Read through volumes of fascinating, historic government documents related to Kindertransport, the British scheme to rescue Jewish children from Nazi occupied regions. The documents, which have been provided by The National Archives, include: Foreign Office, War Cabinet, Home Office, Education and Ministry of Health records from 1938 to 1945. Browse the records by selecting the archival reference of the volume you want to read.
This collection includes 41 different volumes from various government departments. Each volume is unique and will include information related to Kindertransport. See below for a full list of the record types.
In the search results, select the volume you want to browse. Once in the image viewer, use the arrows to the right and left to move through the document.
If you wish to move to a specific image or page within the document, use the image number control at the bottom, centre of the screen. Use the plus or minus to move to your desired image number then press Go to view the image.
To search the records for specific names or keywords, search the Kindertransport records available in the Useful Links and Resources.
Below is a list of the different types of government records available within the collection. We have also included some of the events or issues discussed within those papers, but not every account is recorded here and there is more to explore.
War Cabinet (CAB) – Includes records relating to the drafting of the 1943 Guardianship (Refugee Children) Bill and a copy of the drafted bill.
Foreign Office (FO) – Reports and correspondence which deal with the Jews in Danzig and emigration of children from Danzig and expulsion of Jews from occupied Poland. Reports of the work of refugee workers in Poland and Germany including the Society of Friends (Quakers). Dispatches from the Embassy in Rome regarding the position of Jews in Italy. Letters regarding the entry of refugee children into the UK. Proposals to send some refugee children to the US.
Home Office (HO) – Correspondence about the refugee children’s education and traineeships. Papers from the Aliens Department. Discussion of the plight of the German Jews and financial assistance for the refugees from the government, organisations and private sources (such as the Baldwin Fund). Reports of the rates of maintenance paid by the government for children boarded out with schools, families, lodgings or other institutions. Guardianship of refugee children. Children in the care of the Czechoslovak Refugee Trust Fund. Refugee children applying for the Girl Guides warrants.
Education (ED) – Correspondence about refugee children continuing into higher education or technical training and its funding.
Health (MH)– Reports on the refugee camp at Dovercourt including menus, descriptions of accommodation and activities organised for the children. Concerns over religious upbringing. Inspection visits to Dovercourt. The medical condition of refugee children from Germany.
Security Service (KV) – Miscellaneous papers from the Enemy Aliens’ Tribunal 1939-1942.
CAB 75/17 War Cabinet
ED 10/278 Education Department
ED 121/256 Education Department
ED 22/220 Education Department
FO 371/21636 Foreign Office
FO 371/21637 Foreign Office
FO 371/22538 Foreign Office
FO 371/22540 Foreign Office
FO 371/24074 Foreign Office
FO 371/24075 Foreign Office
FO 371/24076 Foreign Office
FO 371/24083 Foreign Office
FO 371/24085 Foreign Office
FO 371/24100 Foreign Office
FO 371/32676 Foreign Office
FO 371/57873 Foreign Office
HO 213/232 Home Office
HO 213/249 Home Office
HO 213/267 Home Office
HO 213/295 Home Office
HO 213/299 Home Office
HO 213/300 Home Office
HO 213/301 Home Office
HO 213/302 Home Office
HO 213/611 Home Office
HO 213/781 Home Office
HO 213/913 Home Office
HO 213/990 Home Office
HO 213/991 Home Office
HO 213/992 Home Office
HO 213/993 Home Office
HO 213/994 Home Office
HO 294/181 Home Office
HO 294/59 Home Office
HO 382/64 Home Office
HO 382/70 Home Office
HO 45/22391 Home Office
HO 45/25143 Home Office
KV 4/390 Security Service
MH 55/689 Ministry Of Health
MH 55/704 Ministry Of Health
Kindertransport was a British scheme to rescue Jewish children from Nazi occupied regions in Europe. The first of the Kinder arrived in December 1938. In 1938 conditions for the Jewish community in Europe were rapidly deteriorating through intimidation, segregation and violence. 9 November 1938 became known as Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. In this collection there is a telegram from Sir G. Ogilvie Forbes, a foreign diplomat, describing the night: ‘Anti-Jewish rioting on unprecedented scale broke out in Berlin late night on 9th November. All Jewish windows in the principal shopping quarters have been broken and their contents mostly looted. Three synagogues in Berlin are known to have been set on fire. Similar reports are coming in from all over the provinces and further synagogues have been burnt in Munich and Bamberg’ (FO 371/21696).
Following the events of Kristallnacht, Parliament debated on 21 November 1938 and agreed to allow refugee children to be temporarily homed in Britain. The British Jewish community and the Quakers advocated for rescuing vulnerable children and bringing them to Britain. Passport restrictions were waived. Refugee workers both in Europe and in Britain organised visas and transport for children up to the age of 17. There was no one, central organisation behind the rescue efforts. The various groups, which did most to organise the rescue missions were:
The Jewish Refugee Committee
Central British Fund for German Jewry, re-named Central Council for Jewish Refugees in 1939
Movement for the Care of Children from Germany, re-named Refugee Children’s Movement in 1939
Society of Friends (the Quakers)
Children’s Inter-aid committee (which involved the Save the Children Fund)
British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia
As part of the rescue, each child had to have a guarantor in Britain to cover the £50 cost of the return trip (equivalent to £2,000 today). The Movement for the Care of Children in Germany, later known as the Refugee Children’s Movement took responsibility for those without a guarantor. Many children stayed with relatives or family friends. Those Kinder not fortunate enough to have contacts within Britain stayed in hostels, lodgings or holiday camps.
The first group of Kinder arrived 2 December 1938. Before leaving their parents, children were dressed in their best and were allowed to pack one piece of hand luggage and a suitcase. Some families tried to smuggle out the family valuables. That night, the Dundee Evening Telegraph reported, ‘Two hundred boys and girls arrived at Harwich today. Many of the children are fatherless and motherless, and retain vivid memories of the orphanage where they were sheltered in Berlin being fired above their heads. The refugees are to be provided for at a holiday camp at Dovercourt Bay near Harwich until accommodation can be arranged for them in private houses. Rucksacks over their backs and small handbags contained all the worldly possessions which they clung to as they trooped down the gangway more than two hours after the ship had berthed.’ Before they entered the country they received medical examinations and were deloused.
In September 1939 the Kindertransport ended with the outbreak of war. There were a number of reasons the scheme stopped: The Refugee Children’s Movement was running out of funds, unemployment was rising in Britain and there were growing concerns about bringing ‘enemy aliens’ into the country during a time of war. The records do not stop at the point of arrival in the UK. The Kinder continued to be monitored during the war years, with information on their financial maintenance and religious upbringing being recorded centrally. In 1943, the Guardianship (Refugee Children) Bill was created. The bill was written to mandate that all the refugee children were assigned a guardian in the UK. Prior to the bill the children’s parents were considered the legal guardians but unfortunately for many, their parents’ outcome was unknown or they did not survive. For the children in the care of the Refugee Children’s Movement, Lord Gorell was named as their guardian in England and their ‘tutor’ for children residing in Scotland.
The ultimate goal was to reunite the children with their families after the war, but after the devastation in Europe and the Holocaust this was only rarely possible. For some we find in the records, they went on to employment in Britain, emigrated to USA or Palestine or returned to their homelands.
To explore the records further we have created an additional option: “Kindertransport Search”, to enable you search for records naming specific children in the records.
The experience of the Kindertransport was dramatic, especially for small children, being separated from their parents, travelling to an unknown country where they did not speak the language and less than a year later being labelled ‘Enemy Aliens.’ However, many thrived in their new country and were able to create new lives for themselves. Many of the children from the Kindertransport contributed greatly to the societies that they joined. Some joined the military when they became of age, others succeeded in education and a few went on to win Nobel Prizes in later life.