OPINION: Statue compels us to embrace today’s kinder
2 December, marks the 83rd anniversary of the arrival of the first Kindertransport, an unprecedented act of rescue that saved the lives of some 10,000 mostly Jewish children who fled Nazi oppression.
Their experiences and contributions have become part of the fabric of society and are cited as the example in contemporary calls to move the youngest victims of terror and war out of harm’s way.
In 2006, World Jewish Relief and The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) were honoured and delighted to inaugurate the Kindertransport statue that adorns the entrance to Liverpool Street station, the principle arrival point for many of the kinder. Designed by Frank Meisler, a kind who came from Danzig, the monument depicts five disorientated children, including a four-year old Sir Erich Reich.
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World Jewish Relief played an instrumental role alongside other agencies, faith groups and altruistic individuals in instigating and implementing the Kindertransports, and the AJR has for eight decades been the national organisation representing the Jewish refugees, their dependents and descendants.
Both agencies to this day play critical roles in their support of refugees with World Jewish Relief at the forefront of the Jewish community’s response to current crises, while the AJR disburses social welfare and financial support to enable our members to live in dignity, comfort and security.
To coincide with this year’s anniversary of that first arrival, we are equally delighted to have arranged for a deep clean of the statue, which had become tarnished, in order to restore the monument to its original vibrancy.
In so doing we also want to acknowledge and thank all those who clear away litter from the statue, including staff from the restaurants that overlook the statue, all of which helps preserve the sanctity of the monument.
The statue is a national symbol honouring the children who came but also their parents who sent them to safety and all those involved in their rescue and re-settlement.
From the clothes worn by the children to flourishes like the violin on the boy’s suitcase, the statue reflects the culture and heritage of the child refugees but also serves as a warning and a permanent reminder of where unchecked antisemitism can lead as well as the dangers of inaction in the face of persecution. In an era when the number of people feeling conflict worldwide is a staggering 82 million and when the complexities of migration appear insurmountable, the statue reminds us of our Jewish responsibility to welcome the stranger and save a life.
The monument is an educational resource fascinating passers-by, tourists and school children alike.
Together with the unique archive of World Jewish Relief and the audio-visual and written archives of the AJR, the statue is used to deliver Holocaust education while at the same time is a precious resource that helps to combat Holocaust denial and distortion and antisemitism.
Many of the kinder, like other waves of refugees and those who have come to this country as migrants fleeing persecution, went on to make disproportionate contributions to their adopted homeland.
We would be all the poorer were it not for Dame Stephanie Shirley’s innovation and Lord Alf Dubs’ advocacy while Sir Erich Reich’s fundraising has enabled charities to benefit from extensive support.
Chief Executive, Association of Jewish Refugees
World Jewish Relief
Plaque below the Liverpool St monument