DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – It was an operation that saved thousands of children’s lives but not before offering parents a harrowing choice.
One North Texas woman who lived through it is now speaking out to make sure the next generation never forgets.
Magie Furst was just a little girl when she took part in something called Kindertransport. It was an organization that rescued close to 10,000 children from Nazi controlled countries before World War II even started.
Newsreel footage from that time is heartbreaking. It shows grinning children and sullen parents waving goodbye to each other, most for the last time. Charlotte Decoster, an expert on children and the Holocaust explained, “For most of these children, their parents were murdered during the Holocaust.”
Not many countries were accepting Jewish refugees at the time. After Kristallnacht, a group of people inside Great Britain began to push for a special program to help Jewish children. They put ads in newspapers looking for host families and donations.
Inside Germany and other Nazi controlled countries, aid organizations got the word out to parents. They could apply, but only two children per family were allowed to leave. No parents would be allowed to go with them. Special preference was given to orphans and children with only one parent.
Magie Furst had lost her father. Her mother, realizing the situation in Germany was becoming untenable, at first tried to get her children to Sweden, as she applied for employment in England. When the Kindertransport program came along, all three were able to make it to England, although all of them were living apart. They left everything except what they could fit in a suitcase and walked away from their entire lives.
Looking back Magie said, “We left a lot of relatives behind. And they all perished… If I put myself in my mother’s position, I don’t know how she must have felt.”
As a point of history Decoster said that in addition to the painful memories, there is something remarkable about the Kindertransport story and that is the ordinary families in Great Britain who opened their hearts and homes to children they didn’t know.
The Dallas Holocaust Museum currently has an exhibit about Kindertransport. The exhibit ends on ends on February 28.
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