The Kindertransports enabled more than 10,000 children who were considered “Jewish“ in terms of the Nuremberg race laws to depart for Great Britain from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland between the end of November 1938 and 1 September 1939.
Just a few days after the November pogrom (Night of Broken Glass) from 9 to 10 November 1938 the British government loosened the entry requirements and a public appeal went out to British families to volunteer foster homes. Jewish children under 17 were permitted to immigrate as long as they had a guarantor and a foster family. Gertruida Wijsmuller-Meyer, the influential wife of a Dutch banker, organized the first transport. She travelled to Vienna and negotiated with Adolf Eichmann who agreed to the transport if the 600 Jewish children could be gathered for departure to England within a very short period of time. The “Refugee Children Movement“ was responsible for the children.
They came by train from their home train stations via the Netherlands, mainly to Hoek van Holland and travelled from there to the English port Harwich by ship.
For entering Great Britain the children needed to have a guarantee of 50 pounds (today about 1,500 Euros) to cover for travelling and resettlement costs. The plan was to distribute the children about the country; they would go to school and later return to their families. The British Jewish Community pledged to be liable for the guaranteed sums. For each child, a sponsor needed to be found who would guarantee the 50 pounds. The RCM assessed the applications and permit numbers, organized the journey by train and ship, took care of the first admission of the children in England, the selection of the foster parents, placement in families and homes, and follow-up support. After the outbreak of war further resettlement of children became extremely difficult. Parents did not learn of the departure date until two to 14 days beforehand. Each child was allowed to take one suitcase, a handheld bag and ten Reichsmark.
Toys were prohibited and valuables confiscated. The children were informed by the parents only very briefly before they had to go. The parents were not allowed to accompany their children onto the departure platform.
Very soon the number of arriving refugee children exceeded the number of foster homes. Some children were then exploited as free-of charge housemaids. To make matters worse, many small children did not know or understand why they were sent away and very often thought that their families had rejected them. Other children and teenagers suffered because they understood the danger their parents, brothers, sisters and other relatives were in but they could not help them.
After the war, a large portion of the children remained with their foster parents, since the majority of them had lost their parents due to the annihilation of the European Jewish population.sie