Memory of the Kindertransports in National and International Perspectives
Holocaust Studies, Memory Studies, and Exile and Emigration Studies
My thesis seeks to present the first comprehensive examination of the different national and international memories of the Kindertransports. In the following, I understand 'Kindertransports' here as referring not just to the actual rescue of Jewish children from Nazism (1938-1939), but also its effects, i.e. transplantation to a new and strange environment, with all the ensuing complications of adaptation and integration. There is yet to be a true comparison of how the host nations - Britain, Sweden, Belgium, America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand - received the Kindertransportees and integrated them, and of how the memories of the transportees and the nations' memories of the Kindertransports developed. A comparison of these various host countries will reveal that memory of the Kindertransports and other transports was not uniform, but shaped by national factors such as the role of these countries in the war, their post-war political, economic and social development, social and cultural policies towards refugees, and nationally conditioned memory discourses. However, no memory is entirely nationally bounded. Increasingly, Holocaust memory operates in a transnational, even global network (Levy and Sznaider, 2006); the specific interaction of such global memory with national memory patterns in the case of the Kindertransports will also be examined. Moreover, the working hypothesis of this PhD project will also disclose that there was not ONE memory of the Kindertransports, but several, nationally conditioned memory discourses. My previous research has focussed on British memory of the Kindertransports, revealing that interest in this event emerged late (1980s). British historiography, the Kindertransportees' accounts and museum exhibitions were studied to reveal how the memory of the Kindertransports is represented in Britain. Also I have recently studied the fictionalisation of the Kindertransports and here I discovered that a more unconventional narrative was disclosed to the reader. The final chapter of my MA dissertation considered the link between how British, American, German and Swedish authors represented the Kindertransport to Britain and whether they brought their own national perspectives to the table. However, this PhD project aims to branch out from specifically focussing on the British narrative of the Kindertransports to reveal the stories of the Kindertransports in other host nations which are not as explored or recognised as the British story of this event.
The first aim of the project is to map out the ways in which the Kindertransportees were received in their host countries, something that has only partially been research despite a growing body of work on the Kindertransports (e.g. Fast, 2010; Hammel and Lewkow, 2012; Read, 2013; Baumel, 1990; Lindauer, 2007). The second is to identify, for each country, how the memories of the Kindertransports were articulated in autobiographical, political, social and cultural form. The third is to undertake a comparative assessment of these forms of expression, exploring interactions between them. The project will be aware of the need to differentiate between forms of memory; nevertheless, I believe that it will be possible to identity broad national patterns within each country. Finally, this PhD project will provide an international comparison of memory of the Kindertransports. The increasing 'cosmopolitanisation' of Holocaust memory (Levy and Sznaider, 2006; 2010) will have impacted in all four countries under consideration. The research will explore how national memory patterns intersect with global ones and, in terms of academic impact, extend knowledge of the aftermath of the Kindertransports. It also hopes to bring the national back into the equation through an international comparison.
Supervisors and Institution(s):
Prof. William Niven - Nottingham Trent University
Dr. Nick Hayes - Nottingham Trent University
Dr. Karl Wilds - University of Nottingham
- Midlands3Cities/AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership (Nottingham Trent University)
- MA Holocaust and Genocide Studies: Distinction (Nottingham Trent University)
- BA History with English Literature: 1st (Nottingham Trent University
Placement at The National Holocaust Centre (Beth Shalom) November 2016 - January 2017
This placement was over a three month period and focused on the preservation, remembrance, and representation of the story of the Kindertransports within a museum setting both in terms of exhibitions and collections.
7 subject overviews have been published on Beth Shalom's website - http://www.nationalholocaustcentre.net/pages/category/subject-Overviews - Kindertransport, Anne Frank, Kristallnacht, The Voyage of the St. Louis, Children in the Holocaust, Rabbi Schonfeld, and Sir Nicholas Winton.
The National Holocaust Centre and Museum recently posted this blog post about my placement and how I worked with SOC material... https://www.nationalholocaustcentre.net/blog/amy-williams-working-with-soc-material
Exhibition: Re-thinking the Story of the Kindertransports: Testimony, Artefacts, Identity (2017)
Legacies of the Holocaust Exhibition on display at the National Holocaust Centre and Museum (Created by my supervisor Prof. Bill Niven - I helped to create the Kindertransport section of this exhibition)
I was very privileged to work with the curator of the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, UK recently to create two new online exhibitions. The links are below. The first exhibition focuses on faith before, during and after the Holocaust and the second looks at how objects can tell a story.
SDFs 1 and 2 - These two SDFs involved applying for funding so that I could travel to interview Kindertransportees living in the UK. These SDFs were vital to my research because I had the incredible opportunity to listen and speak with survivors. These research trips also developed my needs-based training because I gathered primary evidence and developed best-practice interviewing techniques.
SDF 3 - This research trip involved a 6 night stay in London to consult the relevant archivals here in the UK. This was critical to the overall PhD project because firstly I needed to understand how the term Kindertransport is used and secondly when it was coined. I also visited the London Jewish Museum, The Imperial War Museum, and the Wiener Library to reflect upon how their exhibtions represent the Kindertransport. This was also vital to the overall PhD project because I have now gathered material on how Britain’s memory of the Kindertransport has developed and thus I am able to draw comparisons between how these memories have been shaped and changed since the 1930s up until today.
SDF 4 - The core component of my PhD thesis is an international comparison between Britain, America, and the Antipodes and how these countries received the Kinder and how the memory of the Kindertransports developed in each host nation. For this to be achieved a 10 day scoping trip to America was needed. First to discover what is held within the archives, second to conduct interviews with survivors and their families, and third to start making concrete comparisons between the host countries. This scoping trip was critical to the overall PhD project because it made me think about the overall shape of my project. The first 5 days were spent in Washington visiting archives such as the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC and the national archives DC. The remaining 5 days were then spent in New York interviewing Kinder, visiting the Centre for Jewish History, and the Jewish Museum.
SDF 5 - This placement was over a three month period and focused on the preservation, remembrance, and representation of the story of the Kindertransports within a museum setting both in terms of exhibitions and collections.
SDF 6 - This activity was a research trip to Australia and New Zealand for 25 days. This research trip involved visiting national and other archives, interviewing survivors, and viewing museum exhibitions and memorials. I was also invited to give two talks while on my trip, one was at The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand on 3rd May 2017 and the second was at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne on 10th May 2017. I visited Auckland, Wellington, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide altogether.
SDF 7 - This application was for a 6 day research trip to Montreal, Canada to complete the final part of my primary research. My research is on host nations: Britain, America, Canada and the Antipodes. I have completed my research in Britain, America and the Antipodes. However, I was missing primary evidence from Canada. I have been able to collect information about this nation from history from several sources which include: Alison Pick’s novel Far To Go, edited collections The Kindertransports to Britain 1938/39 and The Young Victims of the Nazi Regime, and two exhibitions which were displayed at the Vancouver Holocaust Centre. But I still needed to gather oral testimonies from Kinder in Canada. This final research trip was to consult the archives, museums and to interview survivors and their families.
RTSG - This application was to attend a 4 day conference from 13th-16th December in Copenhagen entitled the 2nd annual conference of the Memory Studies Association. This conference was the predominant conference in my field of study and it was also an international conference. I presented a paper on the topic of my PhD and it was also a rare opportunity to get feedback on my developing ideas from the world’s leading memory scholars, such as Marianne Hirsch, Michael Rothberg and Aleida Assmann. Discussing my thesis with these and other experts provided an invaluable inspiration.
CDF 1 (Lead) - Debates in contemporary memory studies was designed for the purpose of discussing regional, national, and international memories of the Holocaust. This CDF consists of 5 seminars and a one day workshop held at NTU.
CDF 2 (Lead) - Responding to the present by remembering the past - World Jewish Relief have established a legacy of helping and caring for refugees. Their work first started prior to the Second World War and they were instrumental in bringing the Kindertransportees over to the UK before the war broke out (although at the time the organisation went by another name). They have also helped in many other catastrophes for example they have helped in Rwanda, in Eastern Europe, Greece, Turkey, and they are currently aiding Syrian refugees today.
Our proposed activity follows on from our previous, successful CDF “Debates in Contemporary Memory Studies”. It involves a collaboration between World Jewish Relief and PhD students. This collaboration will lead to the creation of an exhibition tracing the history of the organisation, their work in the UK and abroad, and how we can learn from the past to help refugees in the present. The exhibition will incorporate M3C students’ work, and it will establish links with World Jewish Relief and the Jewish community in Nottingham as well as the Jewish communities in Israel, New Zealand, and Australia as we will turn the exhibition into a booklet and send it out to schools and Holocaust Centres in these countries. We will also invite WJR to a workshop day at Nottingham Conference Centre. The day will involve talks by WJR about the history of the organisation, what is in their archives, their work in places like Rwanda, what they are doing to help refugees today, and their work in the UK. PhD students will also be invited to give 15 minute presentations about their work. As the main focus will be on Holocaust studies it will be a good opportunity for students to talk with World Jewish Relief about their work. Moreover, we all work in this field but we want to actually give something back and help in some way. So, we are aiming to raise funds for the charity. This will be done by baking cakes, running half marathons, and a mini university challenge competition.
New Zealand and Australia SDF
I gave two talks while in New Zealand and Australia. The first was at the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand in Wellington and the second was at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne. My paper focussed on how the Kindertransports are represented in British museum exhibitions but it also discussed some early conclusions about how they compare to exhibits in New Zealand and Australia.
Steven wrote a blog post that was prompted by my talk in Wellington, NZ... http://stevensedley.blogspot.co.nz/
Jewish Holocaust Centre (Melbourne)
After visiting the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne I was asked to write a piece for the centre's newsletter about my research and my trip to Australia. This is the link to the magazine and my work appears on pages 14-15.
I was privileged to have had my work read out at the Child Survivors Event: Quaker/ Kindertransport Commemoration Ceremony held at the Jewish Holocaust Centre, Melbourne.
Midlands3Cities Culture Engagement Award 2017
Passed the Essential Teaching Toolkit in Higher Education at NTU.
Delivered a lecture at NTU on 15/02/2017 to the History and the Holocaust and Genocide Masters students about the Social History of the Kindertransports.
Delivered 2 lectures at NTU in November 2017 to the third year European Studies undergraduate students about the Kindertransports - the British national narrative in elected novels and Post-memory and the Holocaust: the Kindertransports in international perspectives.
Delivered a lecture at NTU on 29/11/2017 to the History Masters students about the Kindertransports: History, Memory and Archives.
Public Engagement Activities:
- Organising a Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) event at NTU, Clifton Campus on February 9th January 2018. I have invited the East Midlands HMD Regional Support Worker to attend the event and give a talk on this years theme - The Power of Words
- I have organised three speakers to join us at NTU to give papers on their research or on their personal stories relating to the Holocaust. The first talk will be given by a second generation Kind, the second session will be delivered by an prominent academic, and for the final seminar students will have the opportunity to listen to a Holocaust survivor. These talks will take place at Clifton Campus, NTU on...
- 5th February 2018
- 14th February 2018
- 21st March 2018
- NTU recently posted a blog post about our presentations at the MSA Conference https://www.ntu.ac.uk/about-us/news/news-articles/2017/12/phd-candidates-take-part-in-memory-studies-association-conference
- Member of 'Culture and its Uses as Testimony': an international, AHRC-funded Research Network, 2016/17
- Attended the 2nd AHRC Testimony Workshop,08/03/2017
- Presented at Holocaust Memorial Day 2017 held at Nottingham Trent University with The National Holocaust Centre
- Attended AHRC Testimony Workshop 1: The Range and Function of Testimony in Cultural Forms at the University of Birmingham, 10/10/2016
- Attended A Primary or Secondary Concern? Holocaust Education in Schools in the 21st Century: Current Practices, Potentials and Ways Forward Conference at Loughborough University and The National Holocaust Centre, 07/07/2016-08/07/2016
- Attended the Midlands3Cities and City of Literature event, Pat Barker in Conversation, 15/06/2016
- Attended the public workshop, Photography, the Holocaust, and the Visualisation of Difficult Memories, which was part of an AHRC-funded cultural engagement project between the University of Nottingham and the National Holocaust Centre & Museum on 09/04/2016
- Attended the theme launch for Holocaust Memorial Day 2017 on 12/03/2016 - the theme for 2017 is How Can Life Go On?
- Worked as a volunteer at Beth Shalom (The National Holocaust Centre and Museum)
- I have also had three blog posts published on As the Paradigm Shifts http://centreformuseumandheritage.blogspot.co.uk while I was an intern at Culture Syndicates. The blog posts were entitled Representing World War One: Heroes and Villains, 13th July 2015, Museums during War and Peace: Places of protection and destruction, 1st May 2015 and Are we remembering to forget or are we keeping memory alive? 10th March 2015
- Previously completed an Internship with Culture Syndicates who are a community interest company, designed to help heritage organisations do more, with less http://www.culturesyndicates.co.uk
- Attended various Holocaust and Kindertransport anniversaries and commemorations around the country
- Attended the Holocaust Memorial Day event, From Kindertransports to Calais - The Story of Child Refugees, held at the University of Cambridge
- On 16th November 2017 the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) blog ‘Seeking Protection’ published my piece about The Fictionalisation of the Kindertransports: Moral Lessons from Literature https://holocaustremembrance.blog/2017/11/16/the-fictionalisation-of-the-kindertransports/
- The Fictionalisation of the Kindertransport: A Conventional or Unconventional Narrative? was published in the November 2015 Issue of the Association of Jewish Refugees' (AJR) Kindertransport Newsletter (Britain). Here is the link http://www.ajr.org.uk/content/view.cfm/documents/KTNEWSLETTER_NOV15.pdf
- A piece about my PhD project was published in the December 2015 Volume 15 No. 12 of the Association of Jewish Refugees' Journal (Britain). This piece highlights how survivors and their families can contact me. Here is the link http://www.ajr.org.uk/journalpdf/2015_December.pdf
- I have also had a piece about my PhD research published in the Kindertransport Association's Newsletter called Kinder-Link (America). This article also focuses on my on going interviews with Kindertransportees and their families both in Britain and in America.
- ‘Jews on the Move: Exploring the movement of Jews, objects, texts, and ideas in space and time’ (British Association for Jewish Studies Annual Conference), 10-12 July 2017, paper entitled: The Fictionalisation of the Kindertransports: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Self
- ‘Exil: Marginalität und Zentralität’ Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Exilforschung (‘Exile: Marginality and Centrality’ Annual Conference of the Society for Exile Studies),1st July 2016, paper entitled: The Representation of the Kindertransport in British Museum Exhibitions
- School of Arts and Humanities 6th Annual Conference Nottingham Trent University, 24th June 2016, paper entitled: The Imagined Other: A Kindertransportee to a Syrian Refugee Child
- New Perspectives on Holocaust Memory and Commemoration Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 13th May 2016, paper entitled: The Memory of the Kindertransports in National and International Perspectives
- The British Association for Holocaust Studies PhD Student Conference, 5 April 2016, paper entitled: The Imagined Other: A Kindertransportee to a Syrian Refugee Child
- The Second Annual Conference of the British Association for Holocaust Studies, Another time, Another place? Challenges in Commemorating, Teaching and Researching the Holocaust 70 Years On, 21-22 July 2015, discussed my Masters dissertation
- Nottingham Trent University’s 3rd Annual Postgraduate History Conference, Journeys to Selfhood: Myth, Memory and Identity, 20th May 2015, discussed my Masters dissertation
Other Research Interests:
- Heritage and Cultural Heritage Studies
- Museum Studies
- The Second World War
- Oral History
- The Refugee Experience
- Memory Studies
University email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
LinkedIn: Amy Williams
Academia.edu: Amy Williams