Nine months before World War II began, 10,000 Jewish children boarded British trains, bidding their families goodbye in hopes of someday meeting again. The trains transported the children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia to Britain, where they were taken into foster homes and hostels. The children were known as kinder, and the documentary that tells their story, "Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport," will play in Richmond at the Ridge Cinema on Sunday, April 22, at 6:30 p.m. before it opens at the Westhampton Theatre. Jewish Family Services will host this screening for its 7th Annual Jewish Family Night at the movies, a fund-raiser for this nonprofit social-service agency.
"With this film, we hope to expand out to more of the general community because a lot of other people are interested in the history of the Holocaust," says Jennie Barrett, marketing and community relations coordinator for JFS. "It highlights a part of history that a lot of people don't know about."
Ruth Terner was one of the many children who boarded a British train in August 1939. She was 16 years old.
"I remember so very little of it. It was all in a dream," she says by phone from Boston.
Terner, whose son lives in Richmond, viewed the film in November and says that while it was upsetting to her, she thought the documentary was truthful and accurate.
Terner's parents learned of the Kindertransport through a distant relative who worked for a Jewish agency in Berlin, and they decided to send both her and her sister on the journey, but not together.
"I felt terribly, terribly homesick, in fact, I wanted to go back for the first three months," Terner says. "It was very, very tough, and I was very, very lonesome." She adds that if she had gone back to Germany, she probably would have been killed. "I lost my parents in the camps, but at that time I just wanted to go back."
This Academy Award-winning documentary, narrated by Judi Dench, delves into kinder's memories, and features stories told by the child survivors, rescuers, parents and foster parents. "Into the Arms of Strangers," shows never-before-seen footage, and in it, many kinder tell of the confusion they felt when being sent away by their parents, not knowing where they were headed or why they had to leave. Most, like Terner, never saw their families again.
"We were just so happy to be out of [Germany], but then we thought, 'Where are we going?' Into the arms of strangers, that was it exactly," Terner says.
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