Photo courtesy of C&G Partners
Learn / Blog / Press Release / Kindertransport – Rescuing Children on the Brink of War
Press Release

Kindertransport – Rescuing Children on the Brink of War

Exhibition Focuses on Historic Effort that Saved Thousands of Young Lives On View at American Swedish Institute, July 22 –October 31, 2021
June 30, 2021 By Karen Nelson

Media are cordially invited to a Press Preview, Wednesday, July 21, 2:30-3:30 p.m. RSVP to Karen Nelson

MINNEAPOLIS – Kindertransport – Rescuing Children on the Brink of War, a major exhibition on view July 22–October 31, 2021, at the American Swedish Institute (ASI) in Minneapolis, illuminates the story of the Kindertransport (German for “Children’s Transport”). This astonishingly successful rescue effort brought about 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi Germany to Great Britain and other countries, including Sweden, between 1938 and 1939.

The exhibition explores the children’s difficult and often heartbreaking journeys through original artifacts, audio testimonies and moving personal stories. The regional debut of this exhibition is accompanied by The Story is Here, developed by ASI, which features the experiences of Midwest families impacted by the Kindertransport.

Kindertransport– Rescuing Children on the Brink of War is brought to life by objects that the children took with them, such as a necklace and letters between parents and children, tied to a series of dramatic stories that link the exhibition’s materials to the era’s broader context. At its core are topics that are still familiar from today’s headlines: anti-Semitism, record numbers of refugees, the separation of families, immigration and dislocation.

Kindertransport was created and organized by Yeshiva University Museum and the Leo Baeck Institute – New York|Berlin. It is being collaboratively presented in Minnesota by the Greenberg Family Fund for Holocaust Awareness at Beth El Synagogue, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), and ASI. It was exhibited previously at the Center for Jewish History in New York and Holocaust Memorial Center in Michigan.

ASI is located at 2600 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota  55407. The ASI Museum, Museum Store and FIKA Café new hours are Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.ASImn.org or call 612-871-4907.

“The Kindertransport that saved thousands of Jewish children was a remarkable feat of courage and act of righteousness. Today, its significance is only magnified as the world faces a refugee crisis that includes tens of millions of children,” commented Rabbi Alexander Davis, of partner organization Beth El Synagogue.

Bruce Karstadt, President and CEO, American Swedish Institute, said, “We are deeply honored to collaborate with JCRC, a previous partner, Beth El Synagogue and other organizations for this exhibition that not only shares the stories of a historic rescue of children but also delves into issues that are at the foundation of ASI’s mission—the still-relevant migration experience, ASI’s ongoing connections to Sweden and our commitment to be a welcoming place for all.”

The exhibition will be displayed in ASI’s Osher Gallery and Turnblad Mansion, telling about the Kindertransport, chronologically and thematically, including historical background leading up to the transport between 1938 and 1939. Most of the unaccompanied children were between ages 5 and 16. Parents were suddenly faced with gut-wrenching decisions. Should they send their children away and perhaps never see them again, or stay together to face a dire future? The majority of Kindertransport children never saw their parents again, as most of those left behind were murdered in the Holocaust.

Unique to ASI and located on the Mansion’s Level Two is The Story is Here, a supplemental exhibition with accounts from three local, Midwest families of Kindertransport survivors: Siegfried Lindenbaum, Kurt Moses and Benno Black. Their legacies live on today; their stories are here in Minnesota.

Some children were transported with their siblings. Minneapolis local Beth Gendler shares her father Siegfried Lindenbaum’s experience, “My dad was 9 years old when he and his 7-year-old brother Manfred traveled together from Poland to England. They arrived on August 29, 1939, only three days before the Nazi invasion of Poland. Sadly, the next boat never arrived for their sister Ruth; she was later killed in Auschwitz.”

Kindertransport has long been recognized as one of the most successful organized rescue efforts of Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe. Sharing this history is critically important today. Philip Greenberg, of blessed memory, and his family established the Greenberg Family Fund for Holocaust Awareness at Beth El Synagogue to ensure the future of Holocaust education in Minnesota. Greenberg believed, “With the survivors becoming fewer and fewer, we need to hear the stories and become witnesses. We have the responsibility of passing them on to future generations so history does not repeat itself.”

“After Kristallnacht (November 9, 1938), conditions worsened daily and nearly all German and Austrian Jews realized there was no future in their native countries,” wrote Steve Hunegs, Executive Director of JCRC. “Jews seeking refuge throughout the world…were often thwarted in their efforts. The admission of the approximately 10,000 Kindertransport children into various countries, including Britain and Sweden, was a rare humanitarian governmental act in those desperate times. Ultimately, the Final Solution would consume more than a 1.5 million Jewish children.”

Among the personal items on display are a suitcase used by Robert Suchmann on a Kindertransport from Vienna in December 1938, a necklace with the Star of David sewn into the lining of a coat, worn by Ruth Birnholz on a Kindertransport from Vienna on January 12, 1939; and a monogrammed tablecloth brought by Elsbeth Gaertner from Mainz on June 6, 1939. Fearing that they would not be reunited with their children, some parents packed marriage trousseau items for their young daughters.  Among a rich array of documentary materials and personal correspondence are a confidential report on the Kindertransport, published by the Movement for the Care of Children from Germany in July 1939;  a facsimile of a Red Cross Letter from Erna Stein, in Prague, to her daughter, Gerda Stein, in England, October 20, 1942, shortly before her deportation to Theresienstadt and subsequent death at Auschwitz.

“The objects presented in the exhibition,” said Dr. Jacob Wisse, former director of Yeshiva University Museum, “packed for the children by parents who must have imagined the real possibility that they would never see their children again, reveal conscientious and forward-looking efforts to preserve the emotional, spiritual and professional lives of their children.”

Kindertransport–Rescuing Children on the Brink of War, on view at the American Swedish Institute through October 31, 2021, will be complemented by an ambitious series of curatorial talks and public programs on topics that resonate with the exhibition’s themes. Details can be found on ASI’s website.

RELATED PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHTS

Babies at the Castle July 23, 9–10 a.m. Program for babies and caregivers at ASI.  Tours are about 30 minutes, plus 15 minutes of sensory play.  For babies up to 15 months. Capacity is six caregiver/infant pairs. Cost: $15

Virtual Kindertransport Exhibition Tours and Talks, all at 5 p.m. Guest hosts vary. Gather with friends and colleagues to learn more about Kindertransport. $20 per connection.

  • July 27, Michael Simonson,  Archivist/Public Outreach, Leo Baeck Institute at the Center for Jewish History, and Ingrid Nyholm-Lange, Director of Experience at ASI, discuss the exhibition collaboration.
  • August 10,  Sandy Baron, daughter of a Kindertransport refugee, shares her family’s story.
  • August 24, Guest TBD
  • September 14,  Steve Hunegs, E.D. of Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, examines Kindertransport between 1938 and 1939.
  • September 28, Laura Zelle, Director of Tolerance Minnesota, and Erin Stromgren, ASI Exhibitions Manager, provide insights on The Story is Here, the local component for Kindertransport.
  • October 12, Rabbi Alexander Davis, Beth El Synagogue, offers a faith-based perspective.
  • October 26, Byron Nordstrom, Professor Emeritus, History/Scandinavian Studies, Gustavus Adolphus College, provides a Swedish and historical examination of Kindertransport.

From Stockbroker to Hero:  The Story of Sir Nicholas Winton and the Kindertransport, as told by his son Nick Winton, August 12, 7–8:30 pm. , at Beth El Synagogue  – Nick Winton talks about his father Sir Nicholas George Winton, a British humanitarian credited with organizing the escape of 669 mostly Jewish children from Czechoslovakia on the eve of  WWII.  What made 29-year-old Winton give up his skiing holiday to rescue these children and how did he do it?  https://www.besyn.org/

Knit the Green Sweater, Handcraft workshop (3 sessions) – virtual, August 12, 19 and 26, 1–3 p.m. Knit the Green Sweater inspired by Krystyna Chiger’s Holocaust story. Students provide their own materials.  Facilitated by Laura Ricketts.  Cost: $85 ASI members, $95 non-members

Afternoons at ASI: Kindertransport in Sweden – Objects and Stories from the Jewish Museum in Stockholm, September 9, 10 a.m.  Tour the Jewish Museum in Stockholm, located in the oldest preserved synagogue in Sweden, with museum educator, Angelica Ruckstuhl. Free, but registration required at ASImn.org.

Kindertransport University Day, September 19, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Join ASI for a day of learning with lectures by experts related to Kindertransport: Dr. Kyle Ward, Professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato; Melissa Hacker, filmmaker; Beth Gendler, Executive Director of NCJW Minnesota; and Uri Berliner, Senior Business Editor at NPR. Tickets: $125, includes boxed lunch and coffee/tea.  Educator/student scholarships available.  $50 Virtual connection.

Afternoons at ASI: “Closed-borders Sweden,” October 5, 10 a.m.  Virtual. Museum educator Andreas Schein from the Jewish Museum in Stockholm talks about Kindertransport as well as “Closed-borders Sweden.” $10 ASI members $15 non-members.

Kindertransports to Sweden, Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival film, October TBD This documentary by Gülseren Sengezer tells the story of four Jewish children who were sent to Sweden in 1939 on a Kindertransport. Tens of thousands of children were evacuated, 500 of them to Sweden. Those now-elderly children still live with feelings of loss, loneliness, deracination and guilt.  Presented in partnership with the Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival.  More info. at https://minnesotajcc.org/art-culture/jewish-film-festival/

Afternoons at ASI: The Transport Continues: HIAS & Rescuing the Refugee, October 14, 1-2 p.m. Robert Aronson, Chair at HIAS, the nation’s oldest refugee rights organization, talks about rescuing Jews from the pogroms in Eastern Europe.  Free, but registration required at ASImn.org.

VISITING THE AMERICAN SWEDISH INSTITUTE

ASI is located at 2600 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55407.  Advance reservations are not required, but still available. For more information, go to www.ASImn.org, or call 612-871-4907.

MUSEUM ADMISSION

Museum Admission: $12 adults, $8 seniors ages 62 +, $6 ages 6–18 and full-time students with ID.

Free for ASI members and children ages 5 and under.

HOURS — ASI, FIKA & THE MUSEUM STORE

  • Thursday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.  Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • The ASI, FIKA and the Store are closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • The full FIKA lunch menu and counter service are available 11 a.m. –  3 p.m.

AMERICAN SWEDISH INSTITUTE is a museum and cultural center that is a gathering place for all people to share experiences around themes of culture, migration, the environment and the arts, informed by enduring ties to Sweden.  It encompasses the historic Turnblad Mansion and the contemporary Nelson Cultural Center as well as the ASI Museum Store and the critically acclaimed FIKA Café. Founded by Swedish immigrant and newspaper publisher Swan J. Turnblad in 1929, ASI has grown to engage many audiences through innovative art exhibitions, public events, community and school programs including Story Swap with Wellstone International High School, language classes and Nordic craft and food-related workshops. The Wall Street Journal called ASI “[a] model of how a small institution can draw visitors through exciting programming.”

Beth El Synagogue is a warm, open and caring conservative Jewish community in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. The synagogue reaches out to its 1,250 households, providing a vibrant home where Judaism is lived, community is family, learning inspires action, prayer touches the heart and deeds repair the world.  Beth El is a center of Jewish life that strives to respond to emerging needs while living out the eternal, sacred values of the Jewish people.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas  – As the public affairs voice of the Jewish community, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) fights antisemitism and prejudice, advocates for Israel, provides Holocaust education, promotes tolerance and social justice, and builds bridges across the Jewish and broader communities.

Yeshiva University Museum (YUM) and the Leo Baeck Institute – New York | Berlin (LBI) are partners at the Center for Jewish History (CJH). YUM is dedicated to the presentation and interpretation of the artistic, historical and cultural achievements of Jewish life across the generations. LBI is a research library and archive that contains the most significant collection of source material relating to the history of German-speaking Jewry. This collaboration represents a facet of the multi-organizational partnership at CJH, the most important resource for the study and experience of Jewish history outside of Israel. The exhibition design by C&G Partners thoughtfully amplifies the emotional power of the objects and the stories in the gallery.

EXHIBITION SUPPORTERS

Kindertransport – Rescuing Children on the Brink of War was created and organized by Yeshiva University Museum and the Leo Baeck Institute – New York|Berlin.  The exhibition was made possible by the generous support of the Azrieli Foundation, the David Berg Foundation, the Koret Foundation, the Gruss Hirsch Family Foundation, and by Anonymous. Additional support was provided by the Wolfensohn Family Foundation, Robert M. Kaufman, Temple Sholom of Scotch Plains (NJ), and by patrons and friends of Yeshiva University Museum and the Leo Baeck Institute – New York|Berlin.

The exhibition is being presented in Minnesota by the Greenberg Family Fund for Holocaust Awareness at Beth El Synagogue, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), and the American Swedish Institute. Major support for the local presentation was provided by the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, Karin Larson, and ASI’s members and donors.

We thank the following for their generosity in supporting Holocaust education at the JCRC: the Beverly Foundation, the Oren and Sharron Steinfeldt Foundation,  Allianz of America, Tankenoff Families Foundation, the Kelen Family Foundation and the Fredrikson & Byron Foundation.

The exhibition media partner is the Star Tribune.

Star Tribune logo

Minnesota artist activities are made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund, and a grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation Minnesota.

MSAB Logo Group

Media Contact: Karen R. Nelson

612-870-3373