I don’t know about you, but I often walk around London without taking clear note of my surroundings – intent only on reaching my destination. It’s when I arrive early somewhere for a meeting (30 minutes in this instance) that I feel I have the time to look around – and when visiting Liverpool Street Station, I’m so glad I did. This statue was surrounded by people sitting on it, having a sandwich, resting their feet but all stood up and turned to give it a second look when I started taking pictures of it!
I had read about the KinderTransport (German for children transport) of the Second World War where nine months prior to the outbreak of World War II, nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland were rescued from the Nazis and came here to the UK.
It’s heartbreaking to think that they would probably never see their families again and they were heading into the unknown – some British families fostered them, others were sent to hostels, farms or schools – what unified them however was that they were safe.
Their arrival was down to a group of British Jewish and Quaker leaders who personally appealed to the then UK Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain to allow the temporary admission of unaccompanied Jewish children after the horrors of Kristallnacht in Germany. The Jewish refugee agencies undertook to find homes for all children admitted and to fund the operation to ensure that none would become a financial burden to the state.
So why am I talking about this? Well this heroic endeavour was brought to life for me by Frank Meisler’s bronze statue and memorial to the Kindertransport which stands outside Liverpool Station entitled “The Arrival”. Similar statues can apparently be found in Gdansk, Vienna, Hook of Holland and Berlin. The plaque reads “in gratitude to the people of Britain”. I saw the railway tracks first and quickly worked out what this was all about.
In the station itself, I spied a second statue dedicated to the KinderTransport and found other people taking pictures of it alongside myself. Although I believe that this statue has been damaged (it’s missing a standing little girl), it still packs a powerful punch and we were all struck by the pathos of these statues, taking time to read the plaques of explanation.
Why Liverpool Street Station? Well this station was the point of entry for the children into the UK. A small percentage of predominantly Jewish children were therefore saved, amongst them (I was surprised to learn), one of my favourite artists, the painter Frank Auerbach. Frank Meisler was also on the KinderTransport and he was awarded the “Freedom of the City of London” for his work on these memorials.
So raise a glass to the rescued on 2nd December for that is World Kindertransport Day. Read some of their stories here via BBC News Europe, first published on 26th June 2013 and it really brings their story to life. You can tell that they are not forgotten by the red rose resting at the heart of the statue.
Contributor & photographer: Sue Lowry
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