One of the several infamous dates of the World War II era is November 9-10, 1938. Known as Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass, the horrific event was a turning point in the amount of violence unleashed on the Jewish communities throughout Germany. Synagogues, businesses, and homes were destroyed; people were killed; and about 30,000 Jews were shipped to concentration camps.
An orphanage in Berlin was also burned that infamous night. Thanks to the valiant effort of the British Jewish Refugee Committee, these children were the first to travel to England, arriving on December 2, 1938. Over the next several months, until Britain entered the war, about 10,000 children participated in the rescue operation dubbed the Kindertransport.
These young refugees arrived at the train station wearing a numbered cardboard square tied with a shoelace or string around their necks. Some children had relatives in England or pre-arranged sponsors. Those who didn’t were first taken to camps or hostels until foster families could be found for them. Older youth often went to work.
This quote comes from a page titled “Life in Britain” from the official Kindertransport Association website:
Many families, Jewish and non-Jewish, opened their homes to take in these children. Many of the children were well-treated, developing close bonds with their British hosts; however, others were mistreated or abused. A number of the older children joined the British or Australian armed forces as soon as they reached eighteen years of age and joined the fight against the Nazis. Most of the children never saw their parents again.
When the children arrived at the train stations, they wore a numbered cardboard square around their necks tied with a shoelace or string.
I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for parents to send their children to a foreign country. Their own circumstances had to be horrific—and, of course, now we know that Kristallnacht was only the beginning of a concentrated effort to annihilate all Jews. Thankfully, a unified effort saved at least 10,000.
The documentary My Knees were Jumping: Remembering the Kindertransport is directed by the daughter of one of these surviving children.
If you’d like more information on this valiant rescue operation, please visit the Kindertransport Association website at http://www.kindertransport.org.
Johnnie Alexander writes inspiring stories that linger in the heart. Where Treasure Hides, her debut novel, won the ACFW Genesis Contest (2011) and Golden Leaf Award (2014). Her first contemporary romance, Where She Belongs (Misty Willow Series; Revell), and her first novella, “The Healing Promise” (Courageous Bride Collection; Barbour), release in 2016.
She also has won Best Novel and Best Writer awards (Florida Christian Writers Conferences), and Bronze Medalist (My Book Therapy Frasier Contest). She volunteers as a category coordinator for the ACFW Genesis Contest, judges various contests, and serves as marketing director for the MidSouth Christian Writers Conference.
A graduate of Rollins College (Orlando) with a Master of Liberal Studies degree, Johnnie treasures family memories, classic movies, road trips, and stacks of books. She lives in the Memphis area with a small herd of alpacas and Rugby, the princely papillon who trees raccoons.
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Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life.
Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow.
As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?
Read the first chapter here!
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6 thoughts on “The Kindertransport by guest author Johnnie Alexander”
Thanks so much for this wonderful glance back, Johnnie! I honestly can’t imagine how hard sending your children away would be, even for the own protection. It would be so frightening. I also love the cover of your book. Sounds like a great read!
Hi, Angela. I agree–it had to be heartbreaking for these parents to put their children on the trains. Thanks for this opportunity to share a little bit of WWII history.
Great post and sounds like a wonderful story. I didn’t know that German Jewish children were transported to Great Britain.
Hi, Kelly. That was a surprise to me, too. My opening scene is based on an actual event–a station manager threatening to take a young Kindertransport boy’s violin because it was too fine for a refugee. The little guy played “Rule, Britannia!” and the other passengers were enthralled. Thanks for connecting.
Thank you for this informative post on the Kindertransport and for your compelling novel, Johnnie. I watched a film called “Nicky” that centered on Sir Nicholas Winton and his heroic efforts to organize the rescue of hundreds of children from occupied Czechoslovakia. Sir Winton barely got them out of their country and certain death at the hands of the Nazis. Such trust those parents must have had in Sir Winton to place their children in his keeping. Truly an heroic indivisual.
Hi, Pat. Thank you for sharing about another courageous operation to protect the children. I hadn’t heard of Sir Nicholas Winton and his rescue efforts, and this is a film I want to see. Thanks again!