Harwich, September 1, 2022 – The Harwich Kindertransport Memorial and Learning Trust unveiled a statue in the Essex port town of Harwich to commemorate the Kindertransport – the humanitarian rescue mission that saved approximately 10,000 children by sending them from Nazi occupied Europe to safety in Britain. The new memorial highlights that it was at Harwich, beginning on 2 December 1938 and continuing until the outbreak of war, that those children first set foot on British soil. Some continued their journey to London, while others spent a freezing winter at a nearby holiday camp in Dovercourt Bay.
Guests at the ceremony included more than 30 refugees who originally arrived in Britain on the Kindertransport in 1938 and 1939. They were joined by Harwich Mayor, Ivan Henderson; Mike Levy, Chair of the Harwich Kindertransport Memorial and Learning Trust, His Excellency Miguel Berger, German Ambassador to the UK; Michael Newman OBE, Chief Executive of The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) and Rt Hon. the Lord Eric Pickles, United Kingdom Special Envoy for post-Holocaust Issues.
The statue was unveiled by Dame Stephanie Shirley CH, a refugee herself who arrived at the age of five in Harwich on a Kindertransport. She stated, “I shall never forget my first sighting of Harwich as a thousand of us children came in from the grey North Sea after a horrendous two and a half days’ journey from Nazi Europe.”
Mike Levy, Chair of the Harwich Kindertransport Memorial and Learning Trust, said, “This is a day that so many of us have waited for. Now Harwich can take its full place in this remarkable part of British history. With the unveiling today, in some ways, the journey of those children more than 80 years ago is complete. Today is a day of celebration, of commemoration, a looking back but also, we hope, a way of looking forward to a kinder future.”
Sculpted by award-winning Essex artist Ian Wolter, the statue, cast in bronze, depicts five children descending from a ship’s gangplank. Moving quotes from the child refugees have been inscribed on the memorial and there is a space between the figures so that children can explore them at close hand.
Michael Newman OBE, Chief Executive of The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) stated, “Harwich will always have a special place in the hearts of those refugees who arrived on the Kindertransport. The AJR is proud and delighted to be a prominent supporter of the effort to establish this memorial that honours them and their loved ones who sent them to safety, and to sponsor the development of the accompanying educational programme that will spread awareness of this vital history and inspire and educate generations of visitors.”
“At 11 years of age I boarded the train in Bünde Germany, heading towards the Netherlands. When the train stopped, some nice Dutch ladies gave us biscuits and drinks, and then we continued to Hoek van Holland where we boarded a boat heading to England. On arriving in Harwich, after all we had been through, we thought English people were angels,” recalled, Dr. Vernon Katz who arrived in Britain on a Kindertransport.
In addition to the memorial, an audio bench and new information boards around the town have been erected to ensure that Harwich is recognised for the crucial role the town and its people played in the rescue of children destined otherwise for murder in the Holocaust.