Kindertransport statue unveiled in Essex to remember children who fled Nazi persecution

Credit: PA
The statue commemorates the evacuation of thousands of children from Nazi Germany to Harwich in Essex before World War Two Credit: PA

A memorial has been unveiled to commemorate the UK arrival of thousands of child refugees fleeing Nazi Europe.

The bronze statue, in Harwich, Essex, depicts five children descending from a ship's gangplank.

The sculpture reflects the Kindertransport - an organised evacuation following the anti-Jewish violence of Kristallnacht in Germany in November 1938.

Most evacuated to Britain were Jewish and trainloads of children came across from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland, with the first arriving in Harwich on 2 December, 1938.

The evacuation effort continued until World War Two broke out nine months later.

Guests at the unveiling ceremony on Thursday included more than 30 refugees who arrived on the Kindertransport in 1938 and 1939.

Dame Stephanie Shirley, who was five years old when she arrived in Harwich on a Kindertransport, unveiled the memorial.

Dame Stephanie Shirley at the unveiling of a memorial to Kindertransport on the quayside at Harwich. Credit: PA

She said: “I shall never forget my first sighting of Harwich as 1,000 of us children came in from the grey North Sea after a horrendous two-and-a-half days’ journey from Nazi Europe.

"Arriving in Harwich was just yet another unknown, strange, nasty place, I was put on a train and went off to Liverpool Street Station.

"The kindertransport has made me what I am. It gave me the resilience. If I could cope with that sort of change, I could cope with anything."

The new statue includes inscriptions of quotes from child refugees.

In addition to the memorial, an audio bench and new information boards have been installed around Harwich.

Ian Wolter, the sculptor behind the statue, said: "It's a Holocaust memorial. It might be capturing a very happy moment but immediately behind it there's a terrible tragedy unfolding - 85% of these children never saw their family again.

"The figure at the back is looking up the gangplank, he's looking homesick and that's really a nod to the Holocaust."

Essex Sculptor Ian Wolter created Harwich's Kindertransport statue Credit: PA

Several other Kindertransport memorials have already been erected in Europe and the UK, including at Liverpool Street station in London.

Mike Levy, chairman 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 today, in some ways the journey of those children more than 80 years ago is complete.

“Today is a day of celebration, of commemoration, a looking back, but also, we hope, a way of looking forward to a kinder future.”

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