World Jewish Relief, under our former name The Central British Fund for German Jewry (CBF), were instrumental in making the Kindertransport happen.
Immediately after Kristallnacht, CBF founders Lionel De Rothschild and Chaim Weizmann, together with a small delegation of prominent British Jews met with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to appeal for his help in rescuing children from the Nazis by bringing them to Britain. They proposed providing financial support, education and training and asked that the need for German travel documents and British visas be waived in order to expedite the mission.
Chamberlain wasn’t keen initially. However, his Home Secretary, Sir Samuel Hoare raised it in Cabinet a few days later where Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary, backed it, believing this positive action could bring America on board as allies against the Nazis. On 21 November the matter was raised in Parliament and an agreement passed for an unlimited number of child refugees to be given temporary refuge in Britain as long as there was no recourse to public funds. A special travel permit would be issued to eliminate the the need for formal documents.
With funding from the CBF; the Children’s Inter-Aid Committee and The Society of Friends (Quakers) swung into action and less than two weeks later the first trainload of 200 children arrived. The organisations now banded together to become the ‘Movement for the Care of Children from Germany’ (MCCG) overseeing the rescue effort. The Jewish Refugee Committee, a branch of the CBF, were to take children over the age of 16 and help them gain training and employment whilst the MCCG placed younger children with families. Between December 1938 and September 1939 10,000 children were brought to safety.
After the war, the MCCG was absorbed into the Jewish Refugee Committee who took care of any ongoing welfare needs of the Kindertransport children.
World Jewish Relief has digitised our historic archives from this period including thousands of individual case files for the children. The Kindertransport records detail the support we gave, from medical help to repairing shoes or providing cinema tickets, and outlines help provided with education, training and employment as well as ensuring the children received adequate religious education.
We are now returning case files to survivors and their families:
Read some of the incredible stories of the children who were saved by the Kindertransport.