A Kinder Suitcase: Rescue and Refuge

By Josie Roberts, Learning Officer 

To accompany the Sukkot:
Seeking Shelter exhibition
we have an array of exciting events alongside the
wonderful sukkah installed in our Welcome Gallery. To highlight further some of
the important issues surrounding migration, we are going to shed light on a
number of hidden stories of migration in our permanent collection. We will add
a new sign each week next to an object with a hidden story. To share these
stories even further we wanted to add them to our blog. Keep up with the
stories week by week.

One suitcase is all most children
were able to bring onto the Kindertransport, a rescue mission that  transported 10,000 unaccompanied children from
Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic to Britain between 1938 and 1939.

This suitcase belonged to 15 year old Martin Thau, who left
Berlin in July 1939. His suitcase was packed by his step mother who ensured he
had a change of clothes, items for prayer and writing materials, alongside
family photographs.

Martin’s family, like many others in Germany decided that
being separated and sending their children away was a safer option than
continuing life under the rule of the Nazis. This was certainly the case
following Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) on 9th November
1938. Jewish businesses had been broken into and glass smashed, synagogues were
burnt to the ground and many Jewish men were arrested without reason.


After the Night of Broken Glass made international news, many
groups in Britain, including World Jewish Relief and Quaker organisations,
decided to take action. They petitioned to parliament and a bill was passed
allowing children to travel to Britain providing they were sponsored to the
amount of £50.

Although the opportunity was welcomed this extremely
difficult decision to send children to people they may not have met was paired
with the worry of an uncertain future. Many parents had no idea when they would
see their children again. Many were never reunited after the holocaust and the
children became the only survivors of their families.

Just three weeks later the first trains departed Europe. Within
nine months nearly 10,000 children had been rescued. This operation wasn’t the
only mission taking place. Nicolas Winton led an operation that transported 669
children from the Czech Republic to Britain in 1938.

Many of the Kinder Transport Refugees made Britain their
home, whilst others settled in America, Israel and Canada.

The Sukkot: Seeking Shelter project was supported by
the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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