November 18, 2005

Kindertransport

EVA: “We have already got.” Or some want to give me tea and be sorry. Gentleman gave money at me.
LIL: The shame of it. What on earth d’you think we put an ad in for! To pass the time and have a laugh?
EVA: Sorry.
LIL: Don’t you trust me? What good is it if you don’t bloody trust me?

Eva’s search for jobs for her biological parents spans far and wide through the neighborhood. Lil assists Eva; Lil places ads in the paper about Eva’s parents in an attempt to get them jobs so they can come to England and be with Eva. Eva, in her innocence and longing to have her natural parents by her side, attempts to do more to expedite the process of getting her parents to England. Unfortunately, Lil interprets Eva’s actions as distrusting her help. It is also interesting to note that men give her money and tea. The men are symbolic of the compassionate nature of the country during the Kindertransport. This is a poignant, heart touching moment in the play since it is drenched in the passion of humanity – the love for the children, the love for the Jews. It is also sad to realize the cruelty of the circumstance and all the little children had to give up in order to survive. Childhood should not have to involve searching for jobs so your parents can come to live with you. The contrasts of the search with the tender youth of Eva’s age are key factors in this scene.

Their conversation is ironic in the fact that later, Eva starts to identify Lil as her Mum and does not want to venture to America with her own mom. In one instance, Lil finds Eva’s sidebar search disparaging. However, it is Eva who eventually gives up on her own mother, and it is Lil who recognizes that Eva should not place such heavy blame on her mother.


Diane Samuel’s Kindertransport is replete with issues that have been struggled with since ancient times. The Hebrews wandered the desert, taking nothing with them (for it was too much to transport through the vast desert) – no art, and thus, leaving nothing behind. A thousand years later, the same people took nothing with them, (with the exception of their memories), to their mass graves, and often times, left nothing behind – no children. Some fortunate Jewish people were able to send their children to England in order to avoid persecution from Nazis in Germany. The children that were sent could take only their necessary personal effects, clearly, taking family heirlooms was out of the question. These children were displaced people; though, they were not homeless or orphaned because they had people in England to care for them. They were a people without a land, as the Jews have been throughout history. They were a people made to almost completely vanquish their heritage in exchange for the ability to live a life, a life in other lands – complete with others’ memories and histories.

Kindertransport examines the struggle of a Jewish born, English raised Eva/Evelyn to deal with her past. Her parents sent her to England, with valuable jewelry enclosed in the heels of her shoes, to ensure that she would be able to survive. Release from her parents’ household was the ultimate loving act because it would almost guarantee that she would live. In England, Lil was her keeper. Lil was their through her pre to post adolescence. In the absence of Eva’s birth mother, Lil became her surrogate parent. Eva/Evelyn grew up accustomed to the nature of her English surroundings and more readily accepted her English heritage. At the age of 17, her Mutti came to take her to America so they could forge a life new life together. Before Mutti got on the boat, the pair had a terrible, relationship quashing argument about identity and self. Mutti missed her Eva; Eva wants to continue living as Evelyn. The play was replete with mother-daughter issues. Evelyn struggles with her own daughter Faith’s issues in understanding Evelyn’s past. Evelyn wants to suppress the memories – Faith wants to understand the history. This, of course, causes Lil and Evelyn to destroy some past papers, but also helps them to form a more intimate bond because they revisit the past. The past is, after all, what shapes the present. Throughout the entire play, the looming theme of the Rat Catcher visits the set and props. They women read the book in the German, the story is translated, the songs ring out through the air, etc. It is an ominous, foreboding feeling that one has when this character is explored. The Rat Catcher’s goal was to take away all happiness, all talent, all youth, all vitality – just because of the mistake of one. It is horrific to know that in more recent history there have been such Rat Catchers in our midst. The acts of the Holocaust will never be forgotten: drama as literature, such as Kindertransport, helps to put a more human face on the atrocities of hatred. These events were real: this work asks us to not deny, nor ever ever forget history. Like the Rat Catcher from the 1200s, history repeats itself. This play asks us to make it our goal to ensure that these memories live on ---- and never happen again.

To learn more about Kindertransport, go here: http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10005260

Posted by KatieAikins at November 18, 2005 10:57 PM