Holocaust Remembrance Day 2022
As we remember and reflect on the Holocaust and the millions of individuals who lost their homes, families, and lives, it is also vital to remember and reflect on the child refugees of war, especially in these times.
The current war in Ukraine can serve as a reminder of darker times in Europe as the UN Children’s Fund reports that in the month since Russia invaded Ukraine, 4.3 million children have been displaced, accounting for more than half of the country's approximate 7.5 million child population. As UNICEF chief Catherine Russell claimed, “The war has caused one of the fastest large-scale displacements of children since World War Two”.
During World War II, up to 65 million people were displaced from their homes in Europe alone and an estimated 13 million children had lost one or both parents in the war. It is estimated that 1.5 million Jewish children were killed by the hands of the Nazis, and hundreds of thousands of Jewish children were forcibly displaced. Jewish Children were particularly vulnerable during the Holocaust due to the simple fact that they had no value to the Nazis, and they were sent to their deaths without hesitation. However, some children managed to live despite their acute vulnerability. For many of them, being relocated by humanitarian aid, sanctuaries, or heroic rescuers was the deciding factor in their survival.
The Kindertransport (“Children Transport”) was a rescue effort between 1938 and 1940 that brought thousands of Jewish refugee children from Nazi Germany and German-occupied territories to safety in Great Britain. The rescue effort was conducted by organizations and individuals in various countries and saved around ten thousand children under the age of 17.
The book by Dr. Hanna Seligmann Prokocimer, named ‘The castle that saved lives: the extraordinary story of the rescue and shelter of two hundred Kindertransport children in a 19th century castle in North Wales’ shares documents and pictures shading light on the stories of two hundred Jewish refugee children who found shelter in Gwrych Castle in North Wales, UK. Gwrych Castle was one of the several educational and agricultural training centers established in the UK by the Youth Aliya.
The Youth Aliya Movement was one of the several organizations that collaborated in implementing the Kindertransport rescue plan into action. The organization succeeded in sending thousands of Jewish children and youth to Palestine during and after the war, as well as building up reception camps and training centers for their stay.
The children, who had been traumatized by Nazi persecution and humiliation, the Kristallnacht pogrom, forced separation from parents and family, and forced exile and displacement in a foreign country, were in desperate need of physical, emotional, and spiritual support. They had to adapt to a different culture and reconcile their old and new identities.
The caregivers of these children included social workers, educators, and physicians, who worked collectively for and with the children to enable them a safe, creative, and meaningful everyday life.
The Kindertransport rescue mission can serve as a beacon of hope in these dark times. It shows that humanity can mitigate the effects of war through organizations and individuals willing to help and make a difference.
The book by Dr. Hanna Seligmann Prokocimer on the Kindertransport is part of a Holocaust Remembrance Exhibition at the Wiener Library this month. It can be viewed in a Pdf form here
 One month of war leaves more than half of Ukraine’s children displaced. (2022, March 28). UN News. https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/03/1114592
 Zahra, T. (2015). The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe’s Families after World War II (Harvard University Press).
 Children during the Holocaust. (2021). Holocaust Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/children-during-the-holocaust
 Seligmann-Prokocimer, & Seligmann-Prokocimer, Hanna. (2021). The castle that saved lives: the extraordinary story of the rescue and shelter of two hundred Kindertransport children in a 19th-century castle in North Wales (Translated and annotated edition.). publisher not identified.