85th anniversary of the Kindertransport marked at Wigmore Hall concert

Actor Tom Conti compered the event


Audience members who came over to the UK on the Kindertransport are applauded at a Wigmore Hall concert to mark the 85th anniversary of their journey (Photo: Adam Soller Photography)

Kindertransportees received a standing ovation during a special commemorative concert held in London on Sunday evening, 85 years since the Kindertransport brought the youngest victims of Nazi terror to safety in Great Britain.

The packed-out concert was organised by the Association of Jewish Refugees and took place in historic Wigmore Hall, where the first fundraising concerts in support of Holocaust refugees and survivors were held, beginning in 1948.

Well-known actor Tom Conti, who recently portrayed renowned German-Jewish physicist Albert Einstein in the movie Oppenheimer, took on the role of the concert’s compere.

Conti said that as a son of an Italian immigrant father he had “some experience of what it was like to be an alien”, he said. “For the children of the Kindertransport – thrust into new life, in a strange land, without their parents – it must have been terrifying. That’s why I was honoured that the Association of Jewish Refugees approached me to present today’s concert. The Kinder represent strength and courage in the face of adversity and have an invaluable lesson to teach us all, about the perils of prejudice and discrimination.”

The audience of more than 500 people included several Kinder and their descendants, the family of Sir Nicholas Winton, Lord Eric Pickles, the UK envoy for post-Holocaust issues, and representatives from the German, Austrian, and Czech embassies.

Asking them to stand up to receive applause, Conti said the concert was dedicated to the first-generation Kinder children who were in the audience, including children brought to the UK by Sir Winton –  Lady Grenfell-Baines, Lord Dubs, Peter Schiller and Bronia Snow. Among the other Kinder at the concert were Albert Lester, Maria Ault, Anne Woolf-Skinner, Bob Kirk, Elisabeth Marcuse, Kurt Marx and Ruth Jacobs.

The music was chosen to reflect the heritage and culture of the child refugees and was performed by one of the UK’s most accomplished chamber groups, the Leonore Piano Trio, made up of Gemma Rosefield, Benjamin Nabarro, and Tim Horton. The trio played a mixture of central European and British compositions from composers Beethoven, Haydn, and Novak.

Speaking to the JC after the concert, Bronia Snow, 96, said the concert was “fantastic and truly wonderful”.

She added that classical music had always been a “powerful and important” part of her life, with her mother having used to play it to her when she was a child in former Czechoslovakia.

To still be involved in “commemorating and remembering the Kindertransport so many years later, feels like a dream”, she said.

Michael Newman, CEO of AJR, said the concert added to the importance of marking milestones in the history of the Shoah. He said: “Today’s concert highlights the rich tapestry of family and heritage the Kinder left behind and the chance they were given to make a new life in Great Britain.

“It is deeply moving to listen to the music of continental Europe alongside the very people who made their escape 85-years ago. It is our fervent wish that this important commemoration will help to further remembrance of the Kindertransport and the Holocaust.”

Newman added later that it was a priority of AJR “especially at this time of increased antisemitism, to instil in all audiences the universality of the Holocaust, its lessons and its warnings in the hope that it can never recur and that the salvation of the Kindertransport will never again be needed”.

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