Lecture meeting on 13th June 2022

The Kindertransport

Talk by: Dr Andrea Hammel

In the UK the Kindertransport – the flight of around 10,000 underage refugees from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland between December 1938 and September 1939 – is a treasured national story. The Kindertransport is celebrated as a successful rescue mission by politicians, fêted as a humanitarian example in the media, and is the subject of a never-ending series of memorials, school projects, plays, books and films. The role of the UK is remembered as that of the rescuer, and often this role is personified by the figure of Nicholas Winton (1909-2015), who, as a young man, assisted with the flight of 669 children from Czechoslovakia. Winton was honoured with a knighthood in the UK, a stamp in the Czech Republic, and internationally in 2020 with a Google doodle. Furthermore, the Labour Peer Lord Alf Dubs who arrived in the UK on a Kindertransport aged six uses a celebratory narrative of his early life to support his lobbying work for contemporary child refugees, keeping the story in the public eye.

In this talk I will be tackling the myths that have grown up around the Kindertransport. I will tell the history of the Kindertransport from new angles by using hitherto unexplored archival sources to tell the stories of some of the people involved in and rescued by the process. It will question the dominant celebratory and simplistic narratives that have surrounded the history of the Kindertransport and its influence on more recent debates regarding Britain’s refugee policy.

Watch on Zoom

Members unable to attend the meeting in person can watch the meeting as it takes place using Zoom. Details for joining the meeting using Zoom will be emailed to all members for whom we have an email address a day or two before the meeting.

Speaker biography

Andrea Hammel is Reader in German at Aberystwyth University. She has researched refugees from National Socialism who made the UK their home for nearly thirty years.

The Kindertransport 1938/39 is a special focus of her work and she is writing a book with the working title “The Kindertransport: What really happened” for Polity Press to be published in Autumn 2023. Currently she is also heading a project on Refugees from National Socialism in Wales in conjuction with the Imperial War Museum London and funded by the National Lottery. The website for this project is: wp-research.aber.ac.uk/nsrefugeeswales/

My work has also been presented to the Welsh Governments Taskforce on Asylum Seekers and Refugees. The report on the learning from the history of child refugees on future policy is online: ACEs and the Child Refugees of the 1930s in the UK: History Informing the Future by ACESupportHub – Issuu

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