Kindertransport memorial unveiled in Harwich

The Essex port town of Harwich, where Kindertransport carrying children fleeing Nazi occupied Europe first arrived in Britain, now has a memorial to honour the lives that were saved and recognise Harwich’s role in the rescue efforts.

An unveiling was attended by Lord Eric Pickles, Lord Alf Dubs, Harwich Mayor Ivan Henderson, German Ambassador to the UK Miguel Berger, Essex Jewish News editor Simon Rothstein and many of our region’s faith and political leaders.

Guests at the ceremony also included more than 30 refugees who originally arrived in Britain on the Kindertransport in 1938 and 1939.

The new memorial highlights that it was in Harwich, beginning on 2 December 1938 and continuing until the outbreak of war, that those children first set foot on British soil. Some continued their journey to London, while others spent a freezing winter at a nearby holiday camp in Dovercourt Bay.

The statue is a culmination of years of hard work by the Harwich Kindertransport Memorial and Learning Trust to commemorate the Kindertransport – the humanitarian rescue mission that saved approximately 10,000 children.

It was unveiled by Dame Stephanie Shirley CH, a refugee herself who arrived at the age of five in Harwich on a Kindertransport.

She stated, “I shall never forget my first sighting of Harwich as a thousand of us children came in from the grey North Sea after a horrendous two and a half days journey from Nazi Europe.”

Mike Levy, Chair of the Harwich Kindertransport Memorial and Learning Trust, said: “This is a day that so many of us have waited for. Now Harwich can take its full place in this remarkable part of British history. With the unveiling, in some ways, the journey of those children more than 80 years ago is complete.”

Sculptor Ian Wolter with the Kindertransport monument

Sculpted by award-winning Essex artist Ian Wolter, the statue, cast in bronze, depicts five children descending from a ship’s gangplank. Moving quotes from the child refugees have been inscribed on the memorial and there is a space between the figures so that children can explore them at close hand.

In addition to the memorial, an audio bench and new information boards around the town have been erected to ensure that Harwich is recognised for the crucial role the town and its people played in the rescue of children destined otherwise for murder in the Holocaust.

Michael Newman OBE, Chief Executive of The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) also spoke at the ceremony. He said: “Harwich will always have a special place in the hearts of those refugees who arrived on the Kindertransport. The AJR is proud and delighted to be a prominent supporter of the effort to establish this memorial that honours them and their loved ones who sent them to safety, and to sponsor the development of the accompanying educational programme that will spread awareness of this vital history and inspire and educate generations of visitors.”



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