A RECEPTION marking the 75th anniversary of Kindertransport was attended by scores of survivors of the Holocaust and their families.
The Kindertransport trains carried thousands of Jewish children to the UK from Central and Eastern Europe in the months before the outbreak of the Second World War, protecting them from persecution by the Nazis.
The Stanmore-based Association of Jewish Refugees hosted a reunion event on Sunday at the Jewish Free School (JFS), in The Mall, Kenton.
It was a ‘bitter-sweet’ occasion where survivors shared their gratitude for the steps that were taken to ensure their survival, while also remembering the painful memories of children becoming separated from their parents and relatives – in some cases forever as many would later die in concentration camps.
Political heavyweight David Miliband, whose extended family lost 43 members to the Holocaust, gave a moving speech at the event.
“As the chain of memory is broken, so history and its lessons become more important,” the former foreign secretary said. “When we ask whose responsibility is it to save lives, the answer must be: ours.”
Michael Newman, chief executive of the Association of Jewish Refugees, said it was a successful and suitable way to honour the anniversary.
He said: “It was a fantastic occasion, both special and historical. Obviously it is a bitter-sweet event. We had 600 people, some who have remained friends over the years, and others were reunited.”
The JFS was a fitting venue as it played a vital role in sponsoring and vouching for those arriving from Central and Eastern Europe via the Kindertransport.
The present day A-level students at the school performed a re-enactment for guests of the debate in the House of Commons on November 21, 1938, that facilitated the permission being granted for 10,000 unaccompanied children under 17 under threat of persecution to come to the UK.
Mr Newman added: “To have the school’s present day students involved because of all the school did for the kinder is very important to us.”
The 500 guests included those from Israel, the USA, Australia, Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland and Belgium and other guest speakers included the actress and comedienne Maureen Lipman.
Vera Schaufeld was nine years old when, in June 1939, she boarded a train from Prague station in her home country of Czechoslovakia.
“We all leant out of the carriage window waving goodbye,” she said. “No one knew it was the last time you would see your family. All I knew was that I was going to this strange country.”
Both of Vera’s parents, her lawyer father and her mother, who was a paediatrician, died during the Holocaust, alongside her grandmother.
She went on to build a life in East Hill, Wembley, working as a teaching advisor in Brent and marrying Avram Schaufeld, who survived the concentration camps in Auschwitz. The couple have two children and four grandchildren.
She added: “It was very successful with about 200 of the people there being those who came on the trains – a very moving day.”