Safe Haven: A New Kindertransport Memorial in Harwich
“We disembarked at Harwich and were taken out into some fields. The sun was shining, the air clean, the grass greener than any I had ever seen, and if ever freedom was a tangible thing, it was so that morning in Harwich”.Rabbi John Rayner
First Sight of Freedom
The port of Harwich was the main point of entry for most of the children who found refuge in Britain through the Kindertransport rescue programme, from December 1938 to the outbreak of war in September 1939.
Almost 10,000 children, mostly Jewish thus escaped Nazi persecution.
Nearly 2,000 of those children spent their first weeks at the Dovercourt holiday camp just two miles from the Harwich docks.
The figures, five children descending a ship’s gangplank, have been cast in bronze and will be a lasting memorial to the unaccompanied children who arrived here from late 1938 to the outbreak of war. It also acts as a reminder of those who could not escape the murderous intentions of the Nazis.
Memorial unveiled September 2022
The Harwich Kindertransport Memorial & Learning Trust have been working to have areas Harwich and Dovercourt developed as a heritage and educational hub to attract visitors from schools and communities across the region and beyond.
With our partners – The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR), the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and Schools of Sanctuary, the memorial helps generate a new education programme devoted to Kindertransport history, encouraging young people to think about what it means to be a refugee, fleeing racial violence and persecution.
Harwich is known as a Haven Port for ships at times of adverse winds, and has helped many find refuge, for hundreds of years before the Kindertransport; the Huguenots fleeing persecution in France, and here the Mayflower ship took on a persecuted minority to the New World.
Completing the Journey
Other Kindertransport memorials trace the journey of the children from Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Gdańsk, and Hamburg to the Hook of Holland before reaching Liverpool Street Station.
Safe Haven differs from other Kindertransport memorial in that it emphasises Harwich’s maritime role; the children are seen descending from a ship’s gangplank on to dry land.
From now on, it is here that the story of the arrival of the children can be told.
Learning about the Kindertransport
Secondary Education Kindertransport Lesson Plan
This lesson plan we have produced for HMD is suitable for 11–14-year-old students. Through testimony, artefacts and memorials it introduces the history of the Kindertransport. It is suitable for use in a range of subjects – such as History, Art and Design, English, RE, PSHE, Citizenship.
It was equally important for us to create the audio bench and board in the Mayor’s Garden, where nature’s tranquillity would be conducive to contemplation about what the Kinder had had to endure and their parents suffer.
Visitors to the memorial see that it is part of something much bigger – a whole town engaged in telling the refugee story: the bench, museum exhibits and four different inspiring historical information boards enhance the experience of visiting the memorial statue.
An additional historical information board is located a short walk away, in Dovercourt, where a holiday camp hosted hundreds of kinder during the cold winder months of 1939
Click for a map of relevant places to see around the memorial.
Commemorating the Holocaust
A Holocaust memorial service took place in Harwich for the first time on 27 January 2023, following the unveiling of Harwich’s Kindertransport memorial.
We were proud to support the Harwich Town Council in organising the event, which was well-attended and was followed by floral tributes and candle lighting. Please visit our NEWS page for more information and pictures.
We also hope it will serve as a beacon of hope showing what can be done when ordinary people open their doors and hearts to those seeking refuge.
The Making of the Memorial
The statue was created by Essex artist Ian Wolter, who won prestigious award for his work ‘The Children of Calais’, referencing the plight of current child refugees.
Exodus / Lotte Kramer For all mothers in anguish Pushing out their babies In a small basket To let the river cradle them And kind hands find And nurture them Providing safety In a hostile world: Our constant gratitude. As in this last century The crowded trains Taking us away from home Became our baby baskets Rattling to foreign parts Our exodus from death.
That was home / Chava Wolf Translated by Tamar Drukker I left a lit candle by the window, And a doll in the corner. Bread in the oven. A pencil on the table And a hat behind the door. In the garden, apple, pear, and roses I left behind a childhood dream, memories That shine a light on the Winding paths of life. I came back. The rain on the window The heart aches, fearing the return to that same home. The walls turned black. It was cold and empty. The candle no longer burning, The doll is gone. The apple has fallen off the tree, The roses withered. And the dream from the past is no more.
The project is supported by The Association for Jewish Refugees (AJR), The Federal Republic of Germany, The National Fund of The Republic of Austria, Tendring District Council, Harwich Town Council, Harwich Haven Authority, Essex Community Fund, The Grassroots Foundation, C H Trust, CAF, The Bridges Impact Foundation, The Linbury Trust, The Headley Trust, The Alan & Babette Sainsbury Charitable Fund, and the University of Essex.
We are privileged to be endorsed by The Harwich Society, Liberal Judaism, and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT).
We are also most grateful for the generousity of many private donors who have contributed to the memorial.