The photographs are old — 77 years old — but the children in them are young. Some look serious, while others smile. At that point in time, it was still not yet clear that they had escaped from the ultimate horror. As children of the Kindertransport, some of them would never have seen their family again.
On the back of some of the pictures are messages — a few only barely legible.
“To my Dear Irma, in friendship,” says one.
“Remembrance of the trip ‘on that wonderful ship’ from London to Boston.”
Another says: “Even though it was a very bad time, I still love you anyway. Much, much luck, don’t forget me. I won’t forget you.”
Renée Kornfeld is the daughter of one of those children, Edith Einhorn, who died in 1995.
“The photographs came into my possession when I had gone to visit my brother and sister-in-law,” she said.
“We still had some of Mom’s things in a box. And upon opening one of the boxes we saw these beautiful photographs, of these nine children.”
However, the identity of the other eight remains a mystery.
“They’ve become my responsibility — who are they,” Mrs Kornfeld said.
“I’ve been contacting a multitude of organisations in the US, Yad Vashem, local libraries in New York… I’m just putting the photos out all over to see if we can identify them.”
Mrs Kornfeld cannot have been much older than Edith was in that picture, when she first learned about what her mother had been through.
“When I was a little girl, my mother sat me down when I was around ten or 12 years old, and for the first time I understood,” she said.
“She said ‘Grandma isn’t your real grandma’, and then she told me her story. She did not talk about it at all otherwise.”
Edith Einhorn was born in Austria in 1930, to Mendel and Regina Einhorn, a Jewish couple in Vienna. Eight or nine years later — her daughter is unsure — she managed to leave for England, accompanied by her aunt Irma — the Irma referenced in the note on the back of one of the photographs.
Some of the pictures are dated — “July 1940”. Others bear the hallmark of the English photographer, “F Barrett Gardiner, Hemel Hempstead, Herts”.
Edith and Irma subsequently sailed from Britain to America, cheating death again on the way.
“My mother missed her first boat to the United States,” Mrs Kornfeld said.
“The boat she was supposed to go on sank, and if she had been on that boat, I would not be here today.”
Much of the other information, however, is unclear. Were all the photos taken at the same time? Were all the children on that ship from London to Boston, or had some travelled with Edith previously and remained behind in Britain?
Mrs Kornfeld does not know, but she is determined to discover more.
“My quest is to find out who these children are, and yes, of course I would like to learn anything I can about any of the identities of their relatives, if they’re still living now,” she said.
“It could be a link to learn about my mother, who’s no longer here. I think that if I were to meet any of these people, they perhaps might be able to tell me that they knew my mother and might be able to share some stories about my mother or about Irma. And again, we know so little about the adults who helped run the Kindertransport and who are these people who helped save the children.
“Imagine if somebody told me a story about Irma Spielhotlz, who was my mother’s aunt, who really gave up a portion of her life to save children.
“I knew Irma as a child. She lived in Manhattan, and we would go to visit her and she would come to me. She always brought a little gift of a book when visiting, and she was a very proper lady. I didn’t understand — I was a little girl,
“I was young when I knew her — and I didn’t understand what she did, and I didn’t know why my mother and father revered her and were so respectful of her. As an adult, I understand.”
If you have information about any of the children in these photos, Mrs Kornfeld can be contacted at email@example.com