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Kindertransport Survey

Kindertransport Survey completed
‘Making New Lives in Britain’

A unique survey entitled "Making New Lives in Britain" has recorded the Continental background, journey to Britain, reception and subsequent experiences and lives of a strongly representative sample of the almost 10,000, predominantly Jewish children of the Kindertransport. This is now published in the form of a statistical database. The plan for the survey was conceived by leading members of the AJR's KT special interest group and the project was led by Hermann Hirschberger, former chairman of the Group.

To access the database please ► click here (please note that in order to view the database, you must have the Microsoft programme Excel or another spreadsheet programme allowing Excel to be opened on your computer). Please click the back button to return to this page when you have finished viewing the database.

Please send us your comments and any feedback on possible errors, before the end of November 2009, after which the database will be made generally available to historians, research students, libraries and seats of learning. See notes below.

Former ‘Kinder’ who are AJR members, and as many as possible of those who are unaffiliated, were sent a Questionnaire, the answers to which form the basis of an archive of inestimable value to historians and scholars. 1,500 main questionnaires together with a supplementary questionnaire, providing basic details of Kinder now deceased, were sent out. In a fantastic response 1,025 main forms and 343 supplementary forms were returned.

The dramatic rescue of children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia involved unimaginable parental sacrifice. It brought these unaccompanied children across Europe and the Channel by train and boat to security in Britain between December 1938 and the outbreak of war in September 1939.

As Bertha Leverton MBE, founder and organiser of the original Reunion of Kindertransport in 1988, pointed out, ‘It is hard to credit that before 1988 hardly anyone had heard of, or was the least bit interested in, the Kindertransport. Yet today … we are researched, filmed, written about and recognised as part of British history.’

Although many memoirs have been published, no comprehensive historical study, archival record, or data survey of the Kindertransport has previously been available. A question which began in 2005 as an investigation into hostels in which many of the children were housed on their arrival in Britain, was comprehensively expanded into an investigation based on an initial draft questionnaire. Bertha Leverton, Ronald Channing formerly of the AJR, with a social science background and Hermann Hirschberger, KT–AJR Chairman and a retired chartered engineer, refined the contents over several months. The AJR funded the legal advice necessary to meet the requirements of the Data Protection Act, as well as the cost of printing all the questionnaires and the postage for home and abroad. The AJR also funded the creation of the database.

The survey was sent to 1,500 known Kinder in the UK, USA, Israel and Continental Europe. If there are Kinder who have not participated in the survey so far, we would be grateful if you would write to us with contact details. Please direct requests for Questionnaires, and/or any other enquiries in the first instance to Andrea Goodmaker, Kindertransport Survey, AJR, Jubilee House, Merrion Avenue, Stanmore. Middlesex HA7 4RL, England, tel 020 8385 3070, fax 020 8385 3080, email andrea@ajr.org.uk

Any such late responses will possibly be able to be added to the survey at some future date when further editing takes place. Andrea is in a position to establish whether a questionnaire has already been returned by or on behalf of a named Kindertransportee.

We hope you will find the database interesting. It is the first time, to our knowledge, that a statistical database with so much detail of what is now an important part of UK history and holocaust knowledge has been attempted.

Kindertransportees Survey Results

1. Origin and nature of the information

     a. The project

  • The ambitious project to create an archive and database of the Kindertransportees' experience was started in 2007 with hope and concluded with fulfilment in 2008. We have now, for the first time in the 70 years which have transpired since our safe arrival to these shores, a statistical record of historical magnitude, which answers many questions. It was just about the last opportunity to undertake this task, considering the age and life expectancy of the majority of Kindertransport survivors.
  • Knowing as we now do the average age of arrival of our members, we also know that most of us were 80 in 2007 when we ran the survey. Thus we were dealing with recollections and memories of that vintage, and had to consider this in the design and layout of our main questionnaire. It was thus going to be a poll from octogenarians. We assembled a series of questions to tell us where the respondents came from, what type of home they had, education and family, how they came to the UK, where they arrived physically and environmentally, whether private home, school, hostel etc., who was responsible for their keep, did they arrive with siblings, how their future developed, what was the fate of their parents, and to indicate their ultimate achievements and life.
  • We now have an important database and archive, a unique and informative set of statistics for historians and scholars to use. It is an invaluable record of much factual knowledge of what was an extraordinary act of rescue all those years ago.

      b. Funding

  • The funding of the essential expenses required for the project -- printing the paper work, postage, help with the mail shot, and creating the database -- was provided by The Trustees of the AJR Charitable Trust.
  • Much of the work was done by members of the KT Committee, volunteers and employees of the AJR but most important, all the ex Kinder, who so diligently filled in the complicated forms, which really made the survey. 

2. What the survey results show

The following displays a few examples of the analytical output from the database. We fully expect that those interested will carry out their own analyses in the Excel spreadsheet of the database.

     a. Nationality

  • originally most Kinder were German (% of those answering the question) - click here to see graph (Please click the back button to return to this page when you have finished viewing the graph).
  • 66% of those answering the question took British nationality

     b. Town of origin of respondents. Germans tended to come from towns other than the capital:

From Berlin 16.5% of sample
From Vienna 25.1% of sample
Total of the two towns 41.6% of sample

     c. Religious affiliation may have been affected by their experience

Father’s affiliation Orthodox, 30% of sample
Respondent’s current affiliation Orthodox 19% of sample

     d. Age on arrival & gender - there were more girl Kinder and they were younger

  • Boys 43.6% of total - median age = 12.5 yrs, mean = 11.9 yrs
  • Girls 56.4% of total - median age = 12 yrs, mean = 11.5 yrs - click here to see graph (Please click the back button to return to this page when you have finished viewing the graph).

     e. Kinder frequently arrived with siblings

  • 31% of the sample arrived with one or more siblings (most frequently with just one). Of these, 36% were separated from their siblings on arrival

     f. War-time experience – Kinder shared the war of all others in the UK

  • Evacuated during the war 38% of sample
  • Internment in 1940 10% of sample
  • Number in uniformed services 29% of sample. Of which 60% were at some time posted abroad

     g. Education – Kinder were often highly educated.

  • Attained university degrees 16% of sample
  • Achieved some sort of higher education 22% of sample. However, because of lack of funding, many had to go to evening classes after work to go beyond elementary education.

     h. Family outcomes were often very painful, but largely appear not to have impeded a degree of later normality:

  • 54% of Kinder parents were believed to have been killed
  • 41% of Kinder never saw both their parents again. It is one of the most satisfactory and pleasant statistics of the whole survey to learn that the belief, held for decades, that 90% of the rescued children never saw one of their parents again, seems quite incorrect. The realistic case is that about 60% suffered this terrible fate. Certainly bad enough, but not what was feared.
  • 63% found other relatives after the war
  • 94% married
  • 84% had children
  • 81% have told their children or grandchildren of their own early life

3. The sample

     a. The KT Committee, where the survey strategy was decided, had the name and address of some 800 ex-Kinder in the UK and Europe, about 200 in Israel, and approximately 400 in the USA and worldwide locations, and another 100 from other sources, a total of 1500. Added to this was the unhappy knowledge that many were no longer with us, having made the transition to Olam Haba. We therefore designed a supplementary questionnaire for the respondent to fill in with knowledge about departed friends and relations.

     b. At the beginning of 2007 we sent out some 1,500 packages of questionnaires, with the help of the Israeli KT organisation, who did the necessary there.

     c. The replies first came slowly, then accelerated, and after three months, and to our great joy, we had 1,025 returned Main Questionnaires, and 343 Supplementary Questionnaires. This 70% response rate was an exceptional success, for which we want to express our sincere thanks and appreciation to all participants. Without their contribution, there would not have been either a database or an archive.

     d. The total number of Kinder documented (at least in part) by this survey represents some 14% of all beneficiaries of the Kindertransport:

  • 1,025 Kindertransportees completed questionnaires about themselves. This represents approximately 11% of the some 9,500 Kindertransportees rescued.
  • Of the 343 supplementary questionnaires, 71 provided little or nothing more than the name of a Kind, but some 260 supplementary questionnaires were completed to some degree on behalf of now deceased Kindertransportees.

     e. It cannot however be maintained that our sample is adequately representative, however big it is, as we simply mailed all the Kindertransportees that we could, without any attempt at structuring the sample. For example, we do not know whether we have the same percentage of original Kindertransportee girls as boys or Berliners as Viennese or Orthodox as Reform Jews.

     f. Questionnaires have continued to be returned since we stopped entering the data into the database. This information will not be lost, and may eventually be added to the database.

4. The creation of the questionnaires

     a. We made many attempts to finalise the questionnaire, getting advice from IT experts and spending much time to arrive at a result that was both octogenarian-friendly and computer-friendly. In retrospect, we could have been more octogenarian-friendly!

     b. For reasons of Data Protection, we separated the personal details of each respondent, so that the database contains all information other than name and contact details of the respondent. The publicly omitted information is retained by the AJR.

     c. The questionnaires used can be seen by clicking on the links here:

5. The creation of the database, and its further development

     a. Much work has been done to ensure the integrity of the completed database.

  • Kindertransportees and other German speakers have copy-checked the data entry exhaustively
  • Duplications have to a great extent been removed from the Main questionnaires, glaring errors corrected, spellings checked, locations rationalised, and the data base made more user-friendly.
  • Often this has required interpreting difficult handwriting or unifying spelling of place names. But such potential distortions of the original answers are contained in the database alone, the original questionnaires remaining as completed and available for viewing in their scanned form.  

     b. This does not mean that all the obscure villages and hamlets in Germany and Austria from which respondents originate, are without spelling error. Nor that all mistakes in answering in the wrong column have been spotted. However the data is in much better shape than before.

6. Preserving the survey forms

     a. The scanning to digital file of all the forms we received, both the Main forms as well as the Supplementary ones, has been completed in order to preserve this material. The scanning covered all aspects of the survey, every page, including all the anecdotal additions supplied by well over half the respondents.

     b. This mammoth task, involving approximately 12,000 pages was generously completed, totally free of charge, by a specialist document management and invoice scanning company, Rolace of Milton Keynes, Bucks. 

     c. The original forms are now safely stored at the Wiener Library, and maintained for posterity, whilst the scanned records will be kept by the AJR and KT/AJR, with every word preserved. 

7. Access to a copy of the database and errors

     a. Access to the database is available to download by any Kindertransportee who participated in the survey, that is anyone who filled in a main questionnaire and/or a supplementary one. The database is also available to any historian or student of history, any one conducting research and who has a serious interest in the subject. 

To access the database please ► click here (please note that in order to view the database, you must have the Microsoft programme Excel or another spreadsheet programme allowing Excel to be opened on your computer). Please click the back button to return to this when page you have finished viewing the database.

     b. Errors - notes for Kinder: Although your identity has been concealed, finding your own contribution is quite easy, if you look at town of origin, then date of birth, then date of arrival, etc. The only condition is that your computer is running Microsoft Excel, and you know how to use this software.   

If you find any error in the database entry of your own data, please let us know, so that we can correct this at some convenient future date. Please email Hermann Hirschberger, hermann at tiscali.co.uk or Tom Heinersdorff, tom.heinersdorff at btinternet.com (@ replaced by “ at “ to prevent unwanted mail). Please also let us know if there are Kinder who have not yet completed a questionnaire.

8. Future plans

     a. Further work on the ancillary anecdotal information, sent with the questionnaires is being carried out, with the objective of making this material searchable. This will take time and cost money, but will reveal much more of the story of those days, now many years ago, for the benefit of historical knowledge.

     b. When funds or donor generosity permit, we hope to make available a version of the database that can be queried and analysed online. 

9. Thanks and acknowledgements

     a. Hermann Hirschberger, who led the team, wishes to acknowledge in particular the following:
 
• Bertha Leverton, who drafted the first attempt of the successful questionnaire,
• Ronald Channing who gave unstinting support throughout the whole progress of the project,
• Frances Williams, a PhD student at Edinburgh University, who was engaged in creating and completing the digitising of the database,
• Kurt Taussig who spent many, many hours in editing the database
• Tom Heinersdorff for all his help and computer expertise and for his unstinting efforts and many hours of devotion generously given.
• the AJR Trustees for granting the necessary funding
• all others who helped in supporting the successful outcome of the archive

Most importantly, we would like to thank all the ex Kinder, who so diligently filled in the complicated forms, which really made the survey. 

     b. The enormous task of scanning 12,000 pages of original survey forms and ancillary material we received was most generously donated by a specialist document management company, Rolace of Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. We would like to express our particular gratitude to Carole Lancaster, Managing Director of Rolace, and Karen Puryer, the Production Manager, because they recognized the importance of the historic event of the Kindertransport and the saving of our lives, and of preserving the record of the contribution we have made to our society. Rolace paid special attention to the data protection issues and to document assembly, so that the digital versions protect the identity of survey respondents and the originals were correctly reassembled. We elected not to take advantage of Rolace's Secure Document Shredding service, because of the historic relevance of the originals.

We hope you will find the database interesting. It is the first time, to our knowledge, that a statistical database with so much detail of what is now an important part of UK history and Holocaust knowledge has been attempted.