The Children’s Train starts out as a hard read. Young Jewish children have no idea why they are being mistreated. The attacks escalate, and their elders are powerless to stop the violence. Some parents are arrested, never to be seen again; others return broken, soon to die.
Peter, who never had any inclination to play rough sports, loves to play his violin. After his father dies from mistreatment, his mother manages to get him and his sister Becca on a kindertransport. The British have managed to arrange for Jewish children to come to Britain. Becca ends up in a wealthy home and a comfortable life. Peter becomes little better than a servant doing all the farm chores for a couple in Coventry. His friends Stephen and Hans are also in England, but Eva, the prettiest girl Peter has ever seen, is robbed of her seat on the train by her no-good brother.
As time passes, shy Peter becomes bold and joins the crusade against Hitler.
Ten thousand children escaped to England on the kindertransports. Few ever saw their parents again. The Children’s Train offers a glimpse of what life was like for those children, both in Germany and then in England. Besides Peter and Becca, we follow Charlie, whose father pulled him off the train, unable to part with his son; Noah, the orphan stowaway who is discovered and tossed off the train; Eva, who ends up in the camps; Stephen and Hans, who lose everything.
It’s a heart-wrenching tale, made all the more poignant because we know it accurately portrays life for the German Jewish children in the Third Reich. Most of the children never saw their parents, who were murdered during the Holocaust.
Author Jana Zinser introduces her story:
“It is with great passion that I tell the story of these children who lived in a time of tremendous evil and had to be bold just to stay alive. Although the children in my story are fictional, they represent both the many children who rode the Kindertransport and those who were not lucky enough to get a seat on the train. Since the moment I heard their historic tale, they have not left my mind. The Kindertransport children came to live in my conscience and would not leave until I told their story.
The Nazis killed six million Jews. One-and-a-half million of those Jews were children. Peter and Becca represent two of the more than ten thousand children who safely escaped to England on the Kindertransport.
Most of the Kindertransport children never saw their parents again. All of them survived in their own ways and found their own paths in the world. If their tragedy taught them anything, it was that as long as there is life, there is hope, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, love. The children who survived these times are now in the twilight of their lives. But, in each, I imagine the heart of a child still lives and remembers what it was like to face the fear and sorrow that no child should ever know. They have shown us how valuable life is—and how hope can push us to survive beyond anything we thought we could bear. If we have learned anything from the struggles of their young lives, we will not be silent and stand by when evil comes calling. We will fight back.”
The Children’s Train is now available.
As always, very interesting article. I'd never heard of this before. Great subject for a novel.ReplyDelete