June 18, 2019

Compensation for Kindertransport Survivors

Hilda Fogelson (nee Anker) on her first day of school in Berlin around 1932. Photo courtesy of the Fogelson family

On Dec. 17, 2018 — the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport — the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (the Claims Conference) announced it had reached an agreement with the German government that finally will see Germany providing compensation payments to Kindertransport survivors.

The fund, which will issue one-time payments of 2,500 euros (about $2,800), is intended to acknowledge the suffering of Holocaust survivors who endured unimaginable trauma in their childhoods.

“There’s a real importance in such an action by the German government, and then by inference the German people,” Paul Nussbaum, board president of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH), told the Journal. “This recognition is long in coming, but it is to be saluted.”

The Kindertransport started in 1938 when British authorities agreed to allow children under age 17 to enter the country from Germany and German-annexed areas. More than 10,000 Jewish children were saved when parents found refuge for them in England. In most cases, the children never saw their parents again.

“These kinders lost all the world that was precious to them, their families, their Jewish culture,” Nussbaum said. “They went as orphans, some at very young ages, on trains to a country where they didn’t speak the language. For some of them, they were so young it was hard to comprehend, so the trauma was very significant.”

He called the Kindertransport a bright light in a period of great darkness. “What the United Kingdom did is they stepped up to save 10,000 Jewish children. Moral action in periods of awful immorality are very significant.” 

According to LAMOTH, there are approximately 10 Kindertransport survivors in Los Angeles and another eight or so in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

“They can’t undo the damage that was done 80 years ago,” Kindertransport survivor Lina Edwards, 95, told the Journal, “but of all the countries that persecuted the Jews, the Germans are the ones who are really doing their best to make amends to whatever is possible.” 

“If we get [money], that’s a good thing. But they can never give us enough for what all these kinder like me suffered.”
— Hilda Fogelson

Edwards, who lives in Camarillo, was sent on the Kindertransport at 15. The family that took her in expected her to help with their new baby and in their shop.

“At the time, I resented it because I came from an affluent German Jewish family and wasn’t used to any of this,” she said. “In later years, I appreciated it because of what I learned in that household. I was able to stand on my own feet and be an independent woman. They did the best they could.”

After World War II, Edwards went back to Germany with the American occupation army. She discovered her parents had been killed but that her brother survived the concentration camps. In Germany, working for the Americans, Edwards met her husband, a German Jewish refugee. He was10 years older than her and had spent six years in the British army. They came to Los Angeles in 1952.

“I had a very happy 58-year marriage until he died,” Edwards said. “I always say the first 23 years of my life were very hard and the next 70-plus were very good.”

Studio City resident Hilda Fogelson, 92, who was born in Berlin, told the Journal, “If we get something, that’s a good thing. But they can never give us enough for what all these kinder like me suffered.”

Fogelson was 13 when she and her two older sisters were sent on the Kindertransport to live with their uncle. One year later, her parents, who had managed to escape, joined them. The family then headed to Boston before taking a Greyhound bus to Los Angeles in 1940.

“It was really scary to leave your parents and you don’t know if you’re going to see them again,” Fogelson said. “I was lucky, but a lot of them never saw their parents again. Even if you get money, that’s not going to bring your parents back.”