Beyond the Kinder Transport

    January 2010            
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Beyond the Kindertransport

Book Review by Jay Levinson

Throw your Feet over your Shoulders: Beyond the Kindertransport
by Frieda Korobkin
Jerusalem: Devorah Press (2008)

There are numerous books that deal with the Kindertransport, retelling heart-wrenching tales of parents sending their children to a far-off and unknown land to save them from the tyranny of Nazi Germany. This is one such story of a young child and her siblings sent from Vienna to England and saved from almost certain death at the hands the Germans, who had just unilaterally and defiantly annexed Austria to the Third Reich. Frieda Korobkin, the author of this book, describes her anguish at never having seen her parents again. She cherishes memories of her father's face, but she does not remember at all how her mother looked.

This book, however, goes beyond the Kindertransport. It is one of the few first-hand accounts of what happened to the Kinder after they arrived to safety. Frieda was from a heimische home, yet once in England she was separated from her siblings then sent first to a non-Shomer Shabbos family, then to non-Jewish families in the countryside. Her schooling was no better, being sent to Christian schools. One can identify with the Jewish Community of the time that the sudden influx of so many refugee children was a major burden, but it is hard to reconcile steps to save lives whilst concurrently destroying souls.

The author recounts episodes of children at play, dreaming of a bicycle, sporadic anti-Semitic outbursts of her guardians and schoolmates, and concern for her parents. Yet, she remained optimistic, "Still, it never entered any of our minds that the Allies might lose the war. Defeat was just not an option."

There was one very bright aspect of Frieda's experience. Not enough praise can be given to the person who had arranged for her Kindertransport --- Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld (1912-1984), who had learned in Nitra and Slobodka before taking over his deceased father's positions in England. Schonberg, "with the assistance of the Agudah organization in London, was arranging to bring groups of children out of Austria, Germany, and Czechoslovakia, …" Not only did he save Jewish children before the war. The author relates how, after she was "kidnapped" from her gentile guardians, she was soon placed in Rabbi Schonfeld's school. She could finally come back to Yiddiskeit and a lifestyle in observance of Torah. In the school he worried not only about education. He cared about his students. He also took care of personal details such as a pair of shoes.

When the war was over, the author explains that Rabbi Schonfeld did not stop. He went back to war-torn Europe to rescue Jews who had been hidden in convents and other non-Jewish situations. Anti-Semitism was ripe in Europe, and eventually Rabbi Schonfeld worked in conjunction with British military protection.

This book is by no means an academic analysis of the Kinder in England. It is the story of one girl…and it is a story worth hearing.


from the January 2010 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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