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Contesting memory: new perspectives on the Kindertransport

Contesting memory: new perspectives on the Kindertransport
Contesting memory: new perspectives on the Kindertransport
The Kindertransport – the government facilitated but privately funded movement that brought 10,000 unaccompanied mostly Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland to the UK by 1940 – has been celebrated as a humanitarian act of rescue by the British government and people. The existing literature on the movement has been dominated by a reductionist and redemptive narrative emphasising the children’s survival, minimising their less positive experiences and outcomes and erasing the parents from the story.
The administrative details of the programme centred on the Refugee Children’s Movement have been well covered in existing academic studies that have utilised publicly available archival records, but the examination of Kindertransportees’ experiences in the UK has depended almost entirely upon the memoirs and testimonies of former child refugees, largely because of restrictions on their after-care records. Archival gaps and the extensive use of Kinder memory have resulted in a historiography that has not adequately addressed the complexity and range of the children’s experiences.
This study challenges the dominant memory of the Kindertransport using newly discovered archival sources. The case files of more than 100 German-born children who were brought to England from Poland are the basis for an investigation of both the particularities of their lives and the universalities of their experiences to the Kindertransport as a whole. The perspectives of the major Kindertransport actors – the refugee organisations, the everyday carers, the children and their parents – inform this analysis, contributing new insights on their interactions, motivations, attitudes and actions. Particular attention is paid to issues of religion, agency, gender, identity and writing the parents back into the Kindertransport narrative.
In addition to contesting the memory of the Kindertransport, the documentation facilitates a critical investigation of Kinder memory. Using both recorded testimony from this group of Kinder and interviews with many of the still-living Kinder and their families, Kinder memory and archival documentation are interrogated, resulting in a synthesis that challenges both sources and produces new understandings of the Kindertransport and its legacies.
Craig-Norton, Jennifer
11582f0e-7b7f-4654-9522-9a00a2296361
Craig-Norton, Jennifer
11582f0e-7b7f-4654-9522-9a00a2296361
Kushner, Antony
958c42e3-4290-4cc4-9d7e-85c1cdff143b

Craig-Norton, Jennifer (2014) Contesting memory: new perspectives on the Kindertransport. University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis, 330pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The Kindertransport – the government facilitated but privately funded movement that brought 10,000 unaccompanied mostly Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland to the UK by 1940 – has been celebrated as a humanitarian act of rescue by the British government and people. The existing literature on the movement has been dominated by a reductionist and redemptive narrative emphasising the children’s survival, minimising their less positive experiences and outcomes and erasing the parents from the story.
The administrative details of the programme centred on the Refugee Children’s Movement have been well covered in existing academic studies that have utilised publicly available archival records, but the examination of Kindertransportees’ experiences in the UK has depended almost entirely upon the memoirs and testimonies of former child refugees, largely because of restrictions on their after-care records. Archival gaps and the extensive use of Kinder memory have resulted in a historiography that has not adequately addressed the complexity and range of the children’s experiences.
This study challenges the dominant memory of the Kindertransport using newly discovered archival sources. The case files of more than 100 German-born children who were brought to England from Poland are the basis for an investigation of both the particularities of their lives and the universalities of their experiences to the Kindertransport as a whole. The perspectives of the major Kindertransport actors – the refugee organisations, the everyday carers, the children and their parents – inform this analysis, contributing new insights on their interactions, motivations, attitudes and actions. Particular attention is paid to issues of religion, agency, gender, identity and writing the parents back into the Kindertransport narrative.
In addition to contesting the memory of the Kindertransport, the documentation facilitates a critical investigation of Kinder memory. Using both recorded testimony from this group of Kinder and interviews with many of the still-living Kinder and their families, Kinder memory and archival documentation are interrogated, resulting in a synthesis that challenges both sources and produces new understandings of the Kindertransport and its legacies.

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Published date: September 2014
Organisations: University of Southampton, History

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 374394
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/374394
PURE UUID: f180b874-73c3-47ee-9fe0-af4560828be9

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Date deposited: 17 Feb 2015 10:58
Last modified: 03 Sep 2019 04:01

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Contributors

Author: Jennifer Craig-Norton
Thesis advisor: Antony Kushner

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