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Last Updated: Wednesday January 26 2005 10:50 GMT


Photo credit: USHMM, courtesy of Instytut Pamieci Narodowej

Imagine being told that to stay alive you would have to leave your family behind and probably never see them again. You would have to leave your home, and travel alone to a new country, where you didn't understand the language.

That's what happened to 10,000 children who fled from Germany to the UK on boats and trains called Kindertransport.

What was the Kindertransport?

It's the story of 10,000 children who escaped from Hitler's Germany to the UK. They travelled on specially organised boats and trains in the year before World War Two began. This was called the Kindertransport. Kinder means children in German.

How did it start?

In November 1938, the Nazis organised a night of violence against Jewish people living in the areas they controlled. Their homes and businesses were attacked and 91 Jews were killed.

This became known as the Reichkristallnacht, meaning the night of the broken glass. It showed that Jews who stayed in Nazi controlled areas were in a lot of danger.

Because of this danger, the British government was persuaded to let some Jewish children under 17 come temporarily to Britain.

Who came to the UK?

Up to 10,000 children and teenagers from Germany, Austria Poland and Czechoslovakia arrived in the UK. They were not given the right to stay forever and their parents were not allowed to travel with them.

Who looked after them?

Some of the older children lived in hostels, but the younger ones were sent to live with foster families.

To get into the UK each child had to have a sponsor. The cost of food, housing, education, and eventual emigration were paid for by the sponsors, not the British Government.

Some of the sponsors were private individuals and families, other children were sponsored by the Refugee Children's Movement.

What happened after the war?

Many of the children stayed on in the UK because their parents had been killed by the Nazis and they had no family left to go back to.

Some of them joined surviving relatives at home or in other countries such as the USA and Israel.

Why was it important?

Although the numbers involved were small compared to the one and a half million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis this is a very important story. That's because it was the difference between life and death for those children being allowed into the UK as refugees.

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