Cyclists leave Berlin to retrace marathon Kindertransport journey
A group of 42 people from all over the world set off on Sunday morning from Friedrichstrasse Station in Berlin.
Cyclists have begun their commemorative ride retracing the journey of 10,000 children who were rescued from Nazi Europe on the Kindertransport 80 years ago.
A group of 42 people from all over the world set off on Sunday morning from Friedrichstrasse Station in Berlin, where the first train departed from in 1938.
The riders will cycle to the Hook of Holland and take a ferry to Harwich in Essex before arriving at London Liverpool Street Station on Saturday.
The Kindertransport was organised immediately after the anti-Jewish violence of Kristallnacht, often referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, in Germany in November 1938.
An evacuation of mostly Jewish children to Britain began, with the UK government waiving the need for visas and agencies including World Jewish Relief helping to bring trainloads of children across.
Most of the cyclists are descendants of people rescued by the Kindertransport, but one experienced the journey first-hand.
Paul Alexander, 80, was just 19 months old when his mother bravely handed her only child to a British volunteer nurse and waved goodbye at a railway station.
He said he arrived in England just six weeks before the outbreak of World War Two and that it must have been a difficult decision for his mother, who had lost two previous children in childbirth.
Speaking shortly before the ride, on which he will be joined by his son and grandson, he said: “For me, this is a culmination, a vindication and a celebration of my life.
“Seventy-nine years ago I was sent as a child of one and a half from Germany – which was a country of persecution and hatred – to a country where I found freedom and safety.
“That journey was the most significant I have ever made, and ever will make, in my whole life.
“This journey that I’m starting today is a victory over oppression and over everything that I was sent away from.
“I can’t think of a more poignant and meaningful thing than doing this with my son and grandson. This is my answer to Adolf Hitler. This is my chance to say thank you to World Jewish Relief for orchestrating the Kindertransport.”
Mr Alexander, who lived in London until he was 24 and now lives in Israel, was reunited with his parents when he was four or five.
“I knew from an early age that I was sent alone from Germany by my mother,” he added. “It must have been so hard for her. She did an amazing thing. Many of the children who got out were not as lucky as me.”
On the ride itself, Mr Alexander said he was feeling confident.
“I might not be able to do the whole of the ride but I’m going to do as much as I can,” he said. “I’m pretty fit, I don’t feel 80 at all!
“The most emotional bit will be when I get to London, please God I get there! It will be extraordinary to meet the other Kinder there and to see my whole family.”
Phil Harris is taking part in memory of his grandmother, Ilse, who arrived in Britain with one small suitcase at the age of 16. Last night he stayed in the same apartment she had to flee from.
Rafi Cooper, of World Jewish Relief, told Press Association the cyclists were going through a range of emotions at the starting point.
“You could see both the excitement and nervous energy on people’s faces from the start,” he said. “I think they realised it was going to be both a huge challenge, and meaningful.”