What can the Kindertransport teach us about modern-day humanitarian efforts?

  • Date

    Tue 22 Jan 19

Kindertransport statue

Nearly 10,000 Jewish children were brought to the UK in the run-up to the Second World War to rescue them from Nazi persecution – but what can the Kindertransport programme teach us about modern-day humanitarian efforts?

That is one of the questions posed during Holocaust Memorial Week (25 January – 1 February) -   a series of events, organised by the University of Essex, to remind us of the millions killed by genocide and persecution and explore what can be done about discrimination that still exists today.

Emeritus Professor of History, Rainer Schulze initiated the annual week of events in 2007 and this year he’ll lead a discussion on whether Britain should be welcoming child migrants who are escaping modern-day atrocities around the world (Lessons from the Kindertransport – Thursday 31 January).

Professor Jonathan Lichtenstein (Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies), whose father Hans escaped Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport in 1939, will read extracts from his new book. Due to be published this summer, The Berlin Shadow explores the impact his father’s experiences had on both their lives. (Words with Jonathan Lichtenstein – Tuesday 29 January).

A travelling exhibition, telling the story of the Kindertransport through the experiences of eight children, and the loved ones they left behind, will be on display in the Silberrad Student Centre, from Monday to Friday (28 January – 1 February). It is a story of persecution and  migration, of refugees who were made welcome and those who were turned away, and is told through documents, letters and memoirs held in the Wiener Library Collections.

Pupils from Millfields Primary School in Wivenhoe have been working with Actor, Ben Livingstone and the University’s Lakeside Theatre Artistic Director, Barbara Peirson, over the past few weeks, to learn about the Kindertransport through improvisation, tableaux and testimonies. They have been listening to Klezmer music, singing and writing imaginary letters home from their chosen characters who escaped from Nazi Germany for their new lives in England.  All of these activities will come together in a piece of Street Theatre which they will perform on campus on Thursday 31 January.

Other events during the week include a service led by the Colchester and District Jewish Community (Friday 25 January), an afternoon of talks, films and poetry at FirstSite (Holocaust Memorial Day – Sunday 27 January) and the annual Dora Love Prize (Wednesday 30 January).

Dora Love, who lived in Colchester until her death in 2011, was a Jewish Holocaust survivor who spent much of her life raising awareness of the dangers of intolerance, discrimination, and outright hatred for anyone who is regarded as ‘different’ for whatever reason. The Dora Love Prize continues her work and is awarded each year to the best project, by a school from Essex or Suffolk, that links learning about the Holocaust with the world we live in today.

Professor Schulze, who set up the prize in 2013 and will introduce the evening, said: “This is the seventh time that we are awarding the Dora Love Prize. The quality of the submissions gets higher every year, and for many schools participation in this Prize has become embedded in their school calendar. We are honoured and delighted that once again we will be joined by Holocaust survivor Frank Bright, who turned 90 last October.”

The full programme for the week is available online.