Following Kristallnacht and the House of Commons debate on the growing refugee crisis in Europe, the first Kindertransport left Berlin on 1 December 1938.
This hasty arrangement for the movement of child refugees had also been debated by the Cabinet on 16 November, where it was decided that the UK would accept unaccompanied children up to the age of 17. No limit was placed on the number of refugees. After the debate in the House of Commons, the Home Secretary, Sir Samuel Hoare met with a delegation representing both Jewish and non-Jewish refugees. It was decided that to speed up the immigration process, travel documents would be issued on a group basis rather than individually.
The Nazis had banned Jews from travelling on public transport, a measure which could have stopped many Jewish children from escaping. However, many Quakers arrived at stations and ports to organise the operation. Many of these Quakers travelled with the children to ensure they were able to get connections to London. The last group left Germany on 1 September 1939, and although hundreds of children were stopped in Belgium and the Netherlands, over 10,000 were saved.
Find out more about:
- the Kindertransport and refugees
- Read the life stories of Bob and Ann Kirk who both travelled to the UK on the Kindertransport
Image: © Wiener Library