An 81-year-old man whose mother put him as an infant on a Kindertransport train from Berlin to London to escape Nazi Germany is recreating his journey eight decades on – this time, on a bicycle.
Paul Alexander, who now lives in Israel, is taking part with his son and grandson in a six-day ride organised by World Jewish Relief to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the initiative which helped save the lives of 10,000 children from Germany and neighbouring countries.
Some 42 cyclists, the youngest aged just 14, are taking part in the ride, which left from Berlin’s Freidrichstrasse Station on Sunday morning, and will arrive at Liverpool Street Station in the City of London next Friday.
There, they will be met by others who arrived as children in the British capital by the same route, with the first train arriving on 2 December 1938.
The cyclists will cross the North Sea by ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich, the same route taken by the Kindertransport trains organised in the wake of the November 1938 Kristallnacht by World Jewish Relief’s predecessor organisation, the Central British Fund for German Jewry which was founded in 1933.
That was the night that Mr Alexander’s father was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp. The infant’s mother gave him into the care of a nurse to take him to London in July 1939.
She managed to travel to London in August 1939 but it would be three years until the family – joined by his father, released from Buchenwald the same month, and who also travelled to the UK – were reunited.
Eventually, they settled in Leeds, with Mr Alexander qualifying as a solicitor and moving to Israel in 1971 after marrying an Israeli citizen with whom he would have three children.
Besides Mr Alexander, a number of other participants in the ride, which will average 100 miles a day, have a personal connection to the evacuation including Phil Harris, who will start his journey from the same apartment in Berlin where his grandmother lived before she left Germany on a Kindertransport train.
Also riding will be Ian Goldsmith, who only discovered that his late father and his uncle had also left on one of the trains when he contacted World Jewish Relief’s archives as he sought establish his German heritage as part of his application for a German passport last year.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.