December 10 marked the 85th anniversary of the departure of the first “Kindertransport” from Wien Westbahnhof train station. To commemorate the occasion, renowned publicist Hella Pick visited Vienna to tell her story and receive the Golden Medal of Honour of the City of Vienna. Several other events in Vienna have also commemorated, and continue to commemorate, the Kindertransport.
Hella Pick in conversation with Julia Demmer, OeAD ERINNERN:AT, head of the contemporary witness program © Harald Klemm
Hella Pick is probably one of the best-known “Kindertransport children”. The famous publicist and long-time journalist at the British newspaper “The Guardian” grew up in Vienna in the 1930s. After the Nazis assumed power, she was able to flee to England at the age of ten years old in March 1939 via a Kindertransport. Her biography of Simon Wiesenthal, among other things, brought her international acclaim.
At the beginning of December, Hella Pick told her story in Vienna – at events held in the Austrian Parliament and in the British embassy. At Vienna City Hall, she accepted the Golden Medal of Honour for services to the City of Vienna from Mayor Michael Ludwig. Ludwig called Pick “an anti-fascist, contemporary witness and someone who never tires of warning us and helping younger generations to understand the concept of ‘never forget'”.
Exhibition “For the Child”
The Kindertransport was also commemorated in Vienna’s Döbling district museum – with the exhibition “For the Child”. This traveling exhibition was created in 2014 by artists Rosie Potter and Patricia Ayre. It provides a potent reminder of the roughly ten thousand predominantly Jewish children and adolescents who were able to flee from the Nazis from Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Poland on almost 100 train journeys from December 1938 to August 1939.
To mark the occasion, the district museum also commemorated the Kindertransport with a matinee. For this, Anna Wexberg-Kubesch read from her book “Vergiss nie, dass Du ein jüdisches Kind bist” [Never forget that you are a Jewish child]. The film “256,000 Miles from Home” by Melissa Hacker was presented for the first time, and Milli Segal, the coordinator of the event, spoke on the topic.
The subject of Kindertransport in the work of the JWS
“For the Child” will soon be displayed at the Adult Education Centre Vienna Josefstadt (2/20 – 3/29/2024). And the district museum of Josefstadt will also be devoted to the subject of “Kindertransport” with an exhibition on the life of writer Lore Segal, who escaped the Nazi horrors in December 1938 via a Kindertransport from Vienna (from 2/28/2024).
The subject of Kindertransport has always been present in the work of the Jewish Welcome Service. Since the year 2000, it has acquired even greater importance through the cooperation with the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) and the London Jewish Cultural Centre (LJCC). Since 1999, many of the former Kindertransport children have visited Vienna at the invitation of the JWS – some for the first time in decades.