People Gathered Around The Kindertransport Memorial In Hope Square Liverpool St Station
The 75th Anniversary of Kindertransport
By Alan W Benjamin (photographs are by author)
On December 1st 1938 a train pulled into Liverpool Street Station carrying the very first batch of Kindertransport children and exactly 75 years later I had the privilege of attending a World Jewish Relief commemorative event at this same station. It was held by the Kindertransport statue in the aptly named Hope Square. The wonderfully humane action by the British government and a 29 year old stockbroker named Nicholas Winton saved the lives of almost one thousand children from the brutal tyranny of Nazi Germany; their only crime was that they were Jewish.
Had any other country performed such an incredible act they would have told the world how 75 years ago their country stood alone in saving these innocent children from almost certain death. True we had a TV programme called 'The British Schindler' that told the Nicholas Winton story but I had seen more Kindertransport and Nicholas Winton coverage on my visits to the United States.
Before my retirement I was a consultant to postal administrations around the world on stamp design and subject matter on postage stamps. Stamps are still one of the best ways a country can publicise an event or their political view point. Unfortunately Royal Mail makes a point of not making a point in anything of a Jewish nature and I say this from experience.
In 2006 Royal Mail planned a set of stamps showing UK ethnic diversity and I approached them to ask that they include a value in that set marking the 350th anniversary of the permitted return of Jewish people after their expulsion in 1290. They refused even though I pointed out we were the oldest ethnic minority in the UK. Because of my insistence the issue was replaced by Diversity in Music but I thought it pointless to suggest a Kletzmer Band.
Later I suggested the 150th anniversary of the election of the 1st Non-Christian MP to parliament they agreed that this was an excellent idea but then discovered he was Jewish and the idea was dropped. There have been other Jewish related subjects I suggested and have been turned down so I've now got the message. Any other country would have issued postage stamps commemorating how Britain did such an honourable thing but maybe they think this would offend others?
In recent months even countries with dubious relationships with their Jewish citizens have honoured Jews and Jewish subjects on their postage stamps. To name a few Hungry and France just issued stamps showing Historic Synagogues. Egypt and Belarus have just featured Jewish subjects whilst Australia and Canada are just two of the many countries doing joint issues with Israel; but never ever anything from Royal Mail.
If a Muslim country can honour a Jewish subject why cannot Britain do the same by honouring those, both Christian and Jews who organised The Kindertransport?
Let us remember it was not only the Jewish community that helped but many Christians were also involved in both getting the children out of danger but also making them welcome in their own homes. Apart from Nicholas Winton who had some Jewish blood there were people like Alan Overton of the Rugby Christadelphians, a Pro Zionest Christian movement. Overton had always had a keen interest in a Jewish Palestine. He followed the parliamentary debate on Jewish refugees 11 days after Kristallnacht and became involved with the new "Movement for the Care of Children from Germany" A Christian organisation set up to help establish Kindertransport and find homes for these children. In the post war years the Christadelphians again came to the aid of oppressed Jewish minorities, this time in Soviet Russia as they were active in helping such UK groups as the 35 group who were working to help Russian Jews to escape the oppression that then existed.
The Chief Rabbi Addressing The Crowd At The Special Service Held In Hope Square On The 75th Anniversaey
Lighting The Memorial Candles At The Foot Of The Statue
from the January 2014 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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