I’m not sure why this PBS show caught my eye but tonight I just had to watch it. Probably because it has the word Kinder in it and I am really thinking about Butterfly’s school starting next week. But this PBS show is not about school, but about the thousands of German-Jewish children who were sent to England to live with English families before World War II broke out.
These children’s lives were saved, but they were also changed drastically. Some had parents survive, some did not. Some were put in boarding houses, some were placed in families. Some were placed as servants, some were shuffled from family to family. In one instance, a man put his daughter on the train but couldn’t go through with it. He pulled her from the train window to keep her with him.
Because of this, she went to concentration camps. And she survived. But her parents did not. They were forcibly separated in the camps, and she said this was worse than him putting her on a train to try and save her life. By the time they went into the camps, they had heard rumors of what happened there. And they knew they had little chance of surviving.
Another man said that he had friends the vowed as teenagers that they would never send their children away. They wanted to keep their families together to die together. As he got older, they saw what they had done, and how it had saved their lives. They changed their vow, to save their children.
The whole time I was watching this, I kept wondering how I would feel as a child sent away from my parents to a strange land. Sent to strangers who were supposed to take care of me. I would probably be terrified. These children grew up English. Most of them forgot how to speak German. Some, after the war, had no home to go back to and so stayed in England the rest of their lives. How would I feel to go to another country and realize that I would never come back to my own home? It would be scary.
And then I wonder what I would do if something like that were to happen to my own family. Would I send my children away to save their lives? Or would I keep them with me so we could “all die together” as the one guy said. I honestly have no idea what I would do. Of course we love our children and want them to stay with us. But do we love them enough to let them go and not see them again? Or to send a 7 year old and get back a 16 year old, which is what one family did. How drastic that change would be.
What would you do? Send them away or keep them?