Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Stories of World War II: Kindertransport, by A.J. Stones

2014 has been all about World War I, as the year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the conflict. However, 2014 has also seen the publication of some brilliant WWII titles, of which this is most definately one.

I recently ordered Stories of World War II: Kindertransport- a collaboration between kids' publishers Wayland and the National archives, having been informed that it told the German side of the story as regards evacuation. Having read it, I realise now that that's only partially true.

I can't speak for everyone educated in 1990s Britain, but my knowledge of WWII is patchy at best. We did medicine in WWII extensively, the Holocaust obviously, and D-Day. Bits and bobs you pick up along the way from films, novels, TV, museums- the Home Front, the Blitz, the plight of the Evacuees, Digging for Victory and so on. But I personally was quite surprised to find a totally new, unheard of topic that sat squarely in the history of WWII and that is the story of the Kindertransport.

I simply had no idea that thousands and thousands of Jewish German children were rounded up by Christians, Quakers and Jews and shipped to the safety of Britain after the ascent of the Nazi party but before the outbreak of the war. Then from Belgium, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Poland for as long as it was possible before the Nazis closed Germany's borders.

This title is a truly brilliant introduction and source book for anybody learning about or interested in the Second World War. The layout is brilliant- it's engaging and invites the eye easily. Text is broken up into easily digestible paragraphs that are concise but really informative, there are loads of contemporary and recent photographs,illustrations and images that accompany the information, as well as captions and annotations. The pages are always interesting, but never overwhelming.

The book's pages have a beautiful sepia scrapbook quality, so it really does feel like you're examining someone real's personal history- a photo album or a diary. The snapshots and portraits and little personal touches really bring home what a traumatic, life changing experience this was for the young Germans and what a remarkable achievement it was to be able to not just evacuate such large numbers to safer locations, but welcome and nurture them to that extent.

It really is a fascinating insight into what I can only assume is quite a forgotten event of World War II. I very much recommend it to all libraries, historians and students. If only Britain were still as welcoming and hospitable to newcomers.

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