An interpretation panel retelling the events of the 1938 Kindertransport arrival in Lowestoft has been unveiled at the town’s railway station as people from the community gathered to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
On 12 December 1938, over 500 mostly Jewish children arrived in Lowestoft from Vienna, having been rescued from Nazi oppression. On arrival they were accommodated at Pakefield Holiday Camp before moving on to more permanent accommodation. Around 300 more children arrived in the town a few days later.
The new panel contains details of their journey across Europe by both rail and steamship, their arrival in Lowestoft where the children were met by the mayor, and information relating to the circumstances which prompted their evacuation and how this was achieved. The Lowestoft Journal also gave permission for the panel to include part of the original newspaper article featuring the Kindertransport arrival from an edition published in December 1938, which included a special greeting published in both German and English.
The panel is the latest in a series installed by the Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership (CRP) and Lowestoft Central Project, which have included the story of the 1940 Lowestoft schools evacuation and a special timeline unveiled in May 2022 celebrating 175 years since the railway first reached the town.
Content for the panel was researched by local historian and town councillor Andy Pearce and designed by Norwich-based James Mingay. Production and installation of the panel was supported by Lowestoft Town Council, Network Rail, Greater Anglia and the Northern Line Group of the East Suffolk Lines CRP.
Attending the unveiling at Lowestoft Railway Station on Friday 27 January were Waveney constituency MP Peter Aldous, Mayor of Lowestoft Cllr Alan Green, Cllr Andy Pearce, Greater Anglia area manager James Reeve and Community Rail Development Officer Martin Halliday, along with representatives from the Lowestoft Journal, the Wherry Lines CRP, East Suffolk Lines CRP, Network Rail, the Lowestoft Central Project and members of the Jewish community.
Andy Pearce, Lowestoft Town Councillor, said: “It was a privilege to be asked to research content for the panel, retelling the harrowing circumstances that led to the Kindertransport initiative and those amazing individuals that played such a significant role in helping these children escape oppression, enabling them to forge new lives in a free World.
“The installation of the panel at Lowestoft Railway Station will give a lasting reminder of the role played by Lowestoft and hopefully inform future generations about the background to and incredible achievement of the Kindertransport.”
Martin Halliday, Development Officer at Community Rail Norfolk (parent organisation of the Wherry and Bittern Line CRPs), said: “We are delighted to have worked with the Lowestoft Central Project, Lowestoft Town Council, the Lowestoft Journal and our rail industry partners to install a permanent information panel dedicated to retelling the events of December 1938 wherein the town welcomed over 500 refugees as part of the Kindertransport from Vienna.
“Whilst on Holocaust Memorial Day we remembered the millions of lives lost through genocide, unveiling of the history panel at the station provides a permanent reminder of the horrific circumstances that led to the Vienna Kindertransport and recognises the small part Lowestoft played in welcoming those Austrian children, whose lives were undoubtably saved.”