Granddaughter of Kinderstransport refugee to tell his story through music

Cellist Juliette Appel will perform the piece with her sister


Cellist Juliette Appel, who has composed a piece of music based on her grandfather Kenneth Appel's experience on the Kindertransport. He can be seen in the framed photographs (Photo: Appel)

A GCSE music student has composed a piece of music inspired by the story of her late grandfather and his journey as a child on the Kindertransport.

Juliette Appel, 14, has been playing the cello since she was four years old and has performed in some of the major concert halls in London, including Wigmore Hall, as a member of the Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra, as well as playing chamber music in a number of music ensembles.

Now, she will be taking her talents to Finchley Progressive Synagogue to perform her new composition as part of a duet with her sister Imogen, 17, who plays the violin.

Her composition, which is just over four minutes long, depicts the journey of her grandfather, Kenneth Appel, on the Kindertransport as he escapes Germany. Kenneth passed away in 2022, aged 96.

Juliette wrote to Generation2Generation (G2G), an educational charity, which enables subsequent generations of Holocaust survivors and refugees to share their family stories, to see if she could volunteer with them for her Duke of Edinburgh award.

She had first come across G2G after one of their speakers, Jacqueline Luck, gave an “amazing and moving” presentation about the story of her grandmother Lela Black at Wimbledon Reform, where Juliette’s family are members.

Juliette’s work with G2G started with advising the charity on how appropriate and engaging their presentations were for young people.

She then had the idea of putting her musical talents to use to compose a piece about her grandfather’s life. G2G worked with her, she said, on developing her family’s story to be able to present it  alongside her musical performance.

Juliette told the JC that she had based her composition on video testimony her grandfather had recorded while he was alive and the feelings she had imagined he had had during the journey. “There is sadness at the beginning but also hopefulness as well,” she said.

One section of the piece conveys the “most frightening” part of her grandfather’s journey, a moment when SS guards stopped the train and got on to search everyone. After they had disembarked, the train entered “no man’s land, where no one on board really knew what was happening”. The final part of the piece reflects her grandfather arriving in Holland and the doors of the train “flying open” to reveal ladies handing all the children sweets.

Some of Juliette’s family will be attending her and her sister’s performance, including her grandmother Beulah, 90, who was married to Kenneth for 70 years.

Juliette said: “My grandfather didn’t always want to talk about his story, but he was encouraged by my grandmother. He was quite open, but not too much. My grandmother has been very helpful with any information I needed, and I think she is quite grateful I’m doing this. She’s very proud.”

Director of G2G, Anita Peleg, said: “Juliette is so keen to find out more about her grandfather and tell his story through both music and words, so supporting Juliette in this endeavour has been a pleasure.

“It symbolises what Generations2Generations is all about, passing those stories on through the generations and ensuring that we enable learning about the Holocaust. We hope that Juliette will continue to work with us and that more young people will follow her example.”

The concert, Remembering the Past: Creating the Future, is on May 19. To book tickets, click here

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