75th anniversary of Kindertransport explored in theater events

German exchange student Hannah Beck as Helga, with her (young) daughter Eva, performed by student Mallory Caillaud-Jones.
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German exchange student Hannah Beck as Helga, with her (young) daughter Eva, performed by student Mallory Caillaud-Jones.
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A series of events at Grand Valley, Allendale Campus, will be held during the 75th anniversary of Kindertransport, the mission that evacuated more than 10,000 young Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, before the official start of World War II. A talk by Kindertransport survivor John H. Rosen, a stage production, panel discussions and an exhibition are planned throughout November.

Over the course of nine months between 1938-39, desperate Jewish parents struggled to get passage for their children on unaccompanied trains bound for the safety of Great Britain. The organized effort was meant to place the children in foster families, hoping a brief separation would spare them from the growing atrocities being inflicted by Hitler and the Nazis.

Six performances of the dramatic stage production of “Kindertransport” are scheduled at Grand Valley’s Performing Arts Center. Performances are at 7:30 p.m., November 15-16 and November 21-22. Matinee performances are at 2 p.m., November 17 and November 23. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for faculty, staff, alumni, and seniors, and $6 for all students and groups of 10 or more. Call Grand Valley’s Louis Armstrong Theatre box office at (616) 331-2300 or visit www.gvsu.edu/theatre.  

“Kindertransport,” was written by Diane Samuels and first performed in London in 1993. The play examines the life of one fictional child, Eva, and is based on interviews with many who shared their actual experiences as transported children.

“It focuses on universal themes such as mother-daughter relationships, separation, loss and whether or not the past can be forgotten,” said director Karen Libman. “Told in a series of flashbacks over a 40-year period, the play focuses on not only the life of the child, but her adult life and how her experience affects her relationship with others, including her own daughter.”

Two panel discussions of various issues relating to the play will take place after the November 17, 2 p.m. performance and the November 21, 7:30 p.m. performance.  

A special middle/high school matinee November 21, at 10 a.m. has been scheduled for area schools. Tickets are $2.50.  For more information, call the box office.

Related events include:

An exhibition, “The Kindertransport Journey,” November 1-24 will be at the Exhibition Space in the Atrium level of the Mary Idema Pew Library. On loan from the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, New York, the exhibit includes documents and photographs to describe the Kindertransport experience. Sponsored by Grand Valley’s Jewish Student Organization, Hillel, and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the exhibit is free and open to the public during library hours.  

Kindertransport survivor John H. Rosen, 82, will give a public talk November 5 at 4 p.m. about his experiences as an 8-year-old child during the Kindertransport and after. Sponsored by Grand Valley’s Meijer Honors College, the event is free and open to the public in the Multipurpose Room, on the Atrium level of the Mary Idema Pew Library.