At the center of the JFCS Holocaust Center’s newest education initiative, The Children of Willesden Lane Bay Area BIG READ, is the inspirational true story of one teenager’s experience as a refugee during the Holocaust. The book follows Austrian teenager Lisa Jura’s escape from Nazi Europe to England as part of the Kindertransport, a series of rescue efforts supported by the British government. Lisa Jura was one of nearly 10,000 children to survive the Holocaust as a result of the Kindertransport.
As the Nazi Party increased its power in Europe during the 1930s, the governments of nearly all unoccupied countries (including Great Britain and the United States) maintained strict immigration quotas.
At the Evian Conference in July 1938, the world community made it clear that in terms of Jewish immigrants, “none was too many.” At this international meeting, representatives from 32 countries around the world met to talk about what they should do with the large number of Jewish people fleeing from the Nazis. Despite the danger posed to Jews by the German government, most countries decided that they would not accept Jewish refugees.
It was not until after Kristallnacht (“The Night of Broken Glass”), a Nazi-sponsored pogrom in November 1938 that left thousands of synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses destroyed, that the British government changed its mind. Pressured by refugee aid committees, the British government agreed to allow select groups of Jewish refugees to enter the country. Although it still would not allow Jewish adults into the country – for fear that they would take jobs away from British citizens – the British government opened their borders to children fleeing from the Nazis.
Between 1938 and 1939, unaccompanied children under the age of 17 were allowed to enter Great Britain from Central Europe, as long as private citizens promised to support them financially. Known as the Kindertransport (Children’s Transport), this series of refugee efforts saved the lives of close to 10,000 children from Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Austria. Although most of these children were Jewish, non-Jewish children were also included in the Kindertransport.
The Children of Willesden Lane’s Lisa Jura was one of the 10,000 unaccompanied children who survived the Holocaust as a result of this rescue effort.
Byers, Ann. Saving Children from the Holocaust: The Kindertransport. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2012.
Drucker, Olga Levy. Kindertransport. New York : Henry Holt and Company, 1992. ***
Emanuel, Muriel and Vera Gissing. Nicholas Winton and the Rescued Generation: The Story of ‘Britain’s Schindler’. Portland, OR: Vallentine Mitchell, 2002. ***
Fast, Vera K. Children’s Exodus : A History of the Kindertransport. New York: I.B. Tauris & Co., 2010.
Fox, Anne L. and Eva Abraham-Podietz. Ten Thousand Children: True stories told by children who escaped the Holocaust on the Kindertransport. West Orange, NJ : Behrman House, 1999.
Golabek, Mona and Lee Cohen. The Children of Willesden Lane, Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival. New York: Hachette, 2002.
Harris, Mark Jonathan and Deborah Oppenheimer. Into the Arms Of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2000. ***
Korman, Gerd. Nightmare’s Fairy Tale: A Young Refugee’s Home Fronts, 1938-1948. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005. ***
Leverton, Bertha and Samuel Lowensohn, eds. I Came Alone: The Stories of the Kindertransports. Sussex, England: Book Guild Publishing, 1990.
Milton, Edith. The Tiger in the Attic: Memories of the Kindertransport and Growing Up English. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. ***
Roth, Milena. Lifesaving Letters: A Child’s Flight from the Holocaust. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004.
Scrase David, Wolfgang Mieder, and Katherine Quimby Johnson, eds. Making a Difference: Rescue and Assistance During the Holocaust. Burlington, VT: Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Vermont, 2004.
50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus. DVD. Directed by Steven Pressman. 2013; Los Angeles: Seventh Art Releasing, 2013.
Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport. DVD. Directed by Mark Jonathan Harris. 2000; Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2001.
My Knees Were Jumping: Remembering the Kindertransports. DVD. Directed by Melissa Hacker. 1995; New York: New Video, 2003.
The JFCS Holocaust Center has a collection of over 2,000 audio and visual testimonies from Holocaust survivors and witnesses. Included in this collection are many testimonies by those who experienced the Kindertransport. Short clips from one of these testimonies is featured on the JFCS Holocaust Center blog.
These testimonies are available to view in their entirety in the Tauber Holocaust Library. To make an appointment to view an oral history, contact Yedida Kanfer at YedidaK@jfcs.org or 415-449-3748.
*** Available to borrow for classroom use as part of the JFCS Holocaust Center’s Teacher Resource Center.
Organization that unites the children of the Kindertransport and their descendants.
Primary source documents from the National Archives (UK) related to the Kindertransport
Contains primary source documents relating to the Kindertransports, including lists of passengers and photos.
Imperial War Museum’s ‘6 Stories of the Kindertransport’
Highlights six items from the Imperial War Museum’s collection that were owned by children on the Kindertransport.
Article on Nicholas Winton from the USHMM Holocaust Encyclopedia
Nicholas Winton was a British humanitarian who organized the rescue of 669 children from Czechoslovakia.
Developed by the USC Shoah Foundation, iWitness is an educational website that provides access to more than 1,500 oral histories of survivors and other witness to the Holocaust. An interactive activity about The Children of Willesden Lane can be found here.