By a strange irony of history, hundreds of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries have tried desperately, in recent years, to get into Germany. This is a huge change from the 1930s, when people were trying just as desperately to escape from Germany, where the Nazis were in power and especially the Jews were in grave danger.
Throughout the 1930s most countries, including Britain, made it hard for Jewish immigrants to get visas, effectively refusing to let most of them into the country. It wasn’t until 1938 that the British government finally agreed to an emergency rescue operation in which some ten thousand children, mainly Jewish, were transported to Britain on trains and ferries from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. None of these children were accompanied by their parents. A few were babies carried by older children. This rescue operation, which lasted less than a year, is still known by its German name Kindertransport.
One of the rescued children was a thirteen-year-old boy named Frank Meisler (1925-2018), a German Jew from Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland). With fourteen other children, he first traveled to Berlin, where they joined a larger group that was taken to London and finally arrived at Liverpool Street Station.
Later he studied architecture in England and eventually moved to Israel, where he became a famous and prolific sculptor.
Six and a half decades after his arrival at Liverpool Street Station, Frank Meisler was commissioned to make a sculpture commemorating the arrival of the Kindertransport children. The resulting monument was unveiled by Prince Charles in 2006 and can now be seen at the south entrance to the station on Liverpool Street, in a space now labeled as Hope Square.
As you can see, Hope Square is a very busy station entrance with modern travelers checking their smart phones and a 24-hour fast food joint in the background. The sculptor was actually quite happy about this setting. He was quoted by The Jewish Chronicle Online as saying: “What I wanted to do was reconstruct in a railway station, where people are rushing to and fro all the time and have no time for anything except their agenda — a picture of what it was like for a group of children to come out from wherever they came and just confront a moment of transition. We arrived on the train as children. When we stepped out we were adults, because we had then been handed the responsibility for our own lives.”
Frank Meisler also created three more sculptures about the Kindertransport, which are on display in other cities: Trains to Life, Trains to Death in Berlin, The Departure in Gdansk and Crossing to Life at the Hook of Holland, in the Netherlands.
My photos in this post are from 2015. I revised the text in 2018.
See also: my Berlin post on the Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe
(scroll down for the sculpture Trains to Life, Trains to Death by Frank Meisler).