Rt Hon John Bercow, Speaker of the House


Eighty years to the date of the Parliamentary debate which led to the creation of the Kindertransport project, on Wednesday 21 November, Members of Parliament narrated excerpts from that debate at an event held by The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) at Speaker’s House.

Our speakers and distinguished guests

Parliamentarians who took part included the Rt Hon John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons; the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, Secretary of State; Ms Luciana Berger MP; The Lord Ian Livingstone of Parkhead, and Mr John Mann MP. [A full list of readers can be found in the Notes.]

Another of the readers was Cllr Jo Roundell Greene, granddaughter of Clements Attlee who took in a Jewish child refugee in 1938. That child refugee, Paul Willer, now aged 90 years old, attended the event and had an emotional private meeting with Cllr Roundell Greene and her cousin Earl Attlee beforehand when they all met for the first time. This meeting was arranged by The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) who made the connection thanks to the testimony which Paul Willer made with AJR for their video testimony archive, Refugee Voices.

The event also included a reading by Lord Alf Dubs, who arrived in the UK on the Kindertransport, from his own testimony. Lord Pickles proposed one minute’s silence at 7.32pm to mark the exact moment of the debate in 1938.

The Kindertransport was the nine-month operation during which 10,000 mainly Jewish children under the age of 17 from Nazi Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia were rescued and given refuge in Britain prior to the start of the Second World War.

On 2 December 1938, the first Kindertransport arrived at Harwich bringing 196 children from a Jewish orphanage in Berlin that had been burned by the Nazis on 9 November, the infamous pogrom perpetrated against Jews in Germany and Austria known as the Kristallnacht (‘Night of the Broken Glass’).

Since 1941 AJR has provided support to Kinder (the name given to the children who were rescued) and continues to run a specialist Kindertransport group to represent the interests of Kinder members.