Sculpture by Gabriella Karin, left. Michelle Gold helped with the research.
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MAR 4, 2011


By Suzan Filipek

Before the start of World War II, 10,000 Jewish children rode trains safely to London.

Foster families, farms and orphanages took in the German children, some who were still toddlers. Most would leave their families behind forever.

Their story is told in artist Gabriella Karin’s sculpture, “A Tribute to the Children of the Kindertransport,” which opened last month at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Pan Pacific Park.

The colorful, 14-foot wide by five-foot tall display of 65 train cars carries snapshots of 744 children.

These are among the children who had traveled from Germany and the annexed territories of Austria, Poland and the Czech lands to London in the years 1938 and 1939.

“It’s bittersweet,” Karin says of the sculpture she made in her Miracle Mile home studio, with assistance from her husband Fred Ofer.

Most of the thumb-sized faces that look out from the orange, red and purple-colored box cars would never see their parents again.

“Can you imagine?” says Gabriella, a Slovak native.

The project is a co-effort with fellow museum docent Michelle Gold, who helped gather the photos from museum archives in Washington D.C., the Kindertransports Assoc. and from survivors and their relatives.

Gold’s mother was 15 when she arrived in London. A Glasgow family, who her parents had met on a holiday a year before in Holland, adopted her.

“She always said she was one of the lucky ones,” the younger Gold said. But her mother would never see her parents after she left Leipzig.

The whimsical style of the railroad cars was intentional. “[Gabriella] made it very childlike so children of the same age could relate to it,” said Gold.

Some of the cabooses are double deckers to accommodate all the photos. “We didn’t want to refuse anybody,” Karin added.

Karin was hidden in a convent for three years during World War II. The young artist created her own stamp on a forged paper declaring her a Catholic. Her mother worked for the Underground and arranged for the family to spend the final nine months of the war in hiding in a neighbor’s apartment. It was in an unfortunate spot—across from Gestapo headquarters in the German-occupied Slovak capital Bratislava.

And yet, “they [Nazis] went apartment to apartment but they never entered this house,” recalls Karin.

Eight people hid and survived the war in the home of the neighbor, a 25-year-old Roman Catholic lawyer. Years after the war Karin traced him to his burial site in Ohio.

The last kindertransport left Prague on Sept. 3, 1939, carrying 250 children. But they were sent back because the Nazis had invaded Poland, marking the start of World War II. In all 1.5 million children would perish during the Holocaust, Karin said.

Despite the trying times, many of the children who were transported to London thrived. They would have families of their own and went on to promising careers, including Supreme Court judges and positions in London parliament, said Karin.

A dark side of the sculpture shows most of their parents’ fate.

At the bottom of the exhibit a dark brown cattle car carries their parents headed toward Auschwitz.

“A Tribute to the Children of the Kindertransports” is at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, 7600 Beverly Blvd. Free. Parking is free for four hours in the Pan Pacific Recreation Complex on Beverly Blvd.


For more go to Larchmont Chronicle's website.