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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > September 2019 > THE LAST DAYS OF KINDERTRANSPORT

THE LAST DAYS OF KINDERTRANSPORT

With Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) shattered the last hope for Jews in Germany, and within days many were seeking temporary travel visas to get their children out – fast. Melody Amsel-Arieli looks at the last journeys made by Jewish children, fleeing Nazi Germany, in the final weeks before the door closed, leaving millions to their fates
Exhausted Jewish refugee children after their arrival from Germany at Harwich, Essex

When Hitler rose to power in 1933, Feige Mendzigursky, who lived in Leipzig, Germany, was eight years old. Though nationwide attacks on Jews, boycotts of Jewish businesses, and book burnings had become common, she remembered little except Nazi flags flying everywhere and ‘the SS parading, you know how they did with their goose steps...’. But she wasn’t particularly frightened.

Two years later, the Nuremberg Laws, based on Germany’s meticulous birth, baptismal, marriage and death records, classified people as full, half, or quarter-Jews – those with a single Jewish grandparent. In addition to prohibiting marriage between Jews and non-Jews, they also revoked the citizenship of full Jews and those with Jewish spouses.

In 1938, when Feige was 13, arrests and detentions in German concentration camps had become common. Like any preteen, however, she was more concerned with school, sports, and friends. After Germany annexed Austria, however, the situation deteriorated further. In late October, the SS abruptly deported thousands of Jews with Polish passports to the border. Denied entry by the Poles, they were stranded in no-man’s land, living under deplorable conditions. When Hershel Grynszpan, a German-born Jew living in Paris, learned that his parents were among them, in reprisal, he assassinated a German diplomat.

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About Family Tree

It’s time to dig for victory, see what clues your delving can unearth! Turn the clock back to 1939 with our special issue and discover your family’s story. This month we’re commemorating the 80th anniversary of the start of World War 2, and are researching and celebrating our ancestors’ lives from the time. To help you trace your family tree we’ve got: a packed guide to the essential family history records all you need to know about researching family in Second World War and first half of the 20th century and a bumper crop of tips to help you create your own family history home archive – filled with carefully stored photos, stories, notes and treasures. Beginner or expert, there’s plenty to discover and do as your learn more about your family’s story. Enjoy!