As today is Holocaust Memorial Day, I thought I’d show you the poignant memorial statue that I came across in Berlin, which focuses on Kindertransport – the process of evacuating Jewish children to safety, but sadly without their parents. What made it even more touching was that there was a little boy visiting the statue with a bunch of flowers, which he divided into small clumps and added carefully to each of the bronze children and to their suitcases.
The end of the statue’s caption is bleak but honest – it reads: Trains to life, trains to death. Whilst the children were whisked away to be taken in by British families, their relatives back home were left under Nazi rule and, most likely, transported to death camps. The horrible dichotomy of what a train journey could mean for the Jews is expressed simply but effectively.
What’s unique about this statue, and the sculptor’s other versions in London’s Liverpool Street, Gdansk, the Hook of Holland and Vienna’s Westbarnhof, was that it was designed by someone who experienced Kindertransport first-hand. Artist Frank Meisler left Friedrichstrasse, along with 10,000 other children, for a better life in Britain, as life for Jews in Germany, Poland and Austria became increasingly under threat. Meisler arrived at Liverpool Street Station in August 1939, shortly before the outbreak of WWII: he was one of the lucky ones.
When Meisler’s work was unveiled in 2008, the commemorative Kindertransport speech ended on a really striking note: We also remember those children who did not make it to Britain. Whilst it’s amazing that those 10,000 managed to start again, there were millions more who were denied that opportunity. Particularly on Holocaust Memorial Day, it’s important that we remember those who were lost, as well as the brave survivors.
If you’re visiting Berlin, I would thoroughly recommend going to Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse and seeing the Kindertransport memorial to pay your respects.