Kindertransport refugees receive standing ovation at 85th anniversary concert

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Kindertransport refugees receive standing ovation at 85th anniversary concert

Surviving kinder, among them Lady Grenfell-Baines, Lord Alf Dubs and Bronia Snow, hailed as “national treasures” at Wigmore Hall event.

The concert was hosted by renowned actor Tom Conti, who recently portrayed the German-Jewish refugee Albert Einstein in the film Oppenheimer.
The concert was hosted by renowned actor Tom Conti, who recently portrayed the German-Jewish refugee Albert Einstein in the film Oppenheimer.

Kindertransport refugees have attended an emotional commemorative concert to mark the 85th anniversary of their arrival in Britain.

Milena Grenfell-Baines – today Lady Grenfell-Baines – was among those at the concert organised by the Association of Jewish Refugees.

She still has the leather-bound autograph book her grandfather gave her the night she got on the Kindertransport. The message he wrote told her to be “a faithful daughter of the country you’re leaving and of your parents and grandfather who love you very much.”

Milena left Prague on 31 July 1939 at the age of nine along with her sister who was three-and-a-half. Most of her family were killed by the Nazis but her father and mother managed to escape to England, where the family were eventually reunited.

It was only 40 years later that Milena discovered exactly how she’d survived the war. She was one of the 669 children saved by Sir Nicholas Winton on a train that left Prague days before the Nazis invaded, a story that was recently depicted in the film One Life starring Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Held in London’s Wigmore Hall, the concert was part of a series of events commemorating the 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia who were given refuge in Britain in 1938-39.

Several surviving Kinder – among them Lord Alf Dubs and Bronia Snow BEM – attended the concert and received a standing ovation from a 500-strong audience as they were hailed as “national treasures”.

Sir Nicholas Winton’s son Nick and grandson Laurence were also present. Nick told Jewish News: “There are sadly not many [Kinder] left but it’s lovely to see the ones who are still active and engaged. Sadly, the threat to people still goes on. We’re seeing almost a carbon copy of what happened in Czechoslovakia in 1939 happening today in Ukraine and there are other countries where people are under threat for their lives and desperate to be rescued.”

The concert was hosted by renowned actor Tom Conti, who recently portrayed the German-Jewish refugee Albert Einstein in the film Oppenheimer.

Speaking to Jewish News about his conversations with survivors, Conti said: “One is just over-awed by their courage. The tragedy of the kids who got out and never saw their mums and dads again is unspeakably awful.”

The music, which included pieces by Beethoven, Haydn, and Novák, was performed by the internationally acclaimed Leonore Piano Trio. It was specially chosen to represent the countries from which the refugees came.

Michael Newman, chief executive of the AJR, explained that “these are pieces of music that people would have been listening to in their homes. They may have attended concerts with their families and so it’s quite evocative and symbolic of that.”

He added: “We’re honouring the people that made it possible. The families of the Kinder who sent them away to the unknown and the Kinder who are still with us and their families.”

Newman estimates that around 100 Kinder are still alive in the UK today. Many are still involved in school visits and oral history projects to ensure their stories are not forgotten. As Lady Grenfell-Baines says, “Time goes on and soon this will all be history. We’re still around to tell the tale.”

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