Res­cu­ing the Chil­dren: The Sto­ry of the Kindertransport

Deb­o­rah Hodge
  • Review
By – December 18, 2012

The ways in which lit­er­a­ture can be used by par­ents and edu­ca­tors to engage young read­ers in a con­ver­sa­tion about the Holo­caust are demon­strat­ed in two recent­ly pub­lished books. Res­cu­ing the Chil­dren: The Sto­ry of the Kinder­transport by Deb­o­rah Hodge and Hana’s Suit­case: Anniver­sary Album by Karen Levine invite the read­er to exam­ine not only how the Holo­caust impact­ed chil­dren at the time at which it was occur­ring, but also how its lega­cy has impact­ed the lives of chil­dren who are con­tin­u­ing to learn about the cru­el­ties of World War II today.

As the title sug­gests, Res­cu­ing the Chil­dren exam­ines the expe­ri­ences of chil­dren dur­ing the Kinder­trans­port; notably, it also includes the reflec­tions of eight elder­ly indi­vid­u­als decades after the war. Sim­i­lar­ly, the Anniver­sary Album exam­ines the life of Hana Brady as well as the expe­ri­ences of chil­dren who have learned about her lega­cy decades after her death. With their lay­ered perspec­tives, Res­cu­ing the Chil­dren and the Anniver­sary Album will make valu­able and affect­ing con­tri­bu­tions to per­son­al and edu­ca­tion­al col­lec­tions of children’s books about the Holocaust.

Res­cu­ing the Chil­dren opens with a Fore­ward by Irene N. Watts in which she describes her mem­o­ries of what it was like to be a part of the Kinder­trans­port. Watts shares her child­hood con­fu­sion about Nazi restric­tions on Jew­ish cit­i­zens, the fear she felt as Hitler’s poli­cies touched her fam­i­ly, and her lack of under­stand­ing about the impli­ca­tions of what it meant to leave her home for Eng­land at the age of sev­en. It is notable that, although the arc of Watts’ sto­ry is echoed in the life sto­ries of many of the eight chil­dren who are pro­filed in Res­cu­ing the Chil­dren, Hodge empha­sizes how these chil­dren and their fam­i­lies expe­ri­enced the Kinder­trans­port and its after­math in dif­fer­ent ways. In order to allow the read­er to engage with the nuances of each sto­ry, Hodge includes child­hood pho­tographs of each of the pro­filed indi­vid­u­als and inter­spers­es quo­ta­tions by each indi­vid­ual through­out the text. In addi­tion, by includ­ing sec­tions that pro­vide an overview of key issues relat­ed to the Kinder­trans­port, she sit­u­ates the per­son­al sto­ries that she pro­files in a wider his­torical con­text. As the dust jack­et describes, the book also con­tains archival pho­tographs and art that was cre­at­ed by chil­dren who were a part of the Kinder­transport. Paint­ings and draw­ings by Hans Jack­son and squares from a quilt depict­ing scenes relat­ed to the trans­port are includ­ed in the book as well. 

Hodge’s com­bi­na­tion of writ­ten and visu­al ele­ments will allow par­ents, edu­ca­tors, and young read­ers to enter into inter­est­ing dis­cus­sions about the dif­fer­ent ways in which sto­ries about the Kinder­trans­port have been rep­resented and pre­served. In addi­tion, to allow for fur­ther explo­rations of its sub­ject mat­ter, Res­cu­ing the Chil­dren ends with an exam­i­na­tion of how the Kinder­trans­port has been memo­ri­al­ized, a glos­sary of Words to Know,” a Map of the Route of the Kinder­trans­port,” a detailed Time­line” of events, and a Note to Par­ents and Teach­ers,” which includes a list of resources for both chil­dren and adults. Per­haps the most strik­ing aspect of the book, how­ev­er, is the sec­tion in which the eight pro­filed chil­dren are pre­sent­ed in lat­er life. See­ing chil­dren who were part of the Kinder­trans­port as senior cit­i­zens will hope­ful­ly encour­age young read­ers to lis­ten atten­tive­ly to the elder­ly indi­vid­u­als in their own lives who expe­ri­enced the war. In turn, the pro­filed indi­vid­u­als’ reflec­tions on what it must have been like for their par­ents to choose to send their chil­dren on the Kinder­trans­port will cause par­ents to pause and reflect as well.

Hana’s Suit­case first aired as a Cana­dian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (CBC) radio doc­u­men­tary in 2001 and was pub­lished in book form in 2002. Notably, Hana’s Suit­case: Anniver­sary Album con­tains the orig­i­nal text, in which Levine lay­ers the sto­ries of Hana Brady, a young girl from Nové Měs­ta na Moravě, Czecho­slo­va­kia, who was tak­en to There­sien­stadt in 1942 and per­ished in Auschwitz two years lat­er at the age of thir­teen, and Fumiko Ish­io­ka, an edu­ca­tor at the Tokyo Holo­caust Cen­ter, who uncov­ered Hana’s sto­ry at the turn of the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry. How­ev­er, this updat­ed edi­tion also con­tains a pletho­ra of sup­ple­men­tary mate­r­i­al in­cluding a Fore­word by Arch­bish­op Emer­i­tus Desmond Tutu, an account by Karen Levine enti­tled A Remark­able Decade” in which she dis­cuss­es the process of pre­serv­ing Hana’s sto­ry in book form, reflec­tions by Fumiko Ish­io­ka and Hana’s broth­er George Brady on the impact of Hana’s sto­ry, a sec­tion enti­tled Before the Suit­case: Mem­o­ries of Hana,” in which indi­vid­u­als from Nové Měs­ta na Moravě describe their mem­o­ries of the Brady fam­i­ly before the war, and a sec­tion that con­tains let­ters from read­ers. The book also includes infor­ma­tion on trans­la­tions of Hana’s Suit­case, as well as infor­ma­tion on a play, two doc­u­men­taries, and a film about Hana that have been cre­at­ed since 2001. In addi­tion, it con­tains a vari­ety of sec­tions that doc­u­ment book’s edu­ca­tion­al role and impact. The sec­tion Things You Can Do,” which is sim­i­lar to the Note to Par­ents and Teach­ers” in Res­cu­ing the Chil­dren, includes sug­ges­tions and resources for read­ers about how young read­ers can engage with Hana’s sto­ry. Oth­er sec­tions that include children’s artis­tic respons­es to learn­ing about Hana may inspire read­ers to cre­ate artis­tic respons­es of their own as well. (The inclu­sion of this mate­r­i­al is espe­cial­ly poignant since draw­ings that were cre­at­ed by Hana in There­sien­stadt are also includ­ed in the book.) Final­ly, the Anniver­sary Album includes a CD of Karen Levine’s orig­i­nal CBC doc­u­men­tary, which will allow young read­ers, par­ents, and educa­tors to engage with Hana’s sto­ry in dif­fer­ent forms. As this var­ied mate­r­i­al demon­strates, and as is not­ed in the Wel­come to the Album” and else­where in the book, the Anniver­sary Album is an impor­tant record of the last­ing impact that Hana’s sto­ry has had on chil­dren in an interna­tional context.

Res­cu­ing the Chil­dren: The Sto­ry of the Kinder­transport and Hana’s Suit­case: Anniver­sary Album pre­serve children’s wartime sto­ries for future gen­er­a­tions, while chal­leng­ing young read­ers to reflect upon their own per­cep­tions of learn­ing about the Holo­caust and encour­ag­ing intergenera­tional dia­logues about the impacts of war. Through their form and con­tent, these works cre­ate an impor­tant link between the past and the present that will allow anoth­er gen­er­a­tion of young read­ers to begin to under­stand both the ongo­ing effects of the Holo­caust and the scope of what was lost.

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