Cyclists to retrace route of Kindertransport that saved 10,000 from Holocaust

Eighty years after the Kindertransport rescued 10,000 children from Nazi Europe, a group will re-trace their journey on a commemorative cycle ride.

The Kindertransport was organised immediately after the anti-Jewish violence of Kristallnacht, often referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, in Germany in November 1938.

An evacuation of mostly Jewish children to Britain began, with the UK government waiving the need for visas and agencies including World Jewish Relief helping to bring trainloads of children across.

Paul Alexander, who was rescued by the Kindertransport, pictured on his first birthday. (World Jewish Relief/ PA)
Paul Alexander, who was rescued by the Kindertransport, pictured on his first birthday (World Jewish Relief/ PA)

The first children arrived in Harwich, Essex, in December 1938 and the effort continued until war broke out nine months later.

A group of 42 cyclists will retrace the route of the first journey from Berlin and the Hook of Holland, taking a ferry to Harwich before arriving at London Liverpool Street.

They will start their journey of around 600 miles at Frank Meisler's Kindertransport statue, outside Berlin's Friedrichstrasse Station, on Sunday.

It is expected to take six days.

Paul Alexander, who now lives in Israel, is taking part in the commemorative cycle ride to mark 80 years since the Kindertransport. (World Jewish Relief/ PA)
Paul Alexander, who now lives in Israel, is taking part in the commemorative cycle ride to mark 80 years since the Kindertransport (World Jewish Relief/ PA)

Most of the group will be descendants of people rescued by the Kindertransport, but one experienced the journey first-hand.

Paul Alexander, 80, was just 19 months old when his mother bravely handed her only child to a British volunteer nurse and waved goodbye at a railway station.

He said he arrived in England just six weeks before the outbreak of World War Two and that it must have been a difficult decision for his mother, who had lost two previous children in childbirth.

Documents that belonged to Paul Alexander's father. (World Jewish Relief/ PA)
Documents that belonged to Paul Alexander's father (World Jewish Relief/ PA)

"She must have heard about it (the Kindertransport) not long after Kristallnacht, but must have hesitated as I was an only child," said Mr Alexander.

"She feared sending her only son, but when the black clouds came over she said 'I've got to save him'."

Mr Alexander said he had no recollection of the journey, and his first memories were of being in the London Underground during bombing.

His father was released from Buchenwald detention camp near Weimar on condition that he left the country, and his mother managed to escape to Britain days before the outbreak of war.

Mr Alexander said the three of them were reunited when he was aged four or five, but he knew he was one of the lucky ones.

He said more than half of children on the Kindertransport did not see their parents again.

"Looking back I've always said I was a lucky guy," he said. "I'm not a Holocaust survivor.

"I was saved from the Holocaust, sent to a lovely country where I grew up, integrated into British life and I'm a lucky guy.

"I look back on Kindertransport not as a traumatic experience, but as a lucky break."

Watch the start of the #Berlin2London#Kindertransport80cycle LIVE from Berlin, one week today on our Facebook page:

-- World Jewish Relief (@WJRelief) June 10, 2018

Mr Alexander qualified as a solicitor in London aged 24 and moved to Israel, where he still lives, in the 1970s after meeting his wife.

He said the commemorative ride would be a "very poignant and meaningful experience" for him.

It would also be a tribute to his parents who "took this courageous step in sending me away alone", and a thank you to the agencies who made the Kindertransport possible.

"I look at it today as about tracing my steps again, as a victory ride for me," he said.

Rafi Cooper, of World Jewish Relief, said: "We have organised this ride as a tribute to the amazing life-saving work of our predecessors and to the people who they saved.

"Tens of thousands of people would not be alive today were it not for their heroism."

The cyclists are aiming to raise more than £100,000 to support World Jewish Relief's work with people living in poverty around the globe.

Read Full Story