Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies
Volume 23, Number 1, Fall 2004
Special Issue:Kindertransporte 1938/39 - Rescue and Integration
Guest Editor: Wolfgang Benz, Claudia Curio, Andrea Hammel
ABSTRACT. The author explores the meaning of childhood and adolescence under exile conditions 1933-45 and examines coping mechanisms used to deal with terrifying experiences.
Against the backdrop of exile research, the author asks why it is that it has taken this long for attention to focus on the mostly Jewish "child exiles." She suggests that the lack of attention corresponds in part to the interests of the child exiles, who had learned early in life to remain unobtrusive and adapt to changing circumstances, and who may often have felt shame when comparing their own fate to that of those murdered in the Holocaust.
In addition, the paper examines three novels in which child exiles and their experiences occupy center stage: Irmgard Keun (Kind aller Länder/"Child of all Countries"), Stefanie Zweig (Nirgendwo in Afrika/"Nowhere in Africa") and Lore Segal (Her First American/Ihr erster Amerikaner).
The author presents an overview of the Kindertransport and examines how this experience is handled in childhood recollections of the Kindertransportees. One reason why the first Kindertransport reunions did not occur until the 1980s might be that the Kindertransportees had to step out of the shadow of the Auschwitz survivors. When asked today about their memories of exile, child refugees show various patterns as to what they remember and how they remember it: i.e., those who stayed in Britain after the war often show a more difficult access to their own biography than those who re-emigrated to the U.S. and Israel. _
Kindertransports (Rescue operations) -- Social aspects.
Refugee children -- Great Britain -- Social conditions.
Adjustment (Psychology) -- Great Britain.
Personal interviews with and written accounts by eight former members of the Kindertransport enable a consideration of the issue of class and religious affiliation when matching Kindertransport children and host families. The authors also investigate issues relating to the reception of the children in Britain such as public antisemitism. They conclude that social class had more bearing on the adaptation of the Kindertransport children than did religion and language. _
Through evaluating files maintained by Jewish emigration agencies and British relief organizations that coordinated the Kindertransports and accommodations for children in exile in Great Britain, the author demonstrates that, in striving to accomplish the rescue of as many children as possible and provision of the best possible care for them after their arrival, certain strategic considerations were not abandoned. The Jewish emigration agencies—here the welfare office of the Viennese Jewish Community—wanted to be sure not to endanger an extended refugee program for children by placing children with adjustment problems on the Kindertransports. Therefore children were chosen according to their expected ability to integrate into a new environment.
The Refugee Children's Movement, too, aimed to integrate the children as discreetly as possible into British society. One hoped thereby to prevent an increase in antisemitic and anti-German resentments against refugees. _
Kindertransports (Rescue operations) -- Great Britain.
Women in charitable work -- Great Britain -- History -- 20th century.
Refugee children -- Great Britain.
This paper examines the invaluable contributions of women volunteers to the success of the emigration and resettling of the Kindertransport children. The author portrays the work of the politician Eleanor Rathbone, the Quaker interventionist Bertha Bracey, the Headmistress of Bunce Court School Anna Essinger, three chairwomen of the regional and local committees of the Refugee Children's Movement (RCM), namely Greta Burkill, Professor Edith Morley, and Ruth Simmons, the RCM Treasurer Elaine Blond, Lola Hahn Warburg, a refugee herself, who intervened in the case of difficulties between Kindertransport children and foster parents, and Dorothy Hardisty, the general secretary of the RCM. _
Feidel-Mertz, Hildegard, 1930-
Hammel, Andrea, tr.
Refugee children -- Education -- Great Britain -- History -- 20th century.
Jewish children -- Education -- Great Britain -- History -- 20th century.
Jewish teachers -- Great Britain.
Teachers and educators who were forced out of Germany after 1933 on political grounds or as a result of their Jewish ancestry founded more than 20 schools in exile worldwide. These were largely boarding schools oriented towards the German progressive educational reform tradition of Landerziehungsheime (literally "countryside educational homes"). They all had one common task: to support the uprooted and confused refugee children as they developed a new and complex identity, and as they came to terms with an alien environment. Using the example of two schools supported by the Quakers and influenced by their philosophy of tolerance, the author illustrates how this task was performed. The contribution of the directorship and staff of these two schools in solving the problems connected with the Kindertransport is illuminated. _
The author examines insights into the psychological impact of separation from family and home, one of the most troubling catastrophes for children. The younger the children, the greater their suffering and the more prolonged the consequences. Through empirical research on the traumatization of children as victims of war and persecution, Hans Keilson in Holland and Anna Freud in Great Britain have transmitted fundamental insights that assist in psychoanalytic reflection on the effect of the Kindertransports. A child's processing of the psychological burdens of persecution, separation, and starting life over is one important aspect; problems of the caregivers, including physical and emotional reactions, must be taken just as seriously. The author argues that the psychoanalytical perspective on historical events is key to understanding the Kindertransports as a complex event whose consequences extend way beyond the time of rescue from persecution under National Socialism. _
Dialogue in the lives of the first, second, and third generation of the Kindertransport is the focus of this essay, in which the author first highlights background factors in understanding the "narrative history" as distinct from the "factual history" of the Kindertransport. This is followed by an exploration of insights into the role that dialogue in various forms, including its absence, may have played in the pre-separation and post-separation phases of the Kindertransportees' lives. The author looks at a few general features in the dialogue of Kindertransportees with each other and then at some central themes in intergenerational dialogue between first, second, and third generations of the Kindertransport. Ultimately the text suggests that what can be learned from such dialogues might be of use to research and to those involved in the care of separated children today. _
One indicator of increased public awareness of the theme "Kindertransport" is the fact that this event gradually is making its way into literature. Aside from the few fictional accounts (Cynthia Ozick, The Messiah of Stockholm, 1987, and W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz, 2001) there are numerous autobiographical texts about the "Kindertransport." These describe—in the form of keepsakes and clothing—an important landscape of remembrance and relating that contains entire thematic complexes symbolically solidified within it. Objects make a child's experience concrete; they become links to parents and later they support remembrance; with greater distance, such items serve the function of bracketing an experience. As special "transitional objects" (Winnicott) they still have not found their place within the psychology of personal objects.
This study concentrates on the autobiographical texts of five less well-known refugees, all of whom came to Britain as children and four of whom came unaccompanied, with a focus on representations of the family in their texts.
Using examples of common themes in autobiographical texts of former members of the Kindertransport, such as language acquisition and evacuation procedures, the author investigates representations of the changing relationship towards birth family and continental culture as well as foster family and British culture. She argues that the successful narration of a life story is not only a part of the positioning process between different family and cultural circles, but also a part of a successful acculturation. By reconstituting or constituting one's life story, one can accommodate the different voices of analysis and anecdote, theory and experience. The case is made for including the analysis of texts by former child refugees in less specific fields such as migration studies and autobiographical theory. _