International Forum on the Kindertransport

Eighty years after the British operation to provide a safe haven for 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees from Nazism, how should the Kindertransport be remembered? This is the central question that will bring together experts, eyewitnesses and stakeholders from numerous countries, when The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) and the UK special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, The Rt Hon. The Lord Pickles, co-host Remembering & Rethinking: The international forum on the Kindertransport at 80.

This landmark event, which is organised in partnership with the German and Austrian Embassies, will take place from 15-16 April at Lancaster House.

Some of the noteworthy speakers will shed light on lesser known strands of the history of the Kindertransport. The programme includes talks about the behind-the-scenes negotiations that led to the decision to allow unaccompanied child refuges; about Marie Schmolka, the virtually unknown WIZO activist who was behind Sir Nicholas Winton’s famous rescue of Czechoslovakian children; and about what archives reveal to us about the reasons that some children were deemed unsuitable for the Kindertransport.

Another emphasis will be on the noteworthy accomplishments of those who came to Britain on the Kindertransport. Hella Pick, the trailblazing foreign correspondent for The Guardian will discuss her life’s work, and Sir Erich Reich will discuss his experience after arriving in Britain on a Kindertransport.

IHRA Delegate and AJR Chief executive Michael Newman explains: “Through this forum we hope to build bridges between scholars, educators, practitioners, policy makers and those who may have a more personal or tangential interest in the subject. We hope that members of the Jewish community will join together to remember and rethink the legacy of this policy.”

Central to this rethinking, Newman explains, is the need to consider the contemporary relevance of the history of the Kindertransport. Many of the organisations that the AJR supports through its educational grant making programme will be represented, including the Holocaust Educational Trust, The National Holocaust Centre and the Wiener Library. And particular attention will be paid to the question of how our understanding of the Kindertransport can contribute to today’s policies towards refugees. This topic will be addressed by Mark Hetfield, President of the HIAS (formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), whose work to provide support refugees in America tragically came to light following the recent shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Hetfield will be joined by some of his British counterparts, including Barbara Winton, the campaigner and daughter of Sir Nicholas Winton, and Eleanor Harrison from Safe Passage UK.

Lord Pickles noted the timeliness of this forum, saying, “With the UK in the process of developing an internationally significant new Holocaust memorial and learning centre, it has never been more important to examine the role that Britain played in the lead-up to the Holocaust, in all its historical complexity.”

Limited tickets are available for the international forum, and can be purchased online at https://internationalforum.eventbrite.com.