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200+ Kindertransport Survivors and Descendants Urge Support for Refugees

Feb 22, 2017

Blog Post

Rachel Nusbaum, HIAS.org

A young refugee arrives at Dovercourt Bay Camp for Jewish children in Essex on December 2, 1938. He and 5,000 others between the ages of five and seventeen are being transported to the camp from Nazi Germany as part of the pre-war Kindertransport rescue program.

(Fred Morley/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

On February 13, over 200 Kindertransport survivors and descendants sent a letter to President Trump, urging him to keep America’s doors open to today’s refugees.

Noting that “more than 10 million of today’s 21 million refugees are children,” the letter urges President Trump to keep America’s doors open to refugees. It reads, in part:

In the months just before the start of World War II, nearly 10,000 children were sent from Nazi Germany, Austria, Poland, and Czechoslovakia to Great Britain. These children’s lives – our lives, and our parents’ and grandparents’ lives – were saved by the Kindertransport movement.

We are a small part of Holocaust history, but an important one. The Kindertransports saved only 10,000 children, a small number compared to the 1.5 million children who were murdered. Yet the children who were saved were able to go to a friendly country not through luck, contacts or subterfuge, but through the will of the British people and their elected leaders. This demonstrates that, even in the worst of times, actions can be taken to save lives.

“When I saw the demonstrations at the airports, I remembered with great sorrow how that last ship from Germany, the St. Louis, with the last Jewish survivors, was turned away,” said Kindertransport survivor Anne Kelemen, one of the more than 200 members to sign the letter.

“Alas, no one in the U.S. government at that time spoke for our people. Today, we are speaking up and demanding that our government treat refugees with the compassion they deserve,” Kelemen said.

The letter was coordinated by the Kindertransport Association—a not-for-profit organization that unites child Holocaust refugees and their descendants.

“In the aftermath of World War II, the price for keeping America’s doors closed to refugees due to fear was made starkly clear. We are among the very few who were welcomed by a country and its citizens and therefore survived,” they write.

Kindertransport children went on to become “productive American citizens, including two Nobel Laureates, many successful business people, film and theater professionals, teachers, artists, writers, doctors, and philanthropists,” the letter notes.

Today’s refugees are no different. They are fleeing unspeakable violence and have lost everything except hope and a desire to be safe and free.”