King Charles marks 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht by meeting Kindertransport refugees

Six AJR Holocaust survivors and refugees took part in a candle-lighting ceremony


Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has hailed King Charles III as an “exemplar of chesed, of loving kindness” in a “fractured world” during a special commemorative event last week to mark the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

The remark came shortly after the King met with groups of Kindertransport refugees, now in their late 80s and 90s, from the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) at the Central Synagogue in Marylebone.

The King told one group present that their ability to endure was “truly remarkable” and made him “very proud”.

Before unveiling a plaque alongside the King to mark the visit, the Chief Rabbi thanked him for “connecting so meaningfully” with the Kinder.

Michael Newman, CEO of AJR, said it was “an honour” to watch King Charles engage with some of AJR’s earliest members”.

Newman said: “As living memory of the Holocaust recedes and we grapple with its legacy, we are incredibly appreciative for the national platform [the King] has so graciously given to the remembrance of the Holocaust and to the AJR.

“Today, 85 years on from the horrific events of Kristallnacht, survivors of the Holocaust are witnessing, once again, terrifying atrocities and the uprise in antisemitic acts. That is why it is so important that we pause to remember anniversaries such as Kristallnacht to educate people where antisemitism unchallenged can lead.”

Chief Rabbi Mirvis officiated at a special service in the synagogue later that day, attended by Kinder survivors, UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues Lord Eric Pickles, Lord-Lieutenant for London, Sir Kenneth Olisa, ambassadors from Germany, Austria, Sweden and The Netherlands and over 200 guests.

During the proceedings, six AJR Holocaust survivors and refugees took part in a candle-lighting ceremony, after which attendees listened to the testimonies of two eyewitnesses to Kristallnacht, Thea Valman, 89, and Albert Lester, 96.

After speaking with the King, Albert told the JC that the recent graffiti on the front doors of Jewish homes in Berlin and Paris and the increase in targeted attacks against Jewish people reminded him of “what we went through” in 1938.

“Jew-hatred has never really gone away,” Albert said. “I was hoping it would more or less die through the establishment of the state of Israel, which made us no longer a wandering people but a people with land, but it hasn’t.

“This, I think, speaks to the vital importance of Israel continuing to exist and flourish in the world today. There is hope.”

Kristallnacht was a wave of state-backed violent pogroms against Jewish-owned businesses and properties in Nazi Germany in 1938.

It led directly to the decision by the UK government to allow for up to 10,000 children aged between three and 17 to be evacuated to safety in Britain, in what became known as the Kindertransport. Many of them were the only members of their family who survived the Holocaust.

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