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Honoring World Kindertransport Day

Kindertransport memorial Kindertransport memorial in Gdansk, Poland (photo: wikimedia/dr. avishai teicher)

Seventy-eight years ago today, a train full of 200 children from a Jewish orphanage in Berlin arrived in Harwich, Great Britain. It was the first convoy in what came to be known as Kindertransport.

Kindertransport (children’s transport) was a series of rescue missions that relocated thousands of Jewish children under the age of 17 from Nazi Germany to Great Britain. Carried out between 1938 and 1940, Kindertransport moved more than 10,000 children out of Nazi territory – first from Germany and then also from Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland – and placed them in foster homes, hostels, schools, or farms throughout Great Britain.

These children were spared from almost certain death by their parents’ ultimate sacrifice to send them away and entrust them to strangers.

In honor of that first convoy, today is World Kindertransport Day. The writers at Forward recently shared the stories of two women who survived the Holocaust thanks to this rescue mission.

One of them was Esther Starobin.

“My sister Bertl doesn’t call herself a Holocaust survivor,” Starobin, 79, said in her cozy dining room in Maryland. “She says we weren’t in a camp. But you know what? I lost my parents. I lost my home. I was resettled without having a say in it. That seems to me as pretty much being a survivor.”

Starobin was only 26 months old when she came to England on a Kindertransport. A picture that was taken shortly before her departure shows a wide-eyed 2-year-old with curls holding a stuffed dog.

Esther was placed in Thorpe, Norwich, with a Christian family: Dorothy and Harry Harrison, whom she called “Auntie Dot” and “Uncle Harry,” and their 9-year-old son Alan. “I was very much a part of their family,” Starobin recalled, smiling every time she mentioned their names.

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