Survivors of World War 2 are embarking on a rail trip across Europe to commemorate the 80th year of the Kindertransport trains which took them to safety after they were forced to flee their homes as children.
18 people - including four survivors, their spouses and descendants of Kindertransport survivors, all aged between 92 and 54, are making a final trip back to their homelands, travelling from as far afield as New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Florida, Australia, Germany and London.
The group met in Vienna on 1 July and will depart on 4 July - 80 years to the day after a Kindertransport carrying Jewish child refugees travelled toward safety in Great Britain.
The trip will allow the survivors and their families to travel from Vienna to London, tracing the route they, or their parents, took as children, fleeing Nazi persecution, and traveling toward a completely unknown future, leaving behind their families and homes.
Melissa Hacker, President of the Kindertransport Association, which is organising the trip, and herself the daughter of a Kindertransport survivor, said, “Over the next 10 days the group will make their way from Vienna, through Berlin, to Amsterdam and then to the Hook of Holland where they will take the ferry to Harwich, and finally, a train to London.
“This commemorative journey will mark the last time that the Kindertransport survivors, now in their late 80s and early 90s, return to their homelands.
“The journey will lead back to the sites of their lost childhoods, and memorials to their murdered parents. It will also lead to new connections, insights and memories.”
Along the way the group plans to meet and speak with schoolchildren wherever possible about their experiences.
Working with the Essex and South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership and the Harwich Surrender and Sanctuary project, Greater Anglia will provide the group with travel by train from Harwich to London Liverpool Street on 11 July.
On arrival into London Liverpool Street they will be greeted by local Kinder, including Sir Erich Reich, and members of the second generation and will visit the Kindertransport memorial statue, and then walk to the Bevis Marks synagogue for a tour.
Greater Anglia’s Community and Customer Engagement Manager, Alan Neville, said, “We will be delighted to welcome the group onto our trains as they complete this long and very poignant journey.”
Stuart Johnson, station manager at London Liverpool Street, said: “It will be a pleasure to welcome everyone at the end of a historic journey from Vienna to London Liverpool Street.
“Marking the occasion of one of those gruelling journeys children took to flee persecution over 80 years ago, I look forward to showing them the Kindertransport memorial at the station.”
The ‘Kindertransport’ (German for "children's transport") was an organised rescue effort that took place during the nine months prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.
It helped children to escape Nazi persecution in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland.
At first nearly 200 children arrived into Harwich on the 2 December 1938, and in the following 9 months almost 10,000 followed. They were then transported by train to foster homes, hostels, schools and farms. Often, they were the only members of their families who survived the Holocaust.