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Wednesday December 1st 2021

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Kindertransport and The Story is Here at American Swedish Institute

Photo story by Jessie Merriam

The nationally touring exhibition, “Kindertransport ”“ Rescuing Children on the Brink of War,” tells the story of the nations and individuals involved in the rescue effort that brought approximately 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi Germany to Great Britain and other countries, including Sweden, between 1938 and 1939 (approximately between Kristallnacht and the outbreak of war in Europe). Upstairs in the museum, the American Swedish Institute brings the story home, following three boys who eventually came to Minnesota through the Kindertransport program, despite the US’s restrictive immigration policies at the time.

The exhibit is personal–documenting the escalation of violence on the streets and in schools, tormented decisions and goodbyes, letters between children and parents, the fates of parents and remaining siblings, the ID tags worn around the necks of traveling children, stories of both difficult and caring placements abroad, and strained post-war reconnections. But it is also a story of nations and their politics around immigration, and how small groups of advocates failed to sway the US Congress into accepting children fleeing the Nazis (above the conservative Depression-era immigration quotas of the time). The consequences are palpable, and seem to reach from the past to shake us by the shoulders.

“The Story is Here” exhibit ends with tributes to the present-day families and passed-down creative passions of the Minnesotan Kindertransport survivors. But the poetry of Siegfried Lindenbaum, one of these survivors, poigniantly carries the strain of incomplete belonging that immigrants still face, asking us as viewers to consider our own roles as
wanderers and welcomers.

Siegfried Lindenbaum

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