Film Screening & Panel Discussion Representing the Kindertransport

B&W archive photo of a group of people crammed on at a train station © Bee's Knees Production

Tue, 30.01.2024

6:00 PM GMT

How has the Kindertransport been remembered across borders and different media

Commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January and the 85th anniversary of the Kindertransport, we invite you to a film screening and discussion to reflect on how the transports have been remembered through exhibitions, film, literature and in different national and transnational contexts. Following the presentation of the films My Knees Were Jumping and 256,000 Miles From Home by Melissa Hacker, a panel discussion will bring together Berlin-based writer Esther Dischereit, filmmaker Melissa Hacker from New York, historian Andrea Hammel from Aberystwyth and historian Bill Niven from Nottingham, who will be moderating the conversation. Please find more details about the programme and the speakers below.

6.00 pm: Welcome and Introductions to the Films
6.15 pm: My Knees Were Jumping, M.Hacker, USA 1996, 76 mins.
7.35 pm: 256.000 Miles From Home, M Hacker, USA, 2023, 15 mins
7:50 pm: Short break with refreshments
8:00 pm: Discussion
In the nine months just prior to World War II nearly 10,000 children were sent, without their parents, to Great Britain from Nazi Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Smaller numbers travelled to Sweden, Switzerland, France, and many emigrated to the United States, Israel, Canada, and Australia. The transports started following the physical violence against Jews and their property during the pogroms in November 1938. The first train arrived in England on December 2, 1938. The transports ended with the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939. Most of the children never saw their parents and families again, as they soon after boarded trains deporting them to death camps in Nazi-occupied eastern Europe.

Given that the Kindertransport children originated from different countries and regions in Europe and ended up in places across the world, individual experiences and memories of the children varied strongly. On a larger scale, national narratives of remembrance also differ depending on whether the commemoration takes place in Germany, which persecuted the children, or in the UK and other countries, which took the rescued children in. The event will look at specific differences in representation, asking what the varying timelines of remembrance are, and what the challenges are for the different media of representation. Which approaches to representation are the most meaningful? What role should individual stories and oral history play, and the use of archival material? How easy it is to access historical material?

My Knees Were Jumping—Remembering the Kindertransports

One of the children that were rescued by a Kindertransport was Melissa Hacker’s mother, who fled from Vienna and eventually settled in the United States, where she became an Academy Award nominated costume designer, working on films such Taxi Driver, Annie Hall, The Hustler, The Miracle Worker, Tootsie, and many more classic American movies. She is a strong presence of the film talking about her experiences alongside other former child refugees, many of them women. They remember the antisemitism of schoolmates and neighbours, the violence and their fears of the Kristallnacht, the difficult decision their parents had to make to send them off into the unknown, and how they were received in England by foster families. Hacker gives them plenty of space to talk and reflect on past events making this film a moving and invaluable record of testimony.

USA 1996, 76 mins.
Directed, Produced and Edited by Melissa Hacker. Narrated by Joan Woodward. With Eddie Better, Sonnie Better, Erika Estis, Kurt Fuchel, Margarete Goldberger, Anni Goodman, Ralph Goodman, Franzi Groszmann, Ruth Morley, Lore Segal, Norbert Wollheim.

We are showing My Knees Were Jumping online from 27 January until 3 February. Please followi the link on the side to the page to make a free reservation. 

256.000 Miles From Home

In My Knees Were Jumping, Melissa Hacker focused on giving a voice to former Kindertransport refugees and recording the memories of their experiences. In her new short film, released this year, she follows four former unaccompanied child refugees, now ages 83-91, on a trip to Vienna. Arriving there on 1 July 2019, they start a trip retracing the journey they took 80 years ago, alone, leaving their parents, homes, and everything they knew behind.

USA 2023, 15 mins.
Directed and Edited by Melissa Hacker. With Mark Burin, Ilse Melamid, Ralph Mollerick, Eva Yachnes. Camera John Foster, Composer Karen Goldfeder
More About the Speakers

Melissa Hacker is a film and video maker. Her directing debut was the documentary My Knees Were Jumping - Remembering the Kindertransports, which was short-listed for an Academy Award nomination and was one of only 18 documentaries selected for the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Competition. It has been screened in film festivals, museums, and universities worldwide, and aired on television in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Israel. Melissa has received a Fulbright Artist-in-Residence award in Vienna, and prestigious artist residencies at Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Millay, Playa, Willapa Bay AIR, Escape to Create, Saltonstall and Digital Arts Studios, Belfast, Northern Ireland.   Melissa Hacker's work as a freelance film editor has been recognized with two Academy Award nominations for Sister Rose's Passion and The Collector of Bedford Street, and two BAFTA nominations for The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition. Beyond Conviction, a feature documentary on restorative justice won the Audience Award at the Woodstock Film Festival, aired on MSNBC and was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Hacker is also a wandering professor, at New York University Film School in New York and Havana, Cuba, Hunter College, City College, and most recently at Marymount Manhattan College and Yangon Film School in Myanmar. Hacker is Executive Director of the Kindertransport Association (KTA) a not-for-profit organization based in the United States.

Andrea Hammel (DPhil, Sussex) is Professor of German and the Director of the Centre for the Movement of People at Aberystwyth University. She is the author of Finding Refuge: Stories of the men, women and children who fled to Wales to escape the Nazis (Honno, 2022) and The Kindertransport: What really happened (Polity, 2024). She has published widely on the history and culture of Jewish refugees and also on women exile writers who fled to the UK.

Esther Dischereit lives in Berlin, writes prose, poems, essays, and radio works. She is considered one of the most important voices of Jewish literature in Germany in the second generation after the Shoah. She was honoured with the prestigious Erich Fried Prize for her work in 2009. She was a professor at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna from 2012 to 2017 and held a chair in contemporary poetics at NYU in 2019. Among her most recent publications and projects Hab keine Angst! Erzähl alles. Das Attentat von Halle und die Stimmen der Überlebenden (Ed., 2020); Sometimes a Single Leaf (2020) and Flowers for Otello On the Crimes that Came out of Jena (2022) – both translated by Iain Galbraith, as well as Wer war Fritz Kittel, Exhibition 2023: Berlin / Frankfurt am Main / Chemnitz / Nürnberg.

Bill Niven is Emeritus Professor for Contemporary German History at Nottingham Trent University in England. He is the author and editor of many books relating to Germany’s efforts to come to terms with the National Socialist and GDR pasts, including Facing the Nazi Past (2001), The Buchenwald Child (2009) and Jud Süß: Das Lange Leben eines Propagandafilms (2022). In collaboration with Dr. Amy Williams, Niven has also been researching the Kindertransport, and their joint book Memory of the Kindertransport in National and Transnational Perspective was published in 2023. They are currently writing a transnational history of the Kindertransport for Yale University Press.