bib­li­og­ra­phy. The pub­lish­er lists the book as appro­pri­ate for ages 8 to 12 but old­er read­ers may enjoy this book as well.

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