Für das Kind – Some Thoughts
In November 2006 it was possible for me to bring this wonderful
exhibition to Vienna for the first time. The Nestroyhof-Hamakom Theater
hosted our exhibition at that time. Rosie Potter and Patricia Ayre, the curators,
were excited to show their work in such an appropriate environment.
We did not have any money for the return transport of the pictures,
and therefore they remained in Vienna. There was just one event for
which the exhibition was moved, and this was the unveiling ceremony
of the sculpture “Für das Kind“ in Prague in 2010. I must thank Hans
Hofer, the director of the Zwi Peres Chajes School, for accommodating
all of the pieces. The curators decided that the exhibition should remain
in Vienna and that perhaps one day it would be on permanent display.
This has now been made possible thanks to the generosity of Dr. Schweinhammer
and his wife, Mirella Zamuner who have provided the exhibition
space free of charge. This setting, too, is appropriate, since it was in
this house that Jewish families were forced to live before being deported
to death camps during the Nazi period. A marker in front of the house
commemorates this history.
“Für das Kind“ is an exhibition that unlocks profound emotions,
makes you think, and makes you both smile and cry when looking at the
pictures. The children’s longing for their homes comes through clearly
in the twenty-three photographs, even today. Thanks to all those who
helped ten thousand children altogether – mostly of Jewish origin – in
Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland in 1938/39 to escape and
survive the machinery of death put in place by the Nazi regime.
All of those involved risked their lives!
The first “Kindertransport“ to London set off on December 10, 1938
from Vienna´s Westbahnhof train station; the last one took place on
August 22, 1939. Each child was allowed only one suitcase. There were
strict rules regarding the content – no jewellery or valuables, no money,
musical instruments or cameras. Most of the time, the trains left in the
middle of the night. Parents learned of the date of the departure only
a couple of days beforehand, and there was not much time for long
goodbyes. The objects in their suitcases were often the only mementos
the children had of their parents and their sisters and brothers. More
than two-thirds of the rescued children never saw their parents again.
This exhibition is internationally unique, and I am very happy that
it has now found a permanent home in Vienna.
I invite you as a visitor to this exhibition to allow yourself to become
engaged with these pictures. They are not “just” photographs, they are
the stories of girls and boys living in a horrible time who needed a great
deal of strength to overcome separation from their parents and the loss
of what had been up until that point a safe world.