Refugee Children

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Kindertransport & Its Ramifications


Kindertransport was the name applied to an exodus of Jewish children being transported beginning in 1939 from Nazi Germany to England. Although it spared these “fortunate” few whose lives were saved, it created eternal turmoil in these children's psyches and psychological well being.  They were torn from their loving parents' arms and placed into the homes of English families.  The few parents that survived the cruelty of the Nazis could never recover the lost childhood of their little ones and their lives were damaged beyond the imagination.  Most of course died at the hands of the psychopaths, the Nazis, who gassed them to death, gunned them down, used them for unimaginable brutally painful, deadly experiments and even buried them alive.  The children did not have the loving stability of their own elders but lived with strangers, who sometimes utilized them as servants, grudgingly fed them and certainly did not understand their heritage, their uniqueness or their homesickness and pain.  They did not really understand the trauma that festered inside their minds.  The children had no real home, were forever in mourning, searching for their own kin, those who had unconditional love for them.  They often learned to trust no one and held their putative parents responsible for their misfortune.  They recalled that these courageous parents had tried to comfort them by deluding them unintentionally that everything would be “all right” and they would be happy in England and would be reunited with them in the very near future.  All these statements were made by their elders while their very souls hurt.  They were at the same time comforting and deluding themselves.  These outstanding selfless mothers who had borne their children, had nurtured them and had doted on their very being were robbed.  The fathers who had hoped for their progeny to be good Jewish people, kind upstanding human beings and ones they would be so proud of as they grew,  had lost their beloved sons and daughters on whom they had counted to be their future.  They had to suppress their feelings and cheer them on as the children boarded the crowded trains by themselves on their way to the unknown.  They had to suppress their true nature and their “lev tov” (good heart) to muster their courage for the sake of the lives of their future – a future that they would never see.  The children arrived without understanding the people with whom they had been chosen to live.  They had no choice in the matter and had to accept wherever the proverbial dice landed.  They were not told what would happen to their “Mutti” (Mommy) or Papa and were allegedly spared the knowledge of the atrocities that had possibly already been perpetrated.  They often discovered that the cover ups were lies and they became suspicious of everything that was told them.  When they did learn of some of the merciless brutalities that existed and had been carried out they would mourn without consolation, without empathy or support. 

Is it any wonder then that the surviving “children of the Holocaust" are often fearful, suspicious needy human beings who find it difficult to trust, who feel like people without a “Heimat” (homeland), without support and without identity?  They feel deserted, inferior and rejected.  They may search and believe that their environment is surrounded by exploitative, untruthful individuals who have no authentic interest in them. The fear and loneliness that they often experience can be insurmountable and destructive. Having been persecuted, rejected and scapegoated, they lend themselves very readily to being victimized in their adult years. They appear as if they are powerless and people's anger is frequently directed at them. The victims themselves may project their feelings of helplessness unto objects, uninvolved people and inappropriate situations.  No one who has not experienced the Kindertransport or the Holocaust can know the depth of despair and self hatred that accompanies the erstwhile unfortunate human beings that had the misfortune to be alive in their uncompromising destructive past. 


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of  Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).

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