Remembering the Kindertransport

In the tumultuous final days before World War II, Quakers were among many who rescued almost 10,000 children from German-controlled Europe. Quakers' pivotal role was acknowledged this week when the Kindertransport was commemorated.

bronze statue 4 children small suitcases
Monument to the "Children of the Kindertransport", dedicated by the Association of Jewish Refugees. Image: Uwe Aranas /

The poignant event, run by The Association of Jewish Refugees, brought together “Kinder, refugees and host families". It featured David Attenborough whose parents welcomed two girls from the Kindertransport, saying “we're all family now". They remained life-long friends.

He warned that the atrocity of unimaginable scale must never be forgotten. “The possibilities of good and evil are in us all," he said. But he had a message of hope. “We all have good intentions and they can be warped and they can be suppressed but in the end they are more powerful."

Esther Rantzen praised those parents who hosted children and praised the courage of parents who entrusted their children to the Kindertransport. Many of these parents perished in the mass persecution.

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We all have good intentions and they can be warped and they can be suppressed but in the end they are more powerful.

- David Attenborough


Marigold Bentley, who is Head of Peace Programmes and Faith Relations for Quakers in Britain, explained why Britain was one of the few countries who took in the child refugees. “Quakers played a pivotal part of the Kindertransport from 1938 to 1939 because of a powerful combination of individuals with a strong moral compass working together collectively to focus on relief and saving lives. This, coupled with tenacious networking with decision-makers across faith and politics forced the door to be open to children in need. It wasn't perfect but times were desperate."

“It was a humbling experience for me to be asked to contribute to such an event, particularly alongside such people as David Attenborough and Alf Dubs. They have been so constructive in their own lives and continue to inspire us with their personal stories. The Association for Jewish Refugees (AJR) were keen to have the Quaker aspect of Kindertransport represented at their event so I stepped up. So much more could have been said of course. We can read up about our Quaker history in order to learn and apply the lessons to our work in peace and service today."

Read about Quakers and the Kindertransport