Kindertransport was the rescue operation, a movement in which many organizations and individuals participated. It was unique in that Jews, Quakers, and Christians of many denominations worked together to rescue primarily Jewish children. Many great people rose to the moment: Lord Baldwin, author of the famous appeal to British conscience; Rebecca Sieff, Sir Wyndham Deeds, Viscount Samuel; Rabbi Solomon Schoenfeld, Nicholas Winton who organised the Czech transports; and the Quaker leaders Bertha Bracey and Jean Hoare and many others.
During the early years of Hitler's Third Reich, the Quakers established a reputation for their willingness to assist Jews or anyone else who sought refuge in Nazi Europe. The Quakers and the Jehovah Witnesses extended help to Jews in distress as a formal church policy. Soon after Kristallnacht in 1938, they lobbied and funded Jewish immigration from Germany and Austria. They also responded to the growing problem of caring for thousands of children and infants whose parents were shipped to detention or concentration camps by taking an active role in the Kindertransport.
In a world torn by hate and war, the Society of Friends ministered to all people in pain —while risking their lives by open opposition to Hitler's Reich.
The Christadelphians responded to the appeal to rescue the children fleeing from Nazi oppression by doing collections to fund the evacuation and finding homes within their community. They made regular trips to meet the young arrivals and to collect frightened and tearful children, some as young as three. The scene was such that 'hardened London Bobby's' (policemen) were moved to tears. Once the children had been collected, homes were found for them. Some hostels were established to look after teenage refugee boys during the war.
Nicholas Winton, then a 29-year-old clerk at the London Stock Exchange, visited Prague, Czechoslovakia, in late 1938. He spent only two weeks in Prague but was alarmed by the influx of refugees, endangered by the imminent Nazi invasion. He immediately recognized the advancing danger and courageously decided to make every effort to get the children outside the reach of Nazi power.
He set up office at a dining room table in his hotel in Prague. Word got out of the 'Englishman of Wenceslas Square' and parents flocked to the hotel to try to persuade him to put their children on the list, desperate to get them out before the Nazis invaded. 'It seemed hopeless,' he said years later, 'each group felt that they were the most urgent.' But Winton managed to set up the organization for the Czech Kindertransport in Prague in early 1939 before he went back to London to handle all the necessary matters from Britain.
For each child, he had to find a foster parent and a 50 pound guarantee, in those days a small fortune. He also had to raise money to help to pay for the transports.
In nine months of campaigning, Nicholas Winton managed to arrange for 669 children mainly Czech, but also Austrians and Germans to get out on eight trains. One by one, English foster parents collected the refugee children and took them home, keeping them safe from the war and the genocide that was about to consume their families back home.
Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld
One of the most remarkable rescuers was Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld who personally rescued thousands of Jews from the hands of the Nazi forces in Central and Eastern Europe during the years 1938-1948. A very charismatic and dedicated young man, he single-handedly brought over to England several thousands of refugees and provided his "charges" not only with safety, but also with homes, education and jobs. In the fall of 1938, following Kristallnacht, Julius Steinfeld, a communal leader in Austria, called Rabbi Schonfeld, pleading with him to assemble a children’s transport to England. Rabbi Schonfeld boarded a train to Vienna and helped organize a kindertransport of close to 300 youngsters, providing the British government with his personal guarantee in order to secure their entry. Eventually he saved over four thousand children. Even before the kindertransport,Rabbi Schonfeld brought 1,200 German Jewish communal workers and their families to England. He continued to lobby intensively throughout the war to find temporary refuge whenever it was possible and managed to secure thousands of visas for people to escape. After the war he rushed to the liberated continent to serve the spiritual and physical needs of survivors and to evacuate them from war torn Europe.