This installment of Through Courageous Eyes departs from the visual arts for a poem by Lotte Kramer, a child Holocaust survivor. This blog is curated by Cecilia Pessoa, LIRS Communications Associate.
Lotte was saved from likely death under the Nazi regime along with about 10,000 other children through a program called Kindertransport. Her words evoke the pain of parting, the heartache parents felt when choosing to send their children away, knowing they could no longer protect them. These tragic separations continue to happen today when parents send their children away from gang-ridden El Salvador and Honduras.
Lotte was born in 1923 in Mainz, Germany and was one of the nearly 10,000 children rescued from Germany, Australia, Czechoslovakia, and Poland through the Kindertransport movement. Kindertransport began sending children to Great Britain after Kristallnacht, “Night of Broken Glass,” in November 1938 and lasted until war broke out in September of 1939.
The original intent was that the refugees would be returned after the crisis, but many parents sent their children away knowing the dangers ahead. In fact, most never saw each other again. After waiting for years Lotte received the news that her parents, aunts, and uncles were all sent to death camps and that none survived.
For decades the recollections were too painful, but after 40 years Lotte began writing poetry as a way of telling people about what happened to her. “They need to know but I don’t know if they’ll learn any lessons. You get such terrible things happening now.”
Lotte’s poem Exodus draws parallels between parents sending their children to Britain and Jochebed entrusting her son Moses to the Nile in a wicker basket.
For all mothers in anguish
Pushing out their babies
In a small basket
To let the river cradle them
And kind hands find
And nurture them
In a hostile world:
Our constant gratitude.
As in this last century
The crowded trains
Taking us away from home
Became our baby baskets
Rattling to foreign parts
Our exodus from death.
Find all the previous posts in the Through Courageous Eyes series.
Through Courageous Eyes features the artistic work of refugees and migrants. If you would like to showcase your artwork as part of the Through Courageous Eyes series, please contact Cecilia Pessoa at email@example.com.
Information from Quakers in Britain and The Kindertransport Association. The poem came from Voices Compassion Education. Banner photo credit: Johanan Ottensooser