Why is your help needed?
What could be more evocative than a journey on a vintage steam-hauled train to celebrate the achievement of the Kindertransports, say thank you to all those who made them possible and teach the next crop of school children about our nation’s proud history and the enduring relevance of the story to our world today?
The programme envisaged could be operated using comfortable modern trains, but nothing stirs the imagination and excites youngsters like a steam train. It is visual, sensual, photogenic and will help capture the public and media’s attention in a way that a modern train, though more functional, can never achieve.
The story of Sir Nicholas Winton and the 669 children he is credited with saving is now relatively well known, but there are many other people who deserve an equal measure of credit – as Sir Nicholas himself was first to acknowledge.
Doreen Warriner did receive an OBE for her work on behalf of the Czechoslovakian refugees. It is impossible to quantify the number of lives she directly saved, but the figure certainly runs into the thousands and includes many adults as well as children. Before WW2 she studied at Malvern and Oxford, had an accomplished career in academia and died in 1972.
Trevor Chadwick worked closely with Nicholas Winton, giving up his job as a school teacher in Swanage to run the Prague end of the Czech Kindertransport operation. In dealing with all the considerable problems there he put himself at some personal risk through direct contact with the German authorities including the Gestapo. He died in 1979 in relative obscurity without ever having received any formal recognition for his work on behalf of the Prague refugees.
Truus Wijsmuller-Meijer was involved in the Kindertransport movement from the start. She negotiated with Eichmann who unexpectedly gave her permission to transport 600 children out of Vienna on an unfeasibly tight timescale, in a clear attempt to overload her. She managed. Later when the Netherlands was overrun she went to Amsterdam and evacuated 40 children from a Jewish orphanage, collecting another 33 from the burning streets en route to the port. She put them on the SS ‘Bodegraven’ which was the last ship out of port and was raked with gunfire by a Luftwaffe plane whilst still in Dutch waters, despite the decks being crowded with children. The ship eventually docked at Liverpool on 19th May 1940 and you can read the full story… here… It surely deserves wider public recognition in the UK.