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Nov 2003 Journal

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Kindertransport statue commemorates pre-war arrival at Liverpool Street Station

Children of the Kindertransport who, as predominantly Jewish refugee children, travelled by train to London's Liverpool Street Station in 1938 and 1939, gathered once again at this main railway terminus to unveil a statue dedicated to perpetuating the memory of their first arrival.

Some 65 years after the event, the rescuer of several hundred Czech Kinder, Sir Nicholas Winton, now in his 94th year, unveiled a plaque expressing gratitude to the people of the United Kingdom for offering a home, thereby saving the lives of 10,000 children whose parents desperately wanted to protect them from Nazi persecution in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. Two of those rescued Kinder, Harry Heber and Erich Reich, assisted Sir Nicholas in unveiling the bronze statue of a child refugee standing next to a giant transparent case containing some of the precious few items of clothing, toys, family photographs and other memorabilia which the children were permitted to bring with them.

The Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, complimented Britain on having opened its doors to the children and paid tribute to the Central British Fund (now WJR), Sir Nicholas Winton, the Quakers and many others who had organised the rescue; the statue would remain an inspiration to the children of the future. The Home Secretary, the Rt Hon David Blunkett MP, spoke of the Kindertransport as demonstrating the nation's willingness to reach out, to embrace its duty and responsibility for helping others. The founder of the Reunion of Kindertransport (now KT-AJR), Bertha Leverton, who responded on behalf of the more than 200 Kinder present on the station forecourt, recalled her own arrival at the station as a child of 15 with no parents, no command of the English language, no home and no destination. Among the distinguished gathering, which took place under a warm autumnal sun and clear blue skies, were the ambassadors of Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Israel, and Lords Janner, Aldington and Kindertransportee Lord Dubs. In commemoration of the Kindertransport, it was announced by WJR Chairman Nigel Layton that the station forecourt would henceforth be named 'Children's Square'.

At a reception hosted by Bloomberg LP, Dr Alexander Christiani, the Austrian Ambassador, Professor Jack Lohman, Director of the Museum of London, which is to take ownership of the statue, and Flor Kent, the sculptor, were invited to address the gathering by WJR's Vice Chairman, Linda Rosenblatt. Hermann Hirschberger, the Chairman of KT-AJR (Kindertransport), summed up the mixed emotions of the participating Kinder and expressed their appreciation for the creation of this permanent monument.

The Association of Jewish Refugees was among the first generously to support the project and contributed to the organisation of the historic commemoration ceremony. The project was conceived and brought to fruition by World Jewish Relief, established in 1933 as the Central British Fund, which found sponsors and homes for the children and took the leading role in their rescue.
Ronald Channing

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