Kindertransport: a lifeline for Jewish children

Henry Lowenstein

Henry Lowenstein

After Henry’s application for the Kindertransport is submitted in February 1939, Henry and his parents continue to pursue all available options to get Henry out of the country. Knowing that he must be ready to leave quickly if accepted, Henry must get his paperwork in order.

Since October 1938, Jews are required to surrender their passports and carry Jewish identity cards issued by the Gestapo. Henry and his father, Max Loewenstein, visit Gestapo headquarters in Berlin on March 31, 1939 to obtain their cards. While they are there, Henry must watch as his father is subjected to insult and humiliation.

Henry’s card is marked with a “J” and, as required by the law regarding Jewish names in effect since August 17, 1938, it identifies him as Ernst Heinrich “Israel” Loewenstein.

Identification card issued to Ernst Heinrich “Israel” Loewenstein in Berlin, March 31, 1939.

Courtesy of Beck Archives, University Libraries, University of Denver

Henry is accepted on a transport to France and then loses his place due to illness. In late May he is accepted for the Kindertransport to Great Britain, organized by London’s Hampstead Garden Suburb Care Committee for Refugee Children. 


Henry Lowenstein: We had—in the meantime, I had been accepted for a transport to France. And I must confess that I wasn’t wild about going to France, but I would have—anything was better than staying in Germany. And that was a child’s reaction because I didn’t like French as a language. Didn’t speak French very well and never seemed to get it through my head what that was all about. But anyway, the—just as the plans were being made to go to France I became ill and was not able to go. And—which was probably, ultimately, one of the best things that ever happened to me because all the people that were sent to France were all killed, eventually when the Germans conquered France, all these people were taken away and never to be heard of again. So we got word from London that I was accepted, that this committee had agreed to sponsor me to go to England. And then we had to go and get paperwork done.

“I must confess that I wasn’t wild about going to France, but I would have—anything was better than staying in Germany.”

USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive, Interview 11470

Letter announcing Heinrich Loewenstein’s place on the Kindertransport, May 25, 1939

Courtesy of Beck Archives, University Libraries, University of Denver

Henry is thirteen years old as he prepares to leave his family behind in Berlin, uncertain when they will see each other again. He is old enough to appreciate the gravity and the necessity of the situation. The pictures below are of the family during Henry’s last weeks in Berlin.


Henry Lowenstein: But I mean the only thing—at that point, the only thing anybody thought about was, “How can we get out?” And I mean, of course it was a terrible thing to leave one’s parents and to leave one’s relatives, but it also became a question of survival. And the parents realized that the only way they could save their children was to get them out. So there was not a question of saying, “We have to stick together,” because you knew if you stuck together the chances were you were all doomed.

[Interviewer] Did you have plans that maybe if they got out how you would meet or anything like that?

[Henry Lowenstein] No. We didn’t talk about that at all, because we absolutely, simply didn’t know. I mean the hope was to simply stay in touch and to find a way, you know. I mean after all, my mother had experienced—she had fled from the Bolsheviks to Germany. My father had been all through four years of the [First World] War, as a doctor, but still in all on the front lines. It was—you know we had grown up knowing that life could be very difficult. So all we could really look forward to was hope—finding a way for each of us to survive, and then finding a way of getting back together. But um, at the time, it was strictly a day-to-day survival thing.

“So there was not a question of saying, ‘We have to stick together,’ because you knew if you stuck together the chances were you were all doomed.”

USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive, Interview 11470

Loewenstein Family Portrait, May 1939. Left to right: Henry, Karin, Max, and Marie

Courtesy of Beck Archives, University Libraries, University of Denver

Heinrich Loewenstein and Karin Steinberg in Berlin, May 1939

Courtesy of Beck Archives, University Libraries, University of Denver

Henry Lowenstein's Timeline

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