Germany to compensate hundreds who fled Nazis as children

Germany to compensate hundreds who fled Nazis as children

Germany says it will pay £2,245 compensation to Holocaust survivors evacuated on the Kindertransport as children to escape the Nazis ‘as recognition of their suffering’

  • The survivors who were evacuated to the UK were primarily Jewish children 
  • It is believed around 1,000 survivors are still living out of the 10,000 evacuated
  • This year marks the 80th anniversary of the rescue effort Kindertransport 
  • The children fled on the Kindertransport to the UK in the months leading up to the start of WWII

Germany will make one-off compensation payments to Holocaust survivors who were evacuated to the UK to escape the Nazis.

The survivors who were evacuated to the UK were mostly Jewish children and once they arrived in the country many of them never saw their parents again. 

The New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany said the government had agreed to payments of 2,500 euros (£2,245) to those still alive from among the 10,000 people who fled on the Kindertransport.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the organised rescue effort known as Kindertransport – children’s transport – which took place during the nine months prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. 

At the time each child was guaranteed £50 to pay for their re-emigration after they came to Britain, as it was expected to only be a temporary measure.

But many children from the Kindertransport rescue programme became citizens of Great Britain, or emigrated to Israel, the United States, Canada, and Australia.

A group of Jewish and non-Aryan German child refugees, the ‘Kindertransport’, arriving in England at Harwich from Germany in December 1938

Lunchtime at Dovercourt Bay Holiday Camp near Harwich in Essex where some of the evacuees were sent pictured in December 1938

It is thought that around 1,000 survivors are still alive today and half of these are believed to be living in Britain. 

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Conference negotiator Greg Schneider claimed that the financial payment marks a ‘symbolic recognition of their suffering’.

He added: ‘In almost all the cases the parents who remained were killed in concentration camps in the Holocaust and they have tremendous psychological issues.’ 

Three Jewish refugee children from Germany and Austria, the ‘Kindertransport’, waiting to be collected by their relatives or sponsors at Liverpool Street Station in July 1939

A young refugee from Vienna arrives at Harwich on the steamer ‘Prague’, en route to Pakefield Holiday Camp in Lowestoft in 1938 and boys playing football at Dovercourt Bay Holiday Camp around the same time

Kristallnacht, also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, was a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany on 9–10 November 1938.

Following the pogrom the British government agreed to allow an unspecified number of Jewish children as refugees from Nazi Germany or territories it had annexed. 

The bill stated that British Government would waive some immigration requirements in order to allow the entry of unaccompanied children up to the age of 17 into the UK.

Adult refugees had to meet very strict criteria and most applications from adults were rejected if they failed to meet it.

The 48th child transport which was packed with Viennese children heading to Switzerland to escape the Nazi occupation

Young refugee Max Unger arrives at Dovercourt Bay Camp for Jewish children in Essex in December 1938

Jewish groups inside Nazi Germany planned the transports, and the first arrived in Harwich on December 2 1938, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

What was the Kindertransport?

The Kindertransport – known as the children’s transport – was a rescue effort that took place during the nine months before WWII began.

The effort began after a pogom known as Kristallnacht, also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, broke out against Jews throughout Nazi Germany between November 9 and 10 1938. 

Around 10,000 primarily Jewish children arrived in the UK through Kindertransport from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Free City of Danzig. 

The children were placed in British foster homes, hostels, schools and farms.

Many of the children went on to become British citizens or emigrated to other countries. 

The last transport from Germany left on September 1 1939 – the day World War II broke out with the Nazi invasion of Poland – and the final transport from continental Europe left the Netherlands on May 14, 1940, the same day Dutch forces surrendered to the Nazis.

In all, about 10,000 children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland were taken to Britain, about 7,500 of whom were Jewish, according to the museum. About half were placed with foster families, while the others stayed in hostels, schools or farms. 

Around 1,000 children from the Kindertransport interned as enemy aliens in 1940, and were held in internment camps on the Isle of Man, Canada, and Australia. 

Some of these soldiers later joined the British army and fought against Germany.  

A similar scheme was held in America which shipped Jewish children to safety in the U.S., known as the One Thousand Children (OTC) programme.

The children were aged between 14 months and 16 years and were transported to the UK between November 1934 and May 1945.

Unlike the British scheme, the children received no U.S. visa government assistance and it was even harder for their parents to obtain the appropriate papers. 

Photographs and details for three children who were brought to Britain from Austria 

Jewish children eat lunch in the dining room of Dovercourt Bay Holiday Camp in Essex in December 1938

Today, survivors are at least in their eighties and most continue to look back on their escape as the defining moment of their lives as they were put alone onto trains into the unknown, saying goodbye to parents and siblings often for the last time, Schneider said.

‘This money is acknowledgement that this was a traumatic, horrible thing that happened to them,’ he said.

Some survivors already received small payments in the 1950s but that will not bar them from receiving the new benefit, the Claims Conference said. 

Josepha Salmon, eight, arrives at the holiday camp (left) and three refugee children occupy their dormitories at the camp in December 1938 

Some of the 235 Jewish child refugees, ‘Kindertransport’ on their arrival from Vienna at Liverpool Street Station

The Claims Conference carries out continuous negotiations with Germany to expand the number of people eligible for compensation.

Since 1952, the German government has paid more than $80 billion to individuals for suffering and losses resulting from persecution by the Nazis.

In 2019, the Claims Conference will distribute approximately $350 million in direct compensation to more than 60,000 survivors in 83 countries, the organization says. 

In addition, it will provide some $550 million in grants to social service agencies that provide home care, food, medicine and other services for Holocaust survivors.

People pass a commemorative memorial statue to perpetuating the memory of the Kindertransport near Friedrichstrasse train station in central in Berlin

‘Britain saved my life, it’s as simple as that. It’s a fairy story in a way’ 

Henry Foner was just six when he was sent by his father Max Lichwitz, a prominent lawyer in Berlin, on the Kindertransport to Britain in 1938.

Thousands of Jewish children were transported to Britain as part of Kindertransport, which continued until war was declared in September 1939.

Henry had already lost his mother at a young age and from the moment they parted, his father wrote him an almost daily postcard in German.

Henry Foner was just six when he was sent by his father Max Lichwitz, a prominent lawyer in Berlin, on the Kindertransport to Britain in 1938

On Henry’s seventh birthday, Mr Lichwitz telephoned him from Berlin but as his son had already forgotten his native language they began to converse in English.

Henry’s ‘adopted’ parents kept every postcard and letter he was ever sent from his family and gave them to him on his wedding day.

They have since been compiled into a book, Postcards to a Little Boy.

Mr Litchwitz was deported to Auschwitz on December 9, 1942 and was murdered a week later.

His courage to let his only child to travel to England to escape Nazi Germany may have ultimately saved his life. 

Mr Foner said: ‘I found myself on a train when I was six from Berlin to Britain.

‘People took those children from the goodness of their hearts. I missed my family, obviously, so they sent me a postcard each day, mostly my father.

‘The people who adopted me, they never pretended to be my parents, they never tried to replace them. They said “Henry, when the war finishes we will see what happened to your family”.

William and Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev (next to the duke) met Holocaust survivors Mr Foner (rear right), 86, and Paul Alexander (nearest camera), 80

‘So I called them uncle and aunt and we changed my name from Heinrich to Henry and Lichwitz became Foner, because it wasn’t a good idea to have such a German sounding name. I became Henry Foner and I stayed that way, because they were my family. ‘

During a remembrance service in June 2018 Mr Foner met Prince William, he said he felt ‘excited’ to meet Prince William as he wanted the chance to express his gratitude to Britain for saving his life. 

He said: ‘I was a soldier in the British army, I did service, so did he. I’m really very, very grateful to Britain. They saved my life, it’s as simple as that.

‘I guess it’s sort of a fairy story in a way. A little refugee kid is sent to a country where he knows nobody, luckily he is sent to a nice family who look after him and his family write to him every day.

‘And then one day he gets the chance to meet the prince to say thank you. I think it’s like a fairy story.’

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