Anybody passing the Tunbridge Wells War Memorial in front of the Town Hall on Wednesday (January 27) would have seen an unusual addition to more familiar commemorations – a small teddy bear with a rain spattered note attached.
It had been placed there by one of the dedicated group of supporters who gather annually to honour International Holocaust Remembrance Day which marks the date when the Allies liberated Auschwitz during World War 2.
More than six million Jewish people were sent to their deaths by the Nazi regime and its collaborators during The Holocaust. In 2005 the United Nations General Assembly made a resolution to hold an annual remembrance day on January 27 to ensure these atrocities will never be forgotten.
The teddy bear on the war memorial was recognition of Tunbridge Wells’ own involvement in helping to rescue Jewish children from almost certain death.
In 1938 the British Government eased immigration restrictions for certain categories of Jewish refugees which allowed children under the age of 17 to enter Great Britain from Germany. The move was known as Kindertransport (Children’s Transport) and the rescue effort brought thousands of refugee Jewish children to these shores.
Twenty of them arrived in Tunbridge Wells and were housed with local families. The plan was for them to return to Germany once hostilities had ceased but many of them stayed as they had no family to go back to because they had all been killed in concentration camps.
Tunbridge Wells Borough Councillor Bob Backhouse, one of the supporters to attend the event, said: “When I first attended in 2010, there was a very impressive lady who came along as she was one of the original Kinder children who came to the town before later being adopted.
“She was a symbol of the failure of the Nazis to extinguish human hope and kindness. Her later visits were made in a wheelchair as she was in her 90s and frail, but her voice was strong.
“I am so glad Tunbridge Wells ensures we will never forget this grim story of man’s inhumanity against mankind.”