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30.08.2013

She rescued 10,000 children from the Nazis: honouring Tante Truus in Berlin

 
 
Sculpture by Frank Meisler at the Bahnhof Friedrichstraße, Berlin

Sculpture by Frank Meisler at the Bahnhof Friedrichstraße, Berlin

 

 

 

The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is honouring one of its citizens at the children’s memorial in front of Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse station on 30 August 2013. The ceremony marks the 35th anniversary of the death of an outstanding woman: Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer, who was called Tante Truus (Auntie Truus).

During the Nazi era Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer saved more than 10,000 Jewish and so-called non-Aryan children in the Kindertransport rescue mission. She worked together with the Jewish woman and rescuer Recha Freier in Berlin.

As the threats facing the Jewish and ‘non-Aryan’ population in Nazi Germany reached increasingly violent proportions, Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer travelled repeatedly to Vienna from November 1938 onwards. She managed to gain access to Adolf Eichmann, who at the time headed the ‘Central Office for Jewish Emigration’ in Vienna. Under her persuasion he agreed to allow 600 children to leave for England within five days, on condition that she organized the transport. Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer did it. The first transport of these young refugees arrived in Britain via the Netherlands on 11 December 1938. More followed. Eventually, more than 10,000 children were rescued and taken to England from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. The mission was forced to end at the outbreak of World War II on 1 September 1939. By then, Tante Truus had organized 74 transports.

The sculpture at Friedrichstrasse station, entitled Trains to Life – Trains to Death, is by the architect and sculptor Frank Meisler. He was one of the Jewish children who were rescued and taken to England by the Kindertransport mission. The sculpture was erected by the initiative Kindertransport Organisation Germany chaired by Lisa Bechner, with support from the International Auschwitz Committee.