Kindertransport survivor Lord Dubs calls for government aid for today’s child refugees

1938... first Kindertransport train arrives at Liverpool Street. Picture: Our Turn campaign

1938... first Kindertransport train arrives at Liverpool Street. Picture: Our Turn campaign - Credit: Our Turn

The 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport that rescued thousands of Jewish children escaping Nazi persecution in pre-war Germany is being marked by Tower Hamlets Council backing calls for government funding for similar operations in today’s conflict zones.

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs' pledge to take more child refugees from war zones. Picture: LBTH

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs' pledge to take more child refugees from war zones. Picture: LBTH - Credit: LBTH

The council is pledging to resettle 10 more unaccompanied child refugees in east London from today’s conflicts around the world on top of those already here.

It is supporting a campaign by Lord Alf Dubs—a Kindertransport refugee himself—for funds to resettle 10,000 unaccompanied children over the next decade.

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs has responded to his appeal for local authorities to host children fleeing danger.

“One-in-six children around the world are living in war zones today,” the mayor said. “More than half-a-million need urgent resettlement—just as the 10,000 children who were saved by the Kindertransport needed 80 years ago.”

Sir Nicholas Winton at the 2008 reenactment at Liverpool Street station. Picture: Olivia Harris

Sir Nicholas Winton at the 2008 reenactment at Liverpool Street station. Picture: Olivia Harris - Credit: Merkin theatre group


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He added: “We have a proud tradition of welcoming people to the East End who have escaped war and persecution.”

The East End played a pivotal part in the Kindertransport rescue before the outbreak of the Second World War.

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Jewish organisations sponsored children arriving at Liverpool Street station on ferry trains from the Continent through the port of Ipswich in December, 1938.

Now 80 years on, Lord Dubs’ ‘Our Turn’ campaign calls on the government to “honour that legacy” by offering safety to youngsters fleeing today’s wars.

2008 reenactment at Liverpool Street station... Few children on the original 1938 Kindertransport ev

2008 reenactment at Liverpool Street station... Few children on the original 1938 Kindertransport ever saw their families again. Picture: Merkin theatre - Credit: Merkin theatre group

Tower Hamlets has pledged to take 10 more child refugees on top of the 42 already being resettled under the ‘Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker Children’ scheme and EU law for asylum seeker responsibility and 22 others.

The cabinet member for Children and Young People, Danny Hassell, said: “We are calling for financial help to support child refugees without the need to draw on already stretched Children Services budgets. The scale we are able to help is determined by government support.”

The platforms at Liverpool Street became a stage in 2008 for the 70th anniversary of Kindertransport with a re-enactment by a theatre group with a ‘site specific’ performance marking the first of 9,500 to arrive before the rescue operation was halted nine months later when the Second World War broke out.

The first train was organised by humanitarian Sir Nicholas Winton which rescued 669 Jewish children from Prague in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. He attended the 70th anniversary at Liverpool Street. Sir Nicholas died in 2015 aged 105.

Few children in the 1938 rescue ever saw their parents again. Millions more were murdered, trapped in Hitler’s occupied Europe.

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